Top 16 Best Things to Do in Hue for First-Timers

Recommendations of Rich Culture Destinations in Hue

Rachel Tran
Rachel Tran | Published: December 11, 2020

Hue, Vietnam is best known for its royal mausoleums, imperial citadel, and iconic pagodas. Boasting a fantastic and rich cuisine, Hue is not only a favorite destination for people loving architecture but also a mecca for Vietnam gastronomes. Here are top 16 recommendations of rich culture and best things to do in Hue, Vietnam.

1. Contemplate Imperial City

Contemplate imperial city - Things to do in Hue

The Imperial City is a part of of the Imperial Citadel back to the Nguyen dynasty. This used to be a combination of many temples, courts, pavillions, walls and gates, but unfortunately, mostly everything was destroyed during the Vietnam-America wars in the 19s. However. it’s still very well-worth to visit the place, since the left buildings are being restored, and there are even some places that are still in good condition. Coming to the Imperial City, you can also book a tour guide to take you through the place and tell you about the history of Hue city and the Nguyen emperor, which is really interesting and important in Vietnam’s 4000 years history.

Opening hours: 8AM – 5:30PM every day (including weekend)

Dress code: Not required

Entrance fee:

  • Imperial City only: 150.000VND/person
  • Combination ticket (Imperial City + Minh Mang Tomb + Khai Dinh Tomb): 280.000VND/person
  • Combination ticket (Imperial City + Minh Mang Tomb + Khai Dinh Tomb + Tu Duc Tomb): 360.000VND/person

2. Visit Ancient Emperors’ Tombs

2.1. Khai Dinh Tomb

Khai Dinh Tomb, officially known as the Ứng Mausoleum, is situated in Chau Chu mountain, about 10km away from Hue city, Vietnam. The tomb is the smallest, but most costly and recent one in comparison with other tombs of Nguyen royals. It was established by Emperor Khai Dinh, the 12th Emperor of the Nguyễn Dynast, during the period from 1920 to 1931. Khai Dinh became Vietnam’s penultimate emperor from 1916 to 1925, but was not popular amongst Vietnamese people due to his close collaboration with the government of France. This 11-year-to-complete tomb is located hillside and has a combination of Eastern and Western style in terms of architecture. Khai Dinh Tomb is considered one of the most worth-visiting Hue attractions.

Entrance fee:

  • Adults: 150,000 VND per person
  • Children: 30,000 VND per person

Opening hours: 7AM–5:30PM

2.2. Tu Duc Tomb

With the unique architecture and perfect harmony with the natural landscape, Tu Duc Tomb becomes one of the buildings that make the charming beauty of Hue. Tu Duc Royal Tomb was built in the Nguyen Dynasty, deserving to be one of the most attractive and indispensable destinations when traveling to Hue City.

Tu Duc Tomb Total Square is about 12 hectares, 10 times larger than Gia Long Tomb. The layout of the tomb includes nearly 50 large and small buildings scattered in clusters on the land. All the buildings in this overall architecture are accompanied by the word “Khiem” (means “Modest” in English). The overview of Tu Duc Tomb is like a large park that integrates with nature. There is no straight line, angular, but there is harmony, winding instead, even though the building is entirely created by human hands.

Entrance fee:

  • Adults: 150,000 VND per person
  • Children: 30,000 VND per person

Opening hours: 7AM–5:30PM

2.3. Minh Mang Tomb

Minh Mang Tomb is located on the west bank of Perfume River. It was completed in 1843 with an unique architecture, different from all of the other ones. While Khai Dinh Tomb was strongly influenced by the French style, and Tu Duc Tomb was rather more traditional and Vietnamese, Minh Mang Tomb was built in a balance order in terms of nature and structures, with a lot of trees and plants around. This balance between landscape and buidings reveals a lot about personality of Minh Mang.

Entrance fee:

  • Adults: 150,000 VND per person
  • Children: 30,000 VND per person

Opening hours: 7:30AM to 5.00PM

3. Explore Huyen Tran Princess Temple

Huyen Tran is one of the most famous princesses in Vietnam’s history, who contributed as the main mediating factor between Vietnam and Champanagara. She was married to the King of Champanagara as a peace ambassador to the expansion of Vietnam’s territory at the moment. The temple was built to show the deep respect and grastitude of Vietnamese towards her. It is normally as very solemn and quiet place, however it still attracts many tourists, especially on January 9th – 15th – the death anniversary of Huyen Tran Princess. The temple is located at the foot of Ngu Phong mountain, about 6 kilometers from Hue’s center. The temple is near the royal tombs, so it’s a good idea to combine all those destinations in just one trip.

4. Savor Tasty Hue Cuisine

Hue is definitely one of the Vietnamese cities with the best and most unique cuisine culture. In the past, the dishes were only exclusively served to the royal families. However, nowadays, tourists can find them very easily on the streets or in the restaurants with a very reasonable price. The characteristic of Hue’s food is full of sweet and spicy flavour, with a lot of herbs and different sauces (namely fish sauce). A few must-try dishes when you visit Hue are: Bun Bo Hue (Hue Beef Noodle Soup); Nem Lui (Hue Lemongrass Skewers); Com Hen (Clam Rice); Banh Beo (Steamed Rice Cakes); Banh Ram It (Fried Sticky Rice Dumplings); Che Hat Sen (Lotus Seeds Sweet Soup);…

5. Take a Perfume River Boat Ride

Coming to Hue, it’s a must that you have to visit the famous Perfume River. The name “Perfume” dates back to 100 years ago, when people could smell the sweet scent of flowers that floated in the river from the upriver orchards. Especially, the floral scent was the strongest during the autumn, from July to October.

Today, due to the industrialisation and the increasing numbers of boats, it may not smell the same anymore. However, Perfume River is still the symbo of Hue, and it is one of the most famous landmarks in Hue. The best time to visit Perfume River is in the afternoon when you can witness the breathtaking sunset view.

The cruising service on Perfume River is also popular here, and you will be able to visist most of Hue’s landmarks if you join a river boat tour. Today, travellers coming to Hue could not miss a while of boating along the river. Most of them admit that this is one of the most beautiful and extremely splendid riverside landscape (especially at night when lights are on) that they have ever visited! Besides, tourists usually book a river boat tour in the evening with luxury dinner served on boat. It will give you the feeling of being royal, just like the Royal families in the past.

6. Find Peace in Thien Mu Pagoda

Thien Mu Pagoda (namely Heaven Fairy Lady Pagoda), also known as Linh Mu Pagoda, is one of the most fascinating and ancient pagoda in Hue city. It is situated on Ha Khe hill, on the north bank of the Perfume River, in Huong Long village, 5 kilometers from Hue city, which is easy to reach from the city center. Thanks to such a mysterious history, the pagoda has attracted a great number of tourists from both inside and outside of the nation to come and explore the legend themselves.

With its typical traditional architecture of Hue pagodas and a romantic location right next to the Perfume River’s bank, Thien Mu Pagoda has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Hue City. It is recommended that visitors going on a city tour around Hue visiting this pagoda in the afternoon so they can observe the monks’ praying time inside the pagoda as well as enjoy the beautiful sunset on the Perfume river.

7. Visit Thanh Toan Tile-roofed Bridge

Thanh Toan Tile-roofed Bridge belongs to Thanh Thuy village which is 7km from Hue centre. Just around 15 minutes on motorbike and 30 minutes on cyclo or bicycle to reach the bridge. This is the most ancient bridge in Vietnam with a very artistic architecture style, and it’s extremely valuable in terms of architecture, history and culture.

Visit Thanh Toan Village, except for seeing the most ancient bridge in Vietnam, visitor can also row boat along canals or ride bicycle on green village road for visiting other old temples. In addition, you can also join to be a farmer and experience farming life, especially learn how to wrap a Tet sticky rice cakes (Banh Chung & Banh Tet) or make conical hat, etc… You will have an opportunity to go to the countryside market, play hut gambling and pounding rice singing (on festivals) as well as enjoy special cuisines here.

8. Have Hue Royal Banquet Dinner

Having a Hue Royal Banquet Dinner could be the most interesting experience when you visit this city. In the past, since Hue used to be the capital in which the Royal families lived, Hue people are often very well-trained in cooking rustic food and preparing exquisite meals for the Royaltie. Going on a Royal Banquet Dinner tour, you will have the chance to actually dress up like the Vietnamese Emperor and Empress, have dinner on boat and be served with our most delicious and sophisticatedly-made dishes. You can book this tour online through an agency.

9. Relax at Hue Beaches

9.1. Lang Co Beach

Lang Co beach is located in a romantic city called Hue. Just 24 km from Bach Ma National Park, it is an attractive stretch of white sand with 8 km length. The bay is a perfect spot for many types of beach tourism such as swimming, scuba diving, sunbathing, fishing…  Additionally, you can also find attractive luxury resorts along the beach. Besides, it is well known for colorful coral reefs, lobsters, and the diversity of seafoods. From the bay, it is convenient to visit other places such as Hai Van pass, Bach Ma Mountain, and Lap An Lake. The best time to visit Lang Co is from December to March.

9.2. Thuan An Beach

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Thuan An Beach was ranked by King Thieu Tri as one of the 10 most beautiful senses in Hue. The beach is about 13km to the east of Hue Imperial Citadel. The coastline is around 12km long with cool and fresh sea water. Although Thuan An beach has all the potentials to become a popular spot for tourism industry, it is fortunately kept unspoiled until now. If you are a person who likes to explore the natural beauty and wish to escape the hustle and bustle of the city center, this would be the perfect place for you. Bring a tent for a beach picnic with you friends or family, but don’t forget to clean your waste before leaving!

10. Admire the Refindness of Hue Royal Theatre

For people who are interested in Vietnamese Arts and Culture, Duyen Thi Duong, or Hue Royal Theatre is one of the places that you cannot miss when visit Hue. This is the oldest theatre in Vietnam, and it was the place that used to serve artistic performance to the Royal families. It was built under King Minh Mang reign, with an impressively large area of 11.740 m², along with unique architecture and patterns. Going through many wars, the Royal Theatre doesn’t remain the same as what it was anymore, but the replica restoration is still a very attractive place to visit.

11. Take a short walk to Hue Conical Hat Making Village

The conical hat is a symbol of Vietnam, especially Vietnamese women since it’s elegant, delicate and also useful under the hot sun in Vietnam. Tay Ho village in Hue is one of the leading conical hat making villages all over the country. Visiting this village, tourists will have a chance to explore the conical hat making process, and can also participate in a class and learn how to make them. It is probably not so easy to make a conical hat, but you will do just fine thanks to the instruction and guidance of the local craftmen, and it’s also a very good way to learn about Vietnamese Culture.

12. Visit Hue Museum of Royal Antiquities

Among many interesting places in Hue, the Royal Fine Arts Museum will surely spark off your trip as one of the earliest and largest museums in Hue. The Royal Fine Arts Museum is situated inside Long An palace which is known as one of the most existing beautiful palaces in Vietnam. It covers an area of up to 6.330 square meters. Since its establishment, it took the responsibility for reviving generations of hundreds of artisans who had contributed to build up the Hue royal court. Now, the museum is under the administration of the Hue Monuments Conservation Center. Tips: Bringing cameras or taking pictures are not allowed in the museum, so you should prepare to remember everything you see in the museum.

13. Join Hue Festival (if lucky)

Every two years, Hue Festival will be held in April, May or June to preserve the traditional customs since the Nguyen Dynasty and promote the tourism industry of the city. It takes place at 40 venues around the city. A few events usually helf in Hue Festival are Ao Dai fashion shows, Hue Poetry Festival, Dialogue of Drums…. There are also a wide range of sporty activities for you to enjoy such as boat racing, kite flying or human chess. In addition, there are also exhibitions organized during the festival which shows the history of Hue. Visitors can come here to enjoy the street performances, art and film screenings to learn more about the old Hue’s culture and heritage.

14. Take in the View from Hai Van Pass

Hai Van Pass is one of the most scenic hillside roads in Vietnam. When braving the steep winding roads of a paved mountain pass, you will have a chance to discover peace, quiet and history along the way. This is the highest pass in Vietnam (500m above sea level). Hai Van means “Sea Clouds”, since the peak of the mountain is in the clouds while its foot is close to the sea. In the past, Hai Van Pass was known as the Thuan Hoa and Quang Nam frontier.

With sudden curves and blind corners, Hai Van Pass is likened to an arrogant but beautiful girl challenging drivers’ skills. On a journey through the land, Hai Van is always an attractive landscape, full of perilous obstacles and is the last spur of the Truong Son Range reaching to the sea.

Hai Van Pass will satisfy your desire to conquer high peaks and  remind you of the glorious past of the Viet people. Moreover, from the pass, on nice days, visitors can enjoy the whole vista of Danang, the Tien Sa seaport, Son Tra PeninsulaCu Lao Cham Island and long sandy beaches.

15. Visit the Bronze Casting Village – Phuong Duc

Bronze Casting Village - Phuong Duc - Best things to do in Hue

For hundreds of years, the techniques of bronze casting in Hue City have always been acclaimed as the pinnacle of Vietnam’s bronze casting. Therefore, Hue’s bronze products, such as bells, statues and fine art products, appear everywhere in Vietnam, even in some markets abroad.

The prestige of Hue bronze casting has inspired local authorities to develop the Phuong Duc Bronze Casting Village into a tourist site to introduce the tradition to local and foreign visitors and to preserve and honor the craft. Phuong Duc Village on Bui Thi Xuan Street attracts tourists at the beginning of the street with many shops displaying bronze Buddha statues and bells. It is certain that the lines, patterns and decorations of each work, which are so fine and delicate and nice, make visitors think of the dexterity and talent of the local artisans and of just how this work is done. Therefore, after admiring works in galleries along the street, tourists should stop in at a bronze casting factory to know the process and to witness the talents of the artisans.

Among Hue’s bronze products, bells gain the most attention and appreciation by their prestigious beauty and elegance and their resounding, warm and pure sound. Some people say the prestige is due to secret talents of the local artisans, but some reckon it comes from the special character of the soil and water of the region.

“Making a bronze product is an exciting experience, and the fun will be doubled if some tourist loves it and brings it home as a gift for family or a friend. Hue is not only a land of history and royal temples but also for crafts for a long time,” said Nguyen Van Niem, an artisan with 20 years experience in casting bronze.

16. Visit Tiger Arena & Voi Re Temple (Long Chau Temple)

Long Chau Temple - Best things to do in Hue

Tiger Arena (Ho Quyen) is one of the most historic few sites still stands today in Vietnam, the fighting place between animals, especially are elephants and tigers, much to the glee of the royalty as well as to assert the unbeatable strength of battle elephants. Attempting to bring back these sites, Vietnam Travel Depot made a trip and be pleased to present to tourists. Ho Quyen and Dien Voi Re symbolized the invincible strength and vitality of the Kings

The construction of the site began in 1830 after the ceremonial fight for King Minh Mang ‘s 40th birthday on the northern bank of Perfume river, a tiger suddenly broke free and threatened the King by charging toward him. Afterward, the King chose the land near Long Tho Hill to the west of the capital as permanent arena to hold fights and named it Ho Quyen. The stories of area are still kept spreading among the communities but beginning to fade with the passing of time from the day of the last fight was in 1904 during the reign of King Thanh Thai (the 10th king of Nguyen Dynasty)

Just some steps from Ho Quyen is Temple of the Crying Elephant where the elephants were worshipped, those achieved great feats in battle fields. Locals called the temple “ Dien Voi Re”.

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