Hue was the old capital of Vietnam up until 1945, and is sure to be on every first time visitors list of places to go in Vietnam. The ancient capital was home to the emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty which was the last dynasty to rule Vietnam, the Emperor Gia Long ascended to the throne in 1802 and the final emperor Bao Dai abdicated in 1945, when the country was split in two.
Hue is an attractive city, sitting on the Song Huong river with bridges, canals and moat criss crossing around the city. Due to its central and strategic location in Vietnam, Hue was severely bombarded during the Vietnam War leaving much of the city and the citadel in ruins. Fortunately, the city still boasts incredible architecture, a citadel, ancient tombs of Nguyen emperors, temples and much more. Every corner you turn uncovers another hidden gem rich in both culture and history. Dedicate a couple of days to exploring the city and all that it has to offer, you can cover most of the sites in one action packed day if you are short on time.
Where To Stay
The backpacker district is located around the southbank of the Song Huong River, here you’ll find a host of hostels, budget guesthouses and hotels. Some of the accommodation options are pretty tired looking but there are still some good ones to enjoy. Due to the abundance of accommodation it does mean that you can grab a bargain, a lot of places will offer discounts so booking in advance needn’t be a worry unless it is during the festival season. Dorm beds start at around 70,000 – 110,000 VND and generally come with free breakfast, I found deals as low as $3 USD per night when booking through AGODA.COM. Double rooms start at 160,000 VND, although the nicer budget hotels will be closer to 300,000 VND.
Where To Eat
Due to the popularity of Hue as a tourist destination there are an enormous amount of restaurants in town serving local Vietnamese cuisine and western food. As always try and look for where the locals are eating as these will be the cheapest and highest quality options. Le Loi, the main road running along the south of the river banks has a huge number of restaurants. Head down this road and you’ll be sure to find something to satisfy any craving.
On the southern banks of the river is a 400 meter long walking street, open daily between 5-11pm. You can find all manner of handcrafted goods, as well as the usual tourist tat for sale at markets and a fairly long stretch of food stalls serving up traditional Hue cuisines for a very reasonable prices. This is one of the better places to walk around in the evening and you’ll find delicious street food for between 20,000 and 30,000 VND.
Things To Do
Construction began in 1805 when the emperor Gia Long decided to build an impressive kingdom which would function as the imperial seat of government. At the citadels peak it encorporated over 170 buildings, unfortunately during the Tet offensive in the midst of the Vietnam War much of the complex was destroy; nevertheless it’s still an impressive site well worth exploring for a few hours.
Want to do something eerie whilst in Hue? Head straight for the abandoned water park which has only been around for 15 years but is abandoned and hauntingly eerie. Opened in 2004 it closed a few short years later due to a lack of visitors. It is now abandoned which makes for some incredible photos and excellent opportunities to explore. There is one security guard manning the old entrance who charges a fee of 10,000 VND.
Nguyen Dynasty Tombs
The emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty were the rulers of Vietnam for over 150 year, and their tombs are able to be toured while in Hue. There are seven different tombs to explore, the most worthy of a visit are Khai Dinh, Minh Mang, Tu Duc and Gia Long. All charge 100,000 VND apart from Gia Long which is free. Dedicate a day to exploring the 200 year old tombs and learning more about the history of the Nguyen dynasty.