One of the first Europeans to visit Đà Nẵng city was Portuguese explorer António de Faria, who anchored in Đà Nẵng in 1535. Faria was one of the first Westerners to write about the area and, through his influence, Portuguese ships began to call regularly at Hội An, which was then a much more important port than Đà Nẵng. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, French and Spanish traders and missionaries regularly made landfall at Hội An, just south of Đà Nẵng.
An American, John White, arrived at Da Nang (then called Turon) on 18 June 1819 in the brig Franklin of Salem, Massachusetts, and was advised that the country was recovering from devastating wars, and that what little produce there was had already been promised. Other American ships arriving shortly after were the Marmion of Boston, and the Aurora and Beverly of Salem.
Conditions were such that they were unable to conduct trade, and the subsequent missions of British East India Company agent John Crawfurd in 1823 and the two missions of Andrew Jackson’s agent, diplomatist Edmund Roberts, in 1833 and 1836 were unable to secure trade agreements.Following the edict of Emperor Minh Mạng in 1835, prohibiting European vessels from making landfall or pursuing trade except at Hàn Port, Đà Nẵng quickly surpassed Hội An, becoming the largest commercial port in the central region.
French forces capture Đà Nẵng, 1858.
In 1847, French vessels dispatched by Admiral Cécille bombarded Đà Nẵng, ostensibly on the grounds of alleged persecution of Roman Catholic missionaries. In August 1858, once again ostensibly on the grounds of religious persecution, French troops, led by Admiral Charles Rigault de Genouilly, and under the orders of Napoleon III, landed in Đà Nẵng as part of the punitive Cochinchina Campaign. The French overpowered the Vietnamese stationed in Đà Nẵng, swiftly occupying the city and Tiên Sa peninsula (present-day Sơn Trà peninsula). Despite their initial success, the occupying forces were quickly placed under siege by the Vietnamese army under the command of Nguyễn Tri Phương, and were eventually forced to retreat in March 1860. Conversely, however, the French were able to capture the southern stronghold of Saigon and, in June 1862, several provinces of southern Vietnam were ceded to the French as Cochinchina with the signing of the Treaty of Saigon.
Through two more decades of conflict, the French gradually strengthened their hold on Vietnam, culminating in the establishment of French Indochina (French: Union de l’Indochine Française) in October 1887.Two years later, in 1889, the French colonists renamed the city Tourane, placing it under the control of the Governor General of Indochina.It came to be considered one of Indochina’s five major cities, among Hanoi, Saigon–Cholon, Hải Phòng, and Huế