A lively city amidst natural wonders
Leave bustling Ho Chi Minh City behind and set off for another Vietnamese town, set to explore its architectural and natural treasures. With a lively city centre, a blissful shoreline stretching to infinity along the South China Sea and a backdrop of lush green mountains ready to unfold a thousand surprises, Đà Nẵng will certainly not disappoint. When you arrive in central Vietnam's main city, you are struck by the contrast between the forest of buildings thronging the urban centre and the surroundings.
You have selected Minh House hotel as your base. Ideally located in a quiet street, a stone's throw from the city centre and the beach, this contemporary boutique-hotel has everything to satisfy and delight. You are sure of a warm welcome from the attentive staff in this cosy hideaway with its pretty design, marrying light wood and grey stonework. You will be in seventh heaven when you realise your room looks onto the plant-filled patio with an elegant swimming pool.
104 Tô Hiến Thành, Phước Mỹ, Sơn Trà
+84 236 3550 129
Refined museum and gourmet delights
So, it is now time for a wander around town. First up is the Museum of Cham Sculpture; the Cham people founded the Kingdom of Champā in the 2nd century, governing for several hundred years before being absorbed into Vietnam. Located in the south-east of Đà Nẵng, this charming museum is considered the most appealing in Vietnam, an honour it shares with the one in Hanoi. An expert guide will take you on a fascinating tour of it, which extends into a garden planted with frangipani trees, helping you to discover art which flourished from the 7th to 15th centuries. Among other pieces, you will discover terracotta bas-reliefs and sculptures which used to grace temples dedicated to the Hindu deity, Shiva.
Your visit then continues to the city's majestic pink cathedral with its mix of Gothic and Romanesque styles. This building, constructed during the French colonial period when the city was called Tourane, deserves to be explored for its magnificent stained-glass windows representing the main apostles.
Next up is the impressive Dragon Bridge spanning the River Hàn. A symbol of Đà Nẵng, it becomes even more magical at night when the lizard-like structure bursts into light. At the weekend, make your way to Bach Dang Street, on the riverside, and step onto a boat to watch a kitsch, but fairy-tale show. From 9:00 p.m., the dragon spits fire and water as the colours on the bridge change.
If all this walking has made you hungry, Đà Nẵng is famous for its varied cuisine and seafood. At Bà Dưỡng, in the Hải Châu quarter, you can start with a bánh xèo, a delicious rice-flour pancake filled with chopped pork, shrimps and bean sprouts. Or maybe you would prefer Năm Đảnh, in the Sơn Trà district, a restaurant highly acclaimed by the locals, where a fabulous array of shellfish, crab and prawns awaits, all fresh from the sea and cooked to perfection.
Đà Nẵng cathedral
156 Đường Trần Phú, Hải Châu 1
Dragon Bridge (Cầu Rồng)
Phước Ninh, Hải Châu District
Museum of Cham Sculpture
Số 02 2 Tháng 9, Bình Hiên, Hải Châu
+84 236 3572 935
Bà Dưỡng restaurant
23 Hoàng Diệu, Phước Ninh, Hải Châu
+84 236 3873 168
Năm Đảnh seafood
139/59/38, 10 Trần Quang Khải, Thọ Quang, Sơn Trà
+84 90 533 39 22
Lazing on one of Asia's most beautiful beaches
After this profusion of piquant flavours, why not bask a while on the divine beach of My Khe whose powder sands and translucent waters beckon you, six kilometres to the east of the city? This picture-perfect place is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in South-East Asia; it seduces Đà Nẵng residents and holidaymakers alike with the turquoise sea on one side and luxuriant hills on the other. Some of the locals engage in a bit of windsurfing, paddleboarding or parascending, while others nibble on dried cuttlefish gazing out at the horizon. You go for a swim in the warm waters, minding out for the currents, under the watchful eye of the lifeguards. When you get back to your towel, give in to temptation and buy a coconut water from the beach vendors. To watch the sun set, there is only one place to be – the Novotel Đà Nẵng Premier Hàn River hotel. On the 35th floor of this dazzling skyscraper overlooking the River Hàn, a surprise is in store! Sky36 Club Đà Nẵng, the highest sky bar in Vietnam, reveals its breathtaking views over the sea, the river and the majestic mountains – which you cannot wait to explore.
Novotel Đà Nẵng Premier Hàn River
36 Bạch Đằng, Thạch Thang, Hải Châu
+84 236 3929 999
Buddhist spirituality followed by a theme park
Early in the morning, a taxi takes you to the foot of the Marble Mountains, a place steeped in legend, located 12 kilometres to the south of the city. You are entering a holy place of Buddhist pilgrimage, somewhere very dear to the Vietnamese. One of the five sacred hills, Thủy Sơn, is open to visitors who climb the 156 steps up to the summit or maybe take the recently opened lift. The view from the top is out of this world – sheer poetry.
A mystical atmosphere pervades the sanctuary - a 30-metre-high cavern - with Buddha statues of all shapes and sizes, sometimes carved into the rock itself. Watch discreetly as the faithful place their offerings and burn incense sticks. Then, you go and explore the Xá Lợi pagoda. Keep your eyes peeled: over 200 Buddhas occupy the seven floors of the pagoda. But the most amazing sight is yet to come in Âm Phủ cave, better known as the Cave of Hell. You can be forgiven for being frightened in this disturbing world, where demonic statues representing the Buddhist vision of hell, rise up between astonishing stalagmites and stalactites.
For a complete change of atmosphere, head to the hill station of Bà Nà, 1,400 metres above sea level and less than an hour from the city. The former health resort built by the French during the colonial period has turned into a one-of-a-kind theme park, a sort of Vietnamese version of Disneyland. The Bà Nà Hills experience gets off to a brilliant start with a five-kilometre ride above mountains cascading with waterfalls, on board the longest cable car in the world. Its crazy attractions include crossing a golden bridge, a 150-metre-long surrealist structure supported by two giant hands, and a recreated medieval French village where you bump into dozens of awe-struck Asian tourists. For thrill-seekers, Fantasy Park boasts an indoor amusement park inspired by the novels of Jules Verne. Take your courage in both hands before throwing yourself off the top of a 29-metre-high tower on an amazing bungee jump. You can also take a seat in the high-tech cinema, where a 360-degree screen offers up one last memory of a Vietnam full of mind-blowing contrasts.
Bà Nà Hills
+84 90 576 67 77
Ngũ Hành Sơn