8 Things to Do & Places to Visit in Hue, Central Vietnam

8 Things to Do & Places to Visit in Hue, Central Vietnam

The historic city of Hue is worth a stop in your trip through Central Vietnam. Here are some of the must-see sights that you’ll enjoy.

Image credit: David McKelvey

It might not be the most happening place in Vietnam but Hue is one of country’s most magnificent historical cities. The cultural and religious heritage combined with its past significance makes Hue a must-visit for culture vultures and history lovers.

Hue was the last ancient capital of the Nguyen Dynasty, and it boasts remains of temples, pagodas, tombs, rivers, and parks for today’s tourists to enjoy. The city is situated in the central area of Vietnam, on the banks of the Perfume River.

Here are the main sights and things to do in Hue:

1. Gaze up at Thien Mu Pagoda

Image credit: Guerretto

Located on the north side of the Perfume River, on elevated ground, the Thien Mu Pagoda is an important religious and spiritual site. One of Hue’s most-visited attractions and a symbol of the city, the soaring pagoda features intricate details and beautiful sculptures. The surrounding area has many fragrant and colourful flowers too.

2. Discover the Imperial Tombs

There are several important imperial tombs in Hue, the final resting places of the emperors of old. The most visited tombs include those of Minh Mang, Khai Dinh, and Tu Duc.

things to do in hue

Image credit: Greg Willis

During his life, Minh Mang started to build his own lavish tomb. It took three years to finish, but, unfortunately, the king died four months after construction began.

Tu Duc Tomb was built on the orders of the emperor himself. It is situated in a stunning area that includes a small lake. Interestingly, even though the tomb was created by the emperor, he decided to be buried in a different, secret place. So, although people can honour the late emperor here, it remains a mystery as to where his remains actually lie.

things to do in hue

Image credit: Xiquinho Silva

Khai Dinh Tomb is often considered as the last cultural remnant from the Nguyen Dynasty. This magnificent tomb took a decade to be finished.

While these three tombs are generally considered the most interesting from a tourist’s point of views, there are a further four tombs in the area that are open to visitors. I didn’t visit these, having just a couple of days in town, but if you have longer they would surely add more insights to your stay.  

3. Learn more at the Ho Chi Minh Museum

Although small, the lesser-visited Ho Chi Minh Museum is a local cultural landmark. It remembers the late leader’s visit to the city and has a display of photos and documents related to his time in Hue. Additionally, there are a few of Ho Chi Minh’s personal artefacts on display too. In my opinion, this is only really worth a visit if you have ample time in the city; if time is short, save the museums for a different destination in Vietnam.

4. Explore the historic citadel of Dai Noi

Image credit: Dung Le

Dai Noi, the old citadel, is one of Hue’s most-popular tourist attractions today. A cultural and architectural heritage from the Nguyen Dynasty, the expansive complex includes several museums, ornate pavilions, and interesting sculptures, all surrounded by imposing walls. Although the citadel suffered much damage during wars, several sections have now been restored. Albeit popular, it’s still fairly quiet, partly thanks to its large size. It’s easy to escape the crowds and enjoy the peaceful air as you reflect on the site’s history and admire the remaining details. As you wander through the complex, passing crumbling walls and overgrown patches, take a moment to imagine how splendid it must have been in its heyday. Climb up onto the front section of the wall for good views over the site and to see cultural objects displayed with pride.

5. Visit the Japanese Bridge / Thanh Toan Bridge

things to do in hue

Image credit: Bernard Tey

The charming Thanh Toan Bridge, also known as the Japanese Bridge, lies a few kilometres outside of the city centre. Located in the sleepy countryside, it was constructed in the late 1700s to connect two sides of a small village. The pretty bridge features elements from both Chinese and Japanese cultures. Today, villagers often sit and chat on the quaint and picturesque bridge and pray at the small shrine, providing a terrific window into local life.

6. Admire the Perfume River and see the old Wartime Bunkers

The delightfully named Perfume River is a source of local pride. You can stroll and cycle along the scenic banks, but the truly perfect way to enjoy the views, cool weather, and ambience is to take a boat trip along the waterway. Soak up the peaceful atmosphere and travel back in time through the city’s rich history. Several old bunkers are scattered along the banks of the river, serving as a reminder of the area’s not-so-distant past. Although you can only see them from the outside, they’re still worth a quick photo stop. Don’t miss one of Hue’s cutest riverside attractions too: the I Love Hue sign! It’s great for selfies!

7. Pick up souvenirs at Dong Ba Market

Sitting on the edges of the Perfume River, Dong Ba Market is one of the oldest and biggest markets in Vietnam. It provides a good opportunity to discover traditional Vietnamese items, local dishes, handicrafts, and so on. Additionally, many tourists do not go to the market just to shop; the market is also a great place to observe daily Vietnamese life.

8. Take a motorbike tour

An easy way of exploring Hue’s diverse sights is to book a motorbike tour. As well as being able to hit the highlights with ease, you’ll have the thrill of flying around with an experienced rider. The roads are busy enough for you to wonder at times what on earth you’re doing, but quieter than in larger cities where you might actually have a panic attack on the roads! I booked a motorbike tour through my guesthouse in Hue and it was a definite highlight of my trip. Even my mum, whom I was travelling with, pushed her reservations to the side (or, was talked out of them?!) and hopped on the back of a bike too. Go mama!

Hue is a great place to spend a few days while travelling around Vietnam and while it almost certainly won’t be the most memorable place you’ll visit in Vietnam, the sense of history makes it worthwhile. Plus, it’s just a short distance from the charming Hoi An so it’s easy to combine both destinations in one trip!

About Author

Sarah W
Sarah W

Sarah W is a travelling cat-lover who enjoys exploring places that are a little bit quirky or away from headline attractions. Favourite things include delicious falafel, snuggling under a thick duvet, (badly) belting out karaoke at the top of her lungs, and, of course, her family, friends, and furry pets.


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