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Visit Hue, Vietnam

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Visit Hue, Vietnam

Elaborate tombs of Nguyen emperors, the Imperial City and some of Vietnam’s most revered artisans in a city hugged by the Perfume River

As you walk through Hue’s citadel, you can still see pockmarks from helicopter gunfire on the walkways. The city reverberates with its past importance, from its time as Vietnam’s capital under the Nguyen Dynasty in the 19th century to being the focus of the 1968 Tet Offensive. Modern Hue is proud of its historical sites, but you’ll also find it a focal point for the development of Vietnamese art, culture and cuisine.

Thien Mu Pagoda, HueAlthough settled by the Cham people, visited by the Dutch and Portuguese, and colonised by the French, it was the city’s time under Mandarin rule that shaped present-day Hue. The last imperial family, the Nguyens, ruled under French protection from 1802 to 1945, until the Japanese occupation during World War II.

Their mausoleums stand along the banks of the Perfume River and in the surrounding valleys. Lavishly squandering the country’s wealth and manpower, these tombs were often funded by raising taxes. You can explore them by bicycle, car or boat. Allowing a day, you’ll see a range of architecture from 19th-century emperor Minh Mang’s complex of pavilions and gardens to Khai Dinh’s 20th-century tomb, which made use of new materials like cement.

While most of the citadel was destroyed when Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh seized it in 1947, and later during the Tet Offensive, much of it is rebuilt or restored. Walk over the moat and through the fortified ramparts and you’ll find water-lily-covered ponds, palaces, temples and libraries. We recommend visiting with a guide, who can explain how the complex was carefully designed in accordance with ancient oriental philosophy.

Local artists and craftspeople restored much of the citadel. Appreciation is growing in Vietnam for its traditional art, with the support of private collectors and Hue’s UNESCO World Heritage status. You can visit private collections, try your hand at trucchi (bamboo paper art) or become versed on the lacquer paintings that decorate the palace walls.

A good chunk smaller than Saigon or Hanoi, Hue is surrounded by leafy residential areas populated by garden houses. These single-story homes are unique to Hue and have architectural similarities to the imperial palaces within the citadel.

Many of the houses were built for families who had the patronage of the royal family. At the entrance, you’ll find a stone carving of the ancient Vietnamese symbol for longevity and, inside, a wooden ancestral family temple.

As the name suggests, each house is surrounded by a garden. Pineapples, jackfruit, pomelos and herbs usually grow in these frangipani-shaded enclaves. You can take a cooking class in a garden house, using freshly picked ingredients from the plot. Hue lays claim to some of Vietnam’s spiciest food (although recipes can be tempered for a Western palate) and specialties including fresh fig salad.

Almost two-thirds of Vietnam’s culinary specialities were created in Hue, thanks to the region’s plethora of fresh ingredients and the royal family’s taste for gastronomic innovation. As you explore the city look out for banh khoai (bright yellow rice pancakes) or banh loc goi, a steamed dumpling usually stuffed with shrimp or pork.

Vinh Moc Tunnels

A couple of hours’ drive north of Hue, these tunnels on the border between North and South Vietnam were built to shelter Vinh Moc village from heavy bombing during the Vietnam War.

The entire village was moved underground, into three levels of tunnels. Reaching a depth of 30 m (98 ft), they included kitchens, a school and living quarters. Visit with a guide, who can take you into the tunnel network, which, unlike the Cu Chi Tunnels, hasn’t been widened for visitors.

Best time to visit Hue

Hue only really has two seasons: wet and dry. The dry season runs from February to August, with the best weather early on, when temperatures hover around 25°C (77°F).

From June, temperatures tend to soar, and the region becomes busy with domestic tourists and tour groups.

The wet season begins in September, although this can be a good-value (and quieter) month to travel, if you’re happy with a few showers. The heaviest rains are in October and November.

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Audley Travel specialist Alex

Start planning your tailor-made trip to Hue by calling one of our Vietnam specialists at 1-855-838-0140

Suggested itineraries featuring Hue

Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Hue, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Accommodation choices for Hue

We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Hue. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

Ideas for experiencing Hue

Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Hue, and which use the best local guides.