Hue City Place guide

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Da Nang / Hoi An

Hue City

Sitting by the Perfume River, the charming city is picturesque on a sunny day, and hauntingly beautiful in less flattering conditions.

About

Pronounced “hway”, this Unesco World Heritage site abounds with palaces and pagodas, tombs and temples, culture and cuisine, history and heartbreak. According to Lonely Planet, “there’s no shortage of poetic pairings to describe the evocative capital of the Nguyen emperors. Hue resonates with the glories of imperial Vietnam, although several of its finest buildings were ruined during the American War.  

Sitting by the Perfume River, the charming city is picturesque on a sunny day, and hauntingly beautiful in less flattering conditions. There’s usually restoration work going on to recover the place’s former splendor, side by side with modern homes and new hotels towering over century-old Citadel walls and colonial era properties. 

With locals going to bed before 10pm, don’t expect a bar scene here, as Hue remains a tranquil and conservative city. Tourism, however, has brought touts offering you services at every corner; brace yourself for this and plan your trip well to avoid the hassles. 

History

Emperor Gia Long moved the capital to Hue from Hanoi in 1802 when he founded the Nguyen dynasty. The location was strategic in uniting northern and southern Vietnam, and the city prospered soon after the first Citadel was built. However, French forces stormed the Citadel in 1885 and burned the imperial library, removing all its valuables. After this, the emperors continued to reside in Hue, but were sidelined from events of national importance. 

In 1968, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces seized Hue and controlled the Citadel for almost a month. During this time, the communist forces killed more than 2,500 people – mostly soldiers, wealthy merchants, government officials, intellectuals, monks and priests. The US and South Vietnam responded by bombing the city, bringing Hue’s death count to 10,000 – tragically, mostly civilians. 

Most important sites

  • Citadel (Kinh Thanh): Where most of Hue’s sights are located, within 2 meter-thick walls stretching 10km on the river’s north bank. Build between 1804 and 1833, the ramparts are encircled by a moat 4m deep and 30m across, with 10 fortified gates.

    • Mang Ca Fortress military base
    • Flag Tower 37 meters high
    • Nine Holy Cannons built in 1804, four representing the seasons near Ngan Gate and five representing the elements at Quang Duc Gate

  • Imperial Enclosure: The emperor’s residence and the state’s main buildings within 6m-high, 2.5km-long walls

  • Dieu De National Pagoda: A structure overlooking Dong Ba Canal, built from 1841 to 1847 under the rule of Emperor Thieu Tri. 

  • National School: Founded in 1896, the most famous secondary school in Vietnam attended by Ho Chi Minh himself in 1908. Visit during lunch break or after classes

Around Hue

  • Royal Tombs: Extravagant mausoleums spread out along the banks of the Perfume River between 2km and 16km south of Hue. They house the Nguyen dynasty’s rulers, open from 6:30am-5:30pm in the summer and from 7:00am to 5:00pm in winter. You can reach them by boat or bicycle / motorbike. You can also hire a xe om (motorbike taxi) or car for the day to see them. 

    • Tomb of Tu Doc: The most popular and impressive of the royal mausoleums. 
    • Tomb of Minh Mang: Renowned for its architecture and beautiful natural setting, amidst a forest. 
    • Tomb of Khai dinh: A hillside monument whose grandiose exterior is covered in blackened concrete; the interiors a colorful mosaic explosion. 

  • Thien Mu Pagoda: Situated on a hill 4km southwest of the citadel, famous for a 21m-high octagonal tower overlooking the Perfume River. 

  • Bach Ma National Park: A French-era hill station climbing to a peak of 1,450m – only 18km from the coast. Come for the cool climate and diverse flora and fauna. 

Get there

  • By train, car or motorbike from Da Nang or Hoi An

  • Join a small group tour of Hue Imperial City & Hai Van Pass from Da Nang

Tours near Hue City

Marble Mountain Tour & My Son Sanctuary Tour – Full Day

9hs4.3

Marble Mountain Tour & My Son Sanctuary Tour – Full Day

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from

$33/person

Hue Imperial City & Hai Van Pass Tour – Full Day

11.5hs4.4

Hue Imperial City & Hai Van Pass Tour – Full Day

Da Nang / Hoi An, Vietnam

from

$52/person

My Son Sanctuary Tour & Cultural Ceremony – Full Day

6hs4.5

My Son Sanctuary Tour & Cultural Ceremony – Full Day

Da Nang / Hoi An, Vietnam

from

$31/person

Ba Na Hills & Golden Bridge Tour – Full Day

9hs4.6

Ba Na Hills & Golden Bridge Tour – Full Day

Da Nang / Hoi An, Vietnam

from

$77/person

Da Nang City Tour: Marble Mountain & Lady Buddha – Half Day

4.5hs4.7

Da Nang City Tour: Marble Mountain & Lady Buddha – Half Day

Da Nang / Hoi An, Vietnam

from

$24/person

Da Nang 5 hour Guided Night Tour

5.5hs4.6

Da Nang 5 hour Guided Night Tour

Da Nang / Hoi An, Vietnam

from

$30/person

Essential Hoi An Food Tour (5 hours) from Da Nang – Half Day

3hs5.0

Essential Hoi An Food Tour (5 hours) from Da Nang – Half Day

Da Nang / Hoi An, Vietnam

from

$31/person

Customize Your Own Da Nang City Tour – Full Day

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Customize Your Own Da Nang City Tour – Full Day

Da Nang / Hoi An, Vietnam

from

$150/person

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