Vietnam’s imperial capital on the banks of the Perfume River
Hue, the capital of Thừa Thiên–Huế Province in north central Vietnam, was once the centre of the imperial Nguyễn Empire, a feudal dynasty which lasted from the 17th to the 19th centuries. After Emperor Nguyễn Phúc Ánh gained control over the whole of Vietnam in 1802, Hue was for a time the country’s capital. Nowadays, palaces and temples, tombs and pagodas – many of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites – surround the city and hark back to the ghosts and glories of this former Imperial seat. But Hue is also quickly modernising with contemporary hotels and sleek bars catering to an ever-booming tourism industry. For travellers, the Thien Mu Pagoda, one of Vietnam’s icons is a must-see. While a sunrise stroll along the Perfume River is the best way to enjoy the city’s more meditative side.
Things to do
Although much of the Imperial Enclosure opens in new window is now in ruins, the citadel is well-worth a visit. Must see sights include the principal entrance at Ngo Mon Gate and the To Mieu Temple Complex in the southwest corner. Admission is VND 105,000 (USD $4.75).
Located on a hill overlooking the Perfume River, the Thien Mu Pagoda opens in new window is an icon of Vietnam. The 21-metre tower was constructed under the reign of Emperor Thieu Tri in 1844 with each of its seven storeys dedicated to a manushi-buddha. If you’re after quiet, visit the pagoda in the morning.
Address: Kim Long, tp. Hue, Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam
Over the bridge
About seven kilometres from the city is the beautiful Thanh Toan Bridge opens in new window. This wooden bridge often described as Japanese style and reportedly built by Emperor Le Hien Tong (1740–1786) is ideal for observing rural life.
On the west bank of Perfume River about 12km from Hue is the majestic tomb of Minh Mang opens in new window. The complex includes the Honor Courtyard and the Sung An Temple, dedicated to Minh Mang and his empress. Admission is VND 80,000 (USD $3.60).
Row your boat
Soak up the ambient (Perfume River) opens in new window by floating along its current. Most group tours (starting at USD $2 per person) take passengers to the Thien Mu Pagoda, Hon Chen Temple and selected mausoleums (entrance fees are extra). You can also charter a boat from the boat wharf beside the Trang Tien Bridge.
Travel time 30 minutes
Taxi Approx VND 190,000 (approx. USD $8.50)
Shuttle VVND 50,000 (approx. USD $2.50)
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When to go
Hue has a tropical monsoon climate that is often rainy year round – be sure to bring an umbrella or raincoat. The dry season lasts from March to August with highs ranging from 35°C to 40°C while the rainy season lasts from September to January.
Every two years, the huge Festival of Hue takes place sometime between April and June. The festival often includes a line-up of local and international artists and performers as well as much-anticipated events such as the Hue Poetry Festival.
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Hue’s city centre can be easily explored on foot and many hotels have bicycles to rent USD $1 - USD $2 per day. Motorbikes are also available for approximately VND 100,000 (USD $4.50) – make sure you hire or buy a helmet, too. Hue has an inter-city train station with destinations including Ninh Binh and Dong Ha.
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