Hue City is one of places which have many cultural heritage. Up to now, there is no place like Hue remaining a lot of originally historical vestiges as in this ancient Capital City.
A Cradle of Royal Culture and Ancient Architecture
On the northern bank of Perfume River has relics consisting of palaces, which were constructed as arc defensive ramparts with 11km length.
This valuable construction includes more than 100 architectural works which were extremely reflected the life of Emperors and mandarins under reign of Nguyen.
Situated in the middle of hills on the southern bank of Perfume River are very beautiful tombs of Kings Nguyen. Among these tombs are the four famous ones with the name and the arrangements of the tomb reflected each Emperor’s points of view, personality and tastes. There are majestic Gia Long Tomb, imposing Minh Mang Tomb, poetic Tu Duc Tomb and magnificent Khai Dinh Tomb.
Besides, Hue is a place where the royal music is originated, and a place with traditional famous dishes and sophisticated handicraft.
A Center of Buddhism
Hue is also an important center of Buddhism. In Hue and its surrounding still exist tens of pagodas constructed more 300 years ago, and a hundred of temples and pagodas built in the early century.
As a unique city of Viet Nam still remains its form of City under Middle Age and the constructions of monarchic, Hue has become a big and invaluable museum. Therefore, vestiges in Hue ancient capital have been classified by the government as a very precious property and on December 1993 Hue has been recognized as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Best time to visit Hue City
Hue features a tropical monsoon climate under the Köppen climate classification, falling short of a tropical rainforest climate because there is less than 60 millimetres (2.4 in) of rain in March and April. The dry season is from April to August, with high temperatures of 35 to 40 °C (95 to 104 °F).
Hue is a fantastic place to visit during January to August, and a total disaster during September to December. The best time is from January to April. Yet, whether it is dry or wet season, you should always prepare carefully for whenever the weather changes.
How to get to Hue City
You can get to Hue by airlines from some big cities in Vietnam that have daily flights to Hue such as Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Lat, Phu Quoc, Bangkok… by Vietnam Airlines, VietJet Air. You also get to Hue City by train from Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Da Nang or Ha Noi Capital.
Places to visit in Hue City
The city Hue lies in the center of Vietnam and has remained as the capital city for a considerable period of 143 years. There are a lot of places to visit in Hue as it is a hub of museums, tombs, rivers, beaches, local market and pass.
Dong Ba Market
Dong Ba Market is the biggest market in Hue City. Situated along the northern bank of Perfume River, Tran Hung Dao Street, Hue City, Thua Thien – Hue Province, about 100m to the north from Truong Tien Bridge.
All quintessence products of Thua Thien-Hue Province can be found in Dong Ba Market, including Phu Cam conical hat, Ke Mon jewelry, Song Hy sesame candy, Truoi berry, Tuan tea, Huong Can tangerine, Lai Bang thanh tra fruit, lotus seed of Tinh Tam Lake… Traditional dishes of Hue such as com hen (mussel rice), bun bo (beef vermicelli), banh la (leaves cake)… can be purchased in the market.
Hue Citadel is situated on the Northern bank of the Perfume River. With an area of 500ha and a system of three circles of ramparts, namely from outside to inside: Kinh Thanh Hue (Hue Capital Citadel), Hoang Thanh (Royal Citadel) and Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden Citadel).
Hue has chosen to be the capital city of the Southern Kingdom by all Lords Nguyen and officially became the capital under Tay Son Dynasty. For approximately 400 years, Hue has become a great landscape and architectural site. Hue royal complex has been officially recognized by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 1993.
Ngu Binh Mountain in the south is used as a front screening elevation. Two sand dunes of The Con Hen and Con Da Vien on the Perfume River are chosen as geomancy condition “dragon on the left, tiger on the right” to protect the capital city.
Kinh Thanh Hue (Hue Capital Citadel)
This construction stared in 1805 under the reign of Emperor Gia Long and completed in 1832 under the reign of Emperor Ming Mang. Under Nguyen Dynasty, the Kings had ordered to build ramparts, palaces and constructional works for royal. Over 200 years to now, it is still original with nearly 140 small and large constructions.
The Citadel, square in shape, is almost 10km in circumference, 6m high, 21m thick and 10 entrances. On the top of the walls that surround it, 24 bastions are established for defensive purposes. Besides, the Citadel has an ancillary gate connecting the Tran Binh Bastion called the Thai Binh Mon (Peace Gate).
Hoang Thanh (Royal Citadel or Imperial City)
The Imperial City is located in the centre of the Citadel where established highest offices of Viet Nam’s feudalism and sanctums honouring the cult of decreased Emperors. The Citadel, also has a nearly square form, with more than 600m long for each side, built of brick 4m high, 1m thick, around which is ditched a system of protection trench. Access to the Imperial City can be made by four entrance gates. Royal Citadel consists of more 100 beautiful constructional works divided many sectors:
- Sector for the Ngo Mon Gate and the Thai Hoa Palace: This is the place for setting up various grand ceremonies.
- Sector for worship shrines of the Kings Nguyen: Trieu Mieu, Thai Mieu, Hung Mieu, The Mieu and Phung Tien Temples.
- Sector for internal affairs office: Storehouse for precious objects, workshop for manufacturing various useful articles.
- Sectors for the Kham Van Palace and the Co Ha Garden: place where the princes are studying or enjoying.
Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden Citadel)
Located inside the Imperial City, behind the Throne Palace, the Forbidden Purple Citadel is reserved for Emperor and his family. Constructed early under reign of Emperor Gia Long in 1804 with brick walls of 3.72m high, 0.72m thick, about 1,230m in circumference. Its front and back sides are 324m each while either left and right side is more than 290m including 50 architectural constructions of different sizes and 7 gates for facilities of entrance and exit. Dai Cung Mon (the Great Palace Gate) is in the front side for the Kings. Can Chanh Palace (the place for daily working of Emperors). Can Thanh (Emperor’s Private Palace), Khon Thai Residence (Queen’s Private Apartment) reserved for the Queen. Duyet Thi Duong house (Royal Theatre), Thuong Thien (the kitchen for the Kings’ food), Thai Binh Lau (King’s reading room)…
In addition, there are also famous royal tombs and temples of Kings Nguyen outside Hue Citadel. Seven tombs with different aspect are not only a wonderful arch but also combining beautiful, imposing nature and poetic of Hue. Ancient Hue including Perfume River and Ngu Mountain, palaces and citadels, tombs and temples with hundred of historic years are being embellished and recovered by material contribution of Vietnamese and International community in order to keep Hue City as World cultural heritage.
Truong Tien Bridge
Truong Tien Bridge crosses Huong River, the northern bridgehead belongs to Phu Hoa Ward, the southern bridgehead belongs to Phu Hoi Ward, Hue City, Thua Thien – Hue Province. Truong Tien is one of the first bridges built in Indochina according to Western design and construction technique.
Through many ups and downs during a few existing centuries, especially over the past 100 years, Truong Tien Bridge has become a part of history of the ancient capital land. Although there are many other bridges crossing Huong River, such as Bach Ho, Phu Xuan, Bai Dau… Truong Tien Bridge is still the most typical and a symbol of the romantic city of Hue.
The Emperors’ Tombs
There are 6 royal tombs of the Emperor of Nguyen Dynasty scatter along the Perfume River. Although designed individually, sometimes by the intended occupant himself, they share certain design conventions.
Tomb of Tu Duc
Tomb of Tu Duc is located in a narrow valley in Duong Xuan Thuong Village (currently Thuong Ba Village, Thuy Xuan Commune, Hue City). It is one of the most beautiful works of royal architecture of the Nguyen dynasty. The tomb lies in a boundless pine forest, 8km from Hue city-centre. Its construction started in December 1864 and finished in 1867.
On an area of about 12ha wide, nearly 50 constructions were built on terraces of various levels (about 10m difference). All constructions include the word Khiem (Modesty) in their names.
Tomb of Minh Mang
Tomb of Minh Mang is located 12km form Hue, on Cam Ke mount, near Bang Lang fork, on the west bank of the Perfume River. Minh Mang’s tomb is a standard architectural complex consisting of 40 constructions (palaces, temples, pavilions, etc.) designed on an symmetric axis running from Dai Hong gate to the foot of La Thanh (Surrounding Wall) behind the Emperor’s tomb.
In September 1840, the construction of the tomb began. In January 1841, while the work was implemented, Minh Mang was sick and passed away. Emperor Thieu Tri, his successor to the throne, continues this task according to his father’s plans. Emperor Minh Mang’s corpse was buried in Buu Thanh on August 20th, 1841. The construction was fully completed in 1843.
Tomb of Gia Long
Tomb of Gia Long is located 16km from the center of Hue, on the top of the Thien Tho Mountain, on the west bank of the Perfume River. The tomb of Gia Long is in fact a group of tombs including those of the Emperor’s relatives. The whole compound is spread on a joint mountain with 42 small and big mounts, amongst which Dai Thien Tho is the biggest.
To visit Gia Long’s tomb, tourists can go by boat about 18km along the Perfume River and then land directly at the wharf of the tomb, or they can go about 16km by car to Kim Ngoc wharf, take the bac from there and walk for some more kilometers.
The Emperor’s Tomb is located on a flat, big hill. In the front, Thien Tho Mount forms a natural screen, and in the back seven hills raise like natural defenses. On the left, 14 peaks form the “left blue dragons” (Ta Thanh Long), and on the right, another 14 form the “right white tigers” (Huu Bach Ho).
Tomb of Duc Duc
Tomb of Duc Duc is located in An Cuu Ward, Hue City, Thua Thien – Hue Province. In comparison with the tombs of other Emperors, Duc Duc’s tomb presents a simpler and modest architecture.
The whole rectangular tomb has a surface of 3,445m2. Inside, there are no temple or stone statues. The entrance is a rather big triple gate made of brick and topped with a false roof. Behind the gate, the Honour courtyard does not contain stone statues either, but is decorated instead with parapets. Next, is another three-layer triple gate, also with a false roof, and decorated with designs enhanced with ceramic chips.
Tomb of Dong Khanh
Tomb of Dong Khanh is located on the land of Cu Si Hamlet, now Thuong Hai Village, Thuy Xuan Commune, Hue City. Dong Khanh’s Tomb construction lasted through the lives of four Emperors Nguyen (1888-1923). That’s why it bears the stamp of two architectural inclinations of two different historical periods.
After being crowned, Dong Khanh had a temple built beside his father’s tomb named Truy Tu to worship him. In February 1888, during the construction, Dong Khanh got sick and died. Emperor Thanh Thai came to the crown. He had to use Truy Tu Temple and renamed it Ngung Hy for the cult of Emperor Dong Khanh. His corpse was buried simply on a hill named “Ho Thuan Son”, 30m to the west of Ngung Hy Temple. The whole tomb area was called Tu Lang.
Tomb of Khai Dinh
Tomb of Khai Dinh is located on the slope of Chau Chu Mountain (also called Chau E), 10km from Hue City. In comparison with those of the preceding emperors, Khai Dinh’s tomb is much smaller in surface (117m x 48.5m) but it is very elaborate. It is the result of the interminglement of many architectural trends: European and Asian, as well as ancient and modern.
The construction of the tomb was started on September 4th, 1920 and lasted for 11 years. The overall construction of the tomb is an emerging rectangular structure with 127 steps, leaning against the mountain.- Entering the tomb area, one should climb a 37 steps gate with the biggest dragons in the country forming the side walls. In the courtyard, line two rows of left and right altar built according to traditional configuration of “double storeys with eight roofs”, but all the rafters are made of reinforced concrete.
Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda is situated on Ha Khe Hill, on the left bank of the Perfume River, in Huong Long Village, 5km from center of Hue City. It was built in 1601, and then Lord Nguyen Phuc Tan had it renovated in 1665. In 1710, Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu had a great bell cast (2.5m high; 3,285kg) and in 1715, he had a stele (2.58m high) erected on the back of a marble tortoise.
The name of the pagoda comes from a legend: a long ago, an old woman appeared on the hill where the pagoda stands today. She told local people that a Lord would come and build a Buddhist pagoda for the country’s prosperity. Lord Nguyen Hoang, on hearing that, ordered the construction of the pagoda of the “Heavenly Lady”.
Several kings of the Nguyen Dynasty such as Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri and Thanh Thai, all had the pagoda restored. Phuoc Duyen Tower (at first called Tu Nhan Tower) was erected in 1884 by King Thieu Tri. This octagonal tower has seven storeys (21m high). Dai Hung shrine, the main-hall, presents a magnificent architecture.
As well as bronze cast statues, it shelters some precious antiques: the bronze gong cast in 1677, the wooden gilded board with Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu’s inscriptions (1714). On both sides of the pagoda are a room for the bonzes and a guest-room for visitors.
The pagoda is surrounded by flowers and ornamental plants. At the far end of the garden stretches a calm and romantic pine-tree forest. The pagoda was heavily damaged in 1943. Bonze Thich Don Hau hence organized a great renovation of the pagoda that lasted for more than 30 years.
Bach Ma National Park
Bach Ma National Park is approximately 50km south of Hue. Bach Ma National Park is endowed with fascinating natural scenery, fresh and cool climate, and diversified flora and fauna.
Bach Ma National Park has the temperate climate much like that of Da Lat, Sa Pa and Tam Dao. However, since it is located so close to the sea, the temperature in winter never goes below 40C (39.20F) and the highest temperature in summer never exceeds 260C (790F).
Bach Ma has breath-taking natural landscapes. The highest peak is Hai Vong Dai (Sea Observation Post), 1,450m high, where people can have a panoramic view of the immense sea and surrounding scenery. Do Quyen Waterfall is astounding and huge in the wooded mountain. It is more than 300m high and 20-30m wide. It is amazing to watch the silver water running into the bright red of water-rail flowers. Bac Chi Waterfall, about 20m high, roars all year round. Five lakes – a system of large lakes has clean and cool water, created by the block of black granite stretching along Kim Qui Spring. This is a good place for camping, bathing, and outdoor activities.
Still, the beautiful National Park houses 1,493 species of animals of which 83 wildlife species, including tigers and monkeys. It is also home to 358-odd species of birds known to inhabit Viet Nam. More than 2,147 species of plants of which 86 species have also been identified.
Apart from ecotourism, the Bach Ma National Park has an advantage of being close to Viet Nam’s three world cultural heritage sites (Hue Imperial City, Hoi An Ancient Town and My Son Cham Towers). So, tourists usually add the park to their itinerary.
With highly-valued natural resources, Bach Ma does not only gratify thousands of visitors but also attract scientists.
The best time to visit Bach Ma is from February to September. It is open from 7am to 5pm.
Lang Co Beach
Lang Co Beach stretches along National Road 1 for 10km, nearly Hai Van Pass. With white sand and clean and shallow waters, Lang Co is an ideal beach for relaxation.
Looking Lang Co from the northern side of Hai Van Pass, one can see the rows of coconut trees and simple roofs adjacent to a sand dune similar to a visor stretching out the sea.
Coming to Lang Co, visitors can have chances to admire white sand-dunes under the shadow rows of coconut trees and take part in interesting activities such as sea-bathing, beach-volleyball, tennis, golf, sea diving, and fishing in the open sea. They can also taste a variety of fresh seafood.
Around Lang Co, visitors can experience other pleasures in exploring springs, caves, waterfalls, lakes, and stone grounds of natural and virgin beauty.
Perfume River (Huong River)
Deriving from Truong Son Mountain, the two springs Ta Trach (Left Tributary) and Huu Trach (Right Tributary) meet at the junction of Bang Lang fork and create the Perfume River. Looking like “a silver sword upright to the sky”, Perfume River is really an invaluable godsend to Hue City.
From Bang Lang to Thuan An estuary, the Perfume River is 30km long (The river level is not much above that of the sea) so that the river runs very slowly. The colour of the Perfume River is darker when it runs along the foot of Ngoc Tran Mount – the Jade Cup Temple (Dien Hon Chen) – where there is a very deep abyss.
The Perfume River is beautiful sight from its source, and runs among mountains, forest trees, plants, etc, bringing with it fragrances of tropical flora. The river runs slowly through the verdant and shady villages of Kim Long, Nguyet Bieu, Vy Da, Dong Ba, Gia Hoi, Dinh market, Nam Pho, Bao Vinh, mingling with the odors of flowers of Hue… The river with the shimmer blue limpid colour is like a pearl in the sun. Boats are rowed up and down with remote, meditative and deep folk melodies at deep night. It is an eternal pleasure for many generations of tourists who go boating to behold the poetic landscape, to listen to the folk melodies of Hue in tranquil nights.
The views on both sides of the river with the citadel, town, gardens, pagodas, towers and temples, etc. and their reflections in the waters make the already loveable river even more poetic and musical. Many people think that Hue city has peaceful, gentle and tranquil landscapes mostly thanks to the Perfume River. This river brings to the city a meditative poetic characteristics and the harmonious limpidity exhaling from a land of age-old culture.
Together with the Perfume River, 105m Ngu Binh Mount is the second invaluable gift endowed by Nature to Hue. These two mingle with each other creating the Romantic Mountain and river beauty of Hue.
For a long time, this beautiful mount and the blue limpid Perfume River have become the symbol of Hue city. Therefore, people often call Hue “The land of the Perfume River (Huong River) and Ngu Binh Mount” or “Huong-Ngu Land”.
What to eat in Hue City?
Hue cuisine is not the combination of food in many regions like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Similar to Hai Phong and Da Nang, Hue food just mainly focuses on its own specialities which are mainly processed in the special style, strongly influenced by the palace processing style. Here are the best Hue food dishes to eat which are very famous, delicious, and have been existed for a long time.
Bun Bo Hue
Bun Bo Hue is the most famous dish in the city, and should be top of any Hue food guide! It’s similar to the more famous Vietnamese noodle soup, Pho. But Bun Bo Hue is quite a bit spicier, and it’s also pretty unique! It’s made from a light, spicy broth heavily fragranced with lemongrass. Inside, you have sliced beef, vermicelli noodles, and crab balls.
Com Hen (clam rice)
Com hen (clam rice) consists of rice topped with baby basket clams, crispy pork skins, roasted peanuts, shrimp paste, and fresh greens. Commonly eaten as a filling breakfast, the clams are stir-fried with chopped garlic, onion, fish sauce, pepper, and mint leaves before they’re poured over a plate of steamed jasmine rice. In some restaurants, com hen is often accompanied with a bowl of clam broth as well as a platter of coriander leaves, shredded banana blossoms and bean sprouts. There are plenty of food stalls in Dong Ba Market selling this Hue speciality for about VND 20,000.
Grilled pork noodle
This is a cold rice noodle dish with well-marinated grilled pork chops topped with fresh herbs such as basil, cilantro, fresh salad and crispy peanut. You might have tried this dish in Saigon or Hanoi but in Hue’s version in our opinion is super special. The distinguished sauce is made from pork liver, peanut and sesame that will make you speechless once you try it. Hue Grilled Pork Noodle is one of the royal cuisines from ancient times.
Another unique Hue food that every visitor needs to try is New Lui; lemongrass skewers. This simple finger food is made from flavoured ground pork, which is made into a sausage-like shape. The pork is then skewered onto stalks of lemongrass and grilled. New lui is usually served with rice paper and fresh salad, so you can wrap it like a spring roll to eat.