Attractions & Beaches of Hoi An – Vietnam’s Prettiest City

April 1, 2024

beaches of hoi an

This immensely picturesque and historic city on Vietnam’s central coast is known for its well-preserved and beguiling 15th-century Ancient Town, cut through with canals. UNESCO-listed, it has preserved its incredible legacy and melting-pot history, reflected in its mixed eras of architecture which included ornate Vietnamese, beautiful yellow French colonial buildings, Japanese merchant houses and bridges, Chinese teahouses, assembly halls, temples, and lots of tailor shops. And a relaxing day at one of the beaches of Hoi An is a must-do in any itinerary.

Hoi An is brimming with charm, easy to get around (unlike Hanoi or Saigon), and has the most delicious food.

Hoi An at a Glance

  • Area: 23 mi²
  • Population: 152,160 (2018)
  • Province: Quang Nam

Hoi An Old Town Ticket

beaches of hoi an

To preserve Hoi An ancient town, a ticket is required to enter many historic buildings. Visitors can purchase a ticket at one of the stalls that surround the city center for approximately USD 5.

Brief History

  • 2nd century –important trading port in the region, facilitating Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and Western traders.
  • 16th and 17th centuries – the Vietnamese took control; Thu Bon River was one of the busiest trading ports in Southeast Asia between the 16th and 18th centuries.
  • 18th century – Decline but preservation
  • 1999 – Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its well-preserved ancient town showcasing a unique blend of Chinese, Japanese, and European architectural styles.

Hoi An is the prettiest city in Vietnam. Here’s why the attractions and beaches of Hoi An make it my favorite place in the country.

Take a Cooking Class

beaches of hoi an

Vietnamese cuisine is arguably one of the best in the world, and within Vietnam, Hoi An is renowned for its exquisite flavors. Delve into the vibrant culinary scene by taking a hands-on cooking class where you can learn the art of authentic traditional cooking techniques. In our “Oodles of Noodles” class we learned about the different types of Vietnamese noodles.

Night Market

beaches of hoi an

If you’d like to experience the bustling evening atmosphere, head to the night market, close to the Hoi An Bridge.

In the middle of the market you will find unique souvenirs while the outside stalls provide an exciting sensory experience with unusual culture and street food.

Ao Dai

beaches of hoi an

Ao dài (“long shirt”) is the national costume of Vietnam, symbolizing elegance. It consists of a long, slim-fitting silk tunic with long sleeves and a mandarin neckline in bright hues and patterns worn over loose-fitting pants.

The ao dai’s history dates back to the 18th century when it was worn by aristocrats. The word “áo dài” was originally used in the 18th century, during the Nguyen dynasty when Chinese-style clothing was in. Its modern look arose in the 1920s when it appeared at a Paris fashion show. During French rule, the outfit was redesigned as a modern dress, with a more Western silhouette.

Today many women in Vietnam wear this lovely feminine dress for work, everyday occasions, as well as special celebrations. I enjoyed wearing my ao dai, purchased in Hoi An, for the nighttime lantern event.

Tamy Coffee

tamy coffee hoi an

One of the highest rooftop terraces in Hoi An, Tamy Coffee is one of the hottest places to grab a coffee with both locals and tourists. In addition to the rooftop, the 3-story vintage space provides several other vignettes for photo ops. The view over the rooftops of Hoi An is worth the price of a delicious Vietnamese coffee – one of the best coffees in the world.

An Bang Beach

an bang beach

We only had time for one beach day in mainland Vietnam. An Bang Beach is arguably the best beach in Hoi An, easily reachable by taxi, but to be honest, it’s nothing like the postcard turquoise beaches of Thailand. It was crazy windy, but we had a great time walking the golden sand beach and eating at one of the many lively beach bars.

Quan Cong Temple

quan cong temple

Founded in 1653, the bright gold and red Quan Cong Pagoda Temple is dedicated to Quan Cong, a famous Chinese general who was worshipped in Hoi An thanks to his qualities of justice for all, loyalty, integrity, and sincerity. Inside the temple stands a wood, papier mache, and partially gilded statue of the general.

Fujian Assembly Hall

beaches of hoi an

Fujian (aka Hoi Quan Phuoc Kien) Assembly Hall is an opulent place of worship constructed in the 1690s for Chinese residents. This structure was later transformed into a temple for worship of the deity Thien Hau, a sea goddess. The main hall is contains carved figures around a gateway which is etched with carvings of mythical Chinese creatures.

Ba Mu Temple Gates

Ba Mu Temple Gates

Recently opened to the public, stunning Ba Mu (“midwife”) Temple Gates (aka Tam Quan) is a beautiful three-gated Pagoda designed in Vietnam’s classical style of architecture, often seen before temples and pagodas. Built in 1626, the old temple and beautifully colored complex features a round open circle flanked by two large doors. Hoi An locals visit the temple to ask for a peaceful life, happiness, and health for their children.

Eat a Banh Mi

bahn mi

The French colonial influences have left their mark in Vietnam through the introduction of the baguette. Hoi An has been dubbed the Banh Mi Capital of Vietnam, so what better place to try this incredible Vietnamese take on the sub sandwich? Indeed, the late Anthony Bourdain claimed that the best banh mi can be found in Hoi An.

My delicious bahn mi from Bánh Mì Phng restaurant consisted of a warm crusty French baguette stuffed with BBQ pork, liver pate, cheese, secret sauces and herbs, crispy cucumber, pickled vegetables, lettuce, and onion was utterly divine! It was my favorite thing to eat in all of Vietnam!

Coconut Boat

beaches of hoi an

The coconut boat adventure outside the old town is also known as basket boats. Legend has it that these quirky Vietnamese basket boats originated as a way for local fishermen to avoid paying taxes imposed during French colonial rule by cleverly claiming they were baskets, not boats.

Our guide skippered us through the Cua Dai River, meandering through its eight-hectare maze-like network of channels, canals, and coconut palms.

I had the opportunity to paddle the boat, throw a fishing net, and best of all experience the high-speed spin! Yee Ha!

Japanese Covered Bridge

japanese bridge hoi an

Built in 1593 at the time of Japanese immigration, Chua Cau is a footbridge with a temple atop, located in the center of the Old Town section of Hoi An, Vietnam. It is also referred to as “Cau Nhat Ban” or “Japanese Covered Bridge.” The iconic bridge is the harmonious and perfect combination of Vietnamese, Japanese, and Chinese cultures.

The bridge was built to worship Bac De Tran Vo. According to local myths, this is the god of happiness, wealth, and health. The bridge is famous for its ornate carvings, many of which are in the shape of monkeys and dogs.

The lovely bridge as a backdrop makes this the most popular Instagram spot in Hoi An.

Lantern Festival

lantern festival hoi an

At night, the energy of the Hoi An old town reaches its peak. The highlight for me was the opportunity to do the lantern boat ride along the Thu Bon River shimmering in the glow of colorful lanterns.

I was excited to light up two paper lanterns and then release them into the canal. I even purchased an ao dai (traditional Vietnamese dress, see above) for the ceremony. While some tourists do this just for fun, the local tradition is to make a wish as you release the lamps.

I made two wishes, one on the pink lantern for my daughter, Jill, and then the blue one for my son, Nick. It is a simple but beautiful ritual and experienced a great deal of joy in doing it.

Ancient Town

beaches of hoi an

Famous for never being bombed during the Vietnam War, the 800 historic buildings that were spared lend a feeling of stepping back into the ancient past. The enchanting Ancient Town dates back to the 15th century when it became a trading port.

Sitting on the banks of the Bon River, the Old Town also called the Yellow (symbolizing royalty and luck) City of Vietnam has now been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is said to date back some 2,000 years.

We spent hours wandering through its narrow streets, admiring the diverse French and Asian fusion of architecture, timber-framed buildings, pagodas, bridges, and heritage houses, some of which have been highlighted above.

Day Trips

If you have extra time while in Hoi An, here are a few day trips that offer historical and/or cultural experiences.

My Son Ruins

My Son is an abandoned and partially ruined ancient Hindu temple complex built between the 4th and 13th centuries by the Kings of Champa.

One of the most interesting archaeological sites of Southeast Asia, My Son, is believed to have once had over 70 structures with decorative carvings and sculptures of the ancient Champa civilization, mostly dedicated to the deities of Shiva.



Hue is one of the most charming towns in Vietnam, sitting peacefully on the banks of the Perfume River. This area of Vietnam has a long and rich history as it used to be the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty and housed the last of its emperors.

During the time Vietnam was still an empire, Hue was the capital. Although the city has endured much damage from war and natural disasters, much of the old glory is still on display.

Hue’s crown jewel is the sprawling 19th-century Imperial Citadel which encompasses the Forbidden Purple City, Thai Hoa Palace, the Ngo Mon Gate, shrines, temples, and palaces. Although much was destroyed during the Vietnam War, many parts are under restoration and worth exploring.

Da Nang

golden hands bridge

Da Nang is getting more and more visitors of late with the construction of the Golden Bridge – a giant bridge that appears to be held up by two hands which became an instant Instagram sensation.

Suspended high in the clouds, the surreal pedestrian bridge soars 3,280 ft. above sea level in the Ba Na Hills Resort (think Disney). The bridge is a creative masterpiece with golden-hue gilded railing frames curving for 500 feet.

Aside from its most famous attraction, Da Nang is Vietnam’s third-largest city offering white-sand beaches, the Marble Mountains, caves, and fabulous nightlife. The Dragon Bridge is illuminated at night and the whole place looks incredible from the vantage point of one of its many rooftop bars.


Hoi An’s blend of history, culture, and natural beauty offers visitors a unique and enriching travel experience. From exploring the well-preserved ancient town  to the rich history, and delicious food scene, Hoi An will not fail to captivate you and entice you to return.

Most photos by Kary Kern.

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About the Author

Patti MorrowPatti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and the southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of the “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials” and she was named one of the “Top 35 Travel Blogs” in the world.

She is also the star of the upcoming TV series “Destination Takeover” which is scheduled to premiere in the next few months.

Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled extensively through six continents looking for fabulous destinations, exotic beaches, and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer tribe.

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