Located in central Vietnam on the bank of the Perfume River, Hue was home to the Nguyen Dynasty emperors from 1802 for over 100 years. Despite many of its glorious buildings being destroyed during the American War, Hue still remains a popular tourist destination.
The airport closest to Hue only serves domestic flights currently so if you’re looking to fly into the historic city, you’ll need to head to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City first. The Hue Phu Bai airport is roughly 15km from Hue and taxi fares from the airport are very reasonable. Another option is to travel by train on the main north-south train line between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Finally, the last option is to get a bus, although it’s the cheapest option it’s also the slowest and most complex way to travel. Hue can easily be reached by bus from Dong Hoi and Phong Nha however if you’re travelling from the main cities, flying is the best option.
Whether you’re arriving by plane, bus or train make sure you’ve double checked your visa requirements before travelling. Visas are so important and can stop your travel plans immediately if they’ve not been properly arranged. Visa-Vietnam.org can sort everything out for you with simple to follow instructions and clear requirements.
Instead of queuing at the embassy you now have the choice between an E-Visa or Visa on arrival. Visa on arrival is a very popular option for many travellers. Simply apply online, receive your visa approval letter via e-mail and pick up your visa on arrival at the airport before paying for your new passport stamp.
With its 19th-century Citadel surrounding the Imperial City filled with palaces and shrines, the city has much to offer in terms of history and culture. The massive complex of monuments and ruins within the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and can be found in the city. Until 1945, it was considered the capital of Vietnam by the first king of the Nguyen Dynasty. While in Hue, here are eight things to do and see to make the most out of your time.
1. The Imperial Enclosure
One of the most popular tourist spots in Hue, the large walled area surrounded by moats is a citadel-within-a-citadel. Having been badly bombed during the American War, only 20 of its original 148 buildings survived. You can still see remnants of the war today within the remaining buildings. The Citadel is home to several emperor’s residents, temples and other important buildings, you could easily spend a day walking around the historic complex.
2. Thanh Toan Bridge (The Japanese Bridge)
A very historic and popular landmark in Hue, the Thanh Than Bridge is a beautiful piece of architecture. Located around 8km from Hue to the east, it has both Japanese and Chinese features. You can reach the bridge by taxi or rent a motorbike or bicycle for the day.
3. Thien Mu Pagoda
One of the top sites to visit in Hue, the pagoda stands seven stories high along the river on Ha Khe Hill. The ground surrounding the building is beautiful and the pagoda itself holds much political significance. The pagoda was built in 1844 and is considered the unofficial symbol of Hue.
There are several royal tombs throughout Hue scattered around the countryside that house emperors from the Nguyen Dynasty. The tomb of Tu Doc was built between 1864 and 1867 and is one of the most popular tombs to visit in the city. The emperor designed it himself and can be found 5km south of Hue. Other popular tombs include Minh Mang and Khai Dinh.
5. Elephant Springs
Around 53km from Hue, the natural springs are well worth a visit. On a very hot day, the natural pool is refreshing and can be pretty deserted during off-peak seasons. However, if you’re looking to have a cold beer while taking a dip, the food stalls are only open on peak days.
6. The Hai Van Pass
An opportunity not to be missed, the Hai Van Pass is approximately 21km long with breathtaking scenery and landscapes. Made very popular by the programme Top Gear, many travellers head to the Hai Van Pass to get a glimpse of its beauty. You can take day tours which will include the Hai Van Pass or rent a motorbike from Hue. If you’re not comfortable driving, a motorbike tour would be a great option as they do the driving for you while you sit back and relax.
7. Dong Ba Market
Located on Tran Hung Dao Street and spanning almost 16,000 square meters, the market is host to hundreds of stalls. You can find anything from household items and clothing to fresh fruit and seafood at very decent prices. The market is open very early and can be found in a large grey building on the northern bank of the river.
8. Perfume River
The river runs right through the middle of Hue and is perfect for taking an evening stroll down by the water when city life is a bit overwhelming. Some shops along the river only open up in the evening, so be sure to visit at different times of the day. Boat tours are available as well so you can explore Hue from a different angle as well as head to other areas of the city.