Visiting Hue, Vietnam

Hue (Huế) is a bustling city located in Central Vietnam, well known as its former capital from 1802-1945 and home to the legendary Nguyen monarchs.

Citadel Gate, Huế 1968
Citadel Gate, Huế 1968 via Flickr by Khánh Hmoong

The city played an important role in Vietnamese history over the past centuries and –despite its troublesome years during the Vietnam War- managed to maintain and preserve a fantastic collection of architectural highlights such as royal building, tombs and temples.

In 1802, Gia Long –full name: Nguyen Phuc Anh – took reign over whole Vietnam and established Hue as its capital. He therefore became the first of the Nguyen lords ruling over the entire country. Prior to the Nguyens, Hue belonged to the Cham people, an ethnical group with origins in Khanh Hoa (South Vietnam) and a population of currently 160.000 in Vietnam and 400.000 in total, spread throughout Southeast Asia.

The last Nguyen emperor, Bao Dai, turned over his power in 1945 to the Viet Minh; however, soon troubles arose between the communist north and the capitalist south of Vietnam, resulting into the first Indochina War (1946-1954). Hue was heavily destroyed by the Americans during the ‘Battle of Hue’, a part of the Tet Offensive in 1968, one of the largest military campaigns during the Vietnam War (1955-1975).

Hue City
Hue City via Flickr by Hoang Giang Hai

Locals say that Hue is now once again back to its former charming days and turned into a magnificent city over the past decades. We have selected a number of fantastic highlights for a visit to Hue:

The Imperial Citadel

The massive complex features plenty of monuments, such as pagodas and temples, a flag tower, a library and a museum. It is however most notable for the Purple Forbidden City, modelled after the Forbidden City in Beijing. The citadel was constructed under Gia Long in 1804 and was home to the royal family until 1945. Though it was heavily damaged during the war, it was restored and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

Below are a few of the highlights awaiting you there:

Ngo Mon Gate
Ngo Mon Gate via Flickr by Dennis Jarvis

The Ngo Mon Gate is now one of the main entrances for visitors. The largest gate in the middle was used as entrance for the emperor. It was als used as viewing platform during royal ceremonies.

Flag Tower, Imperial City
Flag Tower, Imperial City via Flickr by David McKelvey

Just on the opposite of the Ngo Mon Gate is the Flag Tower, flying the Vietnamese flag.

Thai Binh Lau via Wikimedia by Bui Thuy Đao Nguyen

Thai Binh Lau (the Royal Reading Room) was built between 1841 and 1847 and is the only building within the citadel which survived the Vietnam War largely intact.

Entrance Fee Citadel: 105.000 VND   Open:  07:30-17:00   Address: Thua Thien Hue

Thien Mu Pagoda

The pagoda was built in 1601 under Nguyen Hoang, considered as the founder of Southern Vietnam. According to the legend, an old lady known as Thien Mu prophesied that a lord will come to build a pagoda for the country’s wealth.

Overlooking the Huong River (Perfume River), the Thien Mu Pagoda with its seven-storey tower is one of Hue’s most photographed objects. It is Vietnam’s tallest religious building and many young monks can be found studying here.

Entrance Fee: Free   Open: 08:00-17:00   Address: Kim Long, Hue

Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda via Flickr by Mark Turner

The Seven Royal Tombs

Seven out of 13 Nguyen emperors are known have their tombs around Hue. The construction of each tomb began during the life of each emperor and completed after his passing by his successor. It is possible to spend nearly an entire day exploring all seven tombs. Below are two notable tombs in excellent shape to highlight:

Royal Tomb of Tu Duc – (Tomb of Modesty):

Tu Duc was the fourth emperor and reigned longest among the other Nguyens, however dying childless after 36 years of reign. It’s an opulent complex set around a lake, built between 1864 and 1867.

Entrance fee: 55.000 VND   Open: 08:00-18:00   Address: Thuy Xuan

Royal Tomb of Tu Duc
Royal Tomb of Tu Duc via Flickr by Emad Ghazipura

Royal Tomb of Minh Mang:

Minh Mang was the second son and successor of Gia Long, who was the first emperor of Vietnam. Built from 1841 to 1843, the tomb is well preserved, beautifully embedded into the nature, and known for its Chinese architecture.

Entrance fee: 55.000 VND   Open:  08:00-18:00   Address: Huong Tho Commune

Minh Mang Tomb
Minh Mang Tomb via Flickr by Dan Costin

The other tombs:

  • Khai Dinh – (Tomb of Obtainment);
  • Thieu Tri – (Tomb of Goodness);
  • Dong Khan – (Tomb of Memorization);
  • Gia Long (Tomb of Dispensation);
  • Duc Duc – (Tomb of Tranquillity)

Dong Ba Market

Indulge in the vibrant and colourful atmosphere of Hue’s largest and oldest market,  look out for local handicrafts and try culinary highlights such as Nom Hoa Chuoi, a tasty banana flower salad, mixed with chicken, papaya and crunchy peanuts.

Dong Ba Markey
Dong Ba Market via Flickr by Grant Lindsay

Open:  05:00-20:00     Address: Chuong Duong, Phu Hoa