Top 10 iconic places for photos in Hoi An Old Town
Looking for one of the most picturesque towns in Asia? Want to capture an exotic location and its culture through your photographs? Well, look no further than Hoi An!
In fact, you’ve probably seen plenty of Hoi An photos already, of images taken in its most iconic spots, even if you don’t know it.
Built over the last 300 years by Chinese, Japanese and French merchants, Hoi An has a very unique style of architecture that makes it particularly special. And it’s probably why Hoi An became a UNESCO heritage town in 1999.
Hoi An Photography
Having been based here, running photography tours in Hoi An for the last 10 years, we thought it’d be useful to share our favourite spots for taking photos in the Ancient Town – also known as Hoi An Old Town.
This is only a shortlist of our best places for photography in the Old Town. But really, we believe that anywhere in town potentially makes a great photo.
That’s why we suggest taking some time to explore the streets of Hoi An. Stroll through it at the right time of the day, and you will surely find some great photo opportunities.
Best time to visit Hoi An Old Town?
As we mentioned, it’s nice to explore the streets at any time of day. But there are a couple of times that we’d recommend, depending on what you’re interested in shooting as a photographer.
1. Early morning – for quiet streets with market action at the core
Over the past few years, Hoi An has changed dramatically. It no longer feels like a quiet little town, and the streets get invaded by groups of tourists every afternoon. Some people say Hoi An has changed too much and isn’t enjoyable any longer. Clearly, these people never get up early!
From 6 am to 9 am, Hoi An Old Town is still the same as it was 10 years ago. The streets are quiet and from time to time you can capture images of local people going back and forth to the market.
The sunrise in this Ancient Town is pretty spectacular, too. If you walk along Bach Dang Street (along the river), the early morning light is perfectly aligned to light most of the houses there.
And why not use this opportunity to set off in a local boat? After all, from the river, you’ll have the best vantage point around!
Top Tip! Get there before 9 am and Hoi An Market is a completely local market. No tourists, no souvenir shops – only local people selling their local products.
It’s a great time and place to practice and improve your photography in a very authentic environment. Just like we’ll be doing on our morning photography walk around Hoi An Old Town.
2. Afternoon – for street and people photography
In the afternoon, Hoi An Ancient Town is packed with tourists wandering the streets. Meaning it’s actually becoming very difficult to capture some nice “travel” images. Something that feels more authentic, more traditional.
However, it is still possible to capture beautiful travel images in Hoi An Old Town during the afternoon – but you’ll need to work a little harder. To wait patiently for the perfect time, when all those crowds are out of the frame.
Because of this, we recently launched the FIRST EVER 2-hour street photography workshop in Vietnam. During these 2 hours, we take people into the Old Town and teach them about street photography, or the art of capturing interesting moments.
It doesn’t matter whether our subjects are locals or tourists – it is purely about the moment, the light, and the composition.
In fact, the streams of afternoon tourists can work to your advantage here – you have more interesting and eclectic characters to choose as your subjects!
3. Evening – for moody and romantic tones
When the day is done and darkness falls, Hoi An transforms itself into a magical place.
The lanterns and floating candles on the river give it a beautiful, romantic look – even though the streets are still very crowded. During this time, you can focus your photography on landscapes of the Old Town itself… or on the local people, selling candles and souvenirs to tourists.
10 of the best places to take photos in Hoi An Old Town
1. Tan Ky Traditional House
One of the most popular settings for images of Hoi An, and one that has been done and overdone (!!) The house itself is a complete tourist trap – in fact, it’s really a tourist shop disguised as an old house.
However, just to the back of Tan Ky house stretches one of the longest yellow walls in Hoi An Old Town. A wall that is perfectly lit in the morning and in the afternoon, too.
Here is a great location to try and compose more interesting stories. Such as, layering more elements in your frame – instead of the classic “girl with a hat” photo that has frankly, become far too overdone.
Try and be creative with this one, so you don’t end up copying a photo that has been shot before. For instance, instead of shooting this wall with a long lens from the other side of the river, come close to it with a wider lens, and compose your shot using the people walking by.
2. Hoi An Central Market
A very busy location to photograph in the morning, this is our favourite spot to teach people photography in the Old Town.
Because it isn’t an easy place to photograph – thanks to all that bustling activity – it’s a great location to push yourself. To be creative with your photography.
Like we mentioned above, we recommend visiting the market before 9 am, and before the tourist shops open.
3. The Japanese Bridge
Even though the ridge is completely cluttered with people in the afternoon, it still offers one of the most iconic views of Hoi An. Specifically, in the early morning, when you can see local people crossing the bridge to go to the market.
The bridge is also fantastic to photograph at night, given all the beautiful lights surrounding it.
4. Hoi An Walking Bridge
This bridge is extremely busy with people in the late afternoon. Which actually makes it one of my favourite spots to photograph around sunset.
Shooting towards the sunset, you can practice your silhouette skills while layering as many selfie-taking people as possible!
5. From An Hoi – Opposite Side of the River
At sunset or at night, the best view of Hoi An Old Town is still from the other side of the river – on An Hoi.
Over the past few years, the local government has removed all the boats from the river (that were once polluting our images). So now you can compose a very clean image of Hoi An from the opposite riverbank.
6. Trung Hoa Assembly Hall
This iconic spot is also called the “blue temple”. And even though the blue complex has been overused by some local wedding photographers, it still offers some of the prettiest backgrounds in Hoi An Ancient Town.
It is actually now forbidden to take wedding photos within the temple itself – but anyone can still walk in to take travel photos of the place. There aren’t that many locals within the temple, so we suggest you another place for your next Insta-ready selfie 🙂
Top Tip! Look out for the old lady selling ceramic whistles outside the Assembly Hall. If you buy some of her souvenirs, she’ll be very happy to let you take some photos of her.
7. Outside Quan Cong Temple
One of our favourite spots in Hoi An, especially in the afternoon, is the huge yellow wall out Quan Cong Temple.
Even though the wall is often cluttered with motorbikes, the light around 4 pm falls perfectly upon it – and upon the giant sidewalk beneath – allowing you to isolate people walking into this light.
8. Phan Boi Chau Street
Also known as the street where our office is, Phan Boi Chau is still part of the Old Town – but a much quieter part.
There you can still find all of the original architecture that makes Hoi An so unique, with the benefit of fewer people ambling around. The street also has great coffee shops and galleries. Bonus.
9. A Good Rooftop
It is becoming more and more difficult to seek these locations out. But Hoi An still has some amazing rooftops that you can use for some wider cityscape images – for instance, the rooftop from “The Chef” restaurant or from Faifo cafe.
The best rooftops, though, are generally not open to the public. But if you try befriending people working in shops before asking them if you can check out their rooftop, you might just get lucky!
10. Hoi An’s many details
From colourful lanterns to amazing wall textures – and even the souvenirs that are sold in town – you can be very creative with your photography when isolating some of these elements.
Plus, during the rainy season, the walls of Hoi An are covered in green moss – a colour combination which can be quite dramatic.
Our favourite photography spots outside of Hoi An
1. Long Tuyen Pagoda
On the way to Danang, you can find this beautiful temple that seems completely out of place with its surroundings. I used to visit this location quite a lot when starting out in photography. I like the atmosphere there and the architecture is quite unique.
2. The rice fields surrounding Hoi An
The rice fields surrounding Hoi An: Hoi An is surrounded by the beach to the East, and by the rice fields to the West. In literally any direction you go to you will be able to find beautiful rice fields, as well as corn, sesame and bean fields where people work in the morning and afternoon.
3. Cua Dai beach
Highly recommended at sunrise, Cua Dai beach faces Cham Island to the east, allowing you to capture the stunning morning colours alongside the remaining palm trees.
4. An Bang beach
An Bang beach is particularly enjoyable in late August and September. At that time of year, the weather is still great – but you can sometimes capture black threatening clouds over the horizon at sunset, with the city of Da Nang in the background. Nice and dramatic.
5. Tra Que vegetable village
Even though this village has become a huge tourist attraction in the afternoon, it remains a fantastic spot early in the morning. We have personally used Tra Que village a lot for wedding shoots at this time. The morning light hits the vegetable fields perfectly, and you can witness local people working in the gardens all day long.
6. Every single village around Hoi An!
In my opinion, the best thing about Hoi An, and the reason why after over 10 years I still love the place so much is the Hoi An countryside. There are dozens of villages surrounding Hoi An Old Town, and it’s very easy to go and “get lost” in these villages.
Since the people there are less visited by tourists, they tend to be friendlier – so, as a photographer, you can capture the essence of Vietnam. This is the reason why all our photography tours take us to the countryside, away from the rest of the tourists. Where photography is much more interesting.
My friend Pete De Marco wrote an extensive article about Photography in Central Vietnam – check it out!
Final thoughts? You’ll be spoilt for choice!
Like we said, Hoi An is a very picturesque and photogenic place. So if you’re looking for iconic spots to shoot photographs, well… there’s a lot of places to choose from!
Our advice? Hit up a few places in town from the first half of this post and then get out there in the countryside. Not only will you capture great and unique images, but you’ll also have a more authentic experience when you do.