Hue is situated on the country’s central coast, midway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, just a few hours north of Danang. As the former capital of the emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty, Hue has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site, and a trip to Hue is not complete without a visit to the ancient citadel and imperial palace.
Most of Hue’s imperial architecture was destroyed during the 1968 Tet Offensive, when the North Vietnamese launched an attack on the south, yet despite a tumultuous history it retains much of its cultural identity and is currently undergoing restoration efforts.
The Huong Giang (Perfume) River runs between the city and the remains of the Citadel, and boat trips, as well as dinner cruises on the river, are an enchanting way to see the city. Also, not to be missed is trying many of the local specialties, with Hue famous throughout Vietnam for its royal emperor Hue-style food.
Hue is also an important centre for Buddhism with hundreds of temples and pagodas around the city, such as the Thien Mu Pagoda, 4 km from Hue, which is one of the most famous structures in the country.
What to Do ?
The highlights of a visit to Hue are the ancient citadel and the imperial palace, as well as the nearby royal tombs of the Nguyen emperors and the Thien Mu Pagoda, most of which can be seen in one or two days in Hue.
Hue is also the starting point for day tours to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a historical area spanning both sides of the former border between North and South Vietnam, and includes the Vinh Moc underground tunnels.
Also nearby is the Bach Ma National Park, a nearby former French hill station with wildlife, trekking and stunning views, 45 km from Hue.
When to Go ?
The best time to visit Hue is during the dry season from March to August, particularly in March and April while the temperatures are cooler, although light rain is still likely. Rain and fog is quite common in Hue, even when the weather across the Hai Van Pass in nearby Danang is sunny. During the rainy season, from September to January, rain is more frequent and can be heavy.
Hue also has several festivals worth noting in planning your trip. Each year, during the seventh month of the lunar year, Hue celebrates the Duong No ceremony, Vietnamese all souls’ days, and Hon Chen Temple Festival. In addition, every two years, there is a special Hue Festival which lasts for two weeks in June (next one in 2008).
How To Get There ?
Flights: Hue's Phu Bai airport is just 13 km from town, with daily short flights to Hanoi and HCMC.
Train: Hue is also reached easily by train, with the train station in Hue just outside the center of town. The Reunification Express train, which runs from Hanoi to HCMC, makes stops in Hue.
Bus or Car: Hue can also be reached by public and open tour bus from destinations in the North or from nearby Danang or Hoi An to the South. It is also possible to arrange a private car for the popular trip from Hue to Danang (1-2 hours) or Hoi An (2-3 hours).
Most of the sites in Hue, beside the ancient citadel and palace, are not within walking distance from the city center, so it is recommended to arrange a tour either by boat, private car, or by motorbike. Bicycling is another option.
For the DMZ tour, with the exception of the Vinh Moc tunnels, there are few remnants of the war and not much left remaining to see. If you are interested in war history, bring along a good tour guide who can color in the sites with stories.
Bring an umbrella.