Hoi An or Da Nang – Where to Stay?

Got only a few days in Central Vietnam and want to make the most of your trip? Then you have probably been mulling over in your head: Hoi An or Da Nang? Where to stay or both? And where is it best to base yourself? 

Relax. Hidden’s answer is simple: You can´t go wrong. Base your stay in either Hoi An or Da Nang and visit the other readily. Hoi An being only 30 kilometres south of Da Nang. And yes, both cities are very well connected. There are local buses 20,000 VND (0.8 USD) for a one-way ticket). Motorbikes. Taxis. So there are plenty of options to travel back and forth. A one-way trip by private car from Hoi An to Da Nang costs you around 250.000 VND (11 USD).

However where you set camp eventually depends on your needs and expectations. Hoi An is relatively small with a population of 150,000 people. However in Da Nang, there are roughly 1,2 million people.  Both destinations have pristine white, sandy beaches, with longer stretches in Da Nang.  But Hoi An offers more historic sites and a European feel. Whereas Da Nang presents itself as a modern Asian metropolis with lots of high rises. In both Hoi An and Da Nang, there are a great variety of places to stay. However there are more international hotel options in Da Nang and a great variety of boutique hotels and lovely homestays in Hoi An. 

picturesque Hoi An
The lantern-filled streets of Hoi An’s Ancient Town Photo: Sara Wass

A Tale of Two Cities During the War

Today’s difference in the architecture of the two cities is easily explained by the war. Even though Central Vietnam was one of the heaviest affected regions at that time, Hoi An miraculously remained almost untouched. Da Nang, on the other hand, was heavily bombed, the city served as a major US Airbase at that time. History buffs might know that this was the city that US troops first landed and at one point hosted a fifth of US military personnel.

When visitors choose picturesque Hoi An over vibrant Da Nang, they say it is because they find Hoi An to be a little more relaxing. Hoi An is very walkable whereas in Da Nang the areas of interest are more widespread, there’s a distinct lack of a town centre and you are required to go longer distances.

So let’s start with a brief overview, to help you decide where to stay – Hoi An or Da Nang.

Da Nang’s busy skyline
Da Nang’s busy skyline creates a very different atmosphere to Hoi An’s laid back pace. Photo: Chase Martin

Hoi An Vs Da Nang – A Brief Overview

Hoi An Overview

Walkable city ✓ Picturesque, dreamy ✓ Historic Old Town and UNESCO heritage site ✓ Quiet after midnight ✓ White, sandy beaches ✓

Hoi An is a very walkable city. This not only applies to the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with picturesque historic buildings, hanging lanterns, and narrow alleys. It goes for most streets and roads. So your own two feet or bicycle can get you around with no trouble as Hoi An is compact and flat. 

White, sandy beaches – like Hidden Beach or An Bang Beach – are within five kilometres of the Old Town. So it’s easy to go by bicycle there. Choose your route wisely and you even go through the rice paddies. Check out  our complete guide of Hoi An’s Beaches here.

There are restaurants and street food stalls on almost every corner in Hoi An, there are plenty of Vietnamese and international food options to choose from. But most places close at around 10:30 p.m., this is also when the whole city quietens down. However, there are always quirky bars or exquisite cocktail venues, where the party goes on much longer.

Cyclists and pedestrians sharing Hoi An
Cyclists and pedestrians share the streets of Hoi An Ancient town.

Da Nang Overview

Modern metropolis ✓ Crazy design ✓ Haven for seafood lovers ✓ Party crowd ✓ White, sandy beaches ✓

Da Nang is the airport hub to Central Vietnam. It is also the country’s fastest-growing city that has long been overlooked by travellers. Da Nang’s My Khe beach is one of the longest stretches of beach in Vietnam. Today the city has turned into a fancy, fun destination for beach lovers and explorers alike. 

Apart from the promenade along the Han River (where the commercial centre and Han Market are located), don’t expect to walk around easily in Da Nang. Because there are four to six-lane roads and so you are busy dodging traffic whilst exploring the various areas of the city.

Foodies love the city for its variety of seafood and the high standards in international cuisine. In addition, f you are somewhat of a party animal, then Da Nang’s large beach clubs and sky bars are for you. Here you can easily forget what time it is and hang out until dawn (yes, this has happened before, we are talking from experience).

Hoi An Vs Da Nang – What to See

Hoi An – What to See

Old Town ✓ UNESCO world heritage sites ✓ Japanese Bridge ✓ Ancient Temples ✓ Folklore ✓ Tailoring mekka ✓

Hoi An is often called the Venice of the East. You can easily see why: The Old Town – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is beautifully located along the Thu Bon River. In addition, Hoi An’s canal is even listed amongst the most beautiful canals of the world (okay, enough of the boasting, you are getting the idea, right?). Therefore take some time to explore the Old Town’s picturesque streets with its many outdoor cafés. Marvel at the historic yellow and wood buildings. Enjoy the hanging lanterns found literally everywhere. They light up at night and make the Old Town feel like something right out of a fairy tale. Shop for high-quality handicrafts or pay a visit to a professional tailor shop to get a custom made gown or a dapper suit.

Historical Sites Within the Old Town

Generally speaking, the Old Town is a great mix of traditional Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese architecture, with Cau Chua Pagoda, the Japanese bridge, being the most popular attraction in Hoi An. Originally constructed in the 1590s, the bridge was built to connect the Japanese and Chinese quarters of the city. 

Another site to point out is the Tran Family Chapel, one of the oldest houses in Hoi An. It was built at the beginning of the 19th century by the Tran family and designed using the traditional rules of Feng Shui. And no visit to Hoi An is complete without paying a visit to the Hoi An Museum that is home to artefacts from the past 2,000 years or the Hoi An Traditional Art Performance Theatre, where you can enjoy a folk dance or music show multiple times a day. 

Please note: When walking within the Old Town area, it’s expected that all visitors carry a Hoi An Old Town Entrance Ticket – even though checking is not always enforced by authorities. The ticket costs 120,000 VND (5 USD) per person and allows you walking access to the all the streets within the Hoi An Old Town district, as well as admission to a number of historic buildings, museums and theatrical performance. It is a common understanding that all visitors buy at least one ticket when they arrive in Hoi An, and this will be sufficient for the duration of their stay, even though the ticket states it is only valid for 24 hours.

Tourists selfie at The Japanese Bridge
Hoi An’s Japanese bridge is a national monument

Da Nang – What to See

Lady Buddha ✓ Dragon Bridge ✓ Cham Museum ✓ 

Da Nang is often referred to as the Miami of Vietnam – because of its neon-lit hotels and seemingly endless beach strips. There are a lot of modern high rises and a myriad of seafood restaurants along the coastline. The construction boom in the city can be explained by having a closer look at Da Nang’s history: The city was heavily bombed during the Vietnam war. Even though city officials and renowned architects did a marvellous job rebuilding it – for many years, tourists used Da Nang mainly as an airport city and gateway to Hoi An. This is now changing. The New York Times even listed Da Nang as one of the must-go places for 2019 for foodies and beach lovers. But there is much more to see than beach life. 

Pay a visit to the Museum of Cham Sculpture to learn more about the Champa, the indigenous people of Vietnam. Or stop by Lady Buddha. At 67 metres high, this is the tallest Buddha statue in Vietnam. Further, its location is perfect to oversee the whole city, mountains and Son Tra Peninsula. 

Make your Instagram-account stand out with a cool shot of Cau Rong – the bridge designed like a giant, yellow dragon. It lights up at night and even breathes real fire on the weekend! 

Hoi An or Da Nang? Activities and Tours

Hoi An Activities and Tours

Cooking classes Ride a basket boat ✓ Sunset-kayaking ✓ Stand-up paddling ✓ Side-car tours ✓

Hoi An is great for walking, sightseeing, feasting on Vietnamese food and learning more about it by taking cooking classes taught by locals. But you are in for more: Why not go for a cyclo ride or a sidecar tour through the city and the rice paddy area on the outskirts of Hoi An? Or how about kayaking into the sunset? 

One of our favourite activities: Do as the local fishermen do and get into a traditional basket boat nearby the small hamlet of Cam Thanh. There’s a seven-hectare unique ecosystem here, famous for its water coconut palms and mangrove forest. Once planted to protect the village from monsoon floods and storms, it became a place of hiding during the war. In fact, there’s a big crater in the middle of it where the water is nearly seven metres deep. 

Conical boat at Cam Thanh Coconut Village
Conical boats a rowed through Cam Thanh Coconut Village

Da Nang Activities and Tours

Golden Bridge ✓ Han Vai Pass ✓ Asia Park ✓

You haven´t been to Da Nang if you haven´t had your picture taken on the Golden Bridge, a bridge that will make your Instagram followers green with envy. The bridge – part of Sun World Ba Na Hills amusement park – is located 1,487 metres above sea level and looks like something straight out of Lord of the Rings. Held up by giant sculpted hands making you feel like you are taking a stroll in the clouds, across the hands of gods. 

Explore the Hai Van Pass

Love road trips and exploring by motorbike? Then the Hai Van Pass, located half an hour outside of Da Nang, is a must for you. This short, but scenic route links Hue, Da Nang and Hoi An and is also known as the Ocean Cloud Pass. It is 21 kilometres long, inclines up to 11 degrees at some points and reaches its peak at 496 metres above sea level. Meaning you get breathtaking views of the bay and the mountainside. But it’s not just its beauty, the Hai Van Pass is important for various reasons: It served as a geographic and political boundary between ancient kingdoms. It is also the climatic divide between the tropical south and the subtropical north and was a strategic military post during times of war. Amongst tourists, it gained massive popularity in 2008 when a Top Gear Vietnam Special aired on BBC. 

Back from Hai Van Pass and still not tired? Then head on to Asia Park on the west bank of the Han River in Da Nang. Haven´t heard of this amusement park yet? Well, you can’t miss seeing the giant Ferris wheel in Da Nangs skyline. The Sun Wheel, as it is called, is 115 metres high and marks Asia Park which features roller coasters, carousels, a dino park, a firefly forest and many more rides. In addition, at night, the Sun Wheel is beautifully illuminated by neon lights adding even a little more magic to the city’s skyline.

Hoi An or Da Nang? Nightlife 

Hoi An Nightlife

Romantic cocktail lounges ✓ Beach bars ✓ Live music ✓

Hoi An is mainly known for its quietude and charming riverside bistros. Rarely do people think “nightlife” in association with this city, due to the fact that establishments close early. But: Hoi An does have a nightlife scene, that grows more diverse with each passing month. There are romantic cocktail lounges, dive bars popular with travellers and expats, glamorous beach clubs, nightclubs and fender bars, where guests are welcome on stage to play or sing with the band. 

See Hidden’s full article on best-of-bars in Hoi An

Secret Cocktail Experience

Price: 1.100.000 (50 USD) Experiences run daily starting at 5 p.m. lasting approximately three hours.

One cool activity of note is Hoi An’s Secret Cocktail Experience, where you get to explore hidden bars and private residences throughout the Old Town. Sip five delicious cocktail creations in undiscovered spaces dating back more than 200 years.  All the while listening to stories of the cultural impact of the French, Japanese and Chinese throughout the ages. Group sizes range from two to ten guests. 

Cocktail Experience
Creative cocktails and tempting dishes, part of Hoi An’s Secret Cocktail Experience

Da Nang Nightlife

Sky bars ✓ Beach bars ✓ Night clubs ✓

Da Nang’s bar scene is booming, dynamic and young. Therefore with the city’s growing popularity, there are new places to discover every week. One of the most popular streets for enjoying a drink is Bach Dang Street. 

SKY36

Website – Address: 36 Bach Dang – Opening hours: 6 p.m – 2 a.m.

On Bach Dang Street is the legendary Sky36 rooftop bar, considered the highest sky bar in Vietnam. Located on the top of the five-star hotel Novotel Premier Da Nang. A 37-floor-building with stunning views of the Han River and the Dragon Bridge. However expect to pay about 150,000 VND (6.5 USD) for imported beers. Cocktails start at 360.000 VND (15 USD), a tonic water costs you 90,000 VND (4 USD), VAT and service charge excluded. So things can get a little pricey real quick.  But thanks to happy hour, which happens daily between 6:30 p.m and 9 p.m. Then it´s “Buy one, get one for free“. Cheers!

New Phương Đông Club

Facebook – Address: 20 Dong Da – Opening hours: Daily from 7:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

Feel like dancing the night away and blasting your eardrums? Then get on the dancefloor at New Phương Đông Club, and get carried away by their spectacular laser shows. The music might be a little off for the western party-goer, but hey, you’re in Vietnam, right? In other words – party as the locals do! 

Hoi An or Da Nang – Where to Stay

There is no shortage of great accommodation in Hoi An and Da Nang. Generally speaking, Da Nang has bigger hotels (there are a lot of high rise hotels along the beach) and more international operators. Whereas in Hoi An, there are smaller boutique hotels and lovely homestays. 

Hoi An Accommodation

Square Villa

Website – Address: 23 Dao Duy Tu – Rate/night: starting at 500,000 VND (21 USD)

Square Villa is a lovely family-owned boutique hotel that has the Old Town at its doorstep. From here, it is about five walking minutes to the Japanese Bridge and right around the corner, by the canal, is the restaurant and bar mile. Square Villa started out as a coffee shop and just opened its rooms for guests in 2019, some of which even come with a balcony. Therefore everything is brand new, take one of the free bicycles to the beach and the owner and staff go the extra mile to make your stay absolutely fabulous.

Hoi An Beach Resort

Website – Address: 1 Cua Dai – Rate/Night: 2,045,000 to 3,800,000 VND (89 to 165 USD)

The Hoi An Beach Resort is situated down the southern, lively end of Cua Dai Beach. This glamorous hotel has two outdoor swimming pools, free WiFi, a two-way shuttle bus to Hoi An Ancient Town, private beach, fitness centre, spa, airport shuttle and bar. Each room has either a sea, river or garden view. This hotel has so much at its doorstep and it makes everything that is a little further away much easier to visit with its shuttle bus service. This hotel is most popular with honeymooners and families.

Da Nang Accommodation

THI Boutique Villa 

Website – Address: 16 Nguyen Cao Luyen – Rate/night: Around 600.000 VND (26 USD) per room per night

On a budget looking for a quiet, relaxing, well-decorated place close to the sea? THI Boutique Villa is your best bet. The three letters THI don´t stand for a big hotel corporation. It’s the name of the family running this little design gem, situated in a quiet side alley. A mere 100 metres from Pham Van Dong Beach (great beach with lots of seaview restaurants and perfect for having a run in the morning as it goes on and on and on). Most rooms come with a balcony or terrace and you eat breakfast in the flowery courtyard listening to classic music or jazz.

Brilliant Hotel 

Website – Address: 162 Bach Dang – Rate/night: around 2,300,000 (100 USD) per room per night

Right on the scenic Han River? Overlooking Da Nang’s famous bridges? Lots of restaurants and cafes nearby? Skybar? Check, check, check, check.  Even if you don´t stay at the Brilliant Hotel, you will find yourself gazing at it during your stay in Da Nang. The Brilliant puts on a spectacular light show every night, turning the facade into artwork. Make sure you get a room as high up as possible to block out the traffic noise that doesn´t die down until 11 p.m.

Da Nang skyline
Brilliant Hotel Da Nang at night

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