Hoi An is an ancient coastal town—it is a picturesque wonderland of lanterns, local food, and colourfully decorated buildings filled with fantastic shopping opportunities. It’s a beautiful place that many people know they will end up stopping in a while in Vietnam—sometimes without fully understanding how best to fill their time here. Various ideas and hearsay of what should be done while in town are often thrown around, but we believe that adequately structuring your time to get the most out of your stay in Hoi An is the best way.
There will be points where you have the chance to customise our suggested itinerary according to your travel tastes and budget. No matter what you decide, you won’t be disappointed with your time in Hoi An. Put your trip in our hands, and let Hidden show you the best way to tackle this ancient city with our 3-day itinerary in Hoi An guide. *Header image by Sean Webb.
It’s your first day in Hoi An, and you’ll be staying in and around the Old Town. The town centre is jam-packed with loads of exciting things to see, do and, most importantly, eat. Be sure to have your camera batteries charged and stomachs ready!
Wake Up Early and Explore the Old Town (6:30 a.m.)
Rise and shine! Today is a bit of an early start, but don’t worry it’ll be worth it. The absolute best time to explore Hoi An’s UNESCO Old Town is in the wee hours of the morning when the rest of the tourists are still sleeping. It’s a rare time when the lantern-lined streets are empty (even the Japanese Bridge!), and the atmosphere is peaceful. You’ll see locals going for a morning stroll, school kids lining up for breakfast at street stalls, and shop fronts being set up for the days trading. Not to mention the light at this time is absolutely dreamy—it’s the perfect time to take photographs. The Old Town is filled with many ancient buildings, assembly halls and museums, some of which you need a pass to enter, however, don’t worry about this just yet because in the afternoon, you’ll get your chance to further immerse yourself in the history of the town.
Grab a Vegan Banh Mi (7:30 a.m.)
As hunger begins to strike, make your way (a 10-minute walk) over to the Banh Mi Chay stall, which is run by a lovely local woman named Hoi. She opens early every morning (at 6:30 am) and sells her delicious Vietnamese sandwich to the hungry people of Hoi An until sold out (usually around 10 a.m.). The sandwich consists of flavourful diced mushrooms, marinated tofu, slaw, chopped peanuts, herbs, and a divine liquid that is drizzled inside the sandwich to moisten the bread. Even if you’re not a veggo, this tasty sandwich is a great start to the day. We love banh mi, so for our insider’s guide to the best in Hoi An, check out our article here.
Banh Mi Chay – Address: Phan Chau Trinh and Nguyen Hue – Hours: 6:30 a.m. – 10 a.m (or when she sells out) – Cost: 12,000 VND (0.45 USD)
Discover Hoi An’s Central Market (8 a.m.)
150-metres down the street from Banh Mi Chay is the heart of the ancient town—the Central Market. Locals take advantage of the low temperatures in the early morning to do their daily shopping, making it the best time to witness things in full swing. While the Central Market has adapted slightly with the increase of foreign tourists, it remains a high-traffic area for the people of Hoi An. Especially true for the fish market, which is one of the larger ones in town due to its ideal location on the edge of the Thu Bon River. The sights, sounds, and smells of any market are a great way to delve into a new culture. It’s worth mentioning that there is also a huge range of food stalls inside the market to grab a bite from, all for a pretty reasonable price. To read more about Hoi An’s markets, check out: The Complete Guide to Hoi An’s Markets.
Warning: If you’re taking photos of locals while in Hoi An, we recommend asking for their permission first, even if that just means pointing at your camera with a thumbs up signal. Many are happy to have their picture taken, but be aware of one particular woman who sets up on a small stool outside on the southeast corner of the Central Market to sell her wares. She dresses in nice clothing, with makeup and jewellery, and is known for asking to have her picture taken by tourists, only to demand increasingly large sums of money in return.
Address: 73 Phan Boi Chau Son Phong tp – Hours: 5:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Monday – Sunday
Have Coffee with a View at Faifo (9 a.m.)
After the hustle and bustle of the market, it’s time for coffee. Faifo is a great coffee shop positioned in the centre of Old Town (just 400 metres from the market). The biggest highlight here is the stunning rooftop where you can enjoy your coffee. With lanterns swinging overhead, you’ll find two tables and some stools that are well-shaded from the harsh sun. This place offers a unique view of Old Town, with tiled rooftops all around and lifted above the activity and noise below. Faifo also has a middle floor that is well cooled and equipped with more comfortable seating if you need a break from the heat or there’s a bit of rain. Serving both Italian and Vietnamese coffee, as well as smoothies and food, you’re sure to find something that will hit the spot. For more information on the different types of coffee here in Hoi An make sure to check out: The Best Coffee Shops in Hoi An.
Pop into BeBe Tailor to Get Some Tailored Clothes Made (10 a.m.)
After your coffee, make your way to BeBe Tailor to get some tailored clothes made. While any of the three locations around town are well suited and equipped to serve, Hidden would suggest going to their largest location on Hoang Dieu street. This location is where the clothing is produced, so if any small alterations need to be made during your future fittings, then they can sometimes be done quickly or while you wait (which is especially good for those on a tight schedule). During your first meeting with the lovely assistants in the store, you can discuss the garments you are looking to have tailored. You’ll get to choose all the details—from the fabrics, buttons, linings, and lengths before getting measured. It’s crucial at this stage to be vocal about your ideas and vision for the final product.
Hidden Hint: Go in with photos of what you’re after. It’s the best way to show the assistants what you want and help them understand the item of clothing you’re looking to get made.
Try a Hoi An Speciality at Cao Lau Khong Gian Xanh (11 a.m.)
By this time of the day, you have definitely reached the point for a proper meal. What better chance to try one of Hoi An’s Local Specialities—cao lau. This alkaline noodle dish is found only in Hoi An. A small amount of savoury and sweet pork broth is poured in the bottom of the bowl and thick chewy noodles are then placed in. On top, slices of pork, fried noodle squares, and herbs are laid down, then the final seasoning touches are left up to you with the condiments on the table. Cao lau is tied to the alkaline rich water found in the wells scattered around Hoi An, which result in tougher chewier noodles, much like ramen noodle but thicker. For more information about the dish, read: Hoi An’s Best Cao Lau Restaurants.
Address: 687 Hai Ba Trung – Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday – Sunday – Cost: 30,000 VND (1.50 USD)
Take a Break at Your Accommodation (12 p.m.)
The fierce sun is now at its highest point in the sky. Take a break from the heat and grab an afternoon siesta at your accommodation.
Get Your Old Town Ticket OR Pamper Yourself (2:30 p.m.)
Now it’s time to make a decision—do you feel like diving into the Old Town even further and visiting its cultural highlights or do you want to skip that and treat yourself instead? You choose!
Hoi An Old Town Ticket
If you’ve decided to explore the inside of Old Town’s many heritage buildings, first head over to one of the many ticket stalls to purchase your ticket, which costs 120,000 VND (5.20 USD) and gives you access to five sightseeing places of your choice. A number of these heritage buildings are private homes, assembly halls, temples, and museums. Traditional Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese architectural styles and cultural values, can be seen throughout the historic structures in the old town. Once 3 p.m. comes along, all motorized vehicles are banned from Old Town, making it a more enjoyable place to walk around. The sites are all close together too, so walking between them is easy. To read more about the ticket procedure and which sites Hidden recommends, make sure to click here: Hoi An Old Town Ticket, Entrance Fees & Sites.
Pamper Yourself at a Spa
If wandering the Old Town’s historical sites isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps this is a good time to spoil yourself a little. Hoi An is host to many fantastic spas that fit a multitude of budget ranges. Be it a foot massage, a full body treatment, or a manicure/pedicure; there is a place for you. We’d suggest taking a cab to the 5-star Akoya Spa to take advantage of their professional services. They offer an incredible range of treatment options, from regular massages to very specific treatments that use CBD (Cannabidiol) oils to ease the pain. For alternative options, check out our Hoi An’s Best Spas article.
Have Some Pork Buns at Nu Eatery (4:30 p.m.)
It’s that time again—food. Tucked down a small laneway near the Japanese Bridge is a much-loved eatery that’s quaint and packed with plenty of charm. Nu Eatery’s menu is compact and showcases Asian-fusion delights. Grab a seat by the sun-filled windows and order a starter of drool-worthy steamed pork buns (they also do a tofu version). These guys come in a set of two for 35,000 VND (1.50 USD) and are the perfect snack to keep you going.
Visit The Precious Heritage Photography Gallery (5 p.m.)
This one is for the lovers of photography and culture. Precious Heritage is the latest project from Hoi An based French photographer Rehahn. A well-known photographer and visual storyteller of Vietnam, Rehahn opened The Precious Heritage Museum as both an art gallery and ethnography museum. The space houses photos, music, videos, along with the traditional costumes, documenting at least 45 of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups. The plaques beside each exhibit provide information regarding each ethnic group and also share Rehahn’s unique stories of his journey to find and understand the group—reading these are a must to truly appreciate the gallery. It’s an incredibly inspiring gallery and is one of the best ways to understand a little of Vietnam’s diversity.
Take Red Bridge’s Evening Cooking Class (6 p.m.)
One of the best parts of travelling is the new food that you come into contact with. Hoi An is well known for its cultural food, and taking a cooking class is a great way to strengthen your understanding of some of the techniques and ingredients from the area.
An all-encompassing option for the evening is to roll a cooking class and dinner together in the Old Town, and Red Bridge’s 2-hour Hai Café Cooking Class does this the best. A skilled Red Bridge chef will demonstrate the preparation of three dishes before it’s your turn to chop, mix, and replicate them for yourself. Don’t worry if cooking isn’t your strong suit; the chef is there to provide help if need be. In the end, sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labour in Hai Café. To learn more about the cooking classes in Hoi An read: The Best Cooking Classes in Hoi An.
Have a Cold Drink by the River (8 p.m.)
Finish your first day in Hoi An off with a cold drink by the river. Whether you do this local-style on the plastic chairs and tables set up riverside or from the comfort of a cafe, seeing the beautiful Thu Bon River sparkle with lanterns at night is a must. Depending on your budget and tastes, choose between the following two locations!
If you’re on a smaller budget or keen on a more immersive experience right along the river, this will be right up your alley. Pull up one of the many red plastic chairs situated just past the Japanese Bridge (map) and get a front-row seat to the river and the action of Old Town. There are drink stands set up here where you can order a cold beverage, including beer, sinh to (fruit smoothie), or soft drinks.
The Bird House
If that’s not your style and you’re looking for a more unique atmosphere, then option two is to walk over to The Bird House (5 minutes away from Hai Cafe). Also set along the river, The Bird House has a unique bird cage theme with kitsch decor, comfortable seating, and a superb view. They have a range of tasty drinks that include cocktails, juices, coffee, and tea.
Today will be a full day where you get to experience some of the highlights north of Hoi An. Sun protection and ample water are the two key things to remember today.
Arrange Transport to Marble Mountains and Hai Van Pass (8:30 a.m.) OR Take a Tour (8:00 a.m.)
A must-do when visiting Hoi An is to go to the Marble Mountains north of the city and to see the natural beauty of the Hai Van Pass, a breathtaking drive along a mountainous stretch of road. We suggest renting a motorbike or arranging a private car to get the most out of the trip. This way, you can see the sites at your own pace and even squeeze in a fantastic local meal in Da Nang along the way. However, if you prefer tours, this is entirely possible and very easy to book.
Motorbike/Private Car to Marble Mountains and Hai Van Pass
Today’s day is based on mobility and renting a motorbike or hiring a car will need to be pre-arranged. If renting a motorbike from your accommodation isn’t possible, we recommend Hoi An Bike Rental. They offer well-maintained bikes that are slightly more expensive; however, they provide rain and safety gear along with a phone holder to aid in a comfortable trip. Probably one of the best features from this service is the fact that they offer 24/7 roadside assistance, which is great for making sure your day continues in the event of a mishap or flat tire. If you’re travelling with a large group or a family where renting a motorbike isn’t an option, a private car can be hired for a reasonable flat day rate. A good company to call is Minh Hien Hoi An Transfer Service. Just mention where you want to go and your schedule, and they’ll make it happen.
Tour to Marble Mountains, Monkey Mountain, and Hai Van Pass
If you’ve decided you’d rather take a tour to see the sites north of Hoi An, Hidden recommends booking with Rivertown Hoi An. Their full-day tour to Marble Mountains, Monkey Mountain, and Hai Van Pass starts with a pickup from your accommodation at 8 a.m. and includes an English speaking guide, lunch, and an air-conditioned vehicle, though you won’t arrive back in Hoi An until 4:30 p.m.
Drive to Marble Mountains (10:15 a.m.)
Now that you’ve refuelled, it’s time to head to Marble Mountains. It’s a 20-kilometre drive north, and it takes around 25 minutes to reach the porous limestone site. Arriving at this point in the day will enable you to take advantage of some of the cooler temperatures.
Originally, the limestone outcrops were worshipped by the Cham people. However, following the Champa Empire, Buddhist monks constructed shrines and temples not only on the summits but within the natural caves that populate the rock. Today the mountain offers tourists the opportunity to explore a fantastic historical and magical site. Those who ascend the 156-step marble stairway to the summit of Thy So will be rewarded with a stunning 360-degree view. You’ll be able to see Hoi An, Da Nang, The Cham islands, and even the border of Laos off in the distance. To learn more about Marble Mountains, make sure to read: Everything you Need to Know About Marble Mountains.
Address: 52 Huyen Tran Cong Chua, Da Nang – Hours: 7:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Monday – Sunday – Cost: 40,000 VND (1.70 USD)
Eat Banh Xeo at Ba Duong (12:30 p.m.)
Whether you’re new to banh xeo or a seasoned pro, Ba Duong Da Nang is worth your time. Over the country, Banh Xeo does change slightly, but the integrity of what it is stays the same—a crisp rice flour pancake with pork and shrimp folded over with bean sprouts. Along with the crisp pancake, herbs, pickles, vegetables, and other meats are served. It’s a D.I.Y. type of meal where you assemble spring rolls yourself with the ingredients provided. The stand out table item is the dipping sauce provided where pork, peanuts, fat, and an array of seasoning come together perfectly for this unique savoury sauce.
Address: 23 Hoàng Diệu, Da Nang – Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. Monday – Sunday
Drive the Hai Van Pass, then Drive Back to Hoi An (1:15 p.m.)
Finally, navigate your way towards the Hai Van Pass just north of Da Nang. From Ba Duong, it’s roughly 26-kilometres away, taking around 45 minutes. In years past, this mountainous pass was the only route to transport goods north and south by land. It used to be one of the most dangerous roads in the country due to the high amount of traffic, coupled with the steep winding roads. In June of 2005, the Hai Van Tunnel was completed, which provided the heavy traffic with a safer way to circumnavigate the dangerous roads. The roads now are frequented by travellers in the area looking for a stunning drive. As you climb higher and the ocean sinks further away, the heat of the day fades away, too. At the highest point on the pass is a gorgeous view and also the ruins of an old French outpost from the colonial days. The remains are worth a quick scout, but don’t take much time to explore. When you’ve completed the pass and have got your fill of photos, begin your trip back towards Hoi An.
Relax at Your Accommodation (4:30 p.m.)
It’s been a full day so far, so use this time to take a load off and regain some of your energy. A quick shower is recommended before your upcoming fitting.
First Fitting at the Tailor (6:00 p.m.)
When you feel revitalised and ready for the evening, start by heading back to Bebe for your first fitting. The assistants will bring you to the change room where you’ll be given your custom garments to try on. The tailors usually make the items somewhat bigger for the first fitting, which allows them to make adjustments to the clothes for the perfect fit. Take your time to inspect the fit of the clothes on your body and be vocal about any concerns you have—the staff is there to make what you want.
Dinner at Mango Mango (7 p.m.)
After your fitting, head down to Mango Mango restaurant located on An Hoi, right on the river’s edge. It’s owned and run by local, well-travelled Chef Duc Tran, who has taken his experiences abroad and used them to put an intercontinental take on his favourite Vietnamese dishes. Apart from the ideal location and superb food, Mango Mango is known for having some of the best cocktails in town.
Evening Stroll Through the Night Market (8:30 p.m.)
As you walk into Mango Mango, you won’t help but notice the small but vibrant Night Market right next to the restaurant. Not only does the market have snacks and desserts, but they also have a variety of vendors selling clothing, homewares and souvenirs. One souvenir that stands out this time of the evening are Hoi An’s famous lanterns as they light up the market and create a magical setting. There are a number of shops with lanterns for sale for you to admire and even grab a classic Instagram shot.
For your third and final day in Hoi An, take it easy! Today is a good mix of relaxation and cultural activities—a perfect way to end your time in this incredible town.
Breakfast at Your Accommodation (7 a.m.)
It’s another early start, but to keep things easy this morning, fuel up at your accommodation. Depending on where you’re staying, your hotel may even provide breakfast free of charge.
Go on a Bike Tour (8 a.m.)
A laidback way to see Hoi An from a different perspective is to take a unique tour run by a company called “Hoi An Free Tour.” Every Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday, volunteer university students guide groups to Kim Bong carpentry village, where you’ll get to experience a more local side of the town. The students take you to see boat building, learn how sleeping mats are made, check out a family temple, and have a go at making rice paper. Between the sites, you’ll get a chance to try some local snacks and drinks, as well as chat with the friendly guides, who’ll happily share stories about their culture and lifestyle with you. The only costs involved in the tour are 20,000 VND (1.15 USD) for the local ferry, 30,000 VND (1.30 USD) to support the local community, bike rental if needed, and whatever amount you would like you to tip your guides (but this is not obligatory). If you’re not in Hoi An on those particular days, the company also runs a Tra Que Bike tour for 253,000 VND (11 USD) on a Wednesday and Friday.
Lunch at Banh Mi Phuong (12:30 p.m.)
Despite the snacks on the bike tour, you’re sure to have worked up an appetite by this point. The Vietnamese sandwich banh mi is renowned in Hoi An, and one of the best places to have it is at Banh Mi Phuong. Originally made famous by legendary chef and TV star Anthony Bourdain, this shop is now incredibly popular with locals and travellers alike and is one of the Best Banh Mi in Town. You’ll have a choice between an array of different banh mi, but we suggest choosing the classic pork and pate—#9 on the board. Make sure to watch the team of ladies preparing the sandwiches as it’s quite an operation! Take a seat inside the restaurant or sit on the plastic chairs across the road and grab coffee from the drink stand while you people watch on this bustling street.
Address: 2b Phan Chu Trin – Hours: 6:30 a.m – 9:30 p.m. Monday – Sunday – Cost: 15,000 VND – 35,000 VND (0.65 – 1.50 USD)
Hidden Hint: Be aware that Phuong can get crazy busy, especially during lunch and dinner time. The line can be a bit hectic and confusing, so the best way is to get to the far end of the counter to order.
Lantern Class at Hoi An Handicraft Tours (2 p.m.)
After two days in Hoi An, you will have seen the many picturesque streets lined with colourful lanterns—a specific characteristic of the ancient town. Locals believe that hanging these lanterns on their house brings luck, happiness and wealth to their family. If you want to bring some good fortune home with you, why not learn to make a lantern yourself and also have a unique souvenir? (These guys are collapsible, making them very easy to transport). Choose between a two-hour express class or the full-length three-hour class. The longer class includes all 11 steps, where you assemble the bamboo stakes first, then apply the fabric. You’ll also get to customise these classic lanterns with some personal flair, depending on which silk and tassel you choose. Class times are super flexible, so just make sure you book online a day in advance. To learn more about the lantern classes on offer, read: Lantern Making Workshops in Hoi An.
Final Fitting and Pickup at the Tailor (5 p.m. ish)
Now it’s time to head over to BeBe tailor one last time and try on your clothes. Admire your new customised threads—we’re betting you feel like a million bucks! If you were already happy with your pieces after your second fitting, you could opt to have your clothes delivered for free to your accommodation to save time. There’s also the option to have everything shipped back to your home country for an extra cost.
Attend a Cultural Show: Lune Productions (6 p.m.)
Imagine a cross between Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group, and Stomp—minus the frantic lighting and over the top costumes and congested sets. Lune has a set of five shows that rotate throughout the country, all of which are strongly rooted in Vietnamese beliefs and traditions. The company relies on the thoughtful and intriguing use of a small space, coupled with the precision and talent of the performers. Items of cultural significance play a large roll in the shows, such as basket boats, bamboo poles, hill tribe instruments, and so much more. It’s a no-frills act that has reduced the show to an epic performance that has nothing to hide behind but skill and wit. The shows are family-friendly and enjoyable for all ages, but do note that children under 5-years-old are not permitted. For more on Lune Productions, check out: Lune Productions Shows in Hoi An.
Hidden Hint: We recommended you book your tickets in advance on their website as this will save you the trouble of walking over in advance to reserve your seats.
Dinner and Live Music at Soul Beach (7/7:30 p.m.)
Make your way over to An Bang Beach for dinner with an ocean view at Soul Beach, an awesome live music restaurant, and bar. The space is laidback with great vibes and is set right on the sand. Their menu features multiple cuisines to satisfy your cravings, as well as ice cold beer and tasty cocktails to indulge in. Once the clock strikes 7 p.m., the tunes begin. The music covers a wide range of genres depending on the night, including soul, R&B, jazz, rock, acoustic, reggae, latin, and even pirate cabaret (if you’re lucky!). So choose from the cabanas, deck chairs, and comfy couches to lounge on and take it all in.
Hidden Hint: Soul Beach has live music most nights, but not every night. Check out their Facebook page ahead of time to check their posted schedule and see what’s scheduled.
At first glance, this may seem to be a pretty full-on three-day itinerary, but we know from experience that it’s actually more manageable than it appears. It is, by far, the best way to experience a three-day stay Hoi An—trust us since we’ve done this list! Tailored clothes, local delights, sites, cultural experiences, relaxation and, not to mention, a fantastic day trip north will all be under your belt when it comes time for your departure. Hoi An is a unique place within Vietnam, and you can now leave knowing you’ve experienced it to the fullest, for the time that you’ve had here. Just imagine, though, what you could do here with even more time!