Hoi An Lanterns: Festival, Making Class, Where to Buy, More

Lanterns are the signature of Hoi An Old Town, the 3rd Unesco world heritage site in Vietnam. Especially at night, these traditional handicraft objects are lit up and make the town so atmospheric. In the full moon, locals drop plenty of paper lanterns with a twinkling candle to the river, and make wishes then. Because of that, the feeling of the watchers is full of surprise, gracefulness and sometimes overwhelmed. Indeed, millions of tourists visit Hoi An old town, just to see and photograph the mythical beauty. They can wander, ride a bicycle, get on a cyclo through crowds or a boat to view and enjoy it. This article reveals all secrets behind Hoi An lanterns, and everything related that are special features in local culture and industry. A mini buyer guide is also outlined, to help travellers easier to find the best ionic reminder of Hoi An to bring home as souvenir. 

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History and Basics about Lanterns in Hoi An

Hoi An Lanterns History

Lanterns were introduced into Hoi An by Chinese migrants who left their home because of business and political reasons. The time is at least 15th century when the town became important in the trade network of the region. Local artisans say that Xa Duong is the ancestor of their traditional craft and they all deeply respect him. He was a professional joss paper maker, specialized in making unicorn heads for dancers and revolving lanterns for festivals. Later, more people came to Hoi An and got rich, the handicraft grew and became popular. Vietnamese loved bamboo-frame lanterns in the shape of carp or star to celebrate the full moon. The Chinese loved wood-frame lanterns with letters meaning “happiness”, “prosperity”, and so on. In 20th century, French lived in Hoi An, and introduced new (western) skills and knowledge to local artists. Craft in making lanterns is seen as the most precious intangible cultural heritage of the city. 

In 1999, Hoi An town was added to the Unesco world heritage site list. Quickly after, there are lots of people coming to visit, to find out their own question to explain why. A tourism boom was made, and consumption of lantern souvenirs raised. However, the buyers felt it was difficult to pack them and bring them home (especially the large lanterns). So, Mr Huynh Van Ba spent 6 months inventing the foldable lantern. Due to experience in many decades, he was passionate in teaching young generations about traditional techniques.

Shape of Lanterns in Hoi An

Lanterns in Hoi An are varied in size, shape, color and material. Just about the shape, there are 9 traditional ones that travellers may see around the old town. Circle, octagonal, hexagonal, “pumpkin”, “garlic or onion”, cylinder, umbrella, and “banh ú” (an octahedron glutinous rice cake stuffed with sweet fillings). About the materials, bamboo and wood are most popular to make the frame and silk is the most favourite fabric to be the covering. Colors of Hoi An lanterns are absolutely many, from single to pattern.

Color of Lanterns in Hoi An

Each color carries a different meaning in local people’s thoughts because the lanterns are used to hang up in their house or shop. Read is believed that it brings luck, fortune, and happiness, while the pure, serenity and peacefulness. The yellow signifies warmth, optimism, richness and prosperity (because same to the gold). The blue signifies calmness, loyalty and trustworthiness. The green is for safety, growth, freshness and hope. The purple represents elegance, mystery and royalty, while the orange has meanings as passion, excitement, creativity and energy.  


Lantern Making Tradition of Hoi An

Workshops and Artisans

According to the city’s authorities, there are around 40 workshops and 200 artisans in Hoi An. They all produce some hundreds of thousands lanterns for local souvenir shops and to export to plentiful places in and outside of Vietnam. To improve income for the artisans, many workshops open the doors for tourists to visit or learn to make the lanterns.

How to Make a Hoi An Lantern

Making a lantern in Hoi An has a long history, and to have a buyable one, the makers have to complete many stages. Nowadays, some steps are assisted by the machine. These are basic steps according to the tradition:

 – Preparing bamboo: Bamboo is carefully selected, mature culms only and then soaked in the salt water for over a week to avoid termites. The tubes are split in properly-sized sticks and dried in the high sun. After becoming perfect to be the frame, people sharpen the sticks.

– Forming the frame: Bending 2 solid bamboo or wooden sticks into a circle like a ring. Both are used to hold the bamboo sticks and the sticks are tied together by a rubber band. Shape of the lantern depends on the maker or the order of buyers.

– Coverings: silk or good-quality fabrics are used to cover the outer surface of the frame, with color and pattern up to personal likings. If requested, the maker paints on the fabric to create patterns instead of using pre-printed ones.


Hoi An Lantern Workshop (Hoi An Lantern Making Class)

The Lantern Lady

Address: 3/6 Phan Boi Chau St – Contacts: Tel +841219482335, Email thuylantern@gmail.com

In this Hoi An lantern workshop, travellers are instructed by Thuy (a local) to make a lantern from scratch. The shape and color are up to the maker. Conical hat is available to learn also, if interested. Thuy suggests that should let her know in advance by above contacts, to make an appointment or walk directly to her home. The doors open from 9 a.m to 8 p.m daily. 

The Hoi An Handicraft Tours

Address: 8 Tran Cao Van St – Contacts: Tel +84399126230, Email hoianhandicrafttours@gmail.com

This organizer provides private and group workshops daily, with flexible departure times. Within 2 to 3 hours, its in-house staff will instruct the learners how to craft a lantern manually in all stages. After finishing, it’s no charge to bring it home. Beside that, if interested in making pottery, the learners can continue the fun experience with a new material and object. See more information in the official webpage in hoianhandicraftours.com.

Pho Hoi Lantern Workshop

Address: 310 Nguyen Duy Hieu St – Contacts: Tel +84939094400

Opening the doors from 8:30 a.m to 5 p.m 7 days a week, this workshop organizes lantern making classes with a reasonable price. To start, the learners choose bamboo or wood for the frame and the favourites from 20 colors for covering. They decide the shape. All stages are guided by Mr Hai whose knowledge and skills were passed down from his father. Now, he has experience over some decades.

Reaching Out Lantern Workshop

Address: 8 Tran Cao Van St – Contacts: Tel +84399126230, Email hoianhandicrafttours@gmail.com

At the Reaching Out Arts and Crafts, travellers have the chance to learn how to make a foldable lantern with Ha, a skilled paperwork artisan. She gives detailed instructions and patience in every step, from 1st to final. The class is available from Monday to Fridays, and occurs in one hour (2 to 3 p.m). Each participant will pay 15 USD. To know details and book, browse the official webpage in reachingoutvietnam.com.

The Reaching Out is a social enterprise that assists, trains and gives jobs to local disabilities. Handicraft works they make are sold, and given back to them and others with the same situation.

Ha Linh Lantern Manufacturing Unit

Address: 72 Tran Nhan Tong St – Contacts: Tel +842353923037

This manufacturing workshop is amongst the largest ones in Hoi An, with some dozens of makers. Thanks to that, travellers have so many options of materials, colors, and styles to choose and learn here. The English of the instructors is not fluent, but it’s not a big problem to deal with during the class. Price of lanterns here is affordably-priced, so it’s nice to shop around and bring some souvenirs home.

Smile House Handicraft

Address: Tran Hung Dao St (the Confucius Temple)

A part of the Confucius Temple in Hoi An is the space for local disabled people to produce handicraft objects for living. Travelers can come here to visit nice architecture, and join the artisan’s daily work, including making lanterns.



Hoi An Lanterns Every Night

Lanterns in Hoi An’s Streets

In the evening, lanterns are lit up, and Hoi An historic quarters become a sanctuary of pedestrians and instagrammers. There is a diversity of colors, shape, size, location, and a density of thousands of lanterns. Due to the incredibly gorgeous beauty, nobody wants to exclude the visit to the town to see at the time. Atmosphere is bustling, thriving, and full of graceful vibes.

Hoi An Lanterns on the River

After the sunset, local vendors of different ages sell paper lanterns along the Old Town’s waterfront – Bach Dang. Price of one is cheap, less than 20,000 VND. Vietnamese people often buy, light up the candle, use a stick to place it down the water and make wishes then. They believe that the wishes will be answered soon one day. This tradition may originate from Buddhism. In the crowded hours, the canal is filled with shimmering lights from plenty of candles that mesmerize anybody.

Lantern Boat Ride Hoi An

Taking a boat is another choice to enjoy the brilliant, mythical beauty of lanterns of the town and photograph. A ride often lasts at least 15 minutes but the minimum time may be downed during peak hours or high seasons. The cost is from 50,000 VND per person (cheaper if bargain) and only 4 people are allowed to board together. During the ride, the passengers have the chance to light up a candle paper lantern by themselves and drop it down to the river. The on-the-water experience absolutely shouldn’t be missed out.

The boat with colorful lanterns that you see in Instagram, now is more simple and rustic. According to the latest decision from Hoi An leaders, one boat is allowed to have 2 lanterns only.


Lantern Festival in Hoi An

Introduction of Hoi An Lantern Festival

Hoi An Lantern Festival (or Hoi An Full Moon Festival, Hoi An Full Moon Lantern Festival, Hoi An Light Festival) is a famous monthly-held cultural event in the Old Town. It aims to celebrate the full moon, on the 14th day of each lunar month. All local families light up the lanterns to pray for luck, prosperity, happiness, good health and moderate weather. By the river, people drop candle lanterns and make wishes, like in Buddhist festivals. Due to countless colorful, glimmering lantern lights (and happy atmosphere), no travellers wants to miss out this featured night. Read further details in our guide to Hoi An Lantern Festival.

Hoi An Lantern Festival 2022

Dates of Hoi An Lantern Festival in 2022 are 16th January, 14th February, 16th March, 14th April, 14th May, 14th June, 12nd July, 11st August, 9th September, 9th October, 7th November, and 7th December.

Hoi An Lantern Festival 2023

Dates of Hoi An Lantern Festival in 2023 are 5th January, 4th February, 5th March, 4th April, 3rd May, 1st June, 1st July, 29th August, 28th September, 28th October, 26th November and 26th December.

Hoi An Lantern Festival 2024

Dates of Hoi An Lantern Festival in 2024 are 24th January, 23rd February, 23rd March, 22nd April, 21st May, 19th June, 19th July, 17th August, 16th September, 16th October, 14th November and 14th December.


Hoi An Lantern Shop and Market

The Night Market

Along the Nguyen Hoang Rd, travellers don’t need to know address and any contacts to get to shops here to buy a lantern. It is so easy to consider where they are because of eye-popping colored lights and crowds of instagrammers or facebookers. Most shops are around the crossroad Nguyen Hoang – La Hoi, to the right side from the entrance of the market. The type is diverse here, as same as anywhere else in Hoi An, but the price is touristy. Therefore, buyers should bargain to make it down to “the happy rates”. Another tip is shopping around, coming to several shops before deciding to buy one. In the surroundings, there are lots of other souvenirs and gifts to check out.

Better deals may be seen in the vendors around the Hoi An Central Market. Getting there if your location is nearer and you’re not too picky about what to buy.

Ong Canh

At 65 Tran Phu St (near the Museum of Trade Ceramics), this small lantern shop has an awesome history, a Cao lau noodle restaurant. It used to be more famous than any best of the kind nowadays in Hoi An. People still say the verse “Hoi An local food specialties, cao lau (noodles) in Ong Canh, banh xeo (pancakes) in Tam Tam”. Run by a couple of husband and wife, travellers have many choices of lantern to choose from here now. A large one charges 150,000 VND and small ones charge 100,000 VND.

Huynh Van Ba Workshop

At 15A Phan Dinh Phung St, this wholesalers is owned by Huynh Van Ba artisan who invented the foldable lanterns in Hoi An. The price here may be the best, because the majority of shops in the town are re-sellers. If wanting to make a lantern by yourself to give to friends and families back home, people don’t mind to instruct. This is what you should do when having time (around 1 hour). The self-crafted lantern carries more meanings and during stages, travellers can know better a local traditional handicraft.  


Instagram Places with Lanterns

A perfect background with colorful lanterns is what lots of travellers seek when visiting Hoi An. While the sun is still up, Nguyen Thai Hoc St (near Tan Ky House) or Ong Canh Shop at 65 Tran Phu are nice spots to photograph. At night, you should stroll along Hoi An Night Market and Bach Dang riverfronts. There, it’s possible to see walls with lanterns hung up, candle lanterns by the water edge, a lantern boat or sparkling lantern shops.


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