The coastal city of Danang is an example of Vietnam’s evolution into a modern country. Once a sleepy seaside port, Danang forever changed after it became the landing point for the French during their 1887 to 1954 occupation and the hub for U.S. military efforts soon thereafter. However, with those days long gone, Danang has transformed into a thriving, modern city with a population of nearly 1.5 million, and is a must-see destination for travellers to Vietnam.
Danang is the main arrival point for most visitors exploring the vast stretch of country between Hanoi and Saigon, so it’s the perfect place to spend a couple of days when you arrive in Vietnam. While it continues to grow at an alarming speed, Danang is still compact enough to navigate over the course of a weekend. Here’s how to see the best of it in 48 hours.
After settling into your hotel, take a morning walk to Han Market, located just one block west of the prominent Han River that divides Danang into its eastern and western halves. Like all great Vietnamese markets, Han Market offers everything from food stalls to clothing and every souvenir you can imagine. However, rather than just shopping for gifts, use this as an opportunity to get an inside look at local life in Danang: Enjoy a bowl of bun bo Hue (beef noodle soup) or com hen (clam rice), two dishes made famous in neighbouring Hue.
Once you’ve explored the market, take a short trip down the coast to the historic town of Hoi An, located just 18 miles south of Danang. You can easily set up transportation through your hotel, but the most scenic way to make the trip along the coastline is by scooter, the preferred mode of transportation throughout Vietnam. Hoi An’s well-preserved streets transport you 100 years into the past, and while exploring the town is plenty entertaining, the real reason to visit Hoi An is to have custom clothes made by any of the town’s many tailors. If you can dream it up, or show one of the tailors a photo of what you want, they can make it for you in no time.
On your way back to Danang, make a stop at the Marble Mountains, located just south of the city. Buddhist shrines and grottoes with altars depicting scenes from heaven and hell alike are found throughout the Marble Mountains, with each display more otherworldly than the next. The caves within the mountain were also famously home to a Vietcong hospital during the war that was secretly located within direct earshot of the American base on China Beach. The Marble Mountains are without a doubt one of the strangest and most revered sites in Danang.
Once you’ve made it back to the hotel, enjoy dinner and the sunset at the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort’s Citron restaurant, which offers the best uninterrupted views of the East Vietnam Sea on the entire peninsula and stellar menu to match. Start your day with a traditional phở soup for breakfast, or try some of chef Anh Tuyet’s renown Vietnamese and Mediterranean dishes.
After a rather active first day in Danang, Day Two is all about relaxation. Start a day of indulgence with a good meal: Danang’s local speciality mi quang is perfect for the occasion. Mi quang is a noodle dish made with a turmeric-infused broth, chicken, pork, local seafood, and shredded cabbage. You can find it on most of Danang’s street corners, but one of the best bowls in comes from Mi Quang 1A, located just off the Le Duan bridge. The open air shop allows you to easily customise your mi quang to your liking. Interested in exploring other local favourites? Take a look at what the locals are eating and simply point out to the waiter whichever bowl looks best.
Non Nuoc Beach
Next, it’s time to catch some sun at Non Nuoc Beach, Danang’s most famous five kilometres of sandy coastline. The Crowne Plaza Danang is home to an exceptional stretch of Non Nuoc Beach, making it the perfect spot to soak up some rays while enjoying a cocktail or lunch with the crashing waves as a soundtrack.
You may be able to see the Lady Buddha statue from just about anywhere in Danang, but you won’t want to miss the chance to get a peek close up. Located at Linh Ung Pagoda on Son Tra Peninsula, Lady Buddha stands almost 120 feet high. It’s the largest in Vietnam, and from the top you get one of the best views of the entire Danang region.
Cau Rong Dragon Bridge
To finish out your weekend, head into the bustling city centre and take a walk across the Cau Rong Dragon Bridge. The 666-foot-long bridge appears to be a relatively ordinary piece of public art during the day—or as ordinary as a giant dragon slithering through a bridge can—but at night the entire structure is lit up with 2,500 LED lights that change colour. And every Saturday and Sunday night the bridge even breathes fire and sprays water out over the river—which might just be the perfect finale to your 48 hours in Danang.