Located two hours north of Da Nang, Hue is a wonderful destination to get away from the crowds of Vietnam’s larger cities. Hue boasts a wide array of things to do from beaches to the Imperial City.
The land of Hue is best known for its scenic views and rich history. Situated in Central Vietnam on the banks of Perfume River, this beautiful city is home to a host of ancient mausoleums and magnificent palaces.
It has a long and memorable history as it used to be amongst the main royal capitals of the country. Because of its ancient architecture and charming museums, Hue is a favorite amongst history lovers. People come to this city to visit the ancient tombs of previous monarchs, which are spread out all over the city.
Hue’s best things to do
Tombs, Pagodas & Abandoned Water Parks in Hue. Photo: Crash Test Mike
The riverfront city is the perfect place to visit if you want to stroll along a beautiful riverside walkway. You can also visit Hue to explore its ancient temples in the city. Eat the local food to have a sample of the rich culinary culture of this city. There are plenty of hotels to accommodate. We’ve rounded up the best 5 star hotels in Hue for the discerning upscale traveler.
The city of Hue offers varied attractions, which is why it a must-visit place for all tourists heading to Vietnam. So without further ado, let us explore all the things that you can do in Hue.
Here are the top tourist activities in Hue, Vietnam, in no particular order:
1. Visit the Imperial Citadel
imperial citadel Hue. Photo: Dennis Jarvis
This restricted fort, also known as the Imperial City of Hue, was the executive center of Southern Vietnam through the 17th and 18th century. Although it suffered great structural damage during the Vietnamese War, it is slowly being restored to its former glory.
The foundation of the fortress is breathtakingly gorgeous, with incredible trenches that are teeming with water lilies. The structures in the Imperial City are in their original form or are being restored. You can spend a full day roaming around this expansive village. There are a few souvenir shops and small food/drink concessions.
Address: Thành phố Huế, Thua Thien Hue
2. Visit Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda, Hue. Photo: Gary Todd
Thien Mu Pagoda, also known as the Pagoda of the Celestial Lady, is an iconic monument that represents the imperialism of the old city. This is definitely amongst the best temples to explore in Hue. This seven-storied pagoda is not just a religious heritage, it’s a symbol of traditional Vietnamese architecture.
Built in 1844, the pagoda still acts as a working monastery. Its beauty and charm lie in its rich history and its gorgeous view of the Perfume Lake.
Address: Huong Hoa, Thanh pho Hue, Huong HoaThanh pho Hue Thua Thien Hue 532761
3. Explore the Bach Ma National Park
summit of Bach Ma National Park. Photo: budak
The Bach Ma National Park is positioned at an altitude of over 1400 meters on the Bach Ma Mountain. Enchanted by the cool weather and abundant foliage, the French constructed about 100 villas in the park. Bach Man National Park is famous for its large collection of flora and fauna, making it the perfect place for nature lovers to explore in Hue.
The park is divided into two sections – the tropical evergreen heavy rain forest, situated lower than the elevation of 900 meters, and the subtropical, humid evergreen forest, positioned at an elevation of over 900 meters. You can have fun hiking on the given trails in this park and observe the beautiful waterfalls and French villas.
Address: Lộc Điền, Phú Lộc, Thua Thien Hue | Phone: +84 234 3871 330
4. Take a Stroll along the Perfume River
End of the Cruise, Perfume River, Hue. Photo: David McKelvey
The Perfume River runs through the heart of Hue and is a popular tourist attraction. It’s one of the most well-known bodies of water in Vietnam. There is a charming riverside walkway down the length of the river, making it ideal for a picturesque walk in the cool evening. You can also rent a boat or go for dinner or a short sightseeing cruise on the river.
It’s aptly named due to the fragrance the river exudes after the seasonal flowers fall into its waters. The riverwalk creates an authentic boardwalk type of experience and was an expensive investment by the city for its tourism and locals. It’s a terrific activity to do for free.
5. Visit the Thanh Toan Bridge
Thanh Toan Bridge in Hue. Photo: ILO Asia-Pacific
This quaint footbridge is one of the main attractions of Hue. It was constructed in the 18th century and has both Chinese and Japanese features. The aim of the construction of the bridge was to unite the two villages on either side.
This bridge is the perfect place for tourists looking to interact with the locals as it has become a congregational place for them. It is also a gorgeous place for a picnic as it is surrounded by greenery and rice fields.
Address: Lang Thanh Thuy Chanh, Tx. Huong Thuy, Thua Thien Hue 536100
6. Explore Ho Thuy Tien Water Park
Abandoned Water Parks. Photo: Crash Test Mike
The most unexpected thing to do in the ancient city of Hue is to stopover at this deserted water park. It was almost completed when it opened in 2004, but after a few weeks, it was shut down. Now only the ruins remain.
However, the ruins themselves make for such great pictures! So, if you are even the least bit interested in getting awesome pictures, then this is the place to visit. It’s known as the Thuy Tien Lake Abandoned Water Park and is one of the more unique and weird things to do in town.
Address: Thuy Bang, Huong Thuy, Thua Thien Hue
7. Visit the Khiem Tomb
Tomb of Tu Duc in Hue. Photo: Nguyen Hung Vu
The Tomb of Tu Duc or Khiem Tomb was unusually built a long time before the demise of the monarch. The complete structure took 3 whole years of construction and has lakes and pavilions nearby that you can explore. This tomb sheds light on the life of Emperor Tu Duc.
Built from 1864 to 1867, the TOmbo of Tu Duc is open daily, but does keep visiting hours, so don’t show up too late. It was built for the Nguyễn Emperor Tự Đức. There is both a Temple and Tomb Area, though Tu Doc was buried elsewhere in Hue at a secret location.
Address: 17/69 Le Ngo Cat, Thuy Xuan, Thanh pho Hue, Thua Thien Hue
8. Take a Bicycle Trip
Bicycle for rent in Hue. Photo: midorisyu
Hue is the ideal city to explore on a bicycle. Simply rent one out in the morning and explore the city on your own. Since it’s a compact city, every place worth visiting will be within your reach. There are numerous bridges to cross and discover the various sections of local life.
We would highly recommend riding your bicycle on the bank of the Perfume River in the evening. You can also take a map with you and go on an adventure exploring the tombs situated a little outside the main city.
9. Discover Dong Ba Market
Dong Ba Market- Hue. Photo: Paul Arps
If you love shopping, then the Dong Ba Market is the place to go. Why, you ask? It’s the leading commercial hub in this Vietnamese region. You can find everything worth buying in this market – including traditional Vietnamese dishes! Like many open-air Vietnamese markets, it’s a bustling one.
The vendors are famous for ripping off customers— we recommend not giving in to their outrageous prices and bargaining with them for all your purchases. Whatever they say, usually just cut that in half, and work up to a price you are willing to pay. Walk away and see how they react.
Address: 2 Tran Hung Dạo, Phu Hoa, Thanh pho Hue, Thua Thien Hue
10. Witness the Hue Festival
Hue Festival. Photo: thang nguyen
If you’re lucky enough to visit the country between in April, then you can definitely check out this culturally rich festival that runs over a week in early April. This festival is held just once in two years (so check ahead) and is an opportunity to commemorate the bountiful cultural and historical values of the ancient city.
The Hue Festival opens with a majestic firework demonstration and offers a plethora of events to partake in all through the week. The very first festival was held in 2000, so 2020 marks its 11th celebration!
Date: Wednesday-Monday, April 1-6, 2020
11. Try the Local Food
Bun Bo Hue. Photo: James
The city is famous for having the best Vietnamese food. Hue was one of the finest at creating the renowned Imperial Vietnamese Banquets. A bunch of restaurants all over the city serve up these banquets in their traditional styles, so you can sit back and have a scrumptious meal spread out over several courses. If you have a sweet tooth, then do try out the local sweet made of sesame seeds.
Also taste the delectable Banh Canh – a tapioca and crab noodle soup – when you visit the famous Dong Ba Market in the city. Also, don’t forget to taste Bun Hen – delicious rice vermicelli noodles topped with baby clams. The best place to try this dish is Thanh Ton Street.
12. Take a Day Trip from Hue to Da Nang
Hai Van pass. Photo: Peter Nijenhuis
If you love the idea of road trips, then you should definitely take a day trip from Hue to Da Nang, which is a much-loved Vietnamese coastal city. This trip will be a worthwhile adventure if you have ample time to explore the striking beaches of Da Nang or hit a few on the coast toward Da Nang.
Those driving on your own, don’t forget to take the Hai Van Pass, which will allow you to easily travel from one city to the other. The rocky road will provide you some truly breathtaking sights of the Vietnamese coastline. To make the most of your experience, rent a jeep and make sure that the weather conditions are clear. A motorbike will also suffice well.
13. Visit the Ho Quyen
Tiger Fighting Arena in Hue. Photo: Emad Ghazipura
This Tiger Fighting Arena is located just 3 kilometers outside of the city. Constructed in 1830, the last fight that took place in the arena were in 1904. The arena gives an insight into the bleak past and has markings of tigers’ claws on the walls of the enclosures that held the tigers.
It was famous for intense fights between declawed and drugged tigers and elephants. This was greatly symbolic at the time, with the elephants representing the kingdom and the tigers representing the opposition and uprising that needed to be thwarted.
Address: 373 Bui Thị Xuan, Thuy Bieu, Thanh pho Hue, Thua Thien Hue
These are just a few of the places you can visit and things you can do when visiting the ancient city of Hue in Vietnam. Once you are there, you will definitely find more and more places to explore and foods to try!
Keyword: Top things to do in Hue