The Hue to Go: Navigating Hue’s Historical and Cultural Heritage

Hue once served as Vietnam’s capital, leading it to become one of the country’s most fascinating cities for its historical and cultural influence.

Hue, a city in the middle of Vietnam, where the north and south meet to form a historical and cultural mecca. It is known as the last established capital under the royal Nguyen Dynasty in Vietnam, and a final resting place for many of its emperors. Hue offers visitors a plethora of historical and cultural attractions, nestled in the natural beauty of the country’s Perfume River. From the imperial citadel to the intricate tombs, this is a city you won’t regret visiting.

Background

The Vietnamese royalty built Hue as an imperial city. It served as Vietnam’s capital for 143 years until 1945. Once the country transitioned politically, it became a landmine of historic temples, gardens, monuments, and antiques. Serving today as a tourist hot spot, Hue – as a whole – is a preserved and stunning destination for those that want to experience Vietnam’s history, rather than just read about it.

Getting There

Since this city is in the center of the country, it’s relatively easy to access by all means of transport. It’s important to estimate how much time you’d like to spend there and how urgently you’d like to arrive, as this will determine which option of transport works best.

Ground

There are several ways to get to Hue, whether you’re coming from Saigon or Hanoi. Some options include driving and overnight sleeper buses, but you will end up making more stops and driving longer, so we recommend this only as a budget-friendly last resort. Ticket prices for the buses will range anywhere between $27 – $40.

Train

The Reunification Express can get you there from both cities for around $50 or less. However, it will be an all-day journey, so be sure you’re not in a hurry. If you take this route, pay the extra price for the soft seats. Your back will thank you later. Then enjoy the stunning view of the countryside with a Vietnamese iced coffee for the road.

Flights

If you’ve got tours planned or simply want convenience, flights are available departing from both cities to Phu Bai International Airport, the nearest airport to Hue and can run around $50 – $70 one-way.

Sites to See

Given the city’s rich heritage, there is no shortage of sites to visit during your trip to Hue. However, we’ve narrowed down some of the area’s most noteworthy sites that are an absolute must-see.

Imperial City (Citadel)

This enclosed structure was the core of the royal palace in old Hue. With sprawling walls, hand-carved gates, stunning gardens, and towering art displays, the Imperial City of Hue, also known as the Citadel, stands as the city’s main attraction. It once provided residence to the emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty and stood as the country’s capital and is today recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Imperial City (Citadel) stands as the Hue’s main attraction
The Imperial City (Citadel) stands as the Hue’s main attraction

Thien Mu Pagoda

Thien Mu Pagoda, or the Pagoda of the Celestial Lady, is a 7-story Buddhist pagoda settled on a hill overlooking the Perfume River. Legend has it that a woman from heaven came to the people of Hue and prophesied that the Lord would build a pagoda in that place. When Lord Nguyen Hoang, the governor of Hue at the time, heard about the legend, he decided to complete the prophecy by constructing the pagoda.

Thien Mu Pagoda (or the Pagoda of the Celestial Lady) in Hue
Thien Mu Pagoda (or the Pagoda of the Celestial Lady) in Hue

Tombs

No, these tombs aren’t spooky, but rather beautiful compounds with intricate art and detailed fixtures. The Dynasty periods wanted to honor their dead in a respectful way and did so by filling their tomb compounds with antiques, art, and delicate carvings. There are two popular tombs in Hue that can be visited, that of Emperors Tu Duc and Khai Dinh.

Khai Dinh Mausoleum
Khai Dinh Mausoleum

Tu Duc remains the longest ruling emperor of Vietnam, while Khai Dinh is less popular in terms of historical figures of the era. Both tombs offer visitors a different style of architecture that illustrates the character of the emperors themselves.

Try a Piece of Hue

Whatever that may be, whether it’s some of Hue’s local dishes that can’t be found elsewhere or some of its artisanal gems that render the city’s beauty, Hue offers a variety of such items that shouldn’t be missed on your visit there.

Cuisine

Your trip wouldn’t be complete without trying a dish local to Hue. Bun Bo Hue, like the name suggests, is a delicious soup native to the area. It consists of thin rice noodles, a flavorful beef broth with beef tips, and is served with hints of lemongrass, lime, and cilantro. You can find this meal on the street from almost every food vendor. So, stop in for a bowl and an iced tea. If this meal doesn’t say ‘comfort,’ we don’t know what will!

Bun bo Hue
Bun bo Hue

Traditions

If you’ve spent a lot of time in Vietnam, you know that incense is an important part of many household traditions, religions, and has significant cultural purposes. However, we bet you didn’t know that Hue produces a large majority of the country’s incense!

The incense made in Hue is still created with original techniques of colored bamboo sticks and with the use of aromas such as cinnamon and pine. They’re then dyed multiple colors and distributed around the country in bulk. It’s a beautiful process, really, so we recommend picking up a bunch from a local while you’re there.

Incense Village in Hue
Incense Village in Hue

Which Hue?

Hue is the ideal city with many attractions for all the history buffs who want to experience Vietnam’s history and culture combined into one city. If you’re looking for a place where tradition meets heritage, Hue and its emperors is the location to find these. With a hint of imperial nostalgia and a taste for modern flair, Hue invites all who are eager to enter through its glistening citadel gates.