If there ever was a city tailor-made for amazing photos, it’s Hoi An in Central Vietnam. Set where the Thu Bon River empties out into the sea, Hoi An is blessed with ocean, river, countryside, and some of the best preserved buildings in Southeast Asia.
This unique mix of cultures, textures, and colors makes the entire Ancient Town a photographer’s dream. Even amateur photographers with just a camera phone and a selfie stick can capture some drool-worthy, social media-ready images.
Here are our top spots and tips for the perfect Instagram photos in Hoi An:
From the Window to the Wall
Named a UNESCO World Heritage Center in 1999 for being “an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century”, Hoi An’s buildings and street plan reflect the many influences (both Vietnamese and foreign, thanks to the merchants from China, Japan, and Europe sailing through on the Maritime Silk Route) that have left their mark on this unique heritage site.
The local government has strict rules on renovation of the shophouses which means most of them are well-maintained and fit in with the aesthetic of the Old Town seen in its artfully peeling ochre-painted walls with pretty wooden shutters adding an additional splash of color.
The town is replete with textured walls perfect for close up portrait-style shots just leaning against the wall. Waiting for a local clad in a flowing ao dai (Vietnamese long tunic dress) is also popular.
To take your Insta-game to the next level, visit Viet Phuc Hoi An, a costume / photography studio conveniently located near the Hoi An Market. Opened by stylish friends Leo and Van in the summer of 2020, Viet Phuc offers gorgeous traditional costumes, from the simple, five-panel ao ngu than, a precursor to the ubiquitous ao dai, to the sumptuous ao hoang bao, reminiscent of the royal garb of the nearby imperial city of Hue. “Hoi An has a lot of activities that promote traditional values,” says Leo. “Unlike backpacker areas in Hanoi or Saigon, the expats in Hoi An blend into society. There’s an opportunity to globalize and promote Vietnamese culture.”
The studio (located within the pretty Bazar Café & Restaurant, conveniently with lots of Indochine-inspired backdrops) offers an array of services, from 2-hour costume rentals (starting at just VND 150,000 or USD 7) to a full package, including make-up and photographer for an indoor or outdoor photoshoot.
Built in the 17th century, the ornate Ba Mu Temple Gate is reminiscent of Hue’s Imperial City. The gate originally linked the Cam Ha Temple and the Hai Binh Temple, built by the ethnic Minh Huong Chinese in honor of the Mother Goddess of the Sea who protected them on their way from mainland China to Hoi An. While the two temples no longer exist, the Ba Mu Temple Gate was restored to its impressive state in 2018.
Nowadays, its reflective lotus pond, large wooden doors, and bright pops of color make it a favorite spot for photographers. Best of all, you can go anytime of the day. Even though it’s located just a two-minute walk from the Japanese Bridge, it’s surprisingly easy to miss because it’s slightly recessed from the main street without a many shops or restaurants in the immediate vicinity.
The façades of Hoi An’s merchant houses are impressive enough with their ornate trim and pretty gables. But for a completely different perspective on the town’s layout, head up to the fourth floor of 92 Station Restaurant and Café. While there are a few rooftop cafes in and around town, this one claims to be the highest vantage point in the Ancient Town.
Order a reasonably-priced cappuccino (USD 3) and grab a seat on the open roof (if the weather is bad, the covered terrace on the floor below has basically the same views), and enjoy the 360-degree vistas. From here, you can really appreciate the traditional rooftops that resemble waves of terracotta, thanks to the use of thin, slightly curved baked tiles, known as yin-yang tiles because one line of tiles lies face-down while the next is face-up.
Bonus tip: The single-craft pottery village of Thanh Ha is just a few minutes from the town center, accessible by road or boat. The village originally supplied the town’s pottery and ceramic needs, including roof tiles. Nowadays, its products are mainly decorative, although you can still see how pottery was traditionally made, including a foot-powered potter’s wheel and all.
Let There Be Light
Hoi An’s wonderful ochre walls make for a great backdrop, adding a “golden hour” effect any time of day. However, there are other sources of light that will really make your selfies pop.
Being on the Maritime Silk Route, Hoi An has long enjoyed a long history of producing silk. Nowadays, some of that silk goes into its iconic lanterns that hang all around the city. If you happen to be in Hoi An on the !4th day of the lunar month, the monthly Lantern Festival is especially striking when the town’s electric lights are replaced by the soft glow from silk lanterns and people let paper lanterns float down the river.
If you’re not in Hoi An during the Lantern Festival, simply head down to the night market where you can take an artful selfie against the beautifully-colored lantern shops. Note, however, that the owners are understandably not terribly keen on this, so either be quick or earn some goodwill by picking one up as a nice souvenir and you’ll have all the time you need to take photos.
Don’t forget to veer off into the many alleyways off the Ancient Town’s main streets. Often covered with soft, green moss, the alleyways are a study in light and dark.
While Hoi An’s windows and walls make for amazing backdrops, you still have to contend with weather and crowds. For amazing indoor shots, head to The Hill Station, a much-loved deli café just a couple minutes east of the main market. The original Hill Station opened in Sapa, hence the name and ethnic décor on the ground floor. The Hoi An iteration is set in an old two-story colonial-era house and is a favorite for Hoi An-based expats for its homemade wraps, meatballs, and loaded sandwiches.
However, selfie-seekers should head up the wooden stairs for some amazing textures. The owners have purposefully left this area basically untouched. The faded blue walls and flower bouquets look like a Van Gogh painting come to life, while the small covered balcony is excellent for its ornate columns and wooden shutters. However, our favorite space is a tiny room to the back with deep red walls and blue shutters. Arrange to come at off-peak hours, order a drink and a snack, and take your time setting up your shot with few others around.
Field of Dreams
Many people are surprised to find that within 10-15 minutes from the Ancient Town, there is stunning countryside, complete with working buffalo, ponds stocked with shrimp and fish, and pretty organic gardens.
Since it opened in early 2020, Hoi An insiders have flocked to Roving Chillhouse, a small bar, café, and restaurant set smack in the middle of the rice fields between the Ancient Town and the beach.
While the buildings themselves have a beachy vibe thanks to faded wooden planks, you’ll want to grab a seat in one of the shaded cabanas right next the fields, and enjoy a gourmet meal or perhaps a sunset cocktail with views over the green paddy fields all framed by tall coconut palms.
What do you think of our list of Instagrammable spots in Hoi An? Leave your recommendations in the comments below!
Enjoy the best of both worlds at Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa. Located on a private stretch of beach on beautiful Cua Dai, just 15 minutes from the Ancient Town, enjoy a full day of sightseeing and selfie-taking, then come home to this restful boutique resort with one of the prettiest palm-fringed infinity pools in Vietnam.