Vietnam’s third-largest city is a rapidly changing metropolis that balances a French-colonial past with soaring skyscrapers. More laid-back than Saigon or Hanoi, modern Danang is a friendly place wedged between beaches on two sides and the Ba Na hills to the west.
Bordering the East Vietnam Sea, Danang is divided in two by the broad Han River. To the west, Hai Chau is the city’s administrative and commercial centre. East of the river, Son Tra has a long sandy beach along its eastern edge. At its northern end are the quiet bays, resort hotels and forested hills of Son Tra peninsula. Further south, seaside Ngu Hanh Son district is filled with more upmarket hotels.
Take a walk around central Hai Chau to admire its French colonial architecture – the most striking example is Danang Cathedral, painted pink and with a 70-metre-high spire. After dark the promenade along the Han River is a charming place for a stroll. Of the many bridges spanning the waterway, the most spectacular is in the shape of a dragon that spouts real fire at weekends.
Danang’s street food is renowned throughout Vietnam. Due to its coastal location, seafood is abundant. There are also plenty of European, international, Asian and Vietnamese restaurants – besides local eateries, pizza and Japanese food are very popular. Most savoury dishes are seasoned with salty nuoc mam, a Vietnamese fish sauce.
Restaurants of all descriptions can be found along and around the streets lining the Han River, particularly in the Hai Chau district on the west bank. You’ll find dozen more restaurants in the beachside hotel areas in both Son Tra and Ngu Hanh Son districts. Several mid-range seafood restaurants line the beach in Son Tra.
Shopping in Danang covers everything from rummaging for a bargain in flea markets, via souvenir shops selling local handicrafts, to modern air-conditioned malls filled with high-end international brands. Bargaining is expected in markets, but not in more upmarket shops.
The bulk of the city’s smaller shops and busiest markets are in central Hai Chau district. You’ll find several modern shopping malls here including Lotte Mart, a five-storey complex that features popular international brands as well as restaurants, a bowling alley and a skating rink. East of the Han River, larger modern stores and shopping malls are found along Ngo Quyon, the area’s main north-south street.
Danang’s nightlife is quite sophisticated. While you can still spend a quiet evening dining at a street stall, you can also sip chilled wine with a spectacular view in a rooftop bar, or order a cocktail in a chic lounge. And there are vibrant nightclubs where top DJs play the latest dance beats.
Nightlife centres around two key areas. You’ll find upmarket bars and nightclubs along the west bank of the Han River in Hai Chau district, particularly towards the northern end. For more down-to-earth drinking there are numerous regular bars and clubs around the hotels in the beach districts of Son Tra and Ngu Hanh Son.
While many visitors enjoy the city’s fine colonial architecture and museums, others prefer to spend their time relaxing on Danang’s beaches.
Beachcombers will find plenty to smile about with several kilometres of often-uncrowded sand to choose from. My Khe in Ngu Hanh Son district is a popular bathing spot. You’ll find more secluded beaches on Son Tra peninsula.