Hue (Vietnam) was the fifth stop of my 24-day trip through this wonderful Asian country, and if it is true that the first day I didn’t have much connection with it, the second day I enjoyed like a dwarf going from one place to another in the city by bike. Hue was the imperial capital of Vietnam for 143 years, from 1802 to 1945. This translates into a large number of historical sites to see in Hue that will take you on a journey into the past.
Hue is located approximately 127km north of Hoi An and 574km south of Ninh Binh. The city has an airport. Another way to get there is by bus. I went from Ninh Binh to Hue on a night bus. If you are in Hoi An, you can get to Hue through the Hai Van Pass, a road located right next to the coast. You can book the tour from Hoi An to Hue through the Hai Van Pass here.
If you are organizing your trip to Vietnam on your own, I hope this post will be very helpful to you.
Hue hides treasures like the Imperial City and 7 imperial tombs. Besides, I show you two different and curious places to see in Hue. Are you ready to discover the old imperial capital of Vietnam?
1. Imperial City of Hue (Vietnam)
The Imperial City was the home and control center of the emperors of Vietnam. Within the Imperial City, the Purple Forbidden City was built, which was only accessible to members of the royal family. Sadly, today it has little to do with what it once was, as it has suffered great deterioration due to the clashes with the French and Americans. It is in the process of being restored. Still, it is worth visiting this place, since inside its walls it has beautiful doors, temples, corridors and pavilions.
2. Imperial Tombs
As Hue is an imperial city, you can find several tombs of emperors there. The most popular are the tombs of Tu Duc, Khai Dinh, and Minh Mang. I didn’t visit any of them but the one I was recommended was the Tomb of Khai Dinh, in case you want to visit only one of them. Khai Dinh was the 12th emperor of the dynasty Nguyễn. The construction of his tomb took 11 years, from 1920 to 1931. Before the emperor died in 1925, he traveled to France, where he was influenced by the architectural styles of the area. Because of this, his tomb blends European and Asian styles.
3. Thien Mu Pagoda
What I liked most about the city was Thien Mu Pagoda (Heavenly Lady), a must-see in Hue. Located by the Perfume River, this pagoda is one of the symbols of the city. Although the temple itself began to be built in 1601, the famous tower was not built until 1844.
The origin of the name of the pagoda comes from a legend that tells how an old woman who appeared on top of a mountain said that a man would come and build a pagoda that would bring prosperity to the country. So, Nguyen Hoang had it built.
At the back of the temple, you can find the car used by the monk Thich Quang Duc to go to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh), where in 1963 he sacrificed himself in protest against religious inequality. At that time, the Catholic government had taken action against Buddhism, even though most people in the country belonged to this religion.
4. Abandoned water park, a different place to see in Hue
It’s not something you usually go see when you visit a city, but I heard that there was an abandoned water park in Hue and I didn’t want to miss it. I got there by bike following the directions in the maps.me app (if you put “abandoned waterpark” it will pop up). When I arrived, in the distance I saw a man sitting on a chair who stood up and started to tell me something. I ignored him as he was probably going to charge me a false ticket to access the park. You should not be charged anything for visiting this place.
Being an abandoned place, the atmosphere of the place is quite creepy. I personally loved visiting it because I thought it was something different from what we do in Hue and it has some very strange places, like the dragon in the photo (you can go inside and go up to the mouth). If you spend more than 1 day in Hue or simply want to visit a curious place, I highly recommend it.
5. An Bang Cemetery (Ghost Town), a secret place in Hue
One of the best things about traveling alone and backpacking is the number of people you know. Something that usually happens when you meet people who are traveling in the same country as you is that you discover many places thanks to word of mouth.
Some guys I met that Ninh Binh recommended a place to see in Hue that was not at all known. Sadly, I couldn’t visit it as it was quite far from the city and I didn’t have a motorbike to go there. Getting there in Grab was quite expensive so I finally decided not to go (I regret it). However, I don’t want you to miss the opportunity to visit such a curious place.
I’m talking about the An Bang cemetery, also known as Ghost Town (look for “an bang cemetery” on the internet to see the place). I know, it seems like I’m talking about the set of a horror movie. However, it’s the most colorful and vivid cemetery you’ll ever see. This cemetery originated in 1995 and since then more and more tombs in the shape of a tower and decorated with the smallest detail appear in it.
6. Perfume River and Trang Tien Bridge
The Perfume River (Sông Hương) crosses the city of Hue, dividing it into two parts. Several bridges communicate one side with the other. Among them, the Trang Tien Bridge, designed by Gustave Eiffel, stands out. The construction of this bridge was completed in 1899. Do not leave Hue without crossing the bridge, whether on foot, by bike or on a motorbike. It is also possible to go on a tour around the river by boat.
7. Dong Ba Market
If you like to visit the local markets when you travel to other countries, I recommend going to the Dong Ba market, located next to the Trang Tien bridge, on the same side as the citadel. It is a huge and very bustling market.
The stalls are all attached to each other and sometimes it is even complicated to walk through the aisles. You can find different food (be prepared for some strong smells), souvenirs, clothes and other kinds of products. If you are going to buy something, I recommend you to haggle because as a tourist they will tell you a slightly higher price.
If you are one of those who prefer to have the trip itinerary organized to the letter, I recommend you take this 9-hour tour of Hue. You will visit the Imperial Tombs, the Citadel and the Thien Mu Pagoda, finishing the tour with a boat ride on the Perfume River.