Top 5 Things Not to Miss in Da Nang (+Map)

As a wet-behind-the-ears traveler at the time, I decided to jump in the deep end and find a new home in Southeast Asia. I went in search of a place that was neither city nor village, beachy but also mountainous, traditional but with just enough tourism to not be completely foreign.

Enter Da Nang. Somehow this seaside city in central Vietnam managed to tick all the boxes and quickly became my home for two marvelous years. After such a lengthy stay, I consider myself somewhat well-versed in Da Nang and feel that some of my favorite pastimes in the city are just too good to gatekeep!

I’m not here to tell you to visit Ba Na Hills and its infamous Golden Hand Bridge or wax lyrical about the golden sandy shores of My Khe Beach. In my opinion, you can forget about both of these and delve into much more immersive and authentic experiences. Here are my top things not to miss in Da Nang which is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this marvelous corner of the globe!

In this post, we’ll cover:

Get Soaked at the Dragon Bridge Fire

Da Nang

First things first. When you land in Da Nang and take a taxi to your hotel, ask the driver to drive across the Dragon Bridge. This is the most iconic and memorable way to enter the city and sets the tone for your adventures to come.

The magnificent Dragon Bridge is a symbol of power, prosperity, and good fortune, and every weekend, locals and tourists gather along the Han River to witness the awe-inspiring fire and water show that takes place on this mythical bridge.

Dragon Bridge Fire

At 9 PM the dragon comes to life, spouting jets of fire and spraying water in a mesmerizing display of light and sound. You can watch from the bridge to get up close to the action or take a seat on one of the many roadside bars on Tran Hung Dao Street just under the bridge. You can also book a spot on a riverboat cruise as the boats come to a standstill at the perfect spot on the water to watch the show.

I also made it a point to take a day to drive across each bridge in Da Nang on my motorcycle, there are 5 unmissable ones and 10 in total. These bridges span the Han River and the 5 most prominent bridges each represent a different era of prosperity for the city.

Few people also know about the rotation of the Han River Bridge at night to let boats pass by. This is a must-see for engineering junkies.

Indulge in the Vibrant Night Market and Street Food Scene

Da Nang Night Market

Street food is not quite as popular in Da Nang as in hubs like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, as there are many more informal sit-down establishments here. But pay a visit to the Son Tra Night Market to get some of that famous Vietnamese street food vibe.

Mountains of seafood and skewers are on display and prepared fresh in front of you. You can also browse the stalls for some inexpensive trinkets and keepsakes to remember your time in Da Nang. Mi Quang is a must-try at the market and this turmeric-heavy dish is the pride and joy of central Vietnamese cuisine.

Street Food

The Helio Market is another fun outing and is one of the most popular hangout spots at night. There is a wider range of food, albeit less traditional, and I frequented this market just for the Korean Tteokbokki. During the Lunar New Year and Mid-Autumn Festivals, this market is especially popular as dragon dancers keep crowds on their toes with their acrobatic leaps between tall pillars.

Da Nang at Night

Another ultra-local activity is to drive along Trần Hưng Đạo road, which runs parallel to the Han River, to find a street bar to visit. At sunset, street vendors pack out rows of chairs facing the river and fire up the oil in their carts. You can order an array of skewers with sausages, veggies, and fish or chicken balls along with an ice-cold beer, and sit back and unwind.

Take Part in the Serenity of Sunrise

Da Nang sunrise

With Vietnam’s often extreme heat at midday, you will quickly come to appreciate the tranquility that comes with pre-sunrise activities. One of my personal favorites was watching the fisherman come to shore at dawn on Son Tra Beach.

At night you can spot dozens of trawlers on the horizon and before dawn, they all climb in their iconic woven boats to sell their catch on the beach in the morning. You might not be in the market for seafood but seeing this tradition thrive is as off-the-beaten-path as it comes.

For another tranquil start to your day, head to the majestic Lady Buddha statue, also known as the Linh Ung Pagoda, located atop the Son Tra Peninsula. You will see her peering out to the horizon as you stand on My Khe Beach but seeing her up close is a must. The best time to visit Lady Buddha in all her 67m-tall glory is at sunrise when the air is cool, and the crowds are sparse.

Take a leisurely stroll around the pagoda grounds, marveling at the intricate architecture and serene atmosphere. Don’t forget to capture the breathtaking views of the sun rising over the East Sea, casting a golden glow over the tranquil waters below. And hold on to your belongings as the monkeys are awake and ready for action at this hour!

If all else fails, there are always sunrise yoga, workouts, or paddleboarding events to take part in to get your dose of vitamin D before breakfast! You will find crowds of locals doing their daily workouts well before sunrise on the beach, so follow suit and get active in the AM.

Explore the Mystical Marble Mountains

Marble Mountains

Just a short drive from the city center lies the enchanting Marble Mountains, a cluster of five limestone hills named after the five elements: Thuy (Water), Hoa (Fire), Moc (Wood), Kim (Metal), and Tho (Earth).

Embark on a journey of discovery as you climb to the mountain peak, explore hidden caves adorned with ancient Buddhist sanctuaries, and admire the panoramic vistas of the surrounding countryside. If you are not much of a climber you can opt for a lift ticket to a higher level and simply enjoy a few relaxed staircases once at the top.

Each of the Marble Mountains offers its own unique charm and attractions, from the sacred pagodas of Thuy Son (Water Mountain) to the labyrinthine tunnels of Hoa Son (Fire Mountain).

The main mountain has an impressive temple inside a cave and you will also have incredible views over the southern part of the city and the ocean from the top. Take your time to soak in the spiritual ambiance and marvel at the natural beauty of this UNESCO-listed site, which has been revered by generations of Vietnamese people.

Uncover to Monkey Mountain and Its Hidden Gems

Monkey Mountain

A ride around Monkey Mountain, or Son Tra, was undoubtedly one of my favorite things to do in Da Nang. This rustic peninsula offers an escape into nature and you will seldom come across other people when on your drive.

It must be noted that most of the mountain is only accessible by semi-automatic motorbikes due to the fact that automatic scooters are not allowed past the Intercontinental Hotel checkpoint.

Along this circular route, there are several places to visit and you would be doing them an injustice to try and squeeze it all into one day. One of the best-hidden secrets is the Monkey Mountain Lighthouse, where you can climb to the top and enjoy panoramic views of Da Nang’s coastline and the sparkling waters of the East Sea.

There are also a few secluded beaches along the peninsula where you can rent a shelter for the day. Pack a picnic basket (or Styrofoam cooler if you want to stay on-trend) and enjoy a day lazing in a hammock next to a small beach. You can also pack a snorkel and enjoy some underwater sightseeing in between naps.

red-shanked douc langur

If you are a nature enthusiast, this is also a haven for birdwatching but my personal mission was to spot the elusive red-shanked douc langurs. These endemic monkeys are known for their bright orange faces which would not be out of place on the Jersey Shore. Spotting them is a rare treat that most locals go a lifetime without experiencing. You should also make a stop at the Thousand-Year-Old Banyan Tree and Ban Co Peak for the best views.

The best route for off-the-grid exploring is to go clockwise around the mountain, turning left at Son Tra. You will drive over the highest point and get back on the main road at the Intercontinental Hotel.

If you are looking to just visit a viewpoint or one of the beaches, you will keep right towards Lady Buddha and follow the wide tarred road, a section which is open to any sort of motorbike. There are also private tours available if you do not want to travel by bike and cars can access most of the roads but it isn’t half as fun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *