Situated on the banks of the Perfume River in Central Vietnam, Hue once served as the imperial capital of the Nguyen dynasty, which ruled from 1802 to 1945. Today, the vestiges of this former glorious period are reflected in the city’s architecture, culture and cuisine, making it a popular tourist destination.
Hue is a compact city, making it easy to get around by walking although motorbikes, cyclos and taxis are plentiful. The city’s main attractions are its well-preserved historic monuments that mostly lie along the Perfume River, a scenic river so named from the pleasant aromas of flowering orchards. Of the city’s monuments, the Citadel is the most famous. Once the seat of the Nguyen emperors, the Citadel is a sprawling complex of grand palaces, ornate temples, walls and gates. Prime attractions within the Citadel are the Forbidden Purple City, Thai Hoa Palace, and the Ngo Mon Gate. Another important landmark on the river is the city’s official symbol, the Thien Mu Pagoda.
Just a short bicycle ride or scenic river cruise outside of the city is the must-see Tombs of the Emperors, an elaborate tomb system of which the Tomb of Tu Duc is the finest. While exploring the tombs, tourists may also want to visit the nearby hot springs and spas for a bit of pampering and relaxation.
Hue’s cuisine is another of its attractions, noted for its refined presentations that date back to the imperial period. Popular local dishes are Nem Lui (sweet pork grilled on bamboo sticks) and Banh Khoai (a pancake of shrimp, pork and bean sprouts). Hue offers a good supply of cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs.