Hue is a small and peaceful city in Central Vietnam along Perfume River. It is the one place that most tourists had missed out during their visit at the central part of the country. It is the old capital of Dang Trong Kingdom (1738-1775) and home to 13 Emperors from the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945).
You can take either a domestic or international flight to Danang International Airport (Airport Code: DAD) and take a sleeper bus or a shared minivan to Hue city. Since I am on a solo trip, I take the sleeper bus, which is operated by a private coach bus company (Click here to make the booking with Bookaway).
The journey takes up 2.5 hours as it drives along Highway 1 and Hải Vân Tunnel, the longest tunnel in Southeast Asia that stretches 6.28 kilometers connecting Danang and Hue. The tunnel is a one-lane traffic in each direction of the tunnel, so it will take awhile to drive through if there is a truck or bus ahead.. After exiting the tunnel, you get to view the magnificent picturesque of Lap An lagoon with a fishing village called Lang Co and East Vietnam Sea.
Hue is pretty walkable and I have no problem getting around the city. Having said, there are a few historic landmarks scattered outside the city worth visiting. You can either join a half or full-day tour, rent a scooter or hire a private car with a driver to get to those sites. Currently, there also have Grab bikes here and they are easy to find them (Remember to download Grab mobile app beforehand).
The Best Places to visit for A Day in Hue
There are a few interesting historic landmarks just outside Hue. I would highly recommend joining a half-day Hue tour that needs to be booked in advance via Klook website to see the tombs of the emperors and take a self-guided visit to the Citadel and Thieu Mu Pagoda. So, I have listed down the places to see and dine-in in Hue city.
Tomb of Tu Duc
The Tomb of Tu Duc was built for the Nguyen Emperor Tu Duc and was completed between 1864 and 1867, along with temple buildings that were used as a retreat for him and his many wives. He has ruled from 1848-83, making him the longest reign of any monarch of the Nguyen dynasty. The compound is very huge and my favorite place here is the beautiful lotus pond.
Tu Duc started making plans for his tomb before he passed away in 1883. Although he has over a hundred wives and concubines, he was unable to fathered a son. Therefore, he wrote his own epitaph on the deeds of his reign, which was found on the stele in the pavilion just to the east of the Emperor’s tomb.
After all the hard work, his body was secretly buried elsewhere after his death in Hue. The 200 servants that were involved in his burial were all beheaded to keep the place hidden from potential robbers. His adopted son Kien Phuc who took over as the Emperor only for seven months before his son’s death. The son was buried in a small corner of the grounds of Tu Duc with Tu Duc’s primary wife, Empress Le Thien Anh because a separate tomb was not established.
Address: 17/69 Lê Ngô Cát, Thủy Xuân, Thành phố Huế
Opening hours: Daily from 7 am to 5.30 pm
Entrance fee: 20,000 VND
Tomb of Khai Dinh
The Tomb of Khai Dinh was constructed from 1920 to 1930 for Khai Dinh, the twelfth Emperor of the Nguyen dynasty. He was not particularly favorable to its people due to his close relation with the French government during their occupation. You will need to climb up 127 steps to enter the palace!
Its architecture comes with a mixture of Chinese, Indian, Roman, and Italian designs. The tomb is home to an imperial audience court that features a reinforced concrete stele monument and twelve stone statutes of bodyguards. Khai Thanh Palace was built with very complex porcelain decorations on the walls. As you enter the rear room of the palace, there lies his grave, an altar to him, and a statue of his likeness. The ceiling is decorated with nine detailed dragons.
Address: Khải Định, Thủy Bằng, Hương Thủy, Thừa Thiên Huế
Opening hours: Daily from 7 am to 5.30 pm
Entrance fee: 20,000 VND
Being the highlight of the city, the Citadel is a 19th century palace complex known as Forbidden Purple City. The Imperial City was built inside the walls of the Citadel with its design and architectural style much similar to the Forbidden Palace in Beijing. It still retains its uniqueness with the charm of lotus ponds and ruins of the buildings and is listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
The palace was built in 1804 in north of the River Huong after Nguyen Anh conquered Vietnam in 1802. He consulted with the geomancers and designed according to Feng Shui around the 4 kilometers square of fortified wall surrounded by moat.
The Imperial City used to have 160 buildings in the complex, but it was badly damaged during the Vietnam War despite efforts were made to protect its historic structures. Restorations had been done but only 10 buildings still left standing today.
Opening hours: Daily 8 am to 6 pm
Entrance fee:150,000 VND
Enjoy the night lights along Perfume River
Perfume River is one of the best places to enjoy an evening and night walk. The water flows from Truong Son Mountain and passes Hue City and Bang Lang Fork. The iconic Trang Tien Bridge is lighted up with colorful LED lights, making it a wonderful sight for locals and tourists.
There are some cafes, food stalls, and shops right next to the riverside. If you have free time during the day, hop on the boat and get to admire the city landmarks.
Wander along Hue Walking Street
Hue Walking Street is one of the most happening areas once the sun goes down. You can find different international cuisines: Western, Indian, Japanese, and of course, Vietnamese. This place is pretty less crowded and touristy unlike the Walking Street in Saigon. You can just sit back, relax and enjoy dinner or a drink while letting the time slowly goes by.
There is a tourist information center here and you can look for local tours. Many tour agencies, hostels, and bus operators are situated in this walking street.
Dine-in at Madam Thu Restaurant
Madam Tu is one of the top rated and must-try restaurants in Hue. It is located at the popular Walking Street, It was recommended by my Airbnb host to this lovely restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. I was warmly welcomed by friendly staff with many smiles.
They suggested their delicious Combo Set that comes with Banh Beo (rice cake with dice shrimp), Banh Khoai (stuffed rice pancake), Banh Loc (clear dumplings), Banh Uot (grilled pork in wet rice paper), fresh watermelon juice, and fruit combo. All this authentic Vietnamese food just cost 150,000 VND.
Address: 45 Võ Thị Sáu, Phú Hội, Thành phố Huế (Be there before 7 pm .when the restaurant starts to fill up quickly)
Explre Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda (Chua Thien Mu) is one of the top attractions in Hue. It is the tallest religious building in Vietnam, located on the Ha Khe Hill at the east side of Perfume River.
This 7-story pagoda was built by the first Nguyen Lord in 1601 following a prophecy by Thien Mu, a celestial lady. It was also named Pagoda of the Celestial Lady. The pagoda and its buildings were severely destroyed by a cyclone in 1904, and it has never restored to its origin.
Address: Kim Long, Hương Long, tp. Huế, Thừa Thiên Hue
Opening hours: 24 hours
Entrance fee: Free
Visit Dong Ba Market
Dong Ba Market is a local market located on the north bank of Perfume River. It does not draw much tourist attention, but this maze of stalls had got me to wander around, giving it a perfect spot to see local life.
You can find everything to anything, from t-shirts to shoes, souvenirs to handicrafts and great Vietnamese food.
Address: Trần Hưng Đạo, Phú Hòa, tp. Huế, Thừa Thiên Huế
Opening hours: Daily from 6 am to 10 pm
Other Places to See in Hue
Planning to stay for 2 nights in Hue? Do visit Ming Mang Tomb and the Temple of Literature as well. Do check on the Abandoned Water Park at outskirt of Hue. It was a multi-million dollar project that eventually closed due to lack of visitors, however, it is now become a popular spot for tourists and locals.
Going Elsewhere in Vietnam?
If you are planning for a long adventure in Vietnam, you can check out some of my other posts:
4 thoughts on “Hue”
I only had one day in Hue so I didn’t see very much. I did explore the Citadel in depth, which was fantastic!
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Sure is a amazing city to explore.
Hue is one of the most charming places I’ve visited. It is often overshadowed by the two famous neighbors which are Danang and Hoian
Strolling along the pretty street in Hue makes my heart at ease. The locals are also friendly and helpful!
Besides the iconic historical places, Hue cuisine is also a must you shouldn’t miss. The local foods are diverse and tasty: Banh Khot (Hue Mini Savory Pancake), Banh Ep (Hue Savory Crispy Crepe), Bun bo (beef noodle soup) and more!
By the way, keep up your awesome work!
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Love this beautiful city. Never regret to take a full day trip here ❤❤