There are few places in the world that have it all: beautiful beaches, great food, imposing mountains and lots of history. But Danang ticks every box. Sitting on the central coast of Vietnam, near UNESCO World Heritage Site Hoi An Old Town, the rapidly evolving city offers the perfect mix of surf and turf.
Here’s how to make the most of Danang, if you only have a couple of days on the ground.
First thing’s first: make your way to InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort, a Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star piece of paradise designed by ever-whimsical architect Bill Bensley. About 40 minutes northeast of the airport, the village-like address cascades down a jungle-strewn hillside on the Son Tra Peninsula (aka Monkey Mountain), a nature reserve where rare red-shanked douc langur monkeys hang out in the canopies.
The infinitely photogenic design is one of the main draws — picture a dramatic black-and-white color scheme, hanging lanterns and expansive terraces with ocean panoramas — while the service, food, spa, beach and rooms round out the luxurious experience.
After you’ve settled into one of Danang’s top hotels, begin your morning downtown, where you can tap into the city’s relaxed café culture. Popular Golem Coffee feels like a cross between a secret garden and a café thanks to its leafy courtyard and rooftop terrace. Try a traditional Vietnamese coffee (usually served over ice with condensed milk) or the shop’s “The Dirty” — a sweet, creamy, chocolaty signature sip that spills over the sides of the cup.
Once you’ve got your morning caffeine sorted, head over to Danang Cathedral — right across the street — to admire its pastel-pink façade and 1920s Gothic-style architecture.
After that, walk north a couple blocks to bustling Han Market. In this shopper’s wonderland that has been in operation since the 1940s, you’ll find local souvenirs, tropical fruit, housewares, tailored suits, dresses and everything in between. If you’re an adventurous eater, sample a few local treats like mi quang (turmeric noodles) or banh xeo (crispy pancakes) at the market’s indoor food court.
Next, walk about 10 minutes south to the Museum of Cham Sculpture for a history lesson on Vietnam’s indigenous Cham community, said to have lived in the country since A.D. 192. At this museum, learn all about their culture and traditions by browsing a robust collection of more than 300 stone and terra cotta sculptures completed between the fifth and 15th centuries.
Right outside, you’ll come face-to-face with the fierce Dragon Bridge, the longest bridge in Vietnam at 2,185 feet. Designed by American architecture firm Louis Berger Group, the mesmerizing structure appears to fly over the Han River like a bright orange mythical creature.
For even better views, walk across the water to Fatfish Restaurant and Lounge Bar for lunch. Promising a prime waterfront location, this chic establishment run by a husband-and-wife team features a spacious terrazzo bar, balcony and fantastic seafood-driven menu filled with scallops, squid, octopus and prawns all sourced from local fishermen. While you feast, sample local craft beers (like Heart of Darkness Brewery) or order a bottle of chilled wine from the cellar.
Then make your way back to your beautiful Son Tra Peninsula hotel for a little R&R. Spend a few hours in the late afternoon relaxing by the immense infinity pool, try some stand-up paddleboarding by the beach or book a treatment at the luxurious spa, where you’ll find the only Pedi:Mani:Cure Studio by celebrity pedicurist Bastien Gonzalez in Vietnam.
For dinner, the onsite La Maison 1888 is the place to go for a world-class French fine-dining experience in Danang. Helmed by renowned chef Pierre Gagnaire, the restaurant is set inside a grand, colonial-inspired manor with several themed spaces, such as Le Boudoir de Madame and the Traveler’s Room, that overflow with personality.
As you might imagine, the menu showcases French culinary creations with a touch of Vietnamese influence — think diced lobster with ginger and coconut milk or hamachi with local herbs and seared pineapple — that can be enjoyed à la carte or as part of a set menu.
Once you’ve savored every morsel, continue the luxurious affair with a digestif in the Buffalo Bar or unwind on the terrace.
Now that you have your bearings, we’d recommend joining the hotel’s morning trekking trip.The guided hike traverses the gorgeous 6,177-acre nature reserve with a trained naturalist so you can learn about the area’s flora and fauna, which includes a 1,000-year-old banyan tree, rare pangolins, more than 100 species of birds and several types of monkeys.
For those itching to explore farther afield, head to the Marble Mountains, about a 40-minute drive south of the luxury hotel. Stop along the way at Six on Six Cafe to fuel up on aromatic, artisanal coffee sourced from a cooperative of farmers in Vietnam.
The cluster of five limestone and marble mountains, which you can see looming in the distance on this scenic drive, welcomes you with a daunting set of 156 marble steps — though there’s an elevator, should you need it. Budget about two hours to explore the various pagodas, caves and viewing points that are peppered across the mountainside.
With a little exercise under your belt, take off for Hoi An (about 30 minutes south) to experience one of the most beautiful cities in Asia.
Start things off with lunch. At Banh Mi Phuong, dig into the “world’s best banh mi,” as declared by the late Anthony Bourdain. Madam Phuong has been honing her craft for decades and her banh mi are, indeed, delicious. These heaving baguettes come packed with pâté, mayo, pickled carrots, cucumber, herbs and barbecued pork in one of the greatest triumphs of fusion food.
With your sandwich craving sorted, take a leisurely stroll through Hoi An’s beautiful Old Town, which enchants with abundant foliage, mustard-hued shophouses and inviting alfresco restaurants. The most pleasant way to experience this historic trading port is by wandering through the streets and following your curiosity to the romantic riverfront, a silk tailoring shop or a rooftop bar to cool off with a cocktail.
Come evening, Old Town turns up the charm by shutting off the electric lights so that a sea of silk lanterns illuminates the inky sky.
Once you’re back at the InterContinental, cap off the weekend with a lively beach barbecue accompanied by live music or tuck into one last Vietnamese meal at Citron, where you can book one of the conical dining booths (inspired by the shape of traditional Vietnamese hats) that appear to dramatically float above the hills.