things to do in hue vietnam

The Best Things to do in Hue

The historic city of Hue sits at the center of Vietnam and is home to numerous crucial historical sites that are of interest to both adventure-seekers and history. Hue was the central city of Vietnam until the early 1900s and today, the city offers a glimpse into the past lives of Vietnam’s previous emperors as well as the city’s experience as the site of one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the American-Vietnamese war. During the war, a large part of Hue was damaged. Since the war, these historic ruins have been slowly restored to preserve the rich history of the city.   Hue might not be as well-known as Hanoi, but with its captivating atmosphere, ancient architecture, and charming sceneries, Hue is a place you can immerse yourself in and have a meaningful adventure. So here are the best things to do in Hue, Vietnam.

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Where to Stay in Hue Vietnam

For your trip to Hue, you’ll want to be centrally located to make the most of your visit to the city. Here are our recommended picks of places to stay in Hue, Vietnam

Stay at the Melia Vin Pearl, Hue. This five star property is in an excellent location and has a whole host of facilities that you’d associate with top hotels. There’s a spa, fitness room, indoor swimming pool, and a yoga room. Rooms are gloriously and sumptuously decorated and come with a host of luxuries. You won’t want for anything while you’re here. Check room rates and availability here.

The Hue Jade Scene Hotel is our mid-range pick in Hue. It has an outdoor rooftop pool that has gorgeous views over the city. The hotel comes with all regular amenities and is sparklingly clean with super friendly staff and is priced amazingly! It’s a great location with great facilities in Hue. You can book a room here.

Our budget pick is the STOP and GO Boutique Homestay in Hue – this is an amazing facility for a homestay and we LOVE it. Rooms are simple and well decorated with great A/C and free WiFi. Stop and Go offers a luggage storage service, perfect if you’re heading off for a few days, and also has a bike rental service too. It’s great, budget-friendly, and feels like home! Book a room here now!

The Best Things to do in Hue, Vietnam

Located by the banks of the Perfume River—which is called such because during spring the orchards shed their flowers into the river, making the river smell like perfume—the city of Hue is chockablock with activities that will help you to get to know this historic city better. Check out how Vietnamese royalty used to live by visiting the Imperial Citadel. Visit the tombs of the previous emperors and get a glimpse into their life. You can also explore the parks and the museum which will allow you to delve deeper into the rich history of Hue. There’s so much to do in Hue, that you’ll want to make sure you have a great itinerary to get around it all!

Visit the Imperial Citadel in Hue (Kinh Thanh)

One thing you definitely should not miss when you go to Hue is visiting the Imperial Citadel or the Kinh Thanh. It was built around 200 years ago under the rule of Emperor Gia Long to serve as the Imperial Seat of the Government. But due to the bombings during the American-Vietnamese war, much of Imperial Citadel was heavily damaged with only 10 of 160 buildings surviving. The glorious Citadel continues to be slowly restored to its former glory, sporting its magnificent architecture and displaying Vietnam’s rich culture. Once inside, you can explore the historic Imperial Citadel and get to more about the lives of royalty who resided within its walls.   You’ll learn heaps more with a local guide, and this tour of the Imperial citadel is highly recommended.

things to do in Hue visit the imperial citadel

Also, here are a few reminders when you visit the Imperial City: dress conservatively as the city is a historical and cultural monument. Some locations don’t allow photos, so be mindful of that. There are objects that you are not allowed to touch. There are also some paths that visitors are not allowed to use, so be sure you are paying attention to any signs that say so. There’s also a map so you don’t get lost; check it from time to time to make sure you’re on the right track.

To get the best from the Hue Citadel, take a guide – who’ll explain the history and the meaning behind what you’re seeing.

How much is it to visit the Imperial Citadel (Kinh Thanh)? The Imperial Citadel entrance fee is VND150,000 (US$ 6.50) for adults and VND30,000 (US$1.30) for children.

Visit the Forbidden Purple City in the Imperial City

Located within the heart of the Imperial Citadel lies the Forbidden Purple City. The Forbidden Purple City was a private area accessed solely by royalty and select servants that serve the emperor. It is located within the Imperial Enclosure and was thoroughly destroyed by the American-Vietnamese war; what remains now that you can visit is the emperor’s reading room. Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the Forbidden Purple City is a haunting experience of a rich past.

Stroll through the Imperial Enclosure of the Imperial Citadel

The heart of the Imperial Citadel where the Forbidden Purple City lies in the Imperial Enclosure. This enclosure is a citadel within a citadel; it houses the emperor’s residence, palaces, and temples, along with the main building of the state. Most of the enclosure was also destroyed by the French and American wars, but those that remain still stand magnificent and captivating. Exploring the enclosure can take a few hours, so be sure you’re prepared with a bottle of water and comfortable shoes.

Visit the Thai Hoa Palace in Hue

A lotus lake and a long courtyard walkway will lead you to the Thai Hoa Palace also known as the Throne Palace. The palace used to be the symbol of the Nguyen Dynasty as this is where important ceremonies such as coronations, the emperor’s birthday, and meetings were held.  Inside the palace sits a golden throne where Emperor Gia Long received his guests either for business meetings or for the occasional public ceremonies. The Thai Hoa Palace survived the war bombings but not without heavy damage, requiring the palace to have extensive repairs to be restored its original state. Outside, you can admire the grand entrance decorated with images of dragons, the sun, and lotus. Inside, you can admire the palace’s red and gold decorations and find out more about the Citadel’s history through audio-visual shows.   If you want to visit the Thai Hoa Palace and understand more about it, then I recommend going with a local guide, and this tour includes visiting the palace, a cruise on the Perfume River as well as a visit to the Imperial Citadel!

things to do in Hue thai hoah palace

Take a stroll around Thien Mu Pagoda

The Thien Mu Pagoda is Hue City’s most iconic pagoda. The Thein Mu pagoda or the Pagoda of the Celestial Lady stands at 21 meters or seven stories and was built in 1844 based on a local legend about an old lady wearing blues, greens, and reds who foretold that a pagoda would be built for people to pray for the prosperity of Vietnam. The pagoda sports a large bell which can be heard 10 kilometers away, prayer halls, more towers to store sacred texts, and meditation halls. You can also check out the bonsai gardens outside the pagoda and the car used by Quang Duc, a monk from Hue who parked his car and set himself on fire as a protest against the persecution of Buddhists.  It’s more atmospheric to visit the Thien Mu Pagoda early in the morning.

How much is it to visit Thien Mu Pagoda? The Thien Mu Pagoda is free to visit.

things to do in Hue thien mu pagoda
things to do in hue monks car

Visit the Royal Tombs of Hue

Another place you cannot miss when visiting Hue is the royal tombs. In Hue, there are a total of seven tombs scattered across the area. These tombs were built for each of the ruling emperors and are monuments to honor them. We’ve detailed three of the most popular tombs in Hue that you can visit: the tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh, the tomb of Minh Mang, and the tomb of Tu Duc.

Royal Tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh

The Royal Tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh stands unique among the other royal tombs of Hue. The architecture of Khai Dinh’s tomb diverted from the usual reflective atmosphere of a mausoleum and instead went for a monumental and bold atmosphere. Local guides also believe that Khai Dinh’s royal tomb is meant to be difficult to reach, having been built on the side of the mountain with 127 steps before you can reach the inner sanctum. Inside, you can find a life-size bronze statue of emperor Khai Dinh along with mosaic-lined walls and bits of porcelain and glass.

How much is it to visit the Royal Tomb of Khai Dinh: The entrance fee to the Royal Tomb of Khai Dinh is VND100,000 (US$4.30).

things to do in Hue Khai dinh tomb

Visit the Royal Tomb of Minh Mang

Emperor Minh Mang’s Royal Tomb is situated within a gorgeous landscaped area with lakes and canals. The tomb is said to have 40 structures which include the building for the emperor’s clothes, pavilions for the mourners, and then the tomb itself. Its scenic view, which includes high mountains and lakes, exudes a peaceful atmosphere ideal for a quiet stroll. With its architecture, with its elegance, and beauty, Emperor Minh Mang’s tomb is well worth a visit.

How much is it to visit the Royal Tomb of Minh Mang: The entrance fee to the Royal Tomb of Minh Mang is VND200,000 (US$9) for adults and VND30,000 (US$1.30) for children. Children aged 1 to 5, however, can enter for free.

Visit the Royal Tomb of Tu Duc

Of the three tombs, the royal tomb of Tu Duc is the most popular one. Unlike the other tombs, Tu Duc was built when Emperor Tu Duc was still alive in 1867. Tu Duc had over a hundred wives and no children.  The heavy labor the tomb required also led to the workers attempting to overthrow Tu Duc. However, where his remains and treasures were buried are unknown as all the servants who buried him were beheaded. The mausoleum is situated between a lake filled with lily pads and there are also musical performances throughout the day.

How much is it to visit the Royal Tomb of Tu Duc: The entrance fee to the Royal Tomb of Tu Duc is VND150,000 (US$6.50).

Want to see the highlights of Hue and get some exercise?  This fabulous half-day cycling tour takes you around the main sites, provides the bike and you’ll get some excellent local knowledge too!  Take a look at it here.

Dieu De Pagoda, Hue

Built during the 19th century under Emperor Thieu Tri’s rule, the Dieu De Pagoda now serves as a symbol for activism, protests, and freedom. The Dieu De Pagoda was known as a stronghold for Buddhist and student opposition during the American war and the South Vietnamese government. During the 1960s, 30 people died while 200 were wounded after Buddhists’ civilians defended the pagoda from being raided by the Diem’s army. Now, it stands tall and is flanked by four low towers, two by the gate, and two by the pagoda; these towers hold the bells, while the main hall holds a Guatama Buddha statue. The interior of the pagoda is also decorated with patterns and paintings depicting Buddha’s life. The area is also surrounded by tall trees and a lush landscape, providing an escape from the heat.

Cross the Thanh Toan Bridge in Hue (The Japanese Bridge)

Follow the footsteps of those who came before you as you cross the 18th-century Thanh Toan Bridge. The Thanh Toan Bridge is famous for its tile roof, a traditional architectural style that depicts its age to the visitors of today but also retains the charm and elegance of the past. The bridge was built with the help of the donation of Tran Thi Dao to help the villagers of Thanh Toan Village cross the canal easily to do farming activities. Now, inside the bridge, there’s a small altar dedicated to the memory of Tran Thi Dao.

things to do in Hue visit the japanese bridge

Originally 18.75 meters long and 5.82 meters wide, the bridge has undergone four restorations due to natural disasters and war, the bridge now sits at 16.8 meters in length and 4.63 meters in width. Within the bridge are seven small compartments; the central compartment is locked as this is where the altar of Mrs. Tran Thi Dao is placed, while the six remaining compartments are wooden benches for visitors to take a break and look at the view of Hue. The opposite sides of the bridge also offer different views on one side, you can see the vast paddy field where generations of villagers were raised, and on the other side, you can see water lilies blossoming on the surface of the water.

You’ll find the bridge about 7 kilometers east of Hue in the Thuy Thanh village.

How much is it to visit the Than Toan Bridge: The entrance fee to the Thanh Toan Bridge is VND30,000 (US$1.30)

Dong Ba Market, Hue

Vietnam is known for its excellent outdoor markets that’s why it’s a must that you visit Hue city’s oldest and largest market, the Dong Ba Market. Dong Ba Market is a 16,000 square meters of stalls selling a variety of products, from vegetables, and souvenirs, to traditional Vietnamese food, and clothes. The market opens early in the morning, around 3 a.m., and closes at around 8:30 pm.    The Dong Ba market is a great place to visit for a huge amount of local flavor – I don’t recommend heading there at 0300 unless you’re completely hardcore, but it is a fun place to visit and this half-day tour will take you there, and to some of Hue’s attractions that you shouldn’t miss!

things to do in Hue the dong ba market

An Hien Garden House, Hue

The city of Hue is not only known for its royal tombs; the city is also famous for its garden houses. The An Hien (House of Peace) Garden House sits on the north bank of the Perfume River. Originally, this garden house was built for the 18th daughter of the emperor Duc Duc as her residence; it was also a place for worship and an area to receive high-ranking officials and scholars who visited Hue city. Years later, the garden house was purchased by provincial chief Nguyen Dinh Chi, but after his death, his wife and family became the caretaker of the house.

Heading inside feels like traveling to another time and place. The garden house has a small pond full of water lilies which makes for a natural air-conditioner keeping the air cooler. The architecture of the main An Hien Garden House is stunning too; the entire frame structure is made out of wood, the tiles are laminated with dragons, and the middle of the roof is adorned with a lotus. You can head out to the garden which contains a variety of fruit trees like lychee, mangosteen, durian, jackfruit, and dragon fruits.

How much is it to visit the An Hien Garden House: The entrance fee to An Hien Garden House is VND35,000 (US$1.50).

Visit the To Mieu Temple, Hue

To get to know more about Hue’s emperors, you should head to the To Mieu Temple Complex and explore. Modeled after the Imperial Ancestral Temple in China’s Forbidden City, the temple was built in commemoration of the past emperors. Each emperor has their own altar, along with an image of him and his empress/es, and a small offering and incense. Nine urns represent the nine Nguyen emperors.

While some parts of the temple have been restored after suffering damages from the war, a large portion of the temple remains in ruins.

How much is it to visit the To Mieu Temple: The entrance fee to the To Mieu temple is VND30,000 (US$1.30).

Visit Hue’s Hope Center

The Hope Center was established to support disabled, disadvantaged peoples, and ethnic minorities by teaching them how to sew. Through the center, they’re able to earn through the sales of various products such as school uniforms and hospital uniforms, baskets, woven textiles, and handmade jewelry and bowl. You can buy these items to help them earn. You can also get involved by making your own pottery or other handmade products using recycled materials and take them home as a souvenir.   You can read more about Hue’s Hope Center here.

Visit the Hue Provincial Museum

Get an in-depth lesson about Hue’s history by visiting Hue Provincial Museum, also referred to as the Hue War Museum and the Historical and Revolutionary Museum. Inside, you can find a military exhibit that can provide you with more insights regarding Hue’s role during the American-Vietnamese war; the military exhibit includes photos, weapons used, and other war items such as captured army vehicles and planes. If you’re interested in the history of the Vietnamese War, then you should take a look at our guide to Vietnam War Sites.

How much is it to visit the Hue Provincial Museum: The entrance fee to the Hue Provincial Museum is VND50,000 (US$2.15).

Hue Museum of Royal Fine Arts

The Hue Museum of Royal Fine Arts is one of the earliest and largest museums in Hue. Situated within the Long An Palace, the museum houses 16 collections with more than 300 items of different materials such as gold, glazed terra-cotta, and porcelain. These antiquities were used to serve the emperors and other royals during the Nguyen dynasty.

Apart from the antiquities, the museum’s architecture itself displays the culture of Hue with the wooden parts of the museum carved with Vietnamese scenes and the four sacred animals of Vietnam (the dragon, lion, tortoise, and phoenix). Taking photos inside the museum is not allowed.

How much is it to visit the Hue Museum of Royal Fine Arts: The entrance fee to the Hue Museum of Royal Fine Art is VND150,000 (US$6.50) for adults and VND30,000 (US$1.30) for children.

Take a Cyclo Tour of Hue

One of the best, most fun, and most relaxing ways to see Hue’s attractions is on a cyclo tour! These motorbike tours will take you around Hue and let you experience more of its history, food, and nightlife.   Cyclos are traditional French colonial taxis and a fabulous way to see the famous Hue attractions.  What’s even better is that your cyclo driver speaks English and he’ll tell you about the attractions as you approach them.  Want to know about Hue cyclo tours?    Here you are!

things to do in Hue take a cyclo tour of the city

Take a Cruise on the Perfume River from Hue

Seeing the city of Hue from the perspective of the Perfume River which flows through the city is an excellent way to explore.  Taking a sunset dragon river cruise is even better.  You’ll get to see the river banks, authentic local houses, pagodas, and the surrounding countryside.  There’s even an opportunity to go to the top of Ha Khe Hill of Thien Mu Pagoda for a different angle of sunset.  This is a perfect way to see Hue from a different angle.  You can read more about it here.

things to do in Hue take a cruise on the perfume river

Visit the Bach Ma National Park, Hue

Bach Ma National Park is situated right between North Vietnam and South Vietnam’s border. The park got its name from the white cloud that sits around the mountain tops.

One of the things you can do at the park is to go wildlife spotting. The park is home to different species of animals; there are 90 mammal species, 30 species of reptiles, 20 different species of frogs, and around 358 species of birds.

The park also has hiking trails you can take. There is a Summit hike where you can see the stunning views of the entire park. There’s also the Five Lake Trails which will take you to all five lakes and waterfalls where you can take a dip. The Rhododendron Trail will take you through the jungle and to the magnificent Do Quyen Waterfall. There is also the Pheasant Trail, a hiking adventure that bird-lovers will enjoy; this 2.5-kilometer trail passes along several rivers and lakes where, if you are fortunate, you can catch sight of the extremely rare Crested Argus Pheasant and Edward’s Pheasant.

things to do in Hue visit bach man national park

You can also check out the highest point of the park by going to Back Ma peak or Hai Vong Dai. The peak is 1,448 meters high and on top, there is an observation area where you can get the best view of the valleys and mountains of the park.   There’s more on the National Park website here.

How much is it to visit the Bach Ma National Park: The entrance fee to Bach Ma National Park is VND40,000 (US$1.80).

You can visit independently, or take this guided tour from Hue to Bach Ma National Park – it includes collection and drop off from your hotel, trekking, lunch, and swimming under the waterfalls. 

Take a City Tour of Hue

There are a variety of tours available from the city of Hue.  Depending on your interest you can have an English-speaking local tour guide take you around, teach you the history and get you to the right places.  There are several options

Map of Things to do in Hue, Vietnam

map of things to do in Hue

You can also view this map here.

The Best Day Trips from Hue, Vietnam

If you’re making Hue your base, it’s a great spot to take several day trips and explore the surrounding countryside. Here are some great Hue day trips to take from the city.

Explore the Ba Na Hills and the Golden Bridge from Hue

The Ba Na Hills is a Sun World resort located about 1,414 meters above sea level on the Ba Na mountain. It’s a bit like a cross between Disney’s Epcot and a ski resort in summer.  To reach the top you can board the longest cable car in the world and at the top, you can visit the Ba Na Hills French Village with European architecture. Here you’ll also find the Ba Na Hill Wax Museum where you can see wax figures of famous personalities of Vietnam and the world.   This is a very different experience in Hue, but you’ll get to see the fabulous Golden Bridge!  Check it out here.

things to do in Hue visit ba na hills golden bridge

You also should definitely not miss (and quite literally you won’t be able to miss it) the Golden Bridge. This world-renowned bridge is famous for its structure: two massive stone hands seemingly ‘holding’ up the golden bridge.

How much is it to visit the Ba Na Hills: Tickets to Ba Na Hills are VND750,000 (US$32.30) for adults and children over 1m3 tall, and VND600,000 (US$25.84) for children below 1metre.

You can either go here independently or visit Ba Na Hills on a tour, which includes wine tasting. (a very un-Vietnam thing to do!!)

Ride the Hai Van Pass on a Motorbike from Hue

The Hai Van Pass is a 21-kilometer stretch connecting the cities of Hue, Da Nang, and Hoi An. This pass is renowned for its amazing views and exhilarating weaving roads absolutely perfect for those looking for a more breath-taking adventure! It’s even better taking a motorbike over the Hai Van Pass! To get the best experience, be sure to visit during the dry season as fogs and mists can form during wet seasons, making the ride through the pass more dangerous (But if you’re up for that kind of atmosphere, that’s okay too!).  This is a total Top Gear Motorbike experience and it’s brilliant!

things to do in Hue ride the hai van pass on a motorbike

Visit the Phong Nha Caves from Hue

We had an absolute blast in the Phong Nha National Park, and you can read more in our guide to Phong Nha here.  However, if you’re short on time but would still like to explore, then come to Phong Nha on a day trip from Hue.  Phong Nha has some of the world’s largest caves, the most popular attraction, however, is the Phong Nha Cave and the Paradise Cave. These two caves are perfect for those who want a light yet thrilling adventure.   You’ll get to explore on a boat and walk too, and also get to see the stunning Phong Nha National Park from above too.  This day trip from Hue to Phong Nha is a perfect way to visit!

things to do in Hue visit phong na caves and national park

What to Eat in Hue, Vietnam

You won’t be able to say that you have completed your Hue experience if you haven’t tried the food from here.  So here’s the food that you shouldn’t when visiting Hue.  You can experience all of these Hue food specialties on this Hue food tour.

Bún bò huế

Bún bò huế is a Hue delicacy you definitely should not miss as this is one of the most famous dishes in the city. Bún bò huế is a spicy noodle soup with sliced beef, vermicelli, and crab balls.

Cơm hến

Cơm hến is also one of Hue’s staple dishes. It began as a peasant’s dish made from leftover rice; but now, Cơm hến comes with baby mussels, clams, and clam broth, mixed with fried pork fat, roasted nuts, rice crackers, chili pepper, and shrimp sauce, giving it a sweet, salty, sour, and spicy flavor.

Bún Hến

Bún Hến is a Hue staple that consists of baby clams on top of noodles, mixed with shredded taro stems, banana blossom, and bean sprouts, with ground-roasted peanuts, sprinkled on top.

Banh Xeo

Banh Xeo are rice pancakes filled with different vegetables and meat. It’s usually a crispy combination of shrimp and pork and crunchy bean sprouts.

Banh Beo

Don’t let the appearance of a Banh Beo fool you as they are considered one of the three cakes of Hue Royal Cuisine. These circular cakes are made from rice flour batter and are served with shrimp flakes, crispy pork skin, and chili sauce on top.

The best way to experience the food in Hue

The best way to experience Hue’s authentic and flavourful cuisine is through a tour! A guided walking tour through the streets of Hue will allow you to experience exciting food Hue offers such as Bahn beo (fern cake), Banh loc (rice dumpling cake), and other traditional Hue street food.  It’s a fabulous thing to do in Hue!  Come on over and try Hue’s amazing food specialties here!

Key Information for Visiting Hue

Most people visit Hue from either Hanoi or Hoi An. So here are the details on how to get to Hue

How to get to Hue from Hanoi

It’s 700 km from Hanoi to Hue. There are 3 viable options to get from Hanoi to Hue. The quickest way to go from Hanoi to Hue is to fly. You can also take a train from Hanoi to Hue, or you can take a bus from Hanoi to Hue.

If you want to fly to Hue from Hanoi, then you’ll need to get to Hanoi’s airport, which is about 35 km from the city. Hue’s airport is about 15 km from the city. SO you’ll need to factor in transfer times as well. The flight from Hanoi to Hue is about an hour.

The full details of how to get to Hue from Hanoi are in our guide here.

Both buses from Hanoi to Hue and trains from Hanoi to Hue are overnight, so you’ll be saving on a night’s accommodation. The cheapest way to go from Hanoi to Hue is to take an overnight bus. The most comfortable way to go from Hanoi to Hue is to take an overnight train.

Here are the options you can book and preplan online

How to get to Hue from Hoi An

Hoi An is just 126km from Hue. And to go from Hoi to Hue you have three options (if I’m not including flying!). You can take a train from Hoi An to Hue, you can take a bus from Hoi An to Hue or you can take a private car from Hoi An to Hue.

Our complete guide on how to get to Hue from Hoi An is here.

The quickest way to go from Hoi to Hue is by private transfer. The cheapest way to go from Hoi An to Hue is by bus. If you want to travel from Hoi An to Hue by train then you will need to take a bus from Hoi An to Danang and then you can catch a train from there.

Here are the options that you can book online and make it super easy.

Travel Tips for Exploring Vietnam

Final Words on the Best Things to do in Hue

The city of Hue is a place where history is deeply embedded within its present. Much of what you see and the things to do in Hue are is intertwined with learning about the past of the city and its role during the American-Vietnamese war. There’s a great combination of the ancient, the recent past, and the present here in Hue and it’s both an interesting and informative stop on a trip to Vietnam.

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