I’ve always loved Vietnam. Having visited its main cities of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, I’ve been intrigue by its people, its history, and most of all, its food. So while searching for a quick getaway to enjoy some sun, sand, sea, and also immerse myself in some interesting sights, history and culture; I thought about Vietnam, and came across Da Nang. The city ticked all the right boxes, and when I thought about all the delicious Vietnamese food I could get my hands on… my decision was made!
Located in Central Vietnam, Da Nang is the country’s third largest city. The beautiful coastal city is blessed with long stretches of beach and gorgeous landscapes; and together with its lively town center, beautiful monuments and delicious food — it has a little something for everyone. I spent 5 days in the city, and had a wonderful time. From days lazing under the sun and admiring its beautiful views, to climbing mountains and exploring caves; here is my list of the top 10 things to do while you’re in the city.
1) Climb the Marble Mountains
The Marble Mountains are made up of 5 marble and limestone mountains, located on the south of Da Nang city. Almost all can be visited, but the biggest and most popular mountain is Thuy Son Mountain. Entrance costs VND30,000 (US$1), inclusive of the one-way elevator ride; or you can climb the hundred-odd steps up the mountain.
There are many beautiful temples and caves scattered around Thuy Son Mountain — I was most impressed with the Huyen Khong Cave with its indoor temple, altars and carved Buddha statue, lit by sunlight through the ceiling holes. I also braved the strenuous climb to the highest viewing point of the mountain, and was rewarded with a stunning 360-degrees panorama of Da Nang and the ocean. Grab a cab from the city and get there early to beat the crowds; the mountain opens at 7am.
2) Enjoy the Views at Son Tra Peninsular
The Son Tra Peninsular, also known as the Monkey Mountain, is a designated national park with a mountain pass that runs through lush forests and stunning coastlines. I took an early morning trip up the mountain; passing by fishing villages lined with basket boats, catching glimpses of the sea through the trees, and spotting monkeys by the side of the road.
It was misty and cooling when I arrived at the top — Ban Co Peak is known for its sweeping views, as well as the statue of a deity playing Chinese chess at its peak. After that, I made my way down the winding road, passing and stopping by coves, bays, beaches and cliffs; before arriving at my final stop at Linh Ung Bai But Pagoda and the gigantic statue of Guan Yin. It was a leisurely half-day trip up and down the mountain.
3) Soak Up the Sun on My Khe Beach
The coastline of Da Nang stretches about 30 kilometers; and is made up of many beautiful beaches. The most popular of the Da Nang beaches is the 10km My Khe Beach. The beach is lined by a walkway shaded by coconut trees; as well as seafood restaurants and luxury resorts and hotels.
Only 5km from the Da Nang city center, My Khe Beach is easily accessible, open to the public, and has facilities like sun loungers and beach umbrellas. It doesn’t have the whitest or finest of sands; but it does make up for it with lovely views of Son Tra Peninsular and the ocean. During my visit, the beach was pretty devoid of sun-bathers and beach-goers due to the gloomy rainy weather.
4) Walk the Dragon Bridge and Waterfront
Opened to traffic in 2013, the Da Nang Dragon Bridge has become a symbolic landmark of the city. Built in the shape of a dragon, the six-laned bridge measures 666m long over the Han River. It closes for a couple of minutes at 9pm every Saturday and Sunday; and spectators are treated to a pyrotechnic show, where the dragon breathes fire and sprouts water. Unfortunately, I was visiting the city during the weekdays so I missed the spectacle.
Another recent symbol of Da Nang is the huge Dragon-Carp Statue. It sits along the waterfront on the city’s east bank. The statue was unveiled in 2015, weighs 200-tonnes and is made up of slabs of white marble.
5) Visit the Religious Monuments
Da Nang is rich in its culture and religion, and this can be seen from the many beautiful temples and pagodas found around the city. Numerous temples can be found on the Marble Mountains; but the most remarkable of the Da Nang temples has got to be Linh Ung Bai But Pagoda on Son Tra Peninsular. At the entrance of the temple is a gigantic statue of Guan Yin, or the Goddess of Mercy, standing at 60.7m (17 stories) overlooking the ocean below. It is so big that I could see it all the way from My Khe Beach.
Another religious site to visit in Da Nang is the Da Nang Cathedral in the city center. Built in 1923, the candy-pink colored cathedral is also known to locals as the Con Ga (Rooster) Cathedral because of the weathercock on its steeple. The church was closed during my visit so I could only admire it from the outside.
6) See the Relics at the Museum of Cham Sculpture
This is a great museum to visit, before or after a trip to My Son (Read about it here: The Ancient Ruins of My Son). The Museum of Cham Sculpture was founded in 1915, and houses the world’s largest collection of Cham artifacts. The museum building is located at the corner of a busy intersection; and is built in the French-colonial style. Entrance fees are VND40k (US$1.5) for adults, and free for children below 16.
The relics exhibited at the museum are collections from My Son, as well as other ancient Cham ruins — some dating from as far back as the 5th century. I spent an hour walking around the museum and admiring the displays — from altars, lingas and yonis, as well as statues and images of Hindu Gods like Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu.
7) View the City from the Top at Sky36
One of the best places in the city to see the bright Da Nang nightlights is Sky36. It is the highest club in the city, located on the rooftop (35th and 36th floor) of the Novotel Premier Han River Hotel. The party was in full-swing when I arrived — the DJ was spinning at the decks, the dancers were working the dance floor, and there were even fire-dancers at play.
There is an outdoor balcony to see the night views of the city, overlooking the Han River below. I wasn’t up for a night of partying so I just ordered a drink (it’s pretty expensive so you might as well get drinks elsewhere), enjoyed the night views, and got a little taste of the atmosphere before leaving.
8) Explore the City
I thoroughly enjoyed walking around Da Nang. The busy streets and small lanes offer different glimpses into the lives of the local Vietnamese people. It is busy and noisy in the city center with its road-side stalls, pubs and shops; and a little more laid back on the beach side of the city. People overall, are nice and friendly — I always got a smile or two as I roamed the Da Nang streets alone.
I also dropped by the bustling Han Market, or Cho Han. Opened since the 1940’s during the French occupancy, it is the biggest and cheapest place to shop in the city. The market however, is cramped, crowded and stuffy — the shops are placed right next to each other, and are jam-packed with wares. Shopping here is definitely not for the faint-hearted.
9) Rest and Relax in a Mud Spa
I walked into the Galina Da Nang Mud Spa because of its interesting cave-like exterior. The spa offers a variety of services like mud baths, massages and body care — I opted for the basic mud spa package that cost VND1million (US$50) for 2 hours.
The package begins with a half-hour mud bath; and despite it looking like diluted milk tea (I was expecting it to be thicker), the mud was warm, soothing, and made my skin feel silky smooth! The process continues with a series of rain showers, a couple of minutes in the steam room and sauna, a soak in the jacuzzi, unlimited pool time, and ends with an extremely relaxing 1-hour body massage (my masseuse was awesome)! I had a lovely time.
10) Enjoy Vietnamese Food
Vietnamese food is to-die-for! During my visit to Da Nang, I had so much fun looking for the the best, unique and most popular Vietnamese dishes in the city. From the signature Mi Quang and Bun Bo Hue (beef noodles) to Vietnamese pancakes and pork skewers — there are so many things to eat, eat and eat!
I had a good time enjoying my meals in small hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurants on minute-sized tables and chairs. Read more about the food and restaurants in Da Nang here:- Mynn’s Top 10: A Street Food Tour in Da Nang.
Just thought I’d add in a couple of side trips that you can do from Da Nang City. Some of these places are best explored in a couple of days; but if you’re running short on time, they can be visited as a day trip.
Hoi An Old Town: This picturesque town is located an hour or so from Da Nang — and brings visitors on a journey to the past. It is a well-preserved ancient town with rows of traditional shop houses, Chinese temples and canals. Read more it here:- A Day Through Time in Hoi An.
My Son Ruins: These temple ruins date back to the 4th to 14th century and was built by the kings of Champa. Many tours run from both Da Nang and Hoi An — and it’s best visited in the early mornings or late afternoons, when there are less crowds. Read more here:- The Ancient Ruins of My Son.
Ba Na Hills: This hill resort on the Truong Son Mountains was used by the French in the 1920’s to escape the heat on the coast. The world’s longest single-wire cable car takes visitors up and down the mountain, where they’re greeted with views of misty mountains and cool fresh air. This is on my list the next time I visit!
Hue: The ancient city of Hue was the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty that ruled from 1802 to 1945. It is known for its Imperial City, historic monuments and pagodas; as well as the tombs of its emperors. I have yet to visit Hue; and because of its significance, I will plan to spend a couple of days in the city.