Exploring Hue – Immerse Yourself in the Cultural Splendor of Vietnam
Hue Vietnam, known as the former imperial capital, this enchanting city is a treasure trove of ancient palaces, ornate temples, and captivating stories.
From the iconic Imperial Citadel to the serene Thien Mu Pagoda, this city captures the essence of Vietnam’s cultural legacy. Taste the flavors of local cuisine that have shaped Huế into a captivating destination.
Join Vietnamtravelvn to immerse yourself in the beauty and grandeur of Huế, where every street corner holds the rich heritage of Vietnam.
Hue City, located in central Vietnam, serves as the capital of Thua Thien Hue Province. Situated 90 km away from Danang city and 8km from the coast of the South China Sea, it occupies a lengthy narrow coastal region.
As one of Vietnam’s largest urban areas, Hue is renowned for its rich cultural heritage and fascinating history, particularly during the period from 1802 to 1945, which marked the reign of the Nguyen monarchy, the last feudal dynasty in Vietnam.
Hue is renowned for its historical monuments, which have secured its position as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Imperial City, once the seat of the Nguyen emperors, occupies a large walled area on the northern bank of the Perfume River. Within the citadel was a forbidden city accessible only to the emperors, concubines, and their closest confidants; trespassing was punishable by death. Although little remains of the forbidden city today, ongoing reconstruction efforts aim to preserve it as a significant tourist attraction with historical value.
Today, Hue has earned the title of the “Festival City” of Vietnam. The inaugural Hue Festival took place in 2000 and is now held biennially. A visit to Hue is highly recommended for those seeking beachside relaxation and basking in the sunlight. Offering picturesque beaches and emerald waters that create a dream-like experience.
Best time to visit Hue Vietnam
The monsoon season poses a risk of river overflow, rendering many streets practically impassable. Therefore, it is crucial to choose the right season for your visit to Hue. The city has a tropical monsoon climate, and the dry season begins in March and lasts until August. During this period, the temperature remains between 35 and 40 degrees Celsius, making it extremely hot.
The flood season typically occurs after October and extends until mid-November, sometimes even reaching the end of the month. However, if you decide to travel during the flood season, it may not have a significant impact, as most mausoleums are located in the southern part of the city and remain unaffected by the floods. Only the Citadel and Thien Mu Pagoda in the northern part of the city may be inaccessible if the water level is high.
Yes, visitors can explore Hue throughout the year. The autumn season, from August to mid-October, offers pleasant and cool weather for sightseeing. From April to September, the weather is hot, making it an ideal time to combine visits to the complex of monuments and tombs with relaxation on the beautiful sandy beaches of Thuan An or Lang Co.
Only the one-month period from mid-October to mid-November, known for potential flooding, may affect your trip. However, the severity of the floods varies each year, and it does not always result in significant disruptions.
How to get to Hue Vietnam
Located in central Vietnam, Hue lies between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, making it easily accessible through various transportation options.
The route connecting Danang, Hoi An, and Hue is undeniably stunning, making it a highly sought-after route for travelers exploring Vietnam by motorbike.
Even if you primarily rely on buses for your travel within Vietnam, renting a motorbike to journey to Hue can be a worthwhile consideration.
Flights from Hanoi to Hue take approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes, while flights from Ho Chi Minh City take a little over 5 minutes. Depending on the season, there are 6 to 10 flights per day to Hue. Currently, Vietnam Airlines and Vietjet Air operate flights to Phu Bai Airport in Hue.
Public bus or tourist bus
There are daily bus schedules available in the morning, noon, and afternoon, with some buses departing in the late afternoon. For shorter distances, buses connect Hue to Da Nang and Hoi An in the south, as well as Dong Ha and Dong Hoi in the north.
If you opt for the public bus, there are separate bus stations for traveling north and south. If your destination is Dong Ha, Dong Hoi, or Hanoi in the north, you should go to the North Bus Station. Conversely, if you are traveling to cities in the south, you should go to the South Bus Station to purchase your ticket.
Tourist buses typically follow a schedule from north to south and vice versa. They stop in Hue in the morning and early afternoon when heading south, and they leave Hue around 5 pm when heading north. Traveling by bus is generally more budget-friendly compared to flights.
Hue Railway Station serves as a connecting point between the north and south of the country, with numerous trains passing through and making stops in Hue. There is a variety of trains available, each with different speeds, and the ticket prices depend on the train’s speed.
Travelers can purchase train tickets from various tour operators and travel companies, or they can visit the train station to buy tickets directly. Online booking for train tickets is also available on the Vietnam Railways website. The train station is conveniently located in the city center and can be reached within 5 minutes by taxi or motorbike.
Discovery Hue Vietnam
Hue is a region with a long-standing cultural history featuring numerous captivating tourist destinations, magnificent landscapes, and impressive historical relics. Among the famous tourist spots in Hue, here are the must-try destinations and experiences for visitors.
Hue Imperial Citadel
Undoubtedly, the most remarkable and top attraction in Hue is a visit to the Imperial City. Within the fortified walls of the Hue Imperial City, also known as the Citadel, lies the Forbidden Purple City, numerous royal tombs, pagodas, temples, royal chambers, a library, and a museum.
Exploring the Imperial Citadel (Kinh Thanh)
The Imperial Citadel stands as one of the top attractions in Hue. Constructed two centuries ago during the Nguyen Dynasty, this captivating citadel is currently undergoing meticulous restoration to recapture its former grandeur. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Imperial Citadel and its extensive grounds require at least a day to fully appreciate.
Discovering the Forbidden Purple City
At the heart of the Imperial City Enclosure lies the Forbidden Purple City, a secluded space exclusively accessible to the royal family and select servants. Sadly, due to war damage, very little remains in the Emperor’s personal chambers today. However, the overgrown ruins exude an atmospheric aura.
The Emperor’s Reading Room is the only surviving section of the Forbidden Purple City from the twentieth-century conflicts. Its exquisitely adorned outer walls and roofs are adorned with poems and mosaics, offering visitors a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the Emperors.
You can explore the entire complex on foot, which takes approximately 3 hours to cover. While a guide is not mandatory, it is recommended if you wish to delve deeper into the history and learn about the intense battles that occurred here during the Vietnam War.
Lang Co Beach
Located near the city of Hue, Lang Co Beach is renowned as one of Vietnam’s finest beaches. Stretching 10 kilometers, it features swaying palm trees, crystal-clear waters, and a selection of excellent resorts. Although it is situated 60 kilometers away from the city center, it can be a delightful overnight stay, a day trip, or a convenient stopover on the route between Hue and Da Nang just before reaching the Hai Van Pass.
Tombs and Temples
In addition to the Imperial City, the city of Hue offers a plethora of other tombs, temples, and pagodas to explore. The tombs of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors are scattered across hills south of the city and can be reached by boat or bicycle. There are seven tombs, as some emperors died in exile and were buried elsewhere.
Among the most renowned and awe-inspiring are the Minh Mang Tomb, Tu Duc Tomb, Hon Chen Temple, and The To Mieu.
One of Vietnam’s most famous pagodas is Thien Mu Pagoda. Perched on a hill overlooking the Huong River, the pagoda features a 21-meter tall tower constructed in 1844.
With its eight sides and seven stories, the pagoda attracts a bustling crowd, creating a lively atmosphere accompanied by the noisy chirping of cicadas. Dieu De Quoc Tu and Bao Quoc Pagoda are worth visiting for their splendid architecture and fantastic views. Admission to all three pagodas is free.
Hai Van Pass
Situated between Hue and Da Nang, the Hai Van Pass boasts one of the most breathtaking coastal roads in Vietnam. It is extremely popular to traverse this route on a motorbike (or as a passenger), but it is also possible to go by car or even an old army jeep. The views along the way are truly spectacular, and you can combine your drive with visits to other attractions, such as Lang Co Beach, fishing villages, the Ngu Hanh Son, and a charming waterfall.
Bach Ma National Park
Bach Ma National Park, an ancient French hill station, spans across 40,000 hectares and offers excellent hiking trails, weathered French villas, waterfalls, a campsite, and abundant wildlife.
The recommended way to experience the park is by embarking on a trekking tour through the forest. There are multiple routes to choose from, with the most scenic ones taking you past small lakes and waterfalls. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the peak, which provides stunning forest views.
Dong Ba Market
Dong Ba Market is the largest market in Central Vietnam and provides a vibrant glimpse into local life. This bustling market hall offers a wide array of handicrafts, vegetables, fruits, meats, and clothing.
Situated not far from the citadel and located along the Perfume River, it’s convenient to combine a visit to Dong Ba Market with other nearby attractions. Take a stroll through the market, and observe locals haggling and purchasing their daily groceries. It offers a unique and authentic experience.
Dragon Boat Trip on the Huong River
The Huong River gracefully flows through the heart of the city, providing a tranquil respite from urban life. Visitors can enjoy boat trips, pedal boats, and dinner cruises along its serene waters.
For an unforgettable experience, hop on a dragon boat ride, an activity not to be missed. From the boat, you can witness the local life along the riverbanks and observe fishermen and transport boats on the water. Additionally, there are several riverside temples that can be visited during a dragon boat tour.
With less traffic compared to other major cities, Hue is often considered the ideal city for cycling in Vietnam. Many tourists opt to explore the city by bicycle, pedaling along the banks of the Huong River towards the Dai Noi. There are also temples a little farther from the city center that can be visited. Some accommodations offer complimentary bicycle rentals, while others provide affordable bicycle rental services in the city center.
For avid cyclists, venturing out of the city and exploring the peaceful countryside is an option. You can embark on a bike tour through the Hue countryside, where a guide can lead the way. It is a serene and authentic experience, passing through areas less frequented by other travelers.
Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
During the Vietnam War, Hue was a site of intense conflict that resulted in significant damage to many historic buildings. Adjacent to the city is the DMZ, the border that separated former North Vietnam and South Vietnam. In this area, you can visit various sites that offer insights into wartime events. A typical DMZ tour includes stops at the Hien Luong Bridge, situated right on the border, an abandoned American base with discarded vehicles, and the Vinh Moc Tunnels, an underground tunnel system where an entire village sought refuge from bombings.
Abandoned Water Park in Hue
For photography enthusiasts and urban explorers, a visit to the abandoned water park in Hue is a must. Thuy Tien Lake is a small deserted water park located near a lake, not far from the city.
Left untouched for over a decade, certain areas of the water park have succumbed to ruins, with overgrown and broken structures, creating an eerie atmosphere reminiscent of a horror movie. At the center of the lake, you’ll find a dragon’s head, the main attraction. Surrounding it are empty swimming pools and neglected slides.
It’s important to note that the abandoned water park is not an official tourist attraction, and caution should be exercised as some areas may have broken glass on the ground. It is advisable to wear appropriate footwear and watch your step, avoiding flip-flops.
Hue, being the land of the Royal family, is renowned for its Royal cuisine. Visitors have the opportunity to savor these dishes at luxurious restaurants, where they can even experience dining like a King or Queen. Tinh Gia Vien, Y Thao Garden, and Tha Om are examples of garden-house-style establishments that offer such experiences.
Furthermore, Hue offers a wide array of local dishes, with hundreds of options to please visitors’ palates. These culinary delights come at affordable prices, allowing you to indulge in as many dishes as possible. Let’s take a look at the following specialty dishes:
Bun Bo Hue
Undoubtedly, Bun Bo Hue is a must-try when visiting Hue. This dish has become synonymous with the city, much like Pho in Hanoi and Com Tam (Broken Rice) in Saigon represent their respective regions.
Bun Bo Hue features thinly sliced rice noodles, pork legs, pork balls, fresh vegetables, and a flavorful broth that will tantalize your taste buds.
Com Hen – Baby Clam with Rice
Com Hen, or baby clam rice, is the second most famous dish in Hue and can be found in almost every corner of the city. The sweet and tender flavor of the Hue baby clams is enhanced with a variety of additional flavors when stir-fried and served with Vietnamese rice.
Banh Canh Nam Pho – Nam Pho Tapioca Noodle Soup
While tapioca noodle soup is not uncommon in Vietnam, the villagers of Nam Pho have elevated this dish to a new level with their unique culinary techniques. Nam Pho tapioca noodle soup is thick and vibrant in color, thanks to its long cooking process with cashew nuts. The bowl is generously topped with crab meat and shrimp.
Bot loc cake (Banh Loc)
Bot loc cake is a popular delicacy in Hue. Made from tapioca, pork, and shrimp, it is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed until it turns clear and transparent. The cake is then unwrapped and enjoyed with a sweet and spicy fish sauce.
Nam cake (Banh Nam)
Nam cake is another well-known traditional cake in Hue. Similar to Bot loc cake, it is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. However, Nam cake has a thin rectangular shape and is made from rice flour with minced shrimp and meat. It is often served with chili fish sauce for dipping and savoring its delicious flavors.
Hue Pancake (Banh Khoai)
Banh Khoai, also known as Hue Pancake, is a highly unique cake in Vietnam. When tourists visit Vietnam, especially Hue City, they are eager to try Banh Khoai. It has a round shape and measures about 15 centimeters in diameter.
Hue sweet soup
As one of the most famous street foods, Che Hue, also known as Hue sweet soup, is a must-try dish when visiting the city. It is a renowned specialty of Hue. There are various types of sweet soups, each with its distinct flavor. They are all delicious and nutritious. Some popular Hue sweet soups include lotus seed sweet soup, corn sweet soup, roasted pork sweet soup, and more.
Moreover, the nightlife in Hue provides various entertainment opportunities. While the city maintains its peaceful atmosphere during the late hours, a few bars cater to night owls. Additionally, you can find traveler cafes or enjoy a leisurely evening in a garden setting. Walking along the streets, visitors can sample and try local Hue cuisine on foot or by cyclo (cycle rickshaw).
There are many activities to do in Hue, ranging from exploring the rich historical sites to indulging in delicious local cuisine. With its convenient access to the beach and mountains, Hue truly deserves a spot in every traveler’s itinerary when visiting Vietnam.