Hue attractions and experiences not to miss
Most visitors are totally clueless when it comes to Hue attractions. This guide will prepare you for one of the most culturally diverse cities in my entire 2 month Vietnam travel itinerary.
I didn’t plan on staying in Hue long. However an unplanned visa extension meant I’d be stuck in the home of the Imperial City for a whole week.
So set out with a mission to find the best things to do in Hue.
Continue reading to discover hidden Hue attractions like Bunker Hill, or end up sipping on rice wine with Vietnamese farmers like this.
Hue Imperial City (The Citadel)
The most obvious of the Hue attractions to visit for a passing tourist is the Hue Imperial City. This massive attraction which measures 2 km wide by 2 km across was built back in 1802 and has since survived the times of war that have crushed the country.
Impressively the Imperial City still houses a thriving local community which provides a genuine sense of Vietnamese culture as opposed to many other attractions across Asia which have been theme park-ified. Walking around the still active town you can stop by at local shops for lunch of the classic Vietnamese Pho Soup or a cool cup of freshly crush sugar cane juice.
Further within the walls of the Hue Imperial City lies the Purple Forbidden City. It is here that the family of the Emperor Gia Long lived back during his reign of the Vietnamese Dynasty. The attractions within the Imperial City are quite well maintained for viewing.
Entry to the Hue Imperial City costs 150,000 VND per person. More expensive than other Hue attractions but still well worth the money.
Thien Mu Pagoda on the Perfume River
Located three kilometers to the west of the city center, the Thien Mu Pagoda is another popular Hue attraction to visit. Standing at 7 levels tall, the pagoda is the tallest of its type in the whole of Vietnam.
The Thien Mu Pagoda is commonly known as being the former home of the monk Thich Quang Duc. Thich Quang Duc is famously known for being the monk who doused himself in petrol and burned himself to death in the busy Ho Chi Minh City streets in protest of the American War.
The Thien Mu Pagoda is still home to the car of Thich Quang Duc, the vehicle that was driven in Ho Chi Minh City to his place of death.
Get Out of the City for More Hue Attractions
What most people don’t know is that the majority of things to do in Hue are actually located further outside of the city center. Having a motorcycle on hand makes these lesser seen attractions very accessible. If you are considering to buy and haven’t yet done so then read my guide on How to Buy a Motorbike in Vietnam.
If you are not so confident in riding the challenging roads of Vietnam alone then I suggest that you check out the official Easy Riders Tours. The Easy Riders Tours are quite popular across Vietnam and offer full day tours for exploring the outer reaches of Hue.
Bunker Hill – Hidden American War Bunkers
One of the least known Hue attractions is the fort at Bunker Hill.
Out in the forest there are a series of bunkers perched up on the hill overlooking the perfume river. They were built during the Vietnam War as a gun fort for the Americans as a vantage point over the Perfume River.
Bunker Hill is located about 10km outside of Hue. Finding directions to Bunker Hill online is difficult, however click here to download my set of location pins attractions in Hue and you’ll be on your way on your way.
As you head up to Bunker Hill you will pass small roadside stores where the local women make incense sticks. They split the wood by hand into thin sticks then rub into a mixture of spices. These are later burned at a temple.
Khai Dinh Tomb
The Khai Dinh Tomb is located about 11 kilometers south of Hue in the village of Chau Chu. The construction of this intricate tomb for the penultimate Emperor of Vietnam Khai Dinh (1916-1925) took a full 11 years to complete. The Khai Dinh tomb is an impressively large and well preserved attraction.
Walk through the courtyard at the lower level of the tomb surrounded by large concrete characters in an almost chess like layout. Continue up the stones stairs to reveal the inner sections of the tomb and a decent view over the whole area.
Gia Long Tomb
The farthest away of the Hue attractions described here is the Gia Long Tomb. Located about 20 kilometers from the city this Hue attraction can be a bit tough to get to on your own without the proper directions. Make sure you have downloaded my set of location pins to ensure you get there and don’t get lost.
The tomb was originally built in 1814 for the wife of the Emperor Gia Long but in later years become the burial site for the Emperor Gia Long himself.
The Gia Long Tomb is set out between a mixture jungle and farmland overlooking a picturesque small lake filled with Lotus flowers. From the location of the tomb you can have great views of the mountain ranges and forests surrounding the province of Hue.
Meet Up with a Local Farmer
One of the most genuine experiences I had in Hue was meeting a local famer along the banks of the Perfume River some 20 kilometers outside of the city. Intrigued by the local farming community I began to ask a few questions in broken Vietnamese to which came a response in perfect English Where do you come from? Before I knew it we were in deep conversation talking about the local way of life and the long history of Vietnam.
Being invited back to the family house of a local farmer is something I’ll never forget. Sitting back in comfortable armchairs in the backyard, eating a huge freshly caught catfish and knocking back a couple of shots of rice wine infused with snake and raven.
The farmer took us around the outskirts of hue as a local guide, riding our motorbikes along the winding dirt roads. We explored the way through rice paddies and past local temples, meeting other farming villages and crossing the river by a makeshift floating bridge.
Meeting a local farmer is not something that a guide book will tell you to do. However it is a truly rewarding experience that I highly recommend trying to peruse.
For More Local Experiences Read: Riding the Ban Gioc Waterfall Motorbike Loop
There really are plenty of Hue attractions available, more than seems apparent at first glance. Whether it be the Imperial City, exploring tombs from the Dynasty times or getting to grips with the devastation of the American-Vietnam War. It is well worth giving Hue a few full days to properly explore.
What were your favorite Hue attractions and why? Or have I missed anything that you’d recommend? Drop your comment in the box below!