Hue Sights & Attractions

The Imperial City of Hue offers visitors a fascinating look into Vietnam's cultural heritage.

Explore the sprawling complex of evocative temples and pavilions set amid lotus ponds and pretty gardens – known collectively as The Citadel – on the north side of the Perfume River.

Follow pathways through the former Imperial City and into the royal palace of the Forbidden Purple City.

Cruise the Perfumed River (Huong River) or hire a bicycle and cycle through lush gardens, past tranquil lakes, exploring the often architecturally elaborate and unique tombs of the Nguyen Kings – the last of Vietnam's dynastic rulers.

Don’t miss the magnificent tombs of Tu Duc and Khai Dinh, the striking Thien Mu Pagoda. Browse Hue’s Dong Xuan Market and take a day-trip to the remarkable multi-level Vinh Moc tunnels, which lie 20m below the ground in Quang Tri Province.

The Imperial City rose to prominence as the capital of the feudal Nguyen dynasty, which ruled much of Vietnam from 1802 until 1945, when the Emperor Bao Dai abdicated in favour of Ho Chi Minh's revolutionary government.

Major attractions in Hue, including the following…

The Citadel

Constructed over several years from 1804 on a site chosen by Emperor Gia Long’s geomancers, the Citadel was built for the exclusive use of the emperor and his household, much like Beijing's Forbidden City.

Surrounded by a 2.5km-long and 6m-high wall flanked on the exterior by a moat filled with water from the Perfume River, the Citadel comprises three areas: the outer area, known as the Citadel, an inner area, known as the Imperial City, and at the very centre, the Forbidden Purple City, where the emperor and his family lived.

Much of the original city was destroyed during fighting between the French and Viet Minh in 1947, and again during the Tet Offensive in 1968. Only a few buildings survive, such as the Thai Hoa and Can Thanh temples, The Mieu, and Hien Lam Cac.

The Noon Gate

(Cua Ngo Mon) – Walk in the footsteps of the emperor through the main entrance to the city. The central walkway with its yellow doors, and the connecting bridge across the lotus pond, were reserved exclusively for the emperor.

Two slightly smaller side entrances were reserved for mandarins, soldiers and horses, while two small arched entrances on the outside were used for everyone else.

Climb up to the second floor for a pleasant view of the exquisite courtyard. From the main hall at the top of this gate (known as Ngu Phung), the Emperor would address his officials and the people; and, most memorably, the announcement of the abdication of the last emperor, Bao Dai, on August 25, 1945, to Ho Chi Minh’s Provisional Revolutionary Government.

The upper level consists of a grand pavilion, called the Five-Phoenix Pavilion (Lau Ngu Phung). The roof is covered in yellow, glazed ceramic roof tiles detailed with etchings of various animals and creatures to ward off evil. The structure was slightly damaged by war but is now fully restored.

Don't miss the Flag Tower, Vietnam’s tallest flagpole at 37m-high, which sits atop a large three-story rampart to the south of the Noon Gate. The tower was built in 1807 during Gia Long's reign and first hoisted the yellow flag of royalty, which was later exchanged by many others during Vietnam's turbulent history.

Forbidden Purple City

The Forbidden Purple City sits at the very centre of the Imperial City and was the former home of the emperor and his concubines.

The only servants allowed into this compound were eunuchs who were (supposedly) no threat to the royal concubines.

Stroll around the ruins of this once magnificent palace that was almost entirely destroyed in past wars.

Venture inside the long, red and gold Thien (or To) Mieu Temple, built by Emperor Minh Mang in 1821. Inside sit shrines paying tribute to 10 of the last Nguyen dynasty emperors, with photos of each emperor and his empresses as well as various small artefacts. Under French rule, only those seven liked by the colonial power were honoured – the other three were only added in 1959.

See ancient gateways overgrown with vegetation sitting side-by-side with magnificent restored buildings, such as the Thai Binh Reading Pavilion – notable for its beautifully landscaped surroundings, including a small lake with stone sculpture.

Catch a performance of the ancient art of nha nhac (courtly dance) in the Royal Traditional Theatre at the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre. (Performances daily, from 9am to 4pm, cost of 20,000VND).

Location: The Citadel, northern side of the Perfume River, Hue; Admission: 80,000DVN; Hours: Daily 7am - 5:30pm.

Hue is located in central Vietnam on the banks of the Perfume River, about 700km south of Hanoi and about 1100km north of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).

Interesting side trips from Hue, including the following…

Thien Mu Pagoda

This iconic seven-story pagoda is regarded as the unofficial symbol of the former imperial city. Built in 1601, then later expanded and refurbished, the Thien Mu Pagoda is one of the oldest religious structures in Vietnam.

View a huge bell weighing 3285kg and a stone turtle with a stele on its back. Watch as monks go about their daily routines and note the blue, 1956 Austin saloon in which Thich Quang Duc was driven to his self-immolation in Saigon in 1963 when he protested against the Diem regime.

The pagoda sits on the banks of the Perfume River, surrounded by lush trees. At the rear of the temple complex sits a large graveyard.

Location: On the northern bank (same side as the Citadel) of the Perfume River, about 5km southwest of the Citadel entrance, Hue; Hours: Daily 8am - 5pm

Tomb of Khai Dinh

Climb up 127 steep steps to ponder the tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh – a unique mix of Gothic, Baroque, Hindu and Chinese Qing dynasty architecture. The tomb took 11 years to build, from 1920 to 1931. Outside, twelve stone statues representing bodyguards stand guard.

Inside, the walls of the two main rooms feature intricately designed glass and ceramic mosaics. The ceiling of the palace is decorated with nine intricate dragons. To the rear of the palace sits a temple containing Khai Dinh’s grave as well as an altar and a seated statue of the emperor.

Location: Chau Chu mountain near Hue; Admission: 55000DVN; Hours: Summer daily 6:30am-5:30pm; winter daily 7am-5pm.

Tomb of Tu Duc

Stroll around this vast sprawling tomb complex positioned around a lotus-filled lake featuring wooden pavilions, tombs and temples dedicated to wives and favoured courtesans.

While some buildings are nothing more than crumbling ruins others are remarkably well preserved. Visit the Hoa Khiem (Harmony Modesty) Pavilion, where the king worked and which still contains items of furniture and ornaments.

See household objects in the Minh Khiem Duong, said to be the country's oldest surviving theatre constructed in 1866.

The complex served as a second Imperial City where the Emperor went for 'working vacations'.

Don’t miss the Emperor's tomb, which is surprisingly modest, located at the rear of the complex, and constructed between 1864 and 1867, some 16 years before his death.

Tu Duc was a philosopher and scholar of history and literature. His was the longest reign of any Nguyen dynasty emperor, lasting from 1848 to 1883. Although he had 104 wives, he left no heir.

Location: 7km from Hue; Admission: 55,000VND; Hours: Summer daily 6:30am-5:30pm; winter daily 7am-5pm.

Vinh Moc Tunnels

Get an insight into how the villagers of Vinh Moc successfully escaped US bombing by venturing inside this 2km-long tunnel complex. Constructed in several stages beginning in early 1966 until early 1972, the tunnel complex sheltered around 60 families.

Dug to a depth of 20m below the surface and spread across three levels with multiple entrances, the tunnels included ‘living rooms’ for families, a conference and performance room, a small cinema, a field hospital, maternity room, toilets and kitchens complete with elaborate systems to disperse the smoke of cooking fires. More than 17 children were born in the tunnels.

An estimated seven tons of bombs were dropped per person living in the Vinh Moc Tunnels; or more than 9000 tons of bombs in the area.

To experience just a little of how it was like to live underground, take a guided walk through about 300m of the main tunnel that is 1.6m high by 1.2m wide, going down three stages. Then visit the museum at the entrance to see survivors' photos, testimonies and maps of the labyrinth.

Location: The tunnels lie north of the Ben Hai River in Quang Tri (DMZ); Admission: 25,000VND; Hours: Summer daily 6:30am-5:30pm; winter daily 7am-5pm.

Where to stay in Hue

Hue offers an excellent choice of accommodation options to suit most honeymoon budgets, including the following 5-star hotels…

La Residence Hue Hotel & Spa - MGallery by Sofitel
Location: 5 Le Loi Street, Hue
Rating: 5-star
Ave nightly price: AUD215 per room
Description: La Residence Hue Hotel and Spa - MGallery Collection is a classic colonial villa spread over 2 hectares on the banks of the scenic Perfume River. Offering free WiFi, it also has a tennis court, pampering spa treatments and a fitness centre. The well-appointed rooms are individually designed with beautiful Art deco furniture and spacious terraces. Enjoying views of the city or river, all come with a TV, minibar and private bathrooms. Guests can enjoy a massage at the spa or spend quiet moments at the hotel's library. Day trips and car rentals can be arranged at the tour desk. Free parking is available. La Residence Hue Hotel and Spa - MGallery Collection is less than 1 km from the Ho Chi Minh Museum, Dong Ba Market and Hue Train Station. Hue Railway Station is 500 metres away, while Phu Bai Airport is accessible with a 17 km drive.

Vedana Lagoon Resort & Spa
Location: Hue
Rating: 5-star
Ave nightly price: AUD180 per room
Description: The Vedana Lagoon Resort & Spa is located along a peaceful lagoon between Hue and Hoi An. This 5-star resort features luxurious over-water villas, free Wi-Fi, an outdoor pool and spa wellness services. The spacious villas and bungalows at Vedana feature modern décor with traditional accents. A flat-screen satellite TV, DVD home entertainment system and minibar are included. 24-hour room service is provided. Guests can enjoy relaxing massage treatments and beauty services at the spa. Tai Chi and yoga classes are available. Lagoon Vedana also provides a tour desk and water sports facilities. Fresh seafood and fantastic views are available at The Horizon Restaurant. A romantic private dining experience under the stars is available at The Twilight Experience and the Cape Bar. The property is 24 miles from Hue and 16 miles from Hue Airport from Vedana Lagoon Resort & Spa.

Indochine Palace
Location: Hue
Rating: 5-star
Ave nightly price: AUD158 per room
Description: Situated Hue’s city centre, Indochine Palace offers spacious and modern accommodation with free WiFi. An outdoor pool, night club and 5 dining options are some of the facilities available. Guestrooms at Indochine Palace open to a balcony with city, lake or pool views and feature a fireplace. A flat-screen TV and private bathroom with separate bathtub and shower are included. Work-out at the hotel’s fitness centre and relax at their spa afterwards. Sauna and steam room facilities are also available. A roundtrip airport shuttle is available on request at an extra charge. Guests enjoy free private parking. Choose from fine dining at La Brasserie or casual dining at Le Petit Café. Au Rendezvous & Le Bar features a live band while Le Bar has an international wine list. Have a snack and drink by the poolside at Les Bains. 24-hour in-room dining is available. Less than 2 km away are local attractions including Truongtien Bridge, Dong Ba Market, and Hue Museum of Royal Fine Arts. The hotel is a 20-minute drive from Phu Bai International Airport.

Pilgrimage Village Boutique Resort & Spa
Location: 130 Minh Mang Road, Hue
Rating: 5-star
Ave nightly price: AUD150 per room
Description: Pilgrimage Village is a rustic resort in a secluded area of Thua Thien Hue. It offers authentic Vietnamese culture and hospitality, extensive spa treatments, and different onsite bars and restaurants. At Pilgrimage Village Boutique Resort & Spa guests can chose between beautifully furnished bungalows, huts, villas and houses that are all surrounded by natural green forest. Some units include private pools, a plunge pool, gardens, and a variety of free services. Free WiFi access is available in all of the resort's rooms. Guests can enjoy attending Vietnamese cooking classes, Tai Chi classes, or select from different tours available. Alternatively, the resort’s swimming pools and the spa offer many ways to relax. There are 2 restaurants, serving Vietnamese and international cuisine, and 3 bars that include a lounge. Transportation and tour service enquiries can be directed to the front desk and reservations office. From Pilgrimage Village guests can take the shuttle bus into Hue. Nearby attractions include tombs of Khai Dinh, Tu Duc and Minh Mang.

Imperial Hue Hotel
Location: 8 Hung Vuong Boulevard, Hue
Rating: 5-star
Ave nightly price: AUD137 per room
Description: Overlooking Perfume River, Imperial Hotel offers accommodation with free high-speed internet access and facilities including 6 dining options and an outdoor swimming pool featuring scenic views of Hue City. Guestrooms at the Imperial Hotel are luxuriously furnished and offer scenic views of the Perfume River, Ngu Binh Mountain and the Royal Palace. Each room comes with wooden flooring, satellite TV and a work desk. The fitness centre lets guests work out while the hotel’s Royal Spa provides an indoor pool, hot tub and body treatments for relaxation. Other facilities at Imperial Hotel include a club with slot machines and state-of-the-art casino games. The food and beverage options available at the hotel include European, Japanese and Vietnamese cuisines while the bars offer a variety of drinks. Imperial Hotel is just a 2-minute walk to Truong Tien Bridge and 1 km away from Hue Train Station.

Best time to visit Hue and Central Vietnam

Expect warm weather from June to August and wet weather from September to November. Hue, Da Nang and Nha Trang are best in spring from February to April.

More about Vietnam Weather

How to get to Hue

Hue is located on the banks of the Perfume River in central Vietnam about 700km (430mi) south of Hanoi and about 1100km (680mi) north of Ho Chi Minh City.

The most convenient route to Hue is by air to Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN), located 6km (3.7mi) north of Ho Chi Minh City, followed by a domestic flight to Phu Bai International Airport (HUI), located 24km (15mi) south of Hue city centre.

An alternative route is by air to Da Nang International Airport (DAD) located about 107km (66mi) south of Hue. Da Nang is the largest city in central Vietnam.

By taxi, Hue is 1 hr 40 minutes from Da Nang International Airport; and by bus, around 3 hours 30 minutes, including 1 hour transfer between buses.

Or you may fly into Noi Bai International Airport (HAN), located about 28km (17mi) northeast of central Hanoi, then connect with a domestic flight to Hue.

By rail, the Reunification Express from Ho Chi Minh City, takes around 18 hours 24 minutes, five times daily.

More information on how to get to Hue

More about Hue…

Latest update: Hue sights & attractions: 18 October, 2023