Hi travelers! Welcome to our guide on the best things to do in Hue. We are Valeria & Bernardo, a couple from two small villages near Lisbon (Portugal). Both of us worked in the retail sector for the last few years and met when we were working at the same retail store. One of our biggest passions in life is to take short trips in Europe, and discover different cities and cultures.
Since we left our villages to work in the capital, going out for a while was never a problem for us. Bernardo is very analytical, so he loves to create routes and financial options for our journeys. Valeria, on the other hand, just loves to travel abroad as she always feels safe doing so with Bernardo. It’s the perfect match. About a year ago we decided to get married, quit our jobs and leave our rental house to start a long honeymoon this October.
We got married in September and then began this big adventure together in October in Hanoi. We planned the first six months for a trip in Southeast Asia and the rest of our time we haven’t decided yet, it’s an open book. This part of the world appealed to us as we wanted to counteract the financial crisis. Here, we have more financial power. We don’t feel the effects of inflation. It’s also a region with great cultures, beaches and attractions.
Five Wonderful Days Spent in Hue
Hue was a must-visit due to its history. It belonged to the Communist side during the Vietnam War and it used to be one of the capitals of Vietnam. Another interesting aspect was the Perfume River. We spent five days in Hue before going to Da Nang. If we could travel back in time we definitely would have spent more time here. The city has an incredible energy, and is full of services and restaurants, like Cozy Restaurant and Nook Eatery.
Best Things To Do in Hue, Vietnam
1. Explore the Imperial City of Hue
The top highlight for us in Hue was the Imperial City. It’s bursting with history, and we learnt what happened during the US bombings and what the people of Hue felt during this difficult period. There are also some beautiful pagodas to check out, all with historical value. Our day there was amazing. We want to come back to Hue to visit the Imperial City again.
2. Spend the Day at Thuan An Beach
Thuan An Beach is located just 15 kilometers from Hue and it makes for the perfect little day trip to escape the city. The sands of Thuan An Beach are soft and white, and are lovely to walk on. Travelers can spend the day at the beach relaxing in the sun, watching the local fishermen go about their daily lives, grab a seafood lunch at a nearby restaurant and watch the sunset.
3. Visit the Thien Mu Pagoda
Perched on a small hill overlooking the Perfume River is the enchanting Thien Mu Pagoda. The pagoda is seven storeys high and acts as one of the main symbols of Hue. Each of its storeys pays tribute to a Buddha figure that apparently appeared in human form. You should set aside a good couple of hours to tour the site, take photos and learn about its history.
4. Take Photos of the Minh Mang Mausoleum
The Minh Mang Mausoleum is nestled on the west bank of the Perfume River, in a tranquil forest setting, just 12 kilometers outside of Hue. The impressive royal tomb was built for the Emperor Minh Mang after his reign between 1820-1840. Bring your camera along for this visit because you will be taking plenty of photos of its unique architecture which includes a courtyard, pavilion, staircases, gates, terraces, temples, bridges and more.
5. Go on a Dragon Boat Trip on the Perfume River
Taking a dragon boat trip on the Perfume River is a fun way to experience the water’s beauty and see ancient relics along the way. Many companies offer dragon boat excursions in Hue – and they normally include things like stops at riverside villages, traditional cuisine and folk songs. Sit back and relax as you breathe in the fresh air and soak up the nature all around you.
6. Order a Few Bowls of Bun Bo Hue
Bun Bo Hue is a central Vietnamese noodle soup that is cooked with beef, cha lua (sausage) and sometimes pork knuckles. It’s topped with fresh herbs and has a mixture of flavors – spicy, salty and umami. Depending on your spice tolerance, you can request it to be mild or burning hot. Medium is usually enough spice for tourists but some might want to try it hot.
7. Try the Traditional Hue Dish of Nem Lui
Nem Lui is another typical dish from Hue – ground pork grilled on lemongrass skewers, accompanied with a tangy and earthy pork-peanut sauce. The meat is always tender on these skewers and the sauce is packed with flavor. This locally loved dish can be eaten as a main course, an entree or just as a snack at the many street food stalls dotted around the city.
Where Travelers Should Stay in Hue
During our time at the former imperial capital, we stayed at Hue Ecolodge. If you like to be surrounded by Mother Nature, please book your bungalow here. It’s situated four kilometers from the center. This lodge sits right by the river, so as you can imagine the presence of nature and culture abounds. We also recommend Hue Lovely Homestay where travelers can base themselves in the city center in a cozy and relaxing atmosphere.
Distinct Cuisine of Central Vietnam
Vietnam has three types of cuisine: northern, central and southern. All of them are unique in their own way. Hanoi in the north boasts neutrally flavored foods. In Hue, Da Nang and Nha Trang (the center) the dishes tend to be full of flavor and spicier. While in the south, in Ho Chi Minh City for example, the food is sweeter. If you plan on traveling to Vietnam for the food, you should visit the entire country to taste all the differences.
An Important Tip for Visiting Hue
Our main tip for Hue is to watch out for the weather forecast, in particular hurricanes. Central Vietnam gets some strong hurricanes passing through during the monsoon season. We were hit by a hurricane on our first three days when we were next to the river at Hue Ecolodge (four kilometers from the city). It started raining and didn’t stop for the following 30 hours or so.
The city was flooded and the Perfume River came up to us. Our bungalows got flooded and it was a difficult situation. We had to evacuate to the lobby and leave by boat. Hue, Da Nang and all the nearby cities got flooded on those two days. We will never forget the fear but we will remember more the kindness of the Vietnamese people who helped us. The people here are different – they have everything to give and don’t ask for anything in return.