Located on the banks of the Perfume River which winds its way through town, Hue is a delightful city to visit with loads of things to see and do. As the former capital of Vietnam, it is dripping in history and Hue is particularly renowned for the beautiful tombs of former emperors that are scattered about here and there.
Map of Hue
Click to enlarge
Full of life, it was tragically the site of one of the Vietnam War’s most brutal battles, and remnants of the fighting can still be seen to this day in the damaged monuments and temples around town. Nowadays Hue is a laid-back place that has some delicious cuisine on offer, and the friendly and welcoming locals will certainly make you feel at home right away.
The largest commercial center in the province, Dong Ba Market is a busy place full of life and energy, and is the perfect market at which to buy anything from local produce and handmade artisan goods to jewelry, clothing and more. With lots of food courts dotted about here and there, it is also a lovely spot to grab a bite to eat and simply watch the world go by.
Located in the Annamite Mountains, Bach Ma National Park is a lush and verdant place, situated in one of the wettest regions in the country. The steep mountainsides are home to resplendent forests and beautiful waterfalls, and dilapidated French villas are scattered about here and there. Unspoiled and untouched, this biodiverse region is home to a huge range of wildlife, making it a great place to go hiking. Trekking through the jungle is an amazing experience and consequently, Bach Ma is well worth checking out when you’re in Hue.
Built in the late seventeenth century, this lovely Buddhist temple has expanded a lot over the years, although the Vietnam War means left some parts still remain damaged, and they have remained unrepaired to this day. With the seven-tiered pagoda being its defining feature, the pagoda is still inhabited by monks who keep it neat and tidy. The large courtyard is overlooked by a huge bodhi tree, and every year the Buddha’s birthday attracts thousands upon thousands of people who come to worship him at the Tu Dam Pagoda.
Also known as the Japanese Bridge, Thanh Toan is a quaint and pretty bridge, although there is not much else near it that will be of interest to visitors. Tran Thi Dao commissioned it to help facilitate travel and communication between a small secluded village and the wider world, which until then had been separated by the canal that the bridge now spans. When Tran Thi Dao died childless, the emperor ordered the villagers to put up an altar at the bridge and pray to her when they passed by. In Vietnam, ancestor worship is still very important, and the villagers still pray to her today. With its distinctive rickety look, the Japanese Bridge is a nice place to stop by although it won’t take you very long to explore.
Lying atop Van Nien Hill, the tomb of Tu Duc is surrounded by forest, and there is a lovely pavilion with a water lily-coated pond for visitors to enjoy. Built between 1864 and 1867, the tomb was designed by the emperor himself, and it cost so much money and used so much forced labor that it actually triggered a coup against him. While the complex is pretty to behold, the tomb itself is not that special, and Tu Duc was never actually interned there. The temples, statues and outer courtyard, however, are very nice to wander around, making Tu Duc’s tomb worth checking out.
Lying just five kilometers from the city center, the Dong Khanh Tomb took over thirty-five years to be completed. The architecture is stunning to behold, as various emperors and architects added their own flourishes over the years. Having died at just twenty-five years of age, Dong Khanh did not have time to design his own tomb and the one we see before us today is very Europeanised in style. Fantastic stone statues line the tomb with elephants, horses and warriors all featuring. It is a sombre yet impressive place.
Built to house the remains of the second emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty, this wonderful mausoleum is one of the most popular amongst visitors and locals alike. Traversing a walkway that lies across a pond, visitors see the tomb towering above them at the top of a flight of stairs, leaving them with a strong impression. Trees are scattered around the tomb, and the bright red of the roof stands out delightfully against the green of the leaves and the blue sky above. Having done so much to oppose French involvement in Vietnam, the tomb is a fitting tribute to Minh Mang’s legacy.
The last imperial tomb to be built in Vietnam, the Khai Dinh Tomb took eleven years to be completed and houses the remains of the emperor after which it is named. A marvelous place to visit, the architecture is an intoxicating mix of Western and Eastern styles and as such is very unique to gaze upon. After climbing up a long flight of steps, you are greeted with imperious stone pillars and arches, and statues of bodyguards line the courtyard. Dragons cover the ceilings inside the tomb, and the extravagant ornamentation and designs are dazzling to behold with lots of porcelain on show. Well worth the climb up the hillside, the Khai Dinh Tomb is very impressive to witness.
Overlooking the Perfume River that snakes its way through the city, the Thien Mu Pagoda is the unofficial symbol of Hue and is renowned throughout Vietnam. First built all the way back in 1601, the current pagoda dates back to 1844. The tomb’s seven stories that tower above the surrounding trees make it one of the highlights of any trip to Hue. The lush grounds around it make a beautiful opportunity to wander and explore. The pagoda is also a site of political significance, as Buddhists protesting against the oppression of the Catholic government were sadly killed here in 1963. Nowadays it is a peaceful and relaxing spot to visit, and one of the main attractions in Hue.
Also known as the Imperial City, this amazing complex is where Vietnam’s emperors used to live, protected by the thick stone walls and moat surrounding them. Construction began in 1804 and although many of the buildings have been damaged over the years, they still make for an impressive sight. Inside the fortified walls is an endless array of temples, courts, gardens and more, and as such it is a captivating place to wander around.
The stunning Meridian Gate is just one of the many highlights on show, and the beautiful design somehow manages to be both elegant and intimidating at the same time. The To Mieu Temple Complex is another fantastic part to explore, as is the Purple Forbidden City. While much of the Imperial Citadel was damaged during the Vietnam War and remained neglect once the communists came to power, this delightful attraction is simply a must-see when in Hue.