City Guide: Hue
Hue was one of the highlights of my trip through Vietnam. While you might not have heard about the city before, it is actually one of the most historically and culturally interesting ones in the whole region. In this extensive city guide, I’ll help you get an idea of what to expect.
When planning my trip through Vietnam, I was doing some research on the cities besides Hanoi and Saigon. With Hue being an UNESCO World Heritage Site, it went on to my list of places to visit quickly.
However, I didn’t know that visiting the city would such an incredible experience. Personally, I’d say that visiting Hue is even more fascinating than visiting Hanoi and that’s despite me loving Hanoi.
The Citadel and Imperial City of Hue
The main landmark of Hue is the Imperial City. Back in the days, Hue was the most important city in the whole region and seat of the Nguyễn emperors, which ruled South-East-Asia a couple of centuries ago. What’s especially interesting about the Citadel of Hue is that it was built after the example of the Forbidden City in Beijing.
People who entered without permission were sentenced to death, when the Imperial City was still the center of power. Nowadays, the citadel is not in the very best condition anymore despite efforts of reconstruction. The whole Imperial City was severely damaged in the Vietnam War as well as over the centuries and was never fully rebuilt.
While more and more is invested to reinstate the former beauty, it will take a lot more time till the Citadel of Hue will be fully restored.
Nevertheless, visiting the Imperial City of Hue is a truly fascinating experience. The Citadel is a very large complex with three different entrances. The front entrance also has a flag tower, which is one of the main monuments in Hue and lays directly by the Perfume River.
While you can enter the Citadel for free, the Imperial Palace may only be entered for a fee. You’ll see quite a difference between the two different parts as the Citadel of Hue looks like a fortress, while the Imperial Palace is colorful and looks like a real palace.
The Imperial Palace per se is a city in a city as it consists of dozens of different buildings, some in a better, some in a worse condition. My favorite building is the Curu Dinh Building, but there are dozens of interesting places to visit.
I’ve named all the pictures, so you can spot your favourites by browsing through. Nevertheless, I’d recommend to just use a full day to explore the Imperial Palace of Hue.
I’m sure you’ll enjoy it to the utmost as the buildings in the palace are really diverse.
River Cruise and Thien Mu Pagoda Hue
Something else I’d highly recommend doing in Hue is a River Cruise to the Thien Mu Pagoda. It takes approximately 20 minutes with a dragon boat, which is the coolest way to get there (you can also go by car).
The views of the Perfume River during the cruise are quite nice and the ride is also comfortable. However, be aware that the boat operators will try to sell you some overpriced souvenirs.
The Thien Mu Pagoda Hue is a little touristy, but actually quite nice.
There are extensive gardens behind the pagoda, where you can also find several different temples. There’s also a famous car, which seems to be one of the highlights for tourists.
Yet, I actually enjoyed the different temples around the Thien Mu Pagoda Hue a little more and would highly recommend visiting.
Hue Cathedral & the An Dinh Palace
While not recommended in all tourist guides, I’d acutally say that visiting the city center of Hue is well worth it. There are several buildings stemming back from the times of the French colonialism.
Additionally, there is the famous Hue Cathedral, which looks a lot different than most cathedrals I have visited over the years. It’s quite a funny cathedral to look at, for a change.
Another highlight in the city center of Hue is the An Dinh Palace, which is an old city palace. While the front of it is beautiful restored, the interior and the gardens are in a relatively bad state.
Nevertheless, I’d recommend visiting as you’ll see how historic Hue with its beautiful palaces most have looked a couple of decades ago.
The famous tombs of Hue
As Hue once was the seat of the emperors, you can find some truly fascinating tombs a couple of kilometers away from the city, including Minh Mạng, Khải Định, and Tự Đức. All these tombs are very different and thus it is worth visiting them all.
You may plan another full day for this trip as it takes some time to get there as well as exploring the different sights, which you have to pay an entrance fee for. To me, it was surprising to see that the Nguyễn emperors built themselves such impressive and exoribtant tombs, which are only challenged by the Pyramids of Gizeh when it comes to size and intemperance.
Nevertheless, visiting is a real highlight nowadays as the sights are just incredible. My personal favorite is the Khai Dinh Tomb, which looks just incredible. It is built into a mountain and consists of dozens of steps and different archways with pillars. Just beautiful.
The other tomb I visited, the Minh Mang Tomb, is a large area with several different buildings and lots of lakes and forest. It’s a beautiful place to walk around and just relax a little bit, but it is not as impressive as the Khai Dinh Tomb, in my opinion.
However, you are seeing very well that the tombs of Hue are very different to each other.
Overall impressions of Hue
I can’t say enough how much I loved Hue. The city is just incredibly beautiful and might as well be one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited. While I really liked Hanoi and also enjoyed Hoi An, Hue is my personal favorite in Vietnam. Even though Hue is less accessible than other places in Asia, like Tokyo, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, you should take a detour and visit Hue for sure. I’d recommend at least three days to enjoy the beauty of Hue. Better come before it gets crowded as you can enjoy the incredible history and beauty of Hue best without too many other people!
Do you have any questions about Hue? Feel free to ask or share your impressions in the comments!