Are you considering going to Vietnam soon? You will find below all the things to do in Da Nang for a weekend! And if you are in a rush, just pin the image below to save it for later!
Even if Da Nang is the 4th largest and most important vietnamese city, it doesn’t always receive the attention it deserves. When they have to choose, most occidental tourists still opt for a trip to Ho Chi Minh, Halong Bay or Hanoï instead. However, this modern and bustling city offers everything you can ask: spectacular mountain views, white sandy beautiful beaches, majestic forests and ancient temples, and even an amazing amusement park! On top of all that, Da Nang is one of the most affordable destinations in the world, making it very popular among Vietnamese people themselves (especially families).
Located on the coast in Central Vietnam, the city is also a usual passage for tourists going to the famous Hoi An. We enjoyed the occasion to spend a day there too, and I am telling you everything about it in this blogpost! But for now, let’s focus on the best things to do in Da Nang.
As in my previous posts about Kuala Lumpur or Istanbul for instance, this blogpost suggests an itinerary order so that you can enjoy each place at the right moment. Feel free to adapt it if needed. As we live in Singapore at the moment (in 2020), we spent only a 2 nights-weekend in the city. But if you have more time on site, I added bonus activities at the end of this list. Da Nang can also be a great stop on your whole Vietnam itinerary if you are touring the country for a longer period.
1. Spend an enchanting morning in Ba Na Hills
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Located in the Trường Sơn Mountains, 30 minutes (around 25 km) away from Da Nang center, the Bà Nà Hills, or Bà Nà Hill Station, is a resort complex you can’t miss. Originally founded in 1919 by French colonists as a leisure destination for French tourists, it now hosts the Sun World Ba Na Hills Amusement Park, opened in 2009. But this is not a typical amusement park: elevated around 1500 meters above sea level, it offers incredible views on the surrounding mountains, and many other features that I will detail below. Due to its elevation, the weather is also very different and the temperature quite low (between 10 & 15 degrees in general) compared to the city and the coast. You can literally experience the 4 seasons in 20 minutes up there!
The cable car
To reach the Bà Nà Hills, you will have to take its dedicated cable car, which is an attraction in itself. Indeed, it holds many Guinness World Records (widest gap between top and bottom stations, greatest change in elevation…), especially as the longest non-stop single-track cable car in the world, with 5,801m of length. It is an impressive ride for sure!
First part: the Golden Bridge
Once up, you will directly find the latest but most famous place of the resort, and one of the reasons of Da Nang’s recent attractiveness: the Golden Bridge. Opened in June 2018, it is 1489m high & 150m long. Made of steel painted gold, it is visually supported by two giant stone-looking hands and forms a loop nearly back to itself. It connects the arrival of the cable car station with several gardens leading to the park up above. It was voted by TIME magazine as one of the “Top 10 best destinations of the world 2018” and admired by The Guardian as “The world’s most impressive pedestrians’ bridge”.
The weather dilemma
Weather speaking, sometimes it can be hard to know if it is worth going to the hills or not. But you can check the weather on the surveillance cameras down at the cable car station before buying the tickets, which is super practical. However, as said above, it changes very fast too. We arrived at the bottom to see that a bright blue sky was waiting for us on top ☀️ Nonetheless, it only took our 10-min of gondola ride for it to change entirely, welcoming us with very big clouds at the arrival… until it even turned into a complete fog right after, as you can see on the second picture! It was really crazy to witness such a quick unpredictable change!
Do not expect a perfect weather on top as I have been told it is like this most of the time. But if you go at a different period of the year, or if you are just luckier than me, it might happen! If you have a drone like us, same recommendation: take it with you in case, but be aware that you will probably not be able to use it.
Rest of the park
Apart from the bridge, there are many other things to see in the rest of the park. The moody fog didn’t ruin our experience at all; on the opposite, it created a very special, mystic & peaceful atmosphere. Wander around the different temples, gardens and towers, there are many places to explore!
In addition to the traditional Buddhist representations, as pictured above, you will also find some very “international” corners, as below. The park is also filled with plenty of restaurants, over 20 actually, offering cuisines from all over the world.
The French Village was probably my favorite part. It replicates all the details of an old-fashioned countryside village in France, with cobblestone streets named in French, vintage signs, typical architecture… There is even a church and a replica of the Moulin Rouge!
We stopped our exploration to have breakfast in Le Petrin café – which is French enough to play only French songs –, and coming from 2 frenchies, it was really good! The croissants & hot chocolate I took actually made me very nostalgic, after living in Asia for many months already. I can definitely recommend this address; it is yummy and not really expensive. We payed 12€ for 4 cakes/croissants & 2 hot chocolates.
In total, we spent 4h up there (including the cable car both ways), from 6:45am to 10:45am precisely, which was enough to see everything we wanted. We didn’t do the sensational rides and attractions on our side. If you want to enjoy them though, you can easily stay for a full day! It is even possible to sleep up there in one of the several hotels of the park.
- Open from 7am to 10pm. Go at the opening or even a bit before like us to be among the very first.
- The entrance will cost you 750,000 dong (VND) per person for adults, 500,000 for children, which makes respectively 29€ (32 USD) or 19€ (21.5 USD). If I understood well, you get a free buffet meal included in the ticket. It can sound quite expensive but honestly it might be the only paying activity you do during the weekend, so I think it compensates.
- From Da Nang center, the easiest way to go is by Grab, the Asian equivalent of Uber, or by motorbike if you rented one. Obviously, it will be longer and less practical with the second option, but cheaper. By Grab on our side, we payed 11,3€ (13 USD) and it took around 25 minutes as there was no traffic so early in the morning.
- Make sure to bring some layers and a windbreaker to cover yourself once on top, the temperature will be half of what it is in the city!
2. Leave for the insanely charming Hoi An
As we spent our morning only in the Ba Na Hills, we still had time to go to Hoi An for the whole afternoon & beginning of the evening. The traject via Grab took around 1h and cost us 23€ (26 USD). We arrived at noon and stayed until 7pm, which was enough according to us. I detail everything about our time there and the things to do in this blogpost.
3. Watch the fire & water show on the Dragon Bridge
Back from Hoi An, or after your day in the city/Ba Na Hills if you adapted that itinerary, there is one place you must absolutely admire by night: the Dragon Bridge. Da Nang is nicknamed the city of bridges, as it contains 10 of them, but this one is certainly the star of the show!
Commemorating Da Nang’s liberation after the Vietnam War, this impressive steel dragon-shaped bridge symbolizes power and good fortune. With its 6 lanes crossing the Han River, it is the longest bridge (666m) and ultimate emblem of the city 🐉
To see it in full glory, be sure to watch the free Fire & Water Show happening every Saturday, Sunday and on public holidays at 9pm sharp on the bridge itself. Be sure to arrive earlier to secure an unobstructed viewing spot, as it gets crowded around 8.30 already. You will be able to admire the dragon actually breathing fire for real … Of course, they close the road during the show, which lasts around 5 minutes, including two fire breathings separated by 2 minutes. It ends with a big water jet spit out on the crowd, twice again. Depending on the wind direction, you might get soaked if you stand on the bridge!
A dreamy sight by night
On each side of it, you will get to admire the Han River Bridge (on the right when you are facing the head of the dragon), and the Tran Thi Ly Bridge (on the left). They are both particularly stunning at night too, as their structures and playing lights shine better in the dark. Many people actually book night river cruises along the Han River to admire all those dreamy designs better.
As for the Dragon bridge, it is also absolutely beautiful during the day, especially at golden hour as you can see below. We got back there on Day 2 before going to the airport for those pictures!
4. Visit the fascinating Lady Buddha & Linh Ung Pagoda
After a first very full day, this second morning can start a bit slower, unless you want to be among the first people on site again. Indeed, this first spot of the day is one of the most famous in Da Nang itself. Located on the Son Tra Peninsula, a 30-square kilometers natural space on the side of the city, Lady Buddha is definitely worth the visit. She is 67 meters high, and then the highest Buddha statue in whole Vietnam – quite impressive from below! And obviously, being a feminine version of Buddha, (which I think is so cool for once!) makes it even more special.
The details of the lotus-shaped temple she stands on are also very pretty. As the statue can be seen from every corner of Da Nang, it became a very attractive tourist site, but actually the crowds were very manageable, even on a Sunday.
The monument is not isolated; it belongs inside the courtyard of Chùa Linh Ung, a pagoda that is itself the largest one in Central Vietnam. There, you will find many signs of the local architecture, like dragon-shaped roofs for instance and other sophisticated details. You will get to admire traditional statues embodying the 4th main emotions: joy, anger, love and hate.
Go a little further from the Lady Buddha, to wander in some also pretty yet much calmer parts of the pagoda, filled with other majestic temples and panoramic views on the sea & the famous sandy beaches. No one was exploring those surroundings while it was just as interesting. Another proof that you can get very nice surprises no one looks at, even in touristic places!
- Open from 6am to 7pm. Preferably come in the morning to avoid the crowds, but no need to be there at sunrise. We went around 10/11am and it was ok.
- From Da Nang center, it cost us 6€ (7 USD) by Grab.
- Free access in the pagoda. No need to be dressed a specific way.
5. Relax on My Khe beach
So that beach view you get from Lady Buddha? It’s time to head towards it!
Before anything else, Da Nang stays a seaside destination, and My Khe beach is the biggest and prettiest beach of the city. Its incredibly white sand, coconut or palm trees and crystal-clear water made it named as “one of the most attractive beaches on the planet” by Forbes magazine. As explained, you can see the Lady Buddha from there, as it stretches from the Son Tra Peninsula to the other side of the coast, at the foot of the Marble Mountains. Quite enough material for a long walk on the beach, right?
However, probably because we went in February, the wind was insanely strong. Therefore, we couldn’t swim in the blue sea, but it felt like pure paradise already to lay down in the soft sand and admire the views. Make sure to take a windbreaker just in case, and look for protected areas if the weather is like this for you too. No worries, you will find many restaurants along the beach with super nice views. There, you should try some local food, and especially seafood, which is logically prevalent in this coastal city. Unless you are a vegetarian of course, and in this case, count on their yummy vegetables. Enjoy your lunch and then go back to your spot in the sand for an afternoon nap!
- Advantage of this period: there was nobody!
- The Grab trip from Lady Buddha to My Khe beach cost us 4€ (4.5 USD). If you come from the center directly, it will be around half of that, or you can also walk during about 20/30 minutes. We did it on our way back and it is a straight line!
6. Go take a picture of the Pink Church
Now that you are fully relaxed, and slowly approaching the end of Day 2, you might be interested by another visit. And in the city center this time, finally! Da Nang Cathedral, also referred to as “the Pink Church”, is not the most impressive huge place, but its cuteness definitely makes up for it. Built in 1923, it is a heritage of French colonialism and was conceived specifically for the catholic French colonial population in Da Nang at that time. Both its candy-pink color and gothic architecture are super pretty!
From what I understood, it is quite rare to be able to enter in the church outside of mass hours. If you are a Catholic, go in the morning instead for the service (typically on Sundays at 9am) and you should be allowed inside. We are not worshippers anyway, so we only admired it from the outside, but it is already worth it. If the front gates are locked, there is a back alley on the left side leading to a smaller street and entrance.
7. Enjoy the chill cafes and restaurants
As we spent Day 1 outside Da Nang (our two meals on the Saturday were taken in Hoi An), and had Day 2 lunch on the beach, we didn’t try any restaurant in town. However, if you get more time than us, and/or if you’re a foodie, don’t worry, you will definitely find many options! Da Nang has a very good reputation in terms of local cuisine, and also nightlife. Every time we were walking in the streets, especially on Saturday evening, we witnessed so many bustling bars and cool restaurants that all looked very nice. For more information, tips and addresses, you can consult this blogpost.
In terms of local street foods, as everywhere in Asia, you will have choice too! Try the Bánh mì especially, a type of baguette sandwich usually filled with ham or pâté, cucumber, cheese… In general, what to put inside is up to you! You will find it both in small street stalls and in stylish popular shops. We also tried some delicious pastries sold in the street but I don’t remember what they were exactly, sorry.
BONUS : Take a day trip to one or several sites nearby
If you spend more than just a weekend in Da Nang, which I recommend if you can, there are plenty of other places to see. Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of things I wish we’d have time to do ourselves!
Explore the Marble Mountains
Located about 20 minutes south of Da Nang, towards Hoi An, you can definitely couple them with your visit of the Ancient Town. They consist in 5 marble and limestone mountains, each named for an element: Thuy Son (water), Kim Son (metal), Moc Son (wood), Hoa Son (fire), and Tho Son (earth). All 5 have interesting natural caves and tunnels to explore, as well as Buddhist temples built into them.
Be sure to arrive early to beat the heat and the crowds. The marble rock inside of the caves is quite slippery so shoes with traction are recommended.
Entrance Fees: 40,000 VND (1,50€ – 1.7 USD) / person
Elevator ride to the top: 15,000 VND (0,6€ – USD) / person
Opening hours: from 7am to 5.30pm daily
Wander around the Mỹ Sơn Ruins Sanctuary
Near of Hoi An as well, on the west, Mỹ Sơn Ruins are about an hour drive from Da Nang. Another easy day trip to do! It used to be the religious and political capital of the ancient Champa Kingdom between the 4th and 13th centuries. Indian Hinduism was the main spirituality at the time. Made of brick buildings, beautifully contrasting with the vibrant lush vegetation backdrop, this preserved archeological site is small and easy to walk around in a few hours.
Once again and for the same reasons than above, be sure to get there early if you can, or bring an umbrella to shade you from the harsh midday sun.
Drive along Hai Van Pass
Defined as one of the most beautiful coastal routes in all of Vietnam, the Hai Van Pass is famous for many reasons – cultural, historical, and geographical. The easiest and most popular way to admire it is to rent a motorbike and cruise up the winding road on your own.
The views of the bay from the very top of the mountain are known to be absolutely spectacular. You will also find plenty of quaint stops along the way to rest and enjoy a drink with the best views!
Admire Huê Monuments
Last but not least, and even more far away, you can also go to Huê Monuments complex. Originally established as the capital of unified Viet Nam in 1802, Huê used to be a cultural, political and religious center under the Nguyen dynasty up until 1945. Learn more about it on the Unesco website as it is registered on their World Heritage List.
When to go?
Just like many other South East Asian countries and cities, Da Nang has the most pleasant temperatures from February until April. The hot/dry season on the contrary, goes from May to October in central Vietnam, with high temperatures reaching up to 40° Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) sometimes. July is generally the hottest month of the year, so if you don’t like the heat, avoid it. During summer, midday temperature can indeed be unbearable. But if you are a fan of grilling on the beach, then it will be the best moment for you to try this destination.
The following winter months are cooler, although you can expect some rainfall from September until January. There are generally typhoons during the month of November so it’s best not to plan your trip during that time frame.
As you will be roaming around and also ordering Grabs (maybe), I can only recommend you to buy a Vietnamese SIM card as soon as you arrive in the country. You will easily find one in Da Nang airport’s shops. Our costed 7€ (8 USD) with Vinaphone, and included unlimited data for 7 days (with 2Gb per day in 4G).
That’s it for this weekend itinerary about Da Nang! I hope you found it helpful. The city is developing everything for the tourists at the moment, so there are many new attractions to enjoy. More direct flights are also being added all the time! Da Nang is doing its best to satisfy every visitor, from cultural explorers to landscape photographers, adventurers, and foodies. So do not hesitate any more minute and go!
If you liked this blogpost, or if you have questions left, do not hesitate to let me know in the comments, I will answer you with pleasure. You can also contact me directly on Instagram! Let’s talk very soon!
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