Hue Travel Guide for First-Time Travelers

Hue Travel Guide


Hue was known as the capital city of Vietnam for 143 years, shining with the glories of the old times. The city has a peculiar kind of conservative beauty and slow-paced lifestyle. Emperors’ tombs, Imperial Citadel, historic relics, beautiful beaches to poetic Perfume River, Dong Ba Market, Thien Mu Pagoda – Hue is just like a hidden gem of Central Vietnam where you can forget the flow of time. And these are just the most obvious things to do in Hue, just a scratch of what this beautiful city can offer.

Much like Ha Long Bay in the north, a complex of graves, pagodas and palaces across Hue and its surrounds has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, passing time by hundreds of years of war and battle, these tradition architectures are mostly destroyed much compared with its origin. However, thanks to the development of tourism has lead to reservation these traditions and revive them alive. Let’s explore Hue City with Vietnam Shore Excursions.

Hue Travel Guide

Top Things to Do in Hue Imperial City

UNESCO World Cultural Heritage: Complex Hue Monuments

Hue Imperial City is the main draw of Hue and a major attraction in Vietnam, has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage in 1993 for its irreplaceable values in history, culture and architecture.

Built in 1804 and finished in 1833 by King Minh Mang, the Imperial Citadel consists of 147 structures inside Imperial City. The innermost enclosure belonged to the imperial family, called ‘Purple Forbidden City’, built based on Forbidden City in Beijing.

When you step inside this city, you’ll feel that you’ve entered an entirely different world. Not only refined architecture you’ll admire as you walk around but also the green moat, carved gates, solemn royal pavilions and few museums on the grounds.

Hue Imperial City - Vietnam Shore Excursions

Remember to get a guide to show you around and not miss the interesting pieces of history and culture at this heritage.

* Admission fee: 200,000VND/guest

Thien Mu Pagoda Visit and Perfume River Boat Ride

Sited on Ha Khe Hill, Thien Mu Pagoda is about 5km west of Hue City Center. When looked from afar, the seven-tier chedi overlooking the poetic Huong River (Perfume River) creates such a solemn and beautiful sight of a spiritual construction adorned by a peaceful backdrop of nature.

Thien Mu Pagoda has long been agreed to be the symbol of the city and to tourists, a must-have thing to do in Hue. Other than the iconic 7-tier chedi on the pagoda’s backyard, things to look inside the pagoda is the huge bell casted in 1710 and a stone turtle carried a marble stele on its back, dated from 17th century.

Thien Mu Pagoda - Vietnam Shore Excursions

You can visit the pagoda by taking a half-hour boat trip on Perfume River. The reason for the river to have this name is due to the flowers dropped on the rivers from the upriver orchards, carrying a fragrant floral scent. Even though the fragrance has disappeared, Perfume River is still worth a trip for its peaceful scenery along the riverside, the daily life of people and gorgeous view of sunset.

You can book a short boat trip or a dinner cruise departing from Huong Pier. The boat will stop at landmarks like Thien Mu, Hon Chen Temple and Tomb of Minh Mang.

Trang Tien Bridge

If Huong River divides Hue into two parts, then Trang Tien Bridge links these two together with grace. Inaugurated in the year 1899 in total length of 402.60 meters and width of 5.40 meters, Trang Tien was designed in a Gothic architecture by the French at that time. Like Thien Mu Pagoda, Imperial City and Ngu Binh Mountain, Trang Tien Bridge on Huong River is also a symbol of Hue.

Trang Tien Bridge Hue - Vietnam Shore Excursions

At night, the bridge sparkles with colorful lights, making such a wonderful walk between the riverbanks.

Visit the Tombs of Nguyen Emperors

If Imperial City is the place kings lived and worked throughout their lifetime then the tombs are the places each king chose to be his resting place after death.

Visit the tombs, you’ll have a chance to know more about the kings, the history and admire the architecture that reflects the king’s personality and belief.

Tomb of Khai Dinh

Also recognized as a World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, Tomb of Khai Dinh boasts an impressive architecture fusion of modern Western style and Vietnamese traditional features. Khai Dinh Tomb is the last imperial tomb in Vietnam, taking 11 years to construct and completed in 1931. The tomb reflected well the influence of French culture in Emperor Khai Dinh, as seen in the French architecture elements used in many parts.

Khai Dinh Tomb - Vietnam Shore Excursions

After climbing 127 stone steps, visitors will come to the king’s temple where a statue of King Khai Dinh sitting on a throne is considered as a masterpiece of royal architecture, lavishly adorned with colorful pieces of inlaid glass and porcelain.

Tomb of Minh Mang

Unlike Tomb of Khai Dinh, Tomb of Minh Mang took only 3 years to complete yet having a totally different style compared to Khai Dinh’s tomb. The temple is rather simple with typical Chinese architecture, blending so harmoniously with the natural layout composed of lakes, canals and gardens.

Hue Tour Package - Vietnam Shore Excursions

The gate to the king’s tomb is only opened once a year on the anniversary of Minh Mang’s death.

Tomb of Tu Duc

Located in the narrow valley in Duong Xuan Thuong village (now in Thuong Ba village, Thuy Xuan commune, Hue city), Tu Duc Tomb has the traditional Vietnamese architecture style designed in a very elegant fashion.

Tu Duc Tomb - Vietnam Shore Excursions

The tomb is hailed as the most beautiful of all Nguyen emperor tombs for its poetic sceneries. The construction is harmonized in balance with the surrounding nature, enhancing the beauties of each other. The walking road here is paved by Bat Trang bricks which are considered as the best type of bricks in the country.

Enjoy Hue Cuisine in Dong Ba Market

As the place that had left worldwide famous Anthony Bourdain fascinated, all food enthusiasts should come to Dong Ba market, you can find all the delicacies of Hue cuisine here.

Built in 1899, Dong Ba is one of the oldest markets in Hue, also serves as a trading center, historical landmark and now tourist site of the city. There Are thousands of booths selling all kinds of things from clothes, housewares to foodstuff. Dong Ba Market’s food court offers a bustling food scene featuring all the best dishes of Hue like ‘banh beo’, Phu Hoa fried spring rolls, Banh Canh Nam Pho and the ones that Anthony Bourdain tried – Com Hen and Bun Bo Hue.

Hue Cuisine - Vietnam Shore Excursions

One thing you will love about Dong Ba market for sure: the place is not as noisy, busy and boisterous as many other markets in Vietnam. It’s also the one special of Hue people – calm, lovely and slow-paced.

All in all, Dong Market is a great place to shop, eat and enjoy the personality of Hue people.

Enjoy Hue Street Food Tour by Cyclo

Hue street food tour by cyclo is specially designed for all foodies with unique food & culture experiences in Hue City, Vietnam. You not only have a chance to taste various delicious kinds of Hue Cuisine, also chat with local people, study their livelihoods and understand more Hue Cultures. We guarantee a local perspective that will give you and your family a once in a lifetime experience. 

Hue Food Tour - Vietnam Shore Excursions

You can book the tour with David Nguyen from Hue food tour:
Hotline: +84913138096

Experience Hue Royal Banquet Dinner

Come to Hue – the old capital of Vietnam – it’s such a pity if you don’t try dining like an emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty.

For this special kind of dinner, you’ll get dressed as Vietnamese royalty, eat what kings and queens ate while enjoying the traditional royal music played only for the royal family. The royal dishes are a real feast not only for your stomach but also for your eyes. Each dish is decorated lavishly with bird-shaped fruits and all kinds of rare and precious food which were served for the king family in the past.

Hue Royal Banquet Dinner - Vietnam Shore Excursions

This banquet is extremely fun and joyful if you’re enjoying it with a large group of friends and family. The cost for one person isn’t too expensive and it offers a real cultural experience in Hue that you can’t forget.

* Where to enjoy Royal Banquet:

  • Royal Park Restaurant

Add: 03 Nguyen Sinh Sac, Vy Da, Hue City

  • Hoang Phu Restaurant

Add: Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Phu Hoi, Hue

Relax at Hue Beaches

Hue, like many other cities on the central coastline, is blessed with gorgeous beaches. Hue has 5 beaches located in a proximity from a few kilometers to about 30 kilometers from Hue city center.

Hue Beaches - Vietnam Shore Excursions

Here are three must-see beaches for you:

Lang Co Beach

Often mentioned in the list of best beaches in Vietnam, the beauty of Lang Co can’t be described by a few simple words. With white beach dune stretching along the azure, Lang Co pleases your eyes with the gentlest colors.

Lang Co Beach - Vietnam Shore Excursions

After a winding ride on Hai Van Pass, Lang Co appears like a gift from mother nature, especially gorgeous on sunny days. The beach is calm and suitable for swimming and other beachside activities. But don’t just relax at the beach only, get to see the Lang Co village for its peaceful atmosphere as well as its local delicacies.

Thuan An Beach

Located near Thuan An Mouth which is about 16 kilometers away from the city center, Thuan An beach stretches about 12 kilometers along the coastline with white sand and blue water. The surrounding is just as beautiful and there are abundant services there to enjoy your time. You can camp overnight here and enjoy a small BBQ seafood party on the beach. It’ll be a sweet memory to have in Hue.

Thuan An Beach - Vietnam Shore Excursions

Canh Duong Beach

Canh Duong Beach lies about 20 kilometer southeast of Hue city center, remaining a pristine scenery with white, desert beach and beautiful blue sea. Canh Duong beach is a wonderful place for young travelers to visit with a romantic setting of lantern decorations on the beach, large camping zone and even tables and benches. Canh Duong offers a lovely night scene and a lot of corners to take pictures. Don’t miss this beach on your trip to Hue.

Canh Duong Beach Hue - Vietnam Shore Excursions

Visit Hue Royal Theater

Built in 1826 under King Minh Mang, solely to entertain the royalty, Royal Theatre now serves as the National Conservatory of Music. You can visit the theatre freely to admire the refinedness in architecture and decoration of the stage, examine the actor’s masks and musical instruments. A cultural art performance here lasts for about 45 minutes, bringing back the cultural atmosphere and the art performances which were dedicated only to the kings.

Hue Royal Theatrer - Vietnam Shore Excursions

Visit Beautiful Garden Houses in Hue & Dine at Tha Om

Located on the way to Thien Mu Pagoda at Kim Long village, Tha Om Garden house is the perfect place to explore Vietnamese traditional architecture but also to taste the finest dishes of Hue cuisine.

With the typical features seen in Nguyen Dynasty’s architectures, Tha Om boasts a beautiful complex of pavilions, gardens and lotus ponds. The garden house, like many other Hue’s homes, is built on a high ground with low, dipping roods to adapt with the flooding problem of the area.

The garden in Tha Om Garden house can ease any soul who is seeking for a little comfort and serenity in nature. The House’s menus are set with the most famous and sophisticated dishes of Hue cuisine, totally matching its exquisite ambience.

* Address: 12/12, Kim Long Street, Hue City

Another garden house you should visit is Ben Xuan Garden house for its elegant, vintage Hue architecture you can’t find anywhere else.

Walk on Thanh Toan Bridge

Thanh Toan Bridge is another excellent example of Hue architecture during the Nguyen dynasties, so valuable in terms of history and culture. Located 8 kilometers east from Hue city center, Thanh Toan roofed bridge reflects itself on the green water of a small channel. Often compared with Hoi An’s Japanese Covered Bridge, Thanh Toan has a much more humble, rustic appearance.

Thanh Toan Bridge Hue - Vietnam Shore Excursions

The bridge is divided into 7 departments, almost the size of a big house. An ancestral altar is placed on the bridge to worship its constructor. On both sides of the bridge, there are platforms made for pedestrians to rest and hide from the sun.

– Location: Thanh Thuy Chan village, Phu Vang, Hue

Short visit to Hue Conical Hat Making Village

To Hue and Vietnamese people, a conical hat isn’t just a hat, it’s also attached to the image of Ao Dai young Hue girls wear as a school uniform. Conical hat must be the oldest Vietnamese fashion wear that is still being used widely in everyday life of the middle class and in rural areas. In Hue, don’t miss the chance to visit one of the villages that still practice the craft of conical hat making.

Hue Conical Hat Making Village - Vietnam Shore Excursions

In Tay Ho village, making a conical hat has been taken as a practice of making art. The village is famous for producing the famous ‘poem conical hat’ – an endearing name given by Vietnamese people. The hat made in Tay Ho village looks like an ordinary conical hat, but when you hold the hat under sunlight, you can see a poem or painting on the hat body. ‘Poem Conical Hat’ is considered as a precious Hue gift to bring back home.

Day Trips from Hue

Hai Van Pass

Connecting two major tourist destinations Hue and Da Nang, Hai Van Pass or ocean cloud pass is about 21 kilometers long on National Highway 1A. Many names have been invented to call the pass, but they all indicate the same thing – its beauty and danger.

When riding on Hai Van Pass, you’ll find yourself constantly stopping to take in the beautiful natural views of mountain-hugged beaches. Especially when you reach the pass’s highest point, you can see the total view of Lang Co beach.

Hai Van Pass - Vietnam Shore Excursions

Motorcycling and bicycling are often the two most popular ways to explore Hai Van pass. Another way is by taking the Reunification train from Hue to Da Nang, you can also see the spectacular views of the coastal line.

Vinh Moc Tunnels & DMZ

Vinh Moc is about 105 kilometers from Hue city and unlike Cu Chi Tunnels, it hasn’t been made into a mass tourism destination. But for Vietnam Veterans, Vinh Moc is no stranger since it’s featured often in Vietnam veteran tours. Located at Vinh Moc hamlet, Vinh Thach Commune, Vinh Linh district, Quang Tri Province, Vinh Moc was built by north Vietnam communists to provide habitat for innocent civilians, to shelter and defense against US bombards. During the war, Vinh Moc sheltered thousands of people with basic living conditions for 2000 days. Seventeen babies were born inside Vinh Moc tunnel and no one was injured.

Vinh Moc Tunnels - Vietnam Shore Excursions

Other DMZ sites in Quang Tri: Highway of Horror, Long Hung Church, Quang Tri Old Citadel, Doc Mieu Firebase.

Bach Ma National Park

Only 50 kilometers away, Bach Ma makes a wonderful day trip from Hue. The park is a natural border to divide Hue and Da Nang, overlooking the gorgeous Lang Co Bay and Da Nang Bay. Not only are the views beautiful here, visitors will have a chance to enjoy the fauna and flora diversity.

Bach Ma National Park - Vietnam Shore Excursions

What to see in Bach Ma National Park: five lakes, Do Quyen (Azalea) waterfall, Vong Hai Dai….

* Tips to travel to Bach Ma National Park:

Motorbikes are not allowed in the park; you will have to park your vehicles at the entrance and book a seat on a 12-seat minivan for a round-trip tour. Entrance fee is 60,000VND.

Hoi An

Please see Hoi An Travel Guide for First-Time Travelers

Da Nang 

Please see Da Nang Travel Guide for First-Time Travelers

What to Eat in Hue?

Hue cuisine has more culture and history to it than any other region in Vietnam. As the land that has offered the kings many dishes, Hue has a philosophy in food tastes which has been playing a great role in making Hue food so unique and special. Praised by world renowned chef Anthony Bourdain, Hue cuisine won’t disappoint you.

Bun Bo Hue

This dish is already known world-wide, a big part of it was thanks to the influence of Anthony Bourdain, A bowl of Bun Bo Hue is steamy, spicy and full of flavors. The main ingredients of this dish are vermicelli, beef, pig leg and red colored broth which is a special kind of shrimp sauce. This sauce is the reason why Bun Bo Hue is so addicting and unique than any other noodle soup. The soup is served with all kinds of herbs and vegetables.

Hue Beef Noodle Soup - Vietnam Shore Excursions

Bun Bo Hue is a popular dish and you can find Bun Bo Hue restaurants everywhere in Hue. We suggest you come to Dong Ba Market for this dish and many other dishes.

Com Hen

The story of Com Hen is the story of Vietnamese working class and middle-class. Com Hen went all its way to the King’s dining table and then returned to the markets, sidewalks – where it originally belonged.

Com Hen is composed of all the most simple and easiest-to-find ingredients which are cooked rice, baby basket clams, herbs, mints, fish sauce, fried shallots, roasted peanuts…. All these ingredients create such a beautiful, unique symphony of tastes and flavors, showing how creative Vietnamese people are in making cheap food delicious.

Clam Rice Hue - Vietnam Shore Excursions

A bowl of Com Hen costs between 10,000VND – 20,000VND.

* Where to eat Com Hen:

  • Com Hen 26 Truong Dinh Street, Hue
  • Con Hen Mussel Rice, Hương Lưu Commune, Vỹ Dạ Ward, Huế City, Thừa Thiên Huế Province

Banh Bot Loc Nhan Tom (Tapioca starches with shrimp)

This dish is popular and easy to eat, made totally from local ingredients. A small shrimp is put in the middle of tapioca starch then steamed until done. It’s best when eat this dish with a flavorful, spicy dipping sauce.

Tapioca Starches with Shrimp - Vietnam Shore Excursions

* Where to eat Bot Loc Nhan Tom:

  • Ba Do shop – 71, Nguyen Binh Khiem, Hue

Banh Canh Nam Pho

This special dish originates from Nam Pho – the suburb of Hue city, is acknowledged for its special reddish broth mixed with noodles made from rice and cassava flour and small shrimp-and-pork cakes. A bowl of Banh Canh Nam Pho will make you warm and full, especially on chilly days.

Banh Canh Nam Pho - Vietnam Shore Excursions

A bowl of Banh Canh Nam Pho will cost you only 15,000VND. If you can, go to Nam Pho to try the original version of this dish.

5 Reasons to Visit Hue

  1. Explore the ancient buildings and ruins of the Imperial City
  2. Sail the Perfume River by boat
  3. Learn more about the Vietnam War in the DMZ
  4. Cycle around the city
  5. Take a day trip to Bach Ma National Park

Hue Practical Information

Recommended Days to Stay

Most of the temples and cities you can see within one day. You can choose to stay another day or two if you want to make a day trip to the DMZ or Bach Ma National Park.

ATM’s & Money Exchange

Hue is a big city, there are plenty of ATMs to be found.

Local Events and Holidays

  • Hue Festival: This art festival is held in even year with local and international artists at historic buildings, street parades, sampan races and markets.

When is the Best Time to Visit Hue?

It’s tricky to choose the best time to visit Hue, if you want to combine Hue with other destinations in Vietnam. Hue has two distinct seasons: rainy season and dry season.

  • The dry season falls in between March and August with hot and sunny weather and the temperature can reach to 40 degrees Celsius
  • The rainy season begins from August to January with heavy rains and sometimes, storms. Temperature in this season can drop down to 20 degrees Celsius.

Months you should avoid visiting Hue: May – July (too hot), December – January (heavy rains)

The best months to visit Hue: August and September are two months you can visit Hue with ease. This time, you can enjoy the cool weather with less rain.

Another month to visit Hue is April when the Hue Festival is held.

How to get to Hue?

Since Hue has an international airport, transportation to this city should be easy.

How to get to Hue - Vietnam Shore Excursions

By Air: flights depart from Tan Son Nhat (Ho Chi Minh City) and Noi Bai (Hanoi) are operated by all the major airlines in Vietnam.

By Bus: buses from all major cities and provinces to Hue are available at local bus stations. Booking in advance can be done online.

* Quick Tip: You should book a sleeper bus for a long journey. Open Bus service is widely available across the country

By Train: From two ends (Hanoi/HCMC), you might have to spend from 12 to 13 hours traveling. Reunification trains stop at all major cities and provinces. Railway station in Hue is located at Le Loi road, south bank of Ben Ngu River.

How to get around Hue?

How to get around Hue - Vietnam Shore Excursions

Taxis are everywhere in Hue, although there are a few that take you on a rather detour if you don’t know the area. To prevent this, look out for the Green Mai Linh or yellow Taxi Vang, which use both meters.

Cyclos and motor taxis are very popular. Drivers will name an amount they think they can get, so you have to come up with a price that you think is reasonable.

Cycling is best suited for those who want to visit the sights themselves in and around the center of Hue. There are numerous hotels with bikes and bicycle shops.

* Tips: choose SE trains since they’re express trains and are newer than TN trains. However, SE trains stop very briefly at along-the-way stops, so make sure to not miss or mistake your stop.

More tips for traveling in Hue

Where to go next?

Hue is located in central Vietnam. When you are traveling south from here you can head to the beaches of Da Nang or the old historical town of Hoi An. Up north you can visit the Phong Nha, with some of the biggest caves in the world or head even further up to Ninh Binh.

Hue with Kids

Hue is a great city to visit with children. It is one of the most peaceful cities in the country. You can cycle together to the temples or take a boat trip on the Perfume River. And if you want to relax for a while you can go to the beach.

How to Dress

Please keep in mind that the ancient tombs and pagodas are sacred and you must dress appropriately to visit them.

Above are all the best things to do in Hue, together with most updated information on Hue attractions, how to get to Hue, Hue food and Hue Day trips. Contact Vietnam Shore Excursions or send your request to email: to get your tailor-made trip to Hue and Vietnam started!

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David Nguyen - Vietnam Travel Expert

Mr. David Nguyen is a travel expert and as a seasoned traveler he has the inside track on the most memorable adventures which will help you to have unforgettable memories and wonderful experiences to better your Vietnam Holiday!

Hotline: +84913138096 (WhatsApp/ Zalo/ Imessage) Email: