Everything you Need to Know about Hue
The ancient city of Hue (pronounced ‘whey’) in central Vietnam was the capital of Vietnam during the Nguyen Dynasty at the beginning of the 19th Century, and during the Vietnam-US war some of the most intense conflicts occurred in this region.
One of Hue’s main tourist attractions is the spectacular riverside Hue Citadel or Royal Palace of the Imperial City, built according to the practices of ‘feng shui’. Such is Hue’s historical significance that it is recognised today as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Although Hue is not strictly a coastal city, beach lovers will not be disappointed as there are several good beaches like Thuan An, less than 15 minutes away – you can even cycle there! In short, Hue is a perfect location to explore the cultural heart and soul of the Vietnamese people while still having easy access to the beach.
Under an hour away there are several more beach options. The likes of Lang Co and Canh Duong Beach are perfect for day trips. Just over 650km south of Hanoi and almost 1,100km north of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Hue is well served by all forms of transport – including bus, rail and air.
Where to Stay in Hue
The former Imperial City of Hue, now a World Heritage Site, is one of Vietnam’s major tourist attractions. This small city holds the key to Vietnams Royal past with beautiful palaces, royal tombs, pagodas and temples built under the Nguyen dynasty. The Citadel city, the Forbidden Purple City and the Thien Mu Pagoda are just some of the treasures located there.
The province of Thua Thien Hue also has its fair share of natural treasures with miles of sandy beaches, the largest lagoon in Asia , the Ngu Binh mountains and the Bach Ma National Park. It is also known for its folk music, traditional handicrafts and colourful festivals. Located between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
List of Hotels & Resorts recommendations:
- Vedana Lagoon Resort & Spa.
- Imperial Hotel Hue.
- Thien An Hotel.
- Thanh Thao Hotel
In the old days, it was said that the emperors were always looking to find the finest chefs in the empire and to move them to Hue. This movement of chefs from the different regions of Vietnam allowed for the fusing of many new and different regional flavors and textures with the more traditional Hue dishes. There are some nice restaurants southeast of the Perfume River as well as on the Citadel side of the river.
Downtown Hue has some tourist restaurants with typical western food (pizza and pasta), but many visitors prefer to stick to local dishes as they are outstanding and delicious.
Cafe on Thu Wheels
Cafe on Thu Wheels Restaurant run by the lovely and energetic Thu and is particularly liked by the backpackers who love to come here and enjoy live satellite English football with plenty of chilled beer.
Lac Thien Restaurant
The friendly, family-run, Lac Thien Restaurant is one of the best in Hue in which to try the most famous local dishes, banh khoai (a type of stuffed crepe, accompanied by peanut sauce) and nem lui. Lac Thanh Restaurant is on the corner, next door to Lac Thien Restaurant. It is run by a family of deaf-mutes and offers delicious Vietnamese food.
Mandarin Café is at the centre of Hue’s backpacking community. This friendly, unassuming café serves up cheap, excellent Vietnamese and Western fare, and also hosts Sinh Café’s booking desk, where you can book boat trips, car/bike hire, and tour information.
Paradise Garden Restaurant
Paradise Garden offers a full menu, allowing one to try out different Hue-style dishes at an affordable price. Paradise Garden serves Vietnamese, Chinese, and Indian dishes in addition to local specialties – but it is those local specialties that make the lunch, snack, or dinner there. Located on the river edge promenade street near the Trang Tien bridge (which changes colour at night), the restaurant has a covered as well as a courtyard dining area.
The DMZ Bar
The DMZ Bar was named after the demilitarized zone of the 17th parallel that once divided Vietnam.
Located on the main hotel and restaurant street in Hue, and close to two of the major riverfront hotels, the DMZ is a casual place with a pool table that offers a good choice of Vietnamese and some Italian food.
Tropical Garden Restaurant
Tropical Garden Restaurant is a popular tour-bus stopover but it nevertheless has a cozy atmosphere. It serves fine Vietnamese fare from a good English-language menu, and there is live music nightly. Dishes at Tropical Garden include banana flower soup, steamed crab with beer, and grilled minced shrimp with sugarcane wrapped in rice paper and served with peanut sauce.
A must-buy item in Hue should include the Vietnamese Nón lá, the conical-shaped hat made by woven palm leaves.
The hat has been around almost as long as the country and is worn by men and women everywhere. The lighter the hat is the more elegant the look.
In Hue especially, the hat makers insert poems into the weaves and the poem can only be seen when the hat is held up to the sunlight, making it even more special.
Where to Shop and What to Buy in Hue
Dong Ba Market
Dong Ba market is on the north bank of the Perfume River, not far from where the Hue Citadel sits. It has hundreds of stalls selling almost everything from clothing, house-ware items to souvenirs and all at reasonable prices. You will also find local food, fruit and Vietnamese wine sold here.
There are some really cool posh boutiques located near the junction by Trang Tien Bridge. To be exact, they are located between Duy Tan Hotel and Trang Tien Bridge. They are all tastefully decorated and usually accept credit cards.
The Gift Shops at the Pilgrimage Hotel
These gift shops are outstanding. Divided into four types of crafts, silk/fabric, woodwork, ceramics and rattan/wicker, they feature an assortment of tasteful, traditional and local crafts. There are also local craftsmen on hand to demonstrate their work. The quality of the merchandise is good and the selection and prices are reasonable.
Nightlife in Hue can hardly be described as scintillating. It’s been said that the raciest thing about it is when the police show up and the illegal street vendors disappear like dust into thin air.
Still, if your scene is a few quiet drinks hanging out with backpackers and/or locals then there’s no reason why nights out in Hue shouldn’t be loads of fun.
A little out of the way. It isn’t anywhere near as atmospheric as its namesakes in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Brown Eyes Chillout Bar-Club Brown Eyes features a DJ, free pool table, and a friendly atmosphere. Parties of four persons or more get a free taxi paid for by the bar.
Cafe on Thu Wheels
A restaurant run by the lovely and energetic Thu and is particularly liked by the backpackers who love to come here and enjoy live English satellite football with plenty of chilled beer.
The DMZ Bar
The DMZ Bar was named after the demilitarized zone of the 17th parallel that once divided Vietnam. Located on the main hotel and restaurant street in Hue and close to two of the major riverfront hotels, the DMZ is a casual place with a pool table that offers a good choice of Vietnamese and some Italian food.
Hue and its people are relaxed and it’s easy to unwind here. This makes it one of the most attractive destinations in the country.
Also it is known as a university town as it is home to both Hue College of Fine Art and Hue National school of Music and Dramatic Arts. The two were amalgamated in 1986 to form the Hue College of Arts.
Hue is perfect for nature lovers and those enthusiastic about art and history.
Art Galleries in Hue
Art lovers around the world have long been interested in Vietnamese paintings. When in Hue, check out the two main art galleries; New Space Art Gallery on 7 Pham Ngu Lao St. both owned by painters and twins Le Ngoc Thanh and Le Duc Hai.
Boat Cruise on Perfume River
Travel by Dragon Boat on the romantically named Perfume River to Thien Mu Pagoda standing on the riverbank with its seven-storey tower. The boat rides also offer lunch prepared and cooked on board, making it a popular excursion among visitors. The dinner cruise and night boat trips usually feature live Hue folk music.
Another fun and creative way to spend time in Hue is to join a cooking class. Vietnamese food is very delicious and healthy and on top of that Hue is famous for its royal cuisine as the city once served as the capital of Vietnam. There are many dishes that make Hue’s cuisine outstanding.
For cooking classes, try Y Thao Garden House on 3 Thach Han street, Missy Roo Bar & Restaurant, and the Pilgrimage Village Hotel. The teachers will take you to buy fresh ingredients from nearby local markets before heading back to class.
Spas in Hue
Many visitors like to treat themselves after a long walk touring around the old ruins of Hue by going to a local spa and massage. For a good spa try La Résidence Hôtel & Spa and Abalone resort & Spa which is located on picturesque Tam Giang Lagoon, a short 15-minute drive from Hue. For a foot massage try De Nhat Massage, located opposite the Temple Restaurant
Hue once served as the capital of Vietnam. Even though this is no longer the case many Vietnamese still rate the city highly as a centre of historical and cultural value.
There are many pagodas, tombs and other types of buildings that link the past to present around Hue’s beautiful countryside.
Many of them were ruined (but luckily not totally destroyed) by war but many managed to escape without any damage. Such places include the Citadel, Thien Mu Pagoda and Long An Palace Museum.
Ho Quyen, Tiger Fighting Arena
The tiger fighting arena was built in 1832 under the Minh Mang dynasty to host fights between elephants and tigers. The good news is that the fights have not been held since the early 1900’s but amazingly there are still some claw marks left on the walls. The arena is about three kilometers outside of Hue.
Hue has long been recognised as being rich in Vietnamese history. There are many tombs in Hue’s countryside to see. Visitors interested in its history should take a bit of time to admire the emperors’ tombs and most of them are located in large and beautiful grounds. Such important tombs include Tu Duc, Minh Mang, Khai Dinh and Gia Long.
Thanh Toan Bridge
Thanh Toan is a tile-roofed bridge built about 200 years ago over the Nhu Y River. It is not big, about 17 metres long and four metres wide and is made of wood. There is a shrine inside the bridge set up for the lady who funded its construction. This beautiful and charming bridge is about 10 kilometers east of Hue.
Thien Mu Pagoda
The Thien Mu Pagoda is the most famous pagoda in Hue. Built in 1844 by Emperor Thieu Tri, it features golden Buddha images at the base, along with a big bell cast in 1710, and a stone turtle holding a marble stele inscribed in the 17th century. This pagoda is also famous for being the home monastery of the Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc who, in 1963, traveled to Saigon and burned himself to death at a busy downtown junction to protest against the then government. The Austin car he used to drive down to Saigon is on display within the pagoda too. Thien Mu Pagoda is 3.5km west of the Phu Xuan Bridge (the railway bridge).
Voi Re Temple
Vietnam, like many Asian countries, considers the elephant as the symbol of monarchy. Voi Re Temple is located near the Tiger Fighting Arena./.