Painted mustard yellow, sometimes sporting teal blue doors or emerald green windows, Hoi An’s timber-frame shophouses are some of the most photogenic buildings in Vietnam. As you wander the streets of the Ancient Town, you can spot several distinct architectural styles. Each one tells a different story about Hoi An’s past. Here’s a guide to appreciating the architecture of Hoi An.

The original Hoi An

The fusion architecture you’ll see in Hoi An dates back to the 18th century. Between 1773 and 1802, the wooden houses of Faifo — the former name of this trading port  — were largely destroyed during the conflict between the Trinh army and Tay Son rebels. The town of Hoi An was rebuilt after the Tay Son Rebellion, and those are the houses you will find today.

One-story houses - The architecture of Hoi An's Ancient Town

One-story houses (1770 – 1850)

When you pass a one-story house or shop in Ancient Town, chances are it was built in the late 18th century. These are the oldest structures in Hoi An, and they have either a single roof or split, two-level roof. You can find several of these houses on Trần Phú Street.

Where to see it: The Duc An Old House on 129 Tran Phu Street is a great example of a one storey house. It was built around 1830 and was once a Chinese language book store used by intellectuals including Kang Youwei (1858 – 1927) and Liang Quichao (1873 – 1929).

Two-story houses - Hoi An Ancient Town Architecture

Two-story houses (1850 – 1888)

As Faifo grew more prosperous, some shopkeepers and merchant families decided to construct two-story houses to have more space for living and storage. The first versions of these houses had short second floors that were only about half the height of the first floor and narrow, shaded balconies.

In time, timber houses with two floors, each a full height, appeared in Hoi An. Many of these two-story houses had full balconies covered by an overhanging roof, where merchants and families could sit and observe the street below.

Where to see it: You can see an example of a full two-story house at 6 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, near the Japanese Bridge. Note its tubular tiled roof and the balconies on the second floor.

Colonial-style houses - Hoi An Architecture

Colonial-style houses (1888 – 1954)

During the French colonization of Vietnam in the 1880s, houses of wealthy people across Vietnam often took on elements of architecture found in Paris and other French cities, such as shuttered windows, arched entrances and ornate columns. The colonial-style houses in Hoi An were not built by French, but by Chinese merchants who were encouraged by the French to settle and do business in Hoi An.

Where to see it: The Museum of Sa Huynh Culture is housed in a well-preserved colonial-style building close to the river. Visit the museum to see relics of the Sa Huynh civilization in Quang Nam and explore the architecture of the building at the same time.

Fusion style houses - Hoi An Architecture

Fusion style houses (1930 – )

The most recent style of architecture you’ll see in the Ancient Town is a fusion between the wooden two-storey houses and colonial style houses. These fusion structures have both stacked timber windows and shuttered windows, and have elements of French design in the balustrades on the balconies, as well as the traditional tiled roofs of Hoi An.

Where to see it: The Diep Dong Nguyen House at 80 Nguyen Thai Hoc is a perfect example of Hoi An’s fusion style architecture. This building has been home to five generations of the Diệp family, and was built in the late 19th century for Chinese merchant Diep Ngo Xuan – a pharmacist and expert in traditional medicine – who was originally from Guangdong province.

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