Located along the narrow coastal region in the central part of Vietnam, Hue is the capital city of Thua Thien Hue, also the former capital of many Feudal dynasties throughout Vietnamese history. It is no surprise that Hue draws numerous tourists for its rich cultural heritage and interesting history, especially the period 1802 - 1945 which marked the ruling of the Nguyen monarchy - the last Vietnamese feudal dynasty.
In addition to its glorious contribution to history, Hue is renowned for its dreamy landscape, which is mostly due to the poetically curving Perfume River and a broad variety of world-class monuments dispersed around this ancient city.
For first-time travelers, it might not a challenge to find a Hue travel guide before starting a journey to this poetic land. However, putting all that scattered information together and filtering the useful guidance can be time-consuming. Here is your combined yet concise travel guide of what to know before coming to Hue for first-time travelers.
Hue citadel from the front
Culture of Hue people
Cultural lovers cannot overlook the charming beauty of Hue culture, as the image of Hue has been attached to many picturesque images in poems and art. The portrayal of a Hue woman in an elegant traditional costume, "ao dai," with a conical hat, "non la," has become the representation of the graceful and gentle characteristics of Hue locals.
Outstanding feudal architecture
For many people, the first thing about Hue coming across their minds must be the Hue Citadel - the most iconic building complex in the city and a must-have stop in any Hue City Tour. Served as the capital of the Nguyen dynasty for 143 years, the complex became the last citadel of the feudal monarch in Vietnam. Due to the giant size of 520 hectares and the various buildings within the complex, Hue Citadel was recognized as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site in 1993.
Khai Dinh tomb
Parted into three sections: the Imperial City, the Capital, and the forbidden city, the construction of the Hue Citadel was carried out by different generations of the Nguyen royal family. Visiting here, you will listen to the hidden stories behind the remarkable architecture, colors, and patterns.
Another must-see attraction in Hue architecture is the historical monuments of the Nguyen Emperors. These lavish emperors' "homes of the other world" are examples of the pinnacle of Vietnamese imperial architecture with an ideal Feng Shui layout, representing Eastern beliefs in the afterlife. Including citadel, palaces, tombs, shrines, pagodas, etc., this Complex of Hue Monuments reflects lively the heyday of the Eastern capital and was proudly recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage. Due to their excellent condition and accessible locations, Khai Dinh Tomb, Tu Duc Tomb, and Minh Mang Tomb are three of the seven remaining regal mausoleums regularly visited.
Tu Duc tomb in Hue
Besides the role of a royal land, Hue is also the repository of many Buddhism sites. As the hometown of renowned Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, Hue even earned international recognition. A visit to sacred temples and pagodas is recommended for you to appreciate the ancient art of Buddhist culture and find peace of mind. One of the most remarkable construction is Thien Mu Pagoda, which features mysterious spiritual legends. Visiting here, you can observe the monks praying and watch the breathtaking sunset on the Perfume River.
The breathtaking sunset on the Perfume River
If you are more of a visitor who likes to take photos of pretty places, come to An Dinh Palace, one of the rare regal palaces that remains intact in Vietnam after the war. Initially constructed in 1917, An Dinh Palace served as the summer residence of the Khai Dinh Emperor. The palace was later modernized by his son Bao Dai, the final emperor of Vietnam, to serve as the main residence following his abdication.
Intangible Cultural Heritage
Not only featuring tangible cultural heritages, but Hue is also home to priceless impalpable heritage like Nha Nhac Cung Dinh Hue (Court Music) and documents of the Nguyen Dynasty. Court Music is a kind of royal music that is observed in Hue. Though the music genre was in danger once due to the shortage of original artists, it was then thankfully recovered with the unceasing efforts and enthusiasm of artists and UNESCO. As the Nguyen dynasty also had a real concern about education and knowledge, the document treasure of this monarchy has priceless value in research and also gives the modern world a closer look at the pedagogy back then. A fun fact is that the number of documents in the Nguyen dynasty is more than the total number of those made under others.
Hue Royal Refined Music (Nha Nhac Cung Dinh Hue)
Can you imagine that Hue is called the "Festival City" of the country? The reason is that Hue owns a huge festival with a worldwide reputation. With an aim to celebrate Vietnamese culture, Hue Festival gathers many performers across the country, even from around the world, so it can have international flavor too.
Taking place right in the Imperial City of Hue, the Hue Festival expresses colorful performances that indicate a positive vibe and precious underlying messages. Every two years, the Hue Festival takes place at the end of April in order to promote and share the city's heritage with visitors. If you happen to be in Hue or near the city at this time, join this festival to take in all the fun, as well as the historical influence of every show. The opening ceremony and artistic performance, followed by the Hue Poetry Festival, Ao Dai fashion show, and the Dialogue of Drums,... will bring you from surprise to surprise and immerse you in the unique harmony of culture.
Ao dai festival in Hue
Transit to Hue
For those who want to save traveling time between places, hopping on an airplane is the best choice to travel to Hue. You can travel from Danang International Airport to Hue with the private car service of Vietnam Airport Car. It only takes 1 hour and a half to fly from Ho Chi Minh City to Hue and 20 minutes less if you travel from Hanoi.
Danang International Airport with Vietnam Airport Car
Another option is Phu Bai international airport which is only 15 kilometers away from Hue's city center, and you can easily find daily flights from abroad and major cities in Vietnam.
To have a more economical way to start your trip to Hue, you can choose to transit by train. The train trip from Hanoi lasts approximately 14 hours, and the 18 - 22 hours from Saigon. Sitting on the carriage and witnessing the scenery passing through the window can be an interesting way to travel. If you want to sightsee the largest pass in Vietnam through the train window, take the chance to admire Hai Van Pass, which lies 80 kilometers in the southeast direction from Hue. When the train goes by Hai Van Pass, you can weave through breathtaking mountains overlooking a stunning coastline.
Hai Van Pass- Hue
However, if you don't want to spend too much time on a public vehicle or spend too much money on a flight ticket, you can consider a private car service. This type of service is common and can be departed from any city in Vietnam. Contact Vietnam Airport Car to book a private car with various seat types and luggage storage from all the large airports across Vietnam. Some advantages of traveling by private car are that the pick-up and drop-off can be flexible due to your preference, and the pre-book can be done easily online.
Vietnam Airport Car is an honor to be with you
Hue cuisine has become a brand symbolic of Vietnamese culinary culture. With more than 1,200 dishes, Hue deserves all the flourishing compliments and positive feedback from travelers from all over.
Shrimp flour filter cake special cuisine in Hue- Banh Bot Loc
You probably want to stay in Hue for a little longer to indulge yourself in the authentic traditional food that was once exclusively served to the royals, but at totally affordable prices! The most famous dish in Hue is Bun Bo Hue - a noodle specialty made from lightly spicy broth and various toppings (sliced beef, pork leg, lemongrass, blood pudding,...). Besides, you can try Hue-style sweet soup, Banh Beo Hue, Nem Lui, Com Am Phu, and Banh Bot Loc,... Regardless of street food or imperial delicacies, Hue dishes are bursting with fresh ingredients and delicate flavors, aesthetically presented in small portions which reflect the elegant characteristics of the Hue people. With so many dishes waiting for you to try, you can join a Street Food Tour Hue to sample every tasty dish that can not be found in any other region in Vietnam.
Vietnamese min crispy shrimp rice pancakes
Hue by Night
You can just spend a Hue Day Trip and then visit vicinity destinations like Danang city or Hoian city, but the Hue nightlife can only be enjoyed fully if you go on a multiday tour in this ancient capital. As nightfall approaches, this imperial city loses its calm atmosphere and instead becomes more vibrant and magnificent.
Even the Hue Citadel puts on a new look when the sun sets. First, you can witness the sparkling scenery inside this ancient capital, from Trung Dao Bridge, Thai Dich Lake to Dien Tho Residence and The Mieu Temple. In addition, you can observe and experience royal practices such as the Change of Guards Ceremony and the performance of court music.
You will also be impressed by the Western Area of Hue, which changes the thinking that Hue is a city of an early bedtime. With a length of almost 1 kilometer, the Western region provides tourists with a variety of cultural experiences, excellent delicacies, and fascinating entertainment. Rows of booths with intriguing stuff are located here. It's nice to shop for trinkets, meet up with close friends, or sip a beer while listening to music.
If you just want to jog and have a relaxing time with friends and family, visit Nguyen Dinh Chieu Walking Street or Ironwood Bridge. You can take in the enchanting view of the Perfume River at night and even listen to folk singing along the river.
Hue lantern festival at night
Hue City Tour
For those who come to Hue for a business trip or just don't have much time to explore all the heritages and local attractions in Hue, a Hue City Tour is a good choice to take a glance at the most remarkable spots of the ancient capital. The tour will begin with a direct pick-up at your hotel, and then the tour guide will take you to Khai Dinh's tomb, Hue Imperial city, … while telling you historical stories and myths about the architecture in Hue. This tour will provide you the knowledge of the rich culture of Hue and also bring you the most highlighted scenery in this antiquated city.
Hue Rural Life Discovery Tour by Motorbike
Let's put aside the glamor of historical and cultural values of the imperial city of Hue for a moment and explore the "hue" of Hue countryside on a Motorbike Tour to Hue Rural life. On this tour, you will ride a motorcycle across the surrounding countryside outside of Hue to discover a rural community, see everyday activities, ride past rice terraces, and view the Perfume River. Moreover, you will have the chance to enjoy Hue vegetarian cuisine and witness the local life of hospitable Hue people.
Explore Hue by motorbike
Hue and vicinity tours
Hue - Phong Nha Cave Loop Tour
A distance of 200 km from Hue to Phong Nha Cave is not that close, but Hue - Phong Nha Cave is still a popular Day Trip from Hue for tourists to discover a fantastic part of Central Vietnam in a packaged tour. To begin the trip, you will be picked up at your hotel in Hue and then take a ride to Quang Binh, prepare for the cave adventure to Phong Nha Cave - one of the most majestic caves in the world with a stunning underground lake, sand back and rock formations. Besides, you can explore deeper into the cave and admire the dry cave along the longest water to see the gorgeous stalactites - some even call it "the Royal Palace on the Earth." After the incredible journey in Quang Binh, you will be lifted back to Hue and sightsee some of the highlighted attractions here.
Phong Nha cave in Quang Binh
Hue Tour from Hoian: Transit from Hoian to Hue for a back-in-time journey in this ancient land. Instead of spending the entire day on a bus or train, you can join Hue Tour from Hoian to stop at all the highlighted places on the route from Hoian to Hue. Along the trip, there will be opportunities for picture stops at China Beach, Lang Co Beach, Hai Van Pass, and Cau Hai Lagoon. Before arriving in the historic capital city that was formerly the seat of several Vietnamese dynasties, tours also include a brief visit to the Cham Museum, Linh Ung Pagoda, with views of the Marble Mountains, and a number of other activities. Enjoy the breathtaking surroundings and make your journey worth every second!
Hoian: Hue tour from Hoian
Bach Ma National Park Tour
Only 45 km from the city center of Hue, Bach Ma National Park is an appealing destination if you want to explore the natural masterpiece of Central Vietnam. Favorably called the gem of Hue, this national park owns the peak of Bach Ma mountain at the height of 1450 meters, not to mention the breathtaking view of the Tam Giang-CauHai lagoon and the diversity of flora and fauna. On this tour to Bach Ma National Park Discovery, you can admire the amazing landscape of the scenery, which stretch to the crystal clear sea. After lunch, among the mountains, you will continue to discover Do Quyen Waterfall while listening to the incredible facts about this spot and the special Do Quyen flower.
Do Quyen waterfall in Hue
Apart from these tours, you can depart many more types of excursions from the city of Hue. The Central region of Vietnam features both exceptional natural beauty and the uniqueness of local culture; check out tours to nearby provinces such as Danang tour - Hoian Tour, Ba Na Hills Day Tour, Hoian Ancient Town Group Tour, Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park Tour … If you want to explore other parts of Vietnam, Vietnam Airport Car also provides private cars service and packaged tours to Northern and Southern regions. Hanoi City Tour, Ha Giang loop tour, Halong Bay Cruise, Ho Chi Minh tour - Mekong Tour, and many other tours are waiting for you.
Bach Ma national park view from the mountain
Hope this guide can provide you with useful information for a wonderful trip to Hue and its vicinity destinations. For any further questions, feel free to contact us!