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Why You Need To Visit Hue, Vietnam


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Aubrette Smithers



Welcome to Hue, Vietnam – a destination that seamlessly blends rich history and culture with natural beauty and vibrant traditions. Situated on the banks of the Perfume River, Hue is a city that encapsulates the essence of Vietnam, offering visitors a truly immersive and unforgettable experience.


Hue was the imperial capital of Vietnam for nearly 150 years during the Nguyen Dynasty, leaving behind a legacy of palaces, tombs, pagodas, and temples that continue to capture the imaginations of travelers from around the world. The city’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed Imperial City stands as a testament to its regal past, while the tranquil countryside and traditional villages offer an enchanting glimpse into rural life.


As you explore Hue, you’ll find yourself immersed in its fascinating history, from the opulence of the Imperial City to the sacred beauty of its tombs and temples. But Hue is much more than its historical sites – it’s a city that has embraced its culinary heritage, with street food stalls and local restaurants offering a tantalizing array of dishes that will awaken your taste buds.


But it’s not just about history and food – Hue comes alive with vibrant festivals and traditions that showcase the vibrant spirit of the Vietnamese people. From the colorful spectacle of the Hue Festival to the tranquil beauty of the Thien Mu Pagoda, there’s always something to celebrate and immerse yourself in.


And when you’ve had your fill of city exploration, venture into the surrounding countryside to discover a landscape of rice paddies, lotus ponds, and peaceful villages. Rent a bicycle and pedal along the banks of the Perfume River, or take a boat trip to explore hidden caves and marvel at the cascading waterfalls.


Whether you’re a history buff, a food lover, a nature enthusiast, or simply seeking an authentic Vietnamese experience, Hue has something to offer everyone. So pack your bags, immerse yourself in the history, culture, and traditions of this captivating city, and get ready for an adventure unlike any other.


Rich History and Culture

Hue, Vietnam, is a city steeped in rich history and culture, offering visitors an immersive experience into the country’s fascinating past. It served as the imperial capital of Vietnam during the Nguyen Dynasty, which reigned for nearly 150 years from the early 19th century until the mid-20th century.


One of the main highlights of Hue is the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Imperial City. This sprawling complex was once the seat of power, where emperors lived and ruled over the country. As you explore its majestic gates, ornate palaces, and intricate temples, you’ll get a glimpse of the opulence and grandeur that characterized the Nguyen Dynasty.


Another significant historical site in Hue is the Forbidden Purple City, located within the Imperial City. It served as the private residence of the royal family and was off-limits to the public. While much of it was destroyed during the Vietnam War, the remaining ruins provide a haunting reminder of its former glory.


Among the must-visit attractions in Hue are the historic tombs and pagodas scattered throughout the city and its surrounding areas. These elaborate structures were built as final resting places for emperors, empresses, and other members of the royal family. Each tomb tells a unique story and is adorned with intricate carvings, beautiful gardens, and serene lakes.


Hue is also renowned for its vibrant art scene and traditional crafts. The city is home to numerous art galleries, where you can admire the works of local artists and even purchase unique pieces as souvenirs. If you’re interested in traditional crafts, a visit to the Dong Ba Market is a must. Here, you’ll find a treasure trove of handicrafts, traditional clothing, and local delicacies.


Immerse yourself in the local culture by attending a traditional music performance known as “Nha Nhac,” which has deep roots in Hue. This enchanting and rhythmic music, often accompanied by captivating dance performances, has been recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.


From its historical sites and ancient traditions to its thriving art scene, Hue offers a captivating journey through Vietnam’s rich history and culture. Explore the imperial past, marvel at the architectural wonders, and immerse yourself in the traditions that have shaped this remarkable city.


Imperial City of Hue

The Imperial City of Hue stands as a majestic testament to Vietnam’s imperial past. Located within the city of Hue, this UNESCO World Heritage-listed site served as the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945, making it the political, cultural, and religious center of the country.


As you step through the towering gates of the Imperial City, you’ll be transported back in time to a world of emperors and dynastic rule. The complex spans over 500 acres and consists of numerous palaces, temples, pavilions, and gardens. The architecture is a harmonious blend of traditional Vietnamese design and Chinese influence, reflecting the historical trade and cultural exchanges between the two nations.


One of the most iconic structures within the Imperial City is the Thai Hoa Palace, also known as the Hall of Supreme Harmony. This stately building was the venue for important royal ceremonies, including coronations and official receptions. Step inside and admire the intricate decorations, from the elaborate dragon motifs to the ornate wooden carvings that grace the walls and ceiling.


Another must-see site within the Imperial City is the Tu Duc Tomb, the final resting place of Emperor Tu Duc. This expansive tomb showcases the grandeur and poetic beauty that characterized the Nguyen Dynasty. Stroll through the tranquil gardens, cross the scenic bridges, and explore the pavilions that dot the landscape. You’ll be mesmerized by the serenity and grace of this royal burial ground.


The Imperial City also houses the Forbidden Purple City, the private residence of the royal family. While much of it was destroyed during the Vietnam War, the remaining ruins offer a glimpse into the imperial life of the past. Wander through the dilapidated halls and courtyards, where emperors once made important decisions and carried out their daily routines.


Visiting the Imperial City is like stepping back in time, allowing you to immerse yourself in the grandeur and legacy of the Nguyen Dynasty. As you explore its magnificent architecture, tranquil gardens, and historic halls, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of Vietnam.


Be sure to allocate enough time to fully explore the vastness of the Imperial City, as each corner holds its own secrets and stories. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an architecture lover, or simply curious about Vietnam’s imperial past, a visit to the Imperial City of Hue is an absolute must.


Perfume River

The Perfume River, flowing through the heart of Hue, Vietnam, adds a touch of natural beauty and serenity to the city. Its name, “Perfume River,” originates from the fragrant aroma that arises when flowers from the surrounding orchards fall into the water, creating a poetic and enchanting atmosphere.


The river stretches approximately 30 kilometers, from the Truong Son Mountain range to the Tam Giang Lagoon. As it meanders through Hue, it divides the city into two parts – the northern and southern banks – with scenic views and attractions along its shores.


One of the best ways to experience the Perfume River is by taking a leisurely boat ride. Hop aboard a traditional dragon boat and cruise along the calm waters, allowing the gentle breeze and scenic vistas to captivate your senses. As you glide along, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the city skyline, lush greenery, and historic landmarks.


A notable stop along the Perfume River is the Thien Mu Pagoda. Rising majestically on the northern bank of the river, this seven-story pagoda is often considered the symbol of Hue. Admire the elegant architecture, explore the beautiful gardens, and enjoy the tranquility that surrounds this sacred Buddhist site.


Another fascinating attraction along the Perfume River is the Tomb of Minh Mang. This majestic tomb, dedicated to Emperor Minh Mang, is situated on the southern bank and is known for its imposing architecture and picturesque setting. Take a walk through the landscaped gardens, across the ornate bridges, and marvel at the intricate carvings that adorn the temple structures.


During the day, the Perfume River offers a serene backdrop for sightseeing and relaxation. However, its beauty truly comes alive during the evenings when the river is illuminated by colorful lights, creating a magical ambience. This is a perfect time to take a romantic stroll along the riverbanks or enjoy a dinner cruise, accompanied by traditional music performances.


Whether you choose to explore the Perfume River by boat or simply admire its beauty from the riverbanks, it provides a tranquil oasis in the bustling city of Hue. Immerse yourself in its natural splendor, embrace the calmness it brings, and let the Perfume River be a guiding companion on your journey through Hue, Vietnam.


Historic Tombs and Pagodas

Hue, Vietnam, is home to a plethora of historic tombs and pagodas that offer a glimpse into the country’s rich cultural heritage. These architectural marvels are scattered throughout the city and its surrounding countryside, providing visitors with a captivating journey through Vietnam’s imperial past.


One of the most iconic attractions in Hue is the Tomb of Minh Mang, located on the banks of the Perfume River. Built in the 19th century, this majestic tomb is dedicated to Emperor Minh Mang and is renowned for its harmonious blend of traditional Vietnamese and Chinese architectural styles. As you explore the intricately designed courtyards, pavilions, and gardens, you’ll be transported back in time to the opulence and grandeur of the Nguyen Dynasty.


Another tomb worth visiting is the Tomb of Tu Duc, set in a serene and picturesque landscape. This final resting place of Emperor Tu Duc perfectly captures the poetic beauty and tranquility that characterized the Nguyen Dynasty. Meander through the landscaped gardens, cross the scenic bridges, and admire the ornate architecture that showcases the emperor’s love for the arts and nature.


A visit to Hue would not be complete without exploring the enchanting Thien Mu Pagoda. Situated on the northern bank of the Perfume River, this seven-story pagoda is considered the symbol of the city. As you ascend the steps, you’ll be greeted by the peaceful atmosphere and breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Inside the pagoda, you’ll find ancient relics, Buddhist statues, and a rich history that dates back over 400 years.


For an off-the-beaten-path experience, venture to the Tomb of Khai Dinh. This tomb stands out for its unique blend of Vietnamese and European architectural influences, reflecting the changing times during which it was built. Admire the intricate mosaic designs, ornate dragon motifs, and the grandeur of the final resting place of Emperor Khai Dinh.


While these are just a few notable examples, there are many more tombs and pagodas waiting to be discovered in and around Hue. Each structure tells a unique story and showcases the artistry, spirituality, and reverence of the Nguyen Dynasty. Take the time to explore these historical gems, and you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of Vietnam.


Immerse yourself in the history and spirituality that emanates from these tombs and pagodas. Let the tranquil ambiance and architectural beauty take you on a journey through Vietnam’s imperial past, as you marvel at the craftsmanship and legacy left behind by the emperors of old.


Local Cuisine and Street Food

Hue, Vietnam, is a culinary paradise that tantalizes the taste buds with its rich flavors, fragrant herbs, and vibrant street food culture. The city’s cuisine is known for its distinctiveness, influenced by both imperial traditions and local ingredients.


One of the most famous dishes in Hue is bun bo Hue, a hearty and flavorful beef noodle soup. Unlike the more popular pho, bun bo Hue features thicker noodles and a spicy broth infused with lemongrass, chili, and shrimp paste. This dish is often topped with tender slices of beef, pork patties, and an assortment of fresh herbs, creating a harmonious blend of flavors that will leave you craving more.


Another local specialty is banh khoai, a crispy pancake filled with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, and served with a side of fresh vegetables. The pancake is cooked until golden and crispy, and then wrapped in rice paper along with herbs and dipping sauce. The combination of textures and flavors makes banh khoai a delightful and satisfying dish.


For those seeking a unique culinary experience, Hue also offers a variety of royal dishes that were once served exclusively to the imperial court. These dishes are characterized by their intricate presentation, delicate flavors, and attention to detail. From the colorful and delicate nem lui (lemongrass skewers) to the aromatic and flavorful banh beo (steamed rice cakes), each royal dish is a work of art that reflects the sophistication and refinement of the Nguyen Dynasty.


When it comes to street food, Hue is a haven for food enthusiasts. Stroll through the bustling Dong Ba Market and indulge in a variety of street snacks. From banh mi (Vietnamese baguette sandwich) to com hen (clam rice), you’ll find an array of delicious and affordable options that will satisfy your cravings.


Don’t miss out on sampling the local desserts, such as banh bot loc (translucent dumplings filled with shrimp and pork) and che (sweet dessert soup). These sweet treats offer a delightful ending to any meal, with their delicate textures and subtle flavors.


Hue’s culinary scene is not limited to restaurants and street food stalls – cooking classes and food tours are also popular options for those eager to learn more about the local cuisine. Joining a cooking class allows you to delve deeper into the ingredients, techniques, and flavors that make up traditional Hue dishes. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to savor your creations at the end of the class.


Whether you’re a food lover or simply curious about Vietnamese cuisine, Hue offers a gastronomic adventure that will satisfy all your senses. From aromatic soups to crispy pancakes and delicately crafted royal dishes, the local cuisine and street food scene in Hue is sure to leave you with a lasting impression and a longing to return for more.


Vibrant Festivals and Traditions

Hue, Vietnam, is a city that comes alive with vibrant festivals and rich traditions, offering visitors a unique and immersive cultural experience. Throughout the year, the city celebrates a variety of festivals that showcase the country’s deep-rooted heritage and the spirits of its people.


One of the most anticipated events in Hue is the Hue Festival, held every two years. This grand celebration brings together locals and tourists alike to partake in a dazzling array of cultural performances, art exhibitions, traditional music, dance shows, and much more. The festival provides a platform for artists from Vietnam and around the world to showcase their talents and pay homage to the city’s historical and cultural significance.


Another significant festival is the Lunar New Year, also known as Tet. The city lights up with vibrant decorations, and the streets are filled with market stalls where locals gather to purchase flowers, traditional foods, and gifts. During Tet, Hue becomes a hub of excitement and celebration as families reunite, pay respect to ancestors, and welcome the new year with joyful festivities.


Hue’s cultural traditions are not limited to large-scale festivals. The city is also known for its traditional crafts and art forms. The Ao Dai, Vietnam’s national costume, is meticulously crafted in Hue, with local tailors expertly designing and sewing these elegant garments. Take a walk through the streets of Hue, and you’ll likely spot locals gracefully dressed in their Ao Dai, showcasing the city’s commitment to preserving its cultural heritage.


An integral part of Hue’s cultural traditions is its deep connection to Buddhism. The city is home to numerous pagodas and temples, serving as spiritual sanctuaries and centers of worship. The Thien Mu Pagoda, with its towering seven-story pagoda and serene surroundings, is a significant Buddhist site that attracts both locals and tourists seeking spiritual solace.


During your visit to Hue, you may have the opportunity to witness or participate in traditional ceremonies and rituals. From incense offerings to ancestor worship, these rituals allow you to gain a deeper understanding of the spiritual beliefs and practices that shape the lives of the locals.


Immersing yourself in Hue’s vibrant festivals and traditions is a wonderful way to connect with the local culture and experience the city’s true essence. Whether you dance along with performers during the Hue Festival or witness the beauty of a traditional ceremony, these vibrant celebrations and ancient customs will leave a lasting imprint on your memory.


Tranquil Countryside and Traditional Villages

Beyond the bustling city center, Hue, Vietnam, offers a tranquil countryside and a glimpse into the traditional way of life in its surrounding villages. Escape the urban hustle and immerse yourself in the serene beauty of the rural landscapes, where rice paddies, lotus ponds, and traditional houses dot the countryside.


One of the best ways to experience the peacefulness of the countryside is by taking a bicycle ride along the banks of the Perfume River. Rent a bicycle from the city center and pedal your way through the lush greenery, savoring the fresh air and breathtaking views. Stop along the way to interact with locals, glimpse farmers tending to their fields, and even sample fresh fruits from the orchards.


Embark on a journey to the traditional villages surrounding Hue, where time seems to stand still. Thanh Toan Village, located just outside the city, is known for its beautiful covered bridge and bustling morning market. Wander through the market, chat with the friendly vendors, and admire the local products on display – from fresh produce to handicrafts.


Another village worth visiting is Phuoc Tich, known for its well-preserved traditional houses. This village has a rich history and is home to numerous craftsmen who continue to practice traditional arts and crafts. Walk through the village and marvel at the architecture, intricate wood carvings, and ancient wells that have been passed down through generations.


As you explore the traditional villages, you’ll also have the opportunity to witness traditional craft making. From conical hat making to incense stick production, you can observe skilled artisans at work, honing their crafts in the same way their ancestors did. Engaging with these craftsmen and learning about the intricacies of their trade offers a glimpse into the cultural heritage and traditions that have persevered through time.


For those seeking a truly immersive experience, consider staying overnight in a traditional homestay in one of the villages. This allows you to fully immerse yourself in the local culture, partake in daily activities, and even try your hand at traditional farming techniques. From preparing home-cooked meals to sharing stories with your hosts, a homestay offers a unique opportunity to forge deep connections and gain a deeper appreciation for the local way of life.


Venturing into the tranquil countryside and traditional villages around Hue offers a chance to escape the urban hustle and experience a slower pace of life. Immerse yourself in the breathtaking landscapes, interact with locals, and embrace the traditions that have withstood the test of time.


Outdoor Activities and Excursions

Hue, Vietnam, is not only rich in history and culture, but it also offers a plethora of outdoor activities and excursions for adventure enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. From exploring natural wonders to engaging in thrilling activities, Hue has something to offer for everyone seeking an outdoor adventure.


One of the top outdoor activities in Hue is to embark on a boat trip along the Perfume River. Hop aboard a traditional dragon boat and cruise along the idyllic river, immersing yourself in the scenic beauty that surrounds you. Marvel at the lush green hills, picturesque temples, and traditional villages as you glide along the calm waters.


For a more adventurous experience, head to the Bach Ma National Park, located just outside of Hue. This sprawling park is home to lush jungles, pristine waterfalls, and diverse wildlife. Hike through the trails, swim in the refreshing streams, and witness panoramic views from the mountain summit. The park also offers camping opportunities for those who want to spend the night surrounded by nature.


If you’re a cycling enthusiast, Hue provides numerous cycling routes that will take you through the city and into the countryside. Rent a bike and pedal your way along scenic paths, passing by ancient pagodas, tranquil rice fields, and charming villages. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and encounter friendly locals along the way.


Hue is also a gateway to the stunning Hai Van Pass, a scenic mountain route that stretches along the coastline. Rent a motorbike or join an organized tour to experience the breathtaking views of the mountains and the sea. Explore the remnants of the French-built fortifications and be rewarded with panoramic vistas that will leave you in awe.


For water sports enthusiasts, Hue offers opportunities for kayaking and paddleboarding along the Perfume River. Glide across the calm waters and enjoy the serene surroundings as you navigate through the city. It’s a unique perspective that allows you to experience Hue from a different angle.


Another exciting excursion is a visit to the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its spectacular caves and karst landscapes. Explore the Phong Nha Cave, Paradise Cave, or embark on an adventure to the massive Son Doong Cave, considered one of the largest and most intricate cave systems in the world.


Hue’s outdoor activities and excursions offer a chance to connect with nature, immerse in thrilling experiences, and explore the breathtaking landscapes that surround the city. Engage in these outdoor adventures to create unforgettable memories and make the most of your time in this captivating destination.



Hue, Vietnam, is a city that captivates with its rich history, vibrant culture, and captivating landscapes. From the imperial charms of the Imperial City to the tranquil beauty of the Perfume River, Hue offers a diverse range of experiences that will leave a lasting impression on any visitor.


Immerse yourself in the historical sites, explore the ancient tombs and pagodas, and gain a deeper understanding of Vietnam’s imperial past. The Imperial City stands as a majestic testament to the country’s regal heritage, while the tombs and pagodas scattered throughout the city provide insights into the architectural brilliance and reverence of the Nguyen Dynasty.


Indulge in the local cuisine and street food, where flavors burst with a harmonious blend of spices and fresh ingredients. From the famous bun bo Hue to the crispy banh khoai, Hue’s culinary delights are sure to tantalize the taste buds and satisfy your cravings for authentic Vietnamese flavors.


Participate in vibrant festivals and immerse yourself in the rich traditions that define Hue. Whether it’s the Hue Festival or the Lunar New Year celebrations, these events showcase the lively spirit and deep cultural roots of the Vietnamese people. Explore the local villages and engage with artisans practicing traditional crafts, and you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the artistry and skills passed down through generations.


Venture into the tranquil countryside and embark on outdoor activities that allow you to connect with nature. Cycle through the picturesque landscapes, cruise along the Perfume River, or visit national parks to witness the breathtaking beauty of the natural surroundings. These outdoor excursions offer a refreshing escape from the city and a chance to rejuvenate your mind and soul.


In conclusion, a visit to Hue, Vietnam, promises an unforgettable journey through history, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you’re drawn to the imperial sites, gastronomic delights, vibrant festivals, or outdoor adventures, Hue has something to offer everyone. So pack your bags, embrace the charm of this remarkable city, and get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime.