Hoi An Walking Tours: Heritage, Foods, Photography & Locals

Strolling around heritage quarters with a local guide is the activity that so many travelers love to do in Hoi An. It enriches their time in this lovely town. Firstly, they can learn about local history and cultures from a local who was born and grew up in the area. Not only from the books, their knowledge is from daily life, family members, neighbours and friends. What they say also are stories that travelers never have the chance to hear if don’t go with them. For example, about the Vietnam war. As a local expert, the guide explains things easy to understand and answers questions from his or her new friends, with details. Especially if seeing him/her on the first day in Hoi An, that’s so fantastic. Recommendations for where to eat, things to do, shopping advice, etc will be precious, reliable for visitors. Definitely, it’s possible to expect to know spots and ideas for nice pictures.

This article introduces guided walking tours in Hoi An to let travelers know all options they can have. Their theme is about sightseeing (to know the history), local cuisine (through trying foods) or cultural experiences.

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The Hoi An Old Town: The Best Area for Walking

The Hoi An old town (or ancient town) is the oldest part of modern Hoi An city today. It was an international trading port town that flourished between 15th  and 19th centuries. Merchants coming from the west, China and Japan with their sailing ships docked here to buy high-quality products, including spices, silk, ceramics, etc. Nowadays, it’s still a center of commerce but has been better known as a popular tourist destination in Vietnam. Tourism boom began when Hoi An was inscribed by Unesco as a world heritage site. Read Hoi An ancient town travel guide for further information.

Due to its richness of cultural heritages and charm, the Hoi An old town becomes perfect for those who love exploring by walking and taking photographs. At night, the beauty of lanterns, atmosphere and vibrancy can’t be missed. The time here is absolutely worth spending and memorable to save. In fact, if travelers don’t visit the town once on a trip, they will come back several times (somehow they also go to eat, drink and go shopping!).

Note: Tourists are required to purchase an entrance fee (120,000 VND per adult now) to enter Hoi An Unesco world heritage area and visit its cultural landmarks. See full details here.

The Best Times to Walk around Hoi An’s Old Town

The best times to roam about the Hoi An old town are the morning and late afternoon onwards. In the beginning of the daytime, the sun doesn’t rise high yet, and sure, it’s not too hot. Remembering that a walking tour in Hoi An is a kind of outdoor activity. In the morning (as early as possible), travelers have the chance to know the “real” town. People they see are all locals. For photography, besides ideal light conditions, this is great to catch beautiful moments of life. Travelers can sit on the street to have breakfast or try coffee like a local.

From late afternoon, the temperature decreases and that is a nice time to walk. At that time, it’s easier to feel that there are more tourists in the town than in the morning. Street food vendors open, giving the chance to try scrumptious dishes at a not expensive price. In the evening, Hoi An’s old town makes travelers fall in love because of its brilliant beauty. That is made by uncountable lantern lights, in the streets and on the river and of course, they are diverse in color, size and shape. Nobody misses this time of the day to see the town and have beautiful pictures. Its wonderful atmosphere is also one of the reasons.

The evening is a great time to have a drink and socialize too. In Hoi An, bars and pubs line the riverside roads, providing a variety of alcohol options with a pretty view. No doubt that the experience at night can continue with a ton of joy.

Read also: The Best Time to Visit Hoi An

Morning Hoi An Old Town Walking Tour

Main article: Morning Hoi An Old Town Walking Tour

For sure, morning is one of the best times to explore Hoi An old town. We recommend starting at 8 am. Because the tour doesn’t cover transports from the hotel, visitors need to leave there at least 15 minutes earlier.

Our Hoi An old town walking tour starts at the Hoi An post office (Buu dien Hoi An), 6 Tran Hung Dao St. After meeting and knowing about all members of the group, our local guide will show “Hoi An ancient town” heritage zone and its landmarks. The list of places include the Japanese bridge, Fujian assembly hallTan Ky houseMuseum of trade ceramics, and Museum of Sa Huynh culture. In each place, he/she introduces historical buildings themselves by his/her in-depth knowledge to allow visitors to better understand local life and culture. Hoi An town is known for the diversity of cultures, from different nationalities, religions and backgrounds. This tour provides many photo opportunities.

With a focus on locals, visitors are taken to two markets. In the Food market, the guide tells stories about unique dishes/snacks that are only found in Hoi An and local culinary culture. Historically, foreign traders came here to buy spices, such as cinnamon, pepper, star anise, etc. Not far away, the Fabric market gives the chance to see skilled tailors and make customized clothings (at your own expense).

In the French quarter, the famous Rehann photographer’s gallery is the next place to visit. He captures amazing moments of life and Vietnam’s nature with his camera, and exhibits them in this beloved house. Most traditional costumes of the people living in the country are here too, making it 100% worth seeing.

Additionally, we also bring visitors to a street coffee store to try traditional Vietnamese coffee by the Japanese bridge. Here, the guide talks about the history of coffee in the country and how to drink like a local.

Lantern making workshops, coffee roasters, hidden fresh water wells and holy places, and more are awaiting to be known.

Evening Hoi An Walking Tour (Sightseeing, Lantern Boat & Street Food)

Main article: Hoi An Evening Tour

Besides the morning, the evening is another best time to discover Hoi An old town. We recommend starting at 4:30 pm, to have time enough for sightseeing main cultural landmarks and then enjoy the town’s charm at night.

The meeting place of our Hoi An evening walking tour is at the Hoi An post office, 6 Tran Hung Dao St. When all people show, the guide will introduce himself/herself and then, he or she makes the way to discover the town. Because of the closing hours of major landmarks, the beginning of the tour focuses on sightseeing. Visitors have the chance to learn about different cultures at the Chinese Fujian assembly hall, Japanese bridge, Vietnamese houses, and markets. In every place, history is shared, stories are told and questions are answered.

Late afternoon is also the most ideal time to hunt local street foods. We recommend trying banh beo (“water fern cakes”) and banh bot loc (clear dumplings). Vegetarians can have dumplings with green beans as filling. Other yummy snacks are introduced also, allowing visitors to understand better local culinary culture.

When the dark falls, Hoi An becomes such brilliant with thousands of colorful lantern lights. Back to history, the Chinese people brought the very first lanterns to the town, and today, it’s titled “the lantern town”. The best view is in the full moon. Sure, visitors have photo opportunities to take memorable pictures. By the river, locals travel by boats and release paper lanterns to pray and wish. Our tour includes this leisurely boat ride (shared boat).

After going back to land, the group goes to Nguyen Hoang night market, another paradise of foods and shopping in town. Lantern shops here are extremely perfect for photos. Prior to giving a free time for self exploration, the guide recommends good places to have delicious foods for dinner or to have a cold beer.

Evening Hoi An Walking Food Tour

Main article: Hoi An Evening Walking Food Tour

The nicest period to begin a food tour in Hoi An (and Vietnam in general) is from late afternoon. Our tour has the meeting time at 4 pm and the meeting place as the Hoi An post office.

Within a few hours, our local guide will take visitors to different places, including street stalls, market kiosks, hidden eateries and well-known restaurants. There, they can taste many dishes that define Hoi An’s unique culinary culture. And of course, they can learn from the guide everything about them. Additionally, the foods support interesting pictures and for social media posts.

The list of the food samples includes banh mi sandwich, banh xoai (“mango cake”), banh beo (“water fern cake”), banh bot loc (clear dumplings), cao lau noodle, the white rose dumplings, banh it (ramie leave cake), the husband and wife cake, tofu pudding as dessert and even trung vit lon (balut). Some of them are never seen anywhere else. As a melting pot, Hoi An boasts its cuisine thriving from the exchange of different cultures in the world. 

Before visitors have their own time to discover the town, our guide will recommend activities and places to have a cold beer.  

Hoi An Vegetarian Walking Food Tour

Main article: Hoi An Vegetarian Food Tour

Are you vegetarians? Hoi An is the town for you. This historic trading port has many vegetarian dishes to try (especially in the first and 15th days each lunar month).

Within a couple of hours, visitors have the chance to taste these vegetarian foods: banh mi sandwich, cao lau noodles, banh bot loc (clear dumplings), white rose dumplings, banh it la gai (ramie leave cake), banh phu the (“husband and wife cake”), banh khoai mon (taro cake), nuoc mot (iced herbal tea) and tofu pudding as dessert.

Not only to try delicious dishes, visitors also learn about them from the guide. He or she will tell the same, share why locals call it, its name and how to spell it in local dialect. Each dish has its own story. Then, explain the ingredients, how to make it, how its taste like and how to eat like a local. Furthermore, while eating, the history of the store (business) and the family are also introduced by him/her. Of course, visitors have the chance to see the food makers prepare the dish and take a picture with them.

The “Unique Hoi An” Walking Tour

Hoi An served as an international trading port until the late 19th century and then, the provincial city in the French colonial time. So, it’s the “peaceful meeting place” where different nationalities come to live and trade, making its culture really unique. Geography location of the town gives it a different climate, including natural disasters that people face yearly.

This walking tour focuses only on unique things of Hoi An. Our guide will show and explain architectural and decorative elements of major landmarks that are only seen in the town. For example, why houses have yellow walls or eyes above the door. List of the buildings include Chinese assembly halls, Tan Ky house, Japanese bridge, markets, and more. The lantern itself is a special reminder about Hoi An. So, that’s why, a lantern workshop is one of the stops in the tour. A short lantern making class with the artisans will be included if requested.

Hoi An’s local foods and beverages are also different from the rest of the country. We would like to introduce the most unique among them for visitors. There are cao lau noodles that are only found in Hoi An, banh mi sandwiches, white rose dumplings, banh dap (“smashed rice papers”), banh xoai (“mango cakes”), mot iced herbal tea and more. While sampling yummy snacks, visitors listen to stories about the store (business) and everything about the foods. Of course, explanation for why they’re unique.

Every single year, Hoi An is flooded frequently. This natural phenomena gives it the nickname “the Venice of Asia”. Our local guide will tell visitors how the floods are, how locals adapt to them and stories around them (including funny ones). If don’t go with locals, it’s really hard to know the details.

Read also: Temples and Pagodas in Hoi An

Hoi An Ancient Town Walking Tour with Tam Le

Tam Le is the founder of the Central Vietnam Guide, an online guide book dedicated to providing travelers reliable and updated information. He is very passionate about local history, culture and heritage. He studied tourism management and has been working as a tour guide and travel blogger for years.

A walking tour around Hoi An ancient town with Tam Le allows visitors to know his in-depth knowledge about history and culture of all communities. He shows Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese remains and explains everything about them. At each place, visitors can ask him to deepen their understanding. Besides heritages, the tour includes traditional markets where most local products are for sale. Tam Le definitely let the group know what they are and how they are linked to local cultures (cooking, worship, etc). Some of them that you have never seen before. The museum of Sa Huynh culturemuseum of trade ceramics and Rehann’s gallery are other highlights of this heritage walk.

Vietnam is a country famous for coffee. So, Tam Le also introduces a shop where local beans are roasted and used to brew coffee. There, he continues sharing what he knows about Hoi An town and the presence of Europeans in the history. Vietnamese coffee has its own story too.

Local foods are never missed. Visitors have the chance to taste some delicious dishes, including banh mi sandwiches at one of the most famous stores. Tucked away in a small laneway, Ba Le well is linked with the preparation of Cao lau noodles, the iconic food of Hoi An. After listening to stories about this well, visitors will try black sesame soup at a vendor’s family. Its fresh water is used to cook it.

Hoi An Photo Tours

Hoi An old town is the beloved place for professional photographers and those who love photography, for both locals and tourists. It has lovely and colorful quarters that are known for signature yellow houses, ornate temples, hanging lanterns, blooming bougainvillea flowers, vendors with a shoulder pole and vibrant trading activities. Its markets are home to a plenty of local vegetables, fruits, and fishes. In the sunrise, sunset, rainy or flood days, the town becomes more unique. Especially, in the evening, it’s absolutely spectacular. Millions of lantern lights make wonderful scenery and atmosphere that are world-famous. Nobody can’t miss this charm on their trip, including photography lovers. Unique moments of life will be catched.

Visitors can book a workshop run by professional photographers who live in Hoi An, to know everything to make the best pictures. It’s available for both smartphone and camera, for all levels and experiences.

Read also: Instagrammable Spots in Hoi An

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