Da Nang City Guide
Using Da Nang as a gateway on the way to Hoi An – speeding out of the airport without a proper look? Well, think again. You are about to miss out on something great.
This coastal city in central Vietnam – located 764 km south of Hanoi and 964 km north of Ho Chi Minh City – will take you by surprise. Not only has The New York Times listed Da Nang as one of the best travel destinations for 2019, a must-see for foodies and beachgoers. Some people even tend to call Da Nang the “Miami of Vietnam“ – because of its seemingly endless beach strips lined with palm trees, its vibrant nightlife, the delicious seafood, its neon-lit hotels and fancy sky bars. Furthermore, Da Nang, the largest city in central Vietnam with a population of approximately 1,2 million people, provides a cool mix of modern design, French colonial buildings, pagodas and gothic-style churches as well as breathtakingly beautiful nature.
So stroll along the Han River and its pleasant waterfront boulevard. Buy dried seafood, colourful fabric or fresh fruit at Han Market. After that visit the Museum of Cham Sculpture to learn more about Vietnam’s indigenous Cham people. Make your Instagram account stand out with a cool shot of Cau Rong (the Dragon Bridge) – a bridge that is designed like a giant, yellow dragon, that lights up at night. (It even breathes fire on the weekend!). Pay a visit to Lady Buddha right before sunset –67 metres in height this is the tallest Buddha statue in Vietnam. Its location is perfect to look over the whole city, mountains and the Son Tra Peninsula. Head out to Marble Mountain to explore its picturesque temples nestled in the rocks.
History of Da Nang
Da Nang is considered to be the commercial and educational centre of Central Vietnam. It is also one of the country’s busiest port cities. Similarly, most of the names by which Da Nang has been known in the past (Chữ Nôm, Cửa Hàn, Vũng Thùng) make reference to its position on the Hàn River. The present name translates best into “opening up to a large river.“
The city’s origins date back to 192 AD under the reign of the ancient kingdom of Champa, Da Nang has been on the map since the 16th century and served as the principal point of arrival for foreign delegations to the royal court. However, a major growth spurt of the city took place during the Vietnam War: The area that is now Da Nang International Airport was an airbase used by the South Vietnamese and United States Air Forces. It quickly became one of the world’s busiest aircraft hubs and was home to one-fifth of all US service people, as well as a transit spot for most of the rest, making it one of the most occupied and heavily defended cities in South Vietnam during the war period.
Read on for Hidden’s city guide to Da Nang including our top picks for where to stay, what to eat, and the best activities available.
Hidden Hint: During the French colonial period, Da Nang was called Tourane, a name still used by some of the hotels and shops throughout the city.
Best Time to Visit Da Nang
If you are an active traveller looking into anything from beaching to trekking, then February to April is the best travel time for you. During these months the weather in Da Nang is just perfect: neither too hot and humid nor too cold and wet. Temperatures are averaging a high of 30°C (86°F) and there is little to no rain at all.
There is one exception though: During Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, it can be challenging to visit Da Nang. A lot of businesses close for up to two weeks, hours of operation change and the whole country is on the move to celebrate with their loved ones. Just like the Western celebration of Easter, Tet is based on the lunar calendar. Hence the date changes every year, it always happens around January and February. In 2020, Tet will be celebrated from January 24 to January 30, these days are also public holidays. Tet 2021 is from February 12 to February 17. If you want to make the best of your trip, avoid going during these weeks and a few days after that.
Da Nang’s Wet and Dry Seasons
Generally speaking, Da Nang has two seasons: Dry season – which occurs February to September – and wet/typhoon season from October to January. The hottest months of the year fall between June and September with temperatures ranging from 31 °C (87°F) to 38 °C (100 °F). Wonderful for tanning on the beach – fresh coconut or fruity cocktail in one hand, a good book in the other. Not so great for extensive sightseeing tours, as the scorching heat and humidity will quickly get to you.
Hidden Hint: Escape the heat by visiting Ba Na Hills, an elevated resort west of Da Nang. Temperatures here, at 1,500 meters above sea level, are significantly cooler throughout the year.
The wet season in winter does not mean it will be raining all day. Sometimes there’s not a single drop of rain for days. But when a tropical depression hits, it comes with heavy rains, rough seas, flooding and yes, sometimes even typhoons. Temperatures drop down to around an average high of 25°C. Just keep an eye on the weather forecast before heading off to your Da Nang adventure.
Getting to Da Nang
Flights to Da Nang
Da Nang International Airport (DAD) (see link for our full Da Nang airport guide) serves as the main transportation hub for Central Vietnam. It is the third busiest airport in the country, located just two kilometres west of the city centre. Meaning: Once you have landed, it shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes by car or motorbike to get to your hotel in the city centre. If you are staying at the beach it will be a 15 minutes ride.
Terminal 1 is for domestic flights. Services available to and from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hải Phòng, Da Lat, Cần Thơ, Buôn Ma Thuột, Cam Ranh-Nha Trang, Pleiku and Vinh. At the present time, the domestic routes are serviced by Vietnam Airlines, VietJet Air and Jetstar Pacific.
There are a plethora of international flights arriving and departing from Terminal 2. To list a few, non-stop services are being offered to and from Doha, Kuala Lumpur, Macau, Seoul, Siem Reap, Singapore, Shanghai, Tokyo.
Getting from Da Nang Airport to the City
Shuttle Bus from Da Nang Airport
Hoianexpress.com.vn offers shared shuttle service aimed at customers going to Da Nang and/or Hoi An.
Taxi or Grab at Da Nang Airport
Taxis are available at the taxi stands just outside the arrival plaza. The most reliable service in order to avoid scams is provided by Vinasun, Mai Linh and Tien Sa Taxi. Vinasun cars are white, Mai Linh is green, Tien Sa is yellow. Insist on going by the meter.
You can also book via Grab and there is a shared taxi service called dichungtaxi.com. You just book it online prior to your arrival or departure. Tell them your pick-up and drop-off location and the system will check if ridesharing is available. If it is not, they simply quote the price for a private car. Generally speaking, a trip to and from the airport costs between 70.000 VND (3 USD) and a 120.000 VND (5 USD), depending on where you go in Da Nang.
Motorcycle Taxi at Da Nang Airport
If you are light on luggage, do as the Vietnamese do and hop on a motorcycle taxi to get into town or beach. Exiting the domestic terminal (T1) there are plenty of rides at the motorbike parking lot. Just make sure you settle on the fare before you get on. If you have a Vietnamese SIM-card or online data, download the app Grab and book a bike online. A ride from the airport to the beach shouldn’t cost more than 35,000 VND (1.5 USD) to 50,000 VND (2 USD).
Hidden Hint: Motorcycles are not permitted to use the raised road to drop off at departures at either terminal at Da Nang Airport.
Walking from the Airport to Da Nang City Centre
Yes, that’s right. Since the airport is so close to the city centre, you can walk into town! As long as you are not packed like a mule, of course! You will reach the Han River after approximately 35 minutes. A walk to the beach takes – depending on your pace – about 60 to 70 minutes. When exiting the airport building, look for a big roundabout and then follow Nguyễn Văn Linh Road from there.
Getting Around Da Nang
Book a ride by motorbike or car via Grab or rent a motorbike yourself costing you around 150,000 VND (6.5 USD) per day.
By Local Bus
It is easy getting around the city using Da Nang’s local buses. The Da Nang public transport system has 11 bus routes, including six standard and five subsided routes. On their website is a map of all the bus routes or download the Danabus app on to your smartphone. The Central Bus Station is located here.
Where to Stay in Da Nang
THI Boutique Villa
If you are 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 is the name of the family that runs 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.
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.
Restaurants in Da Nang
Mi Quang Ba Vi
Half noodle soup, half salad: Mi Quang is a traditional dish of Central Vietnam and the equivalent of the Pho soup of the northern part of the country. Served with your choice of beef, pork, chicken or seafood, topped with fresh herbs like basil and coriander and sprinkled with roasted peanuts. The rice noodles have a distinctive yellowish colour due to the turmeric flavoured broth.
Mi Quang Ba Vi has been around for ages in Da Nang and is a trusted restaurant of local people. Plus: The prices are very reasonable, a Mi Quang will cost you between 30.000 VND (1.3 USD) and 50.000 VND (2.10 USD). We advise you go here after an early morning stroll along the Han River, the place opens at 5:30 a.m on weekdays. A perfect start for the day.
Hai San Be Man Seafood Restaurant
Address: 14 Hoang Sa – Opening hours: every day from 9:00 a.m to midnight
It is noisy – due to the endless rows of tables. It is rough, hectic and the service is far from silver. In addition, ordering can be quite confusing for first-time customers. You pick your food first from the tanks full of clams, crabfish, lobster, oysters, prawns and fish. The staff then weighs your choice and asks your preferred method of cooking.
A barbecued lobster of 700 grams can easily cost you 1,000,000 VND (43 USD), so it is not exactly on the cheap side. But it is somewhat authentic. There are plastic buckets next to each table to dispose of napkins, fish bones and empty beer cans. Fish are pulled out of the water onto the scale, patrons throw empty mussel shells on the floor, you see men drinking away trays of beer after work. In short: It is a memory you won’t forget.
Hidden Gem: A Creative Vietnamese Cuisine at Nén Restaurant
Chef Summer Le – an award-winning Vietnamese food blogger and long-time organiser of Da Nang food tours – runs Nén. It is the place to go to in Da Nang for contemporary Vietnamese cuisine. Most of the herbs and fruits Le and her team use to cook come from Le’s ground and rooftop garden. Her fish sauce, a staple in Vietnam, is also home-made. Try the dry-aged chicken salad with kumquat sauce or the devilishly delicious ginger ice cream.
What to Do in Da Nang
Climb up Marble Mountains and go to “Hell“
No, they are not actually “mountains“. They are a cluster of five marble-limestone hills located seven kilometres from Da Nang city centre. Each mountain is named after a natural element, which is why you find the name “Five elements mountains“ in some guidebooks. Thuy Son ( Mount Water), Hoa Son (Mount Fire), Kim Son (Mount Metal), Moc Son (Mount Wood) and Tho Son (Mount Earth).
Feel like Indiana Jones when you explore the Buddhist shrines nestled into the rocks. Make sure to stop by in “hell“, the notorious Am Phu cave in Thuy Son, the Water Mountain. Discovered in the 19th century, this giant cave houses sculptures of man-hungry crocodiles, demons and other devilish creatures. It is a re-creation of a Buddhist hell where sinners confess crimes and are punished in hope of reaching heaven’s light.
Once you make it out of “hell”, don´t miss the several viewpoints overlooking the countryside and down the coast over My Khe Beach. It’s an easy enough walk and well signed.
How to get to Marble Mountains: (find detailed directions, parking information and links to tour operators at the end of the linked article).
Hike Through the Jungle to One of the Many Da Nang Waterfalls
Hiking experience required: Looking for a little bit of action and are physically fit? Then go off the beaten track, hike through thick forest and jungle and explore Da Nang’s hidden and virtually unexplored waterfalls. Some are so hard to find, you might want to go with a tour operator. For example Danangwaterfalls.com offers an overnight trek to Shattered Falls where you sleep out in a hammock, get meals and have a porter carry all your camping equipment for 2,050,000 VND (90 USD).
However if you want to go off on your own, try exploring Gieng Troi – also known as The Well of the Gods. Found in the west of Da Nang, situated in the middle of the mountainous forest of the Hoa Ninh Commune. It requires a ten-kilometre bike ride (or hike) and then three kilometres of a track that is challenging to walk along. But it is absolutely worth it: Because of its proximity to the top of the mountain and the many trees around it, the water is refreshingly cool, even in the summertime.
How to get to Gieng Troi
Rent a bike for the first stretch of the road. Drive to Ba Na Hills. Cross the bridge at the place where you can turn left into the parking lot of Ba Na Resort. After that, follow the dirt road on your right-hand side for about ten kilometres. Once you reach the forest side and you spot the first stream, park your bike (don’t forget to lock it, you never know). Now it is time for some trekking: So follow the trail and the white signs on the rock for about 30 minutes. Soon, you’ll hear the waterfall. But before actually enjoying it, you need to do a little climbing on slippery, mossy rock.
Go Parasailing on My Khe Beach
The best sightseeing shortcut when it is blazing hot outside. So put on your swimsuit and go parasailing on My Khe Beach to enjoy a panoramic view of Da Nang and Lady Buddha – Vietnams tallest Buddha statue, that towers on a little hill over the sea.
My Khe Beach with its golden sand, warm blue water and scenic palm trees is just a few kilometres from the city centre, its coastline running along Vo Nguyen Giap Road. Son Tra Peninsula is located at the north end of the beach. There are several water sports operators on the beach, a tandem ride costs around 1.000.000 VND (43 USD) for about 10 to 15 minutes up in the air.
What to See in Da Nang
Da Nang Museum of Cham Sculpture
Ever heard of the Chams before? The Kingdom of Champa governed Southern Vietnam from 192 A.D to 1697. They are called the indigenous people of Vietnam and they left a great deal of sculptures and Hindu-influenced architecture behind. It takes about an hour to view the exhibit, and it is highly recommendable as it gives an easy introduction to Vietnamese history. Fortunately cach Cham sculpture on display comes with an English explanation. But be aware: If you are hoping to escape the heat by going to the museum, we have to warn you: There are only fans, no air conditioning.
Watch the Sunset Next to Lady Buddha – Vietnam’s Tallest Buddha Statue
Address: Linh Ứng Pagoda (The Pagoda and the Lady Buddha statue are located at the end of Son Tra Peninsula) – Entrance fee: free. There are donation boxes around the complex.
Walking along the main beach, you notice a big, white statue in the far distance. With 67 meters in height, Lady Buddha is the tallest statue in Vietnam and part of the Son Tra Linh Ungh Pagoda complex that has beautiful gardens with artistically styled bonsai trees.
According to local beliefs, Lady Buddha guards the shores of Da Nang against typhoons and looks after the fishermen. It’s best to pay her a visit right before sunset. It allows you to gaze into the setting sun as it lights up the sky with beautiful reds, blues and purples. In addition to this, the hotels in the far distance put on their light shows. But be aware of your goods and food on your way back to the city: monkeys line the street!
Make Instagram-Worthy Photos of the Dragon Bridge
The 555 metre long Dragon Bridge crosses the Han River. It is 37.5 metres wide and has six lanes for traffic: Cầu Rồng is a bridge shaped like a giant dragon. Consequently it is one of the most noted bridges in the world. Since opening in March 2013, it has become an instant tourist attraction, that changes colour every night.
But aside from that, the Dragon Bridge is also Da Nang’s main axis for the east-west direction. It is the shortest route connecting Da Nang Airport with the coastal resorts of Son Tra. However if you happen to be in the city for a Saturday and/or Sunday, you are in for an extra treat: On both days, head over to the river by 9 p.m. The dragon breathes fire and water! No tickets necessary, this show is entirely free!
Da Nang is your perfect beach getaway in Central Vietnam – with awesome food, vibrant nightlife, memorable designs and plenty of cultures to explore. Plus: Traffic in Da Nang is a lot less crazy than it is in Hanoi or in Ho Chi Minh City. So you can easily get around by motorbike without risking life and limb. Three to four days here recharges your batteries. Da Nang provides everything needed to have a breather, especially for long-time travellers. But first and foremost: Da Nang is fun so go and visit!