Hue, the former and the last imperial capital of Vietnam, is always an attractive destination for both domestic and foreign visitors. The whole city seems to be a living museum, whose every part is a tourist attraction.
Spend as much as possible time in this city, but if your time is limited, there are particular items that you should not miss. Below are some suggestions.
Wandering around the city of Hue, you can feel the vibe of the past triggered in remaining buildings in the Forbidden City or the tombs of the Emperors.
Tu Cam Thanh, Dai Noi, or the Forbidden City, is on the northern shore of the Perfume River. At the entrance of Ngo Mon (the Ngo Gate), the main gate into the Citadel, are the Nine Holy Cannons cast from bronze under the Tay Son dynasty.
There are seven tombs of the Emperors scattering the city of Hue, devoted to 9 of the 13 monarchs of the Nguyen Dynasty. Tombs of Kings Minh Mang, Tu Duc and Khai Dinh are the three most visited while monuments to Kings Duc Duc, Thanh Thai and Duy Tan are placed in the same tomb.
Huong River and Thien Mu Pagoda
Huong (Perfume) River crosses the city of Hue, running through a lot of tourist attractions such as the ancient citadel, tombs of emperors, Hon Chen Shrine, Thien Mu Pagoda, etc before finally reaching the sea. It owes its name to the fact that it flows through many forests of aromatic plants before reaching Hue, carrying with it a pure and fresh aroma of flowers.
One you should try is a boat ride or cruise on the Huong River to explore every corner of the former capital city and listening to singing of imperial music at night.
Thien Mu Pagoda is located on the north shore of the Perfume River, about 3km away from the Citadel. It has long been considered as one of the symbols of Hue. It is also a much visited holy site which is housing many monks.
Dong Ba Market
Dong Ba Market is the largest market place in central Vietnam. It is an interesting place for anyone eager to learn about local culture. It has all the typical features of a traditional Vietnamese market, such as, the sampan landing, the bus station and the bazaars. Dong Ba market is also ideal for photographing of daily activities as well as for shopping with almost everything traded, from souvenir items to bronze goods, such as Hue sesame sweetmeat, conical hats with poems enclosed or local specialties. It is definitely a must-explore destination for those interested in Vietnamese food or culture.
In Hue, you have the opportunity to try traditional food characterised for a region that was once the land of monarchs. Some of the most popular Hue cuisines are com hen (cold rice served with boiled mussel, different spices and a variety of herbs), bun bo Hue (Hue style beef vermicelli), nem lui (lemongrass skewers), banh beo (a kind of small steamed rice pancake), banh khoai (pancake, similar to banh xeo), and many other typical snacks of Hue. Mam tom chua (sour shrimp sauce) is a unique specialty that is served with many dishes.
Bach Ma National Park
Bạch Mã National Park, covering 220km2, is a protected area 40km to the south of Hue City and 65km to the north of Danang. Housing many rare animals and a variety of flora in semi-tropical rain forest with cool climate, the park is an ideal destination for tourists who want to explore the wild beauty of nature.
From Hue, you can book a day tour with English speaking guide to Bach Ma National Park or travel there on your own. The best time to visit the park is in February.
About 100km away from Hue is the DMZ, Vietnam’s Demilitarized Zone. It covers the five-km areas on either side of the Ben Hai River, the former dividing line between North and South Vietnam from 1954 to 1975. The area was actually the most heavily bombed area in the country during war and a destination you should not miss if you want to learn more about the Vietnam war and its remnants.
Some of the must-see items in the DMZ include Ben Hai River, Hien Luong Bridge, Vinh Moc Tunnels, and Khe Sanh Combat Base.
You can book a tour or a separate car to visit the DMZ from Hue in one day.
Phong Nha Ke Bang
Phong Nha- Ke Bang National Park, one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites located in Quang Binh province, is about 180km to the north of Hue. It is home to 300 different grottoes and caves, including the largest cave in the world. Morever, Phong Nha is also well known for its variety of flora and fauna.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang is an ideal destination for those who are enthusiastic of the beauty of nature. It is advisable that you spend a whole day exploring the area and travel between Hue and Phong Nha – Ke Bang in other days.
Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda is located on the north shore of the Perfume River, about 3km away from the Citadel. It has long been considered as one of the symbols of Hue. Visiting the pagoda, you can see the Austin motor vehicle which drove Thich Quang Duc to where he conducted his self-immolation in Saigon in 1963 to express protest against Ngo Dinh Diem’s regime. It is also a much visited holy site which is housing many monks.
Tombs of the Emperors
There are 7 tombs scattering the city, devoted to 9 of the 13 monarchs of the Nguyen Dynasty. These tombs were designed and built during the lifetime of the emperors they are devoted to. Tombs of Kings Minh Mang, Tu Duc and Khai Dinh are the three most visited while monuments to Kings Duc Duc, Thanh Thai and Duy Tan are placed in the same tomb.
The bridge is commonly called Japanese Bridge because of its resemblance to the Japanese Bridge in Hoi An. The construction was initiated by Tran Thi Dao, wife of a high ranking Mandarin in the court of Emperor Le Hien Tong, somewhere in the middle of 1740 and 1746. It was built to facilitate transportation and communication between the two sides of the canal. In 1925, under the order of Emperor Khai Dinh, an altar dedicated to Tran Thi Dao was placed on the bridge. Today, many locals still travel to the town to visit her tomb.
Huong (Perfume) River crosses the city of Hue. It owes its name to the fact that it flows through many forests of aromatic plants before reaching Hue, carrying with it a pure and fresh aroma of flowers.
The river runs through a lot of tourists attractions such as the ancient citadel, tombs of emperors, Hon Chen Shrine, Thien Mu Pagoda, etc before finally reach the sea. Follow the river on a boat, you can explore every corner of the former capital city. It has long been mentioned in poet and literature, considered as a poetic symbol of Hue. One you should try is a boat ride or cruise on the Huong River and listening to singing of imperial music at night. When the water surface is glittered by lights, the singing breaks the night and enters tourists’ souls.