Want to learn the best things to do in Hue, Vietnam?
Then this is the article for you!
If you’re heading to Vietnam on a short visa like I was, then you may have already cottoned on that 15 days is a really minuscule amount of time to see this huge country!
And that this, unfortunately, means you’re going to have to miss a few good spots off your itinerary *boo hoo*
But, here’s a tip I want to give you… do not miss Hue!
The perfect 1 night stop between the amazing spots of Hoi An and Phong Nha, Hue is a quick win that definitely delivers on the food, history and UNESCO fronts – not to mention the fact that it’s easy to access and is way more chilled than many other Vietnamese cites – something I know can come as a huge relief occasionally!
But if I still haven’t quite convinced you to enjoy some time in Hue as part of your travels in Vietnam, then read on to discover the best 15 things to do in this city… they should do the job!
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#1 Visit the Imperial City
The former capital of Vietnam – yes that’s right, the primary city in the whole freaking country! – the ancient citadel (or Imperial City) of Hue is an ancient walled area that just makes up a fraction of what this city is today.
And visiting here is absolutely one of the best things to do in Hue.
As the primary reason behind this city’s fame, passing through the gates into this magnificently preserved area really is like stepping back in time, and you can easily spend half a day here strolling through what was once one of the most regal parts of this entire kingdom.
Dating back over 200 years, this former city is protected by fortified ramparts and ringed by a moat, within which lies the Purple Forbidden City – where access was restricted to only the very intimate members of the ruling dynasty.
Other key attractions you shouldn’t miss if you visit the Imperial City include the 9 Holy Cannons, the Noon Gate, the Flag Towers, the Tinh Tam Lake and the Antiquities Museum… that should be enough to get you started!
#2 Be Amazed at the Royal Palaces
I’m now going to spilt the Imperial City into 2 parts to make sure you don’t miss any of the highlights of this UNESCO-listed treasure.
First up are the Royal Palaces, which lie within the walled citadel near to the river in central Hue.
Costing 200,000 VND for single entry, or 580,000 VND for a combined entry with all the tombs (more on this later in the article), writing this post really reminded me what a nightmare the Vietnamese currency was for my maths skills!
But I digress!
If you arrive into Hue by the early afternoon, then the good news is you can visit the Royal Places straight away.
In fact, I actually recommend you visit them after 3pm.
You have until 5:30pm to enter the site and, by this point in the late afternoon, it’s not only cooler weather for sightseeing, but there’s also less tourists about and you have better light for your photos too – an all-round win in my opinion!
The most famous palaces to visit here are the Supreme Harmony Palace, the Dien Tho Palace and the Thai Hoa Palace.
So definitely don’t miss any of these, because marvelling at them is certainly one of the top things to do in Hue.
#3 Visit the Tombs
So next we come to the second historic part of Hue – or at least the second part of the major historical element of the city.
And that is the Royal Tombs.
Needless to say these are the resting spots of the top Nguyen rulers in Hue (and across Vietnam) and visiting them is definitely another of the top things to do in Hue.
There are 7 tombs in total, but the 3 most commonly visited (and the best ones in my opinion) are Emperor Minh Mang’s tomb, Emperor Tu Duc’s tomb and Emperor Khai Dịnh’s tomb.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s possible to buy a combined ticket to these tombs, along with your entrance to the Imperial City, which I highly suggest doing if you do plan to visit both.
The cost of this combined entrance is currently 530,000 VND.
As all the tombs I just mentioned are situated a little outside of the centre of Hue, my advice is to visit the Imperial City first, i.e. late in the afternoon on the day of your arrival.
I’d then spend the night in Hue and the next morning, get up early to go and see the 3 top tombs before the crowds and tour buses arrive.
This will then still give you time to head of out Hue in the afternoon if you can only afford 1 night here (yes the clocking is ticking on that 15 day visa folks!)
You could easily spend an hour or 2 at each tomb, admiring the views and architecture as well as the surrounding area, but cut this down to around 45 minutes if you’re on a strict time schedule!
#4 Take a City Tour
So the thing you’ve probably twigged by now is that, unlike the Imperial City (which you’ll probably be able to walk to if you’re staying centrally in Hue), visiting the Royal Tombs will likely involve you either taking a taxi or renting a scooter to get to them.
The other option (and probs the best one in my opinion) is to take a city tour.
A great thing to do in Hue if you really want to dive into the history of this glorious city and former capital, as well as discover the cultural secrets of the ruling dynasty here, a city tour will certainly enhance your travel experience in Hue.
Check out this great city tour option for a good price gauge – it includes a Hue hotel pick up, an Imperial city tour in the morning and then, after lunch, a guided visit to the Royal Tombs in the afternoon.
Couldn’t really ask for more!
#5 River Cruise
And also included in the great day tour suggestion above, is the option to enjoy a lovely river cruise along Hue’s famous Perfume River.
This fabulously named waterway is one of the most significant waterways in Vietnam and at 80km long, it passes directly through the city centre.
And the best way to soak in this river, as well as some Vietnamese culture, is to enjoy a dragon boat on this river.
Taking an hour or 2, this is a great treat to enjoy in the middle of the day, when the heat and humidity in Vietnam will make relaxing on a boat and catching a breeze, the perfect time out from sightseeing, whilst ironically, still sightseeing.
#6 Stroll the Parklands
But if you prefer to stay on dry land, or really soak in as much of the Perfume River as possible, then you’ll be delighted to know that there are also several lovely walkways and parklands that line the banks of the water here in Hue.
A great place to stroll in the evening, perhaps after dinner, I highly recommend you make the best of Hue being a quieter Vietnamese city and aim to get away from the hustle and bustle here by enjoying a walk in this green area.
Also on the banks of the river is the Thien Mu Pagoda, which is free to enter and should not be missed during your time in Hue.
And talking of dinner, there’s no question that, when it comes to ‘what to do in Hue’, eating has to be high on your list!
I think it’s fair to say that travelling in Vietnam generally is one heck of a culinary riot and Hue is no exception, as this city is the perfect spot to sample some of the central region’s cuisine, including the famous Bun Bo Hue – a popular noodle dish – and Banh Bot Loc – shrimp and pork dumplings.
But non-meat and fish eaters, don’t worry!
As a vegetarian, I absolutely loved travelling and eating in Vietnam – the wealth of fresh and healthy flavours really made my travel life a lot easier and Hue is crammed with great spots to do just that.
Lien Hoa, Quan Chay Thanh Lieu and Com Chay Dieu Lac are all vegetarian eateries I loved in this city, in particular the first one, which doubles as a food spot for local monks.
A simple place, it’s great to head to Lien Hoa to soak up a slice of local Buddhist culture at the same time as tucking into some yummy lunch.
You can also ask for cafe / restaurant recommendations in your accommodation if you want to discover the latest Hue hotspots, head to the Dong Ba local market to pick your own food, or check out this street food tour by motorbike in Hue for a guided and super fun culinary experience.
#8 Max Out on Café Time!
And along with eating, the other thing Vietnam does exceptionally well when it comes to flavours, is coffee!
Yes if you weren’t in the know already, coffee is almost a way of life in this country – strong as anything, served with evaporated milk and drunk sat on a stool – joining the locals in getting your caffeine fix, is a key cultural insight here that should not be missed.
As such, maxing out on some great café time is an ideal thing to do in any Vietnamese city and Hue is no exception.
With cafes on just about every corner, stopping to refresh whilst you wander and sightsee is the only way to do things here.
Just don’t overdo it and get the caffeine shakes – I have to say I made this error in Vietnam on more than one occasion!
#9 Walk the Famous Golden Bridge
Well caffeinated and with the best things to do in the centre of Hue now out of the way, it’s time to look at some of the best excursions you can enjoy from this city.
Day trips are a top option if you have more than 1 night to spend in Hue but, if you’re short on time, then you can also consider visiting these attractions on your way to or from Hue depending on where you are heading to next.
And first up on this list is a trip to the amazing Golden Bridge.
A 150m long bridge that can easily be reached on a day trip from Hue, the famous huge hands here give the pretty cool illusion of supporting the structure and have made it a famous Insta spot.
Check out this trip by private car if you don’t have your own set of wheels and want to head to the Golden Bridge on a day tour from Hue.
#10 Hit the Beach at Da’Nang
And often combined with a trip to the Golden Bridge is an afternoon at the beach.
Yes another of the super things about Hue is that it’s not far from the closest coastline, and the most popular spot here by the sea is the lovely city of Da’Nang.
A sandy beach with lots going on, this is a great place to get your seaside fix and is easy to get to on public transport from Hue or Hoi An.
Otherwise, for those with their own transport (have you hired a scooter in Vietnam?), you may want to consider heading to the closer Thuan An Beach for a more lowkey option instead.
#11 Day Trip to Phong Nha
And in the opposite direction – both geographically and in terms of activity levels! – if you’re looking for something a bit more active, then it’s hard to get better in my opinion than an excursion to explore the amazing, UNESCO-listed cave networks of Phong Nha, which sit north of Hue.
Check out this article I wrote all about my time there to understand why this is such a fantastic place to visit and should not be missed!
#12 Go to Hoi An
And another of my favourite places to visit in Vietnam, there’s no question Hoi An has to be on your itinerary.
If you can’t spare a full day to visit this city, then day tripping here from Hue is the perfect option.
Read about how to make the journey between the see 2 cities in this article I wrote, otherwise, check out this list of my fav things to do in Hoi An, which should serve as a good guide for your time in this charming spot.
#13 Marvel at the My Son Ruins
But if you do want a shorthand list of highlights for your day trip to Hoi An from Hue, then visiting the My Son ruins has to be on there!
These were some of the most atmosphere ruins I visited in Vietnam and I was totally charmed by their jungle setting and the glorious gorgeous orange colour of the stone.
Get here by boat along the river from Hoi An and then spend a few hours wandering the ruins and taking some amazing pics, before heading back to Hoi An to explore this cute and charming town in the afternoon – ideal day trip sorted!
#14 Drive the Hai Van Pass
But if you’re already visiting Hoi An on your Vietnamese itinerary and from there heading north to Hue, make sure you don’t miss the amazing drive that is the Hai Van pass.
A key part of the journey between these 2 cities, taking in the scenery from this sweeping stretch of road is absolutely one of the best things to do in Hue and most travellers absolutely love it!
Great on a scooter, an easy rider, or as part of a wild motorbike tour, whatever you do, just don’t miss this one!
#15 Experience the DMZ
And last but not least, when it comes to the top things to do in Hue, this day trip has to be on the list if you’re at all interested in the historical and political story of this fascinating country.
The DMZ (or Demilitarized Zone) was the stretch of land that formed the battleground between the communist north of the country and the south of Vietnam and visiting here is a bit like stepping into a living museum with the Vinh Moc tunnels, the former US combat base and the town of Dong Ha all being important attractions in this historic story.
Check out this day tour if you want to go with a guide from Hue.
Mini Travel Guide to Huw
How to Travel to Hue?
Da’Nang is the closest airport to Hue and has both international and domestic terminals, with flights arriving from across Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
As always, I use Skyscanner to find the best deals.
Otherwise, if you’re already in Vietnam, you can use buses to get to Hue, which run regularly from around the country, although they do take a long time!
When I’m trying to compare and book buses across Southeast Asia, I always use 12Go, who offer secure and easy booking in English, making travel life much more simple!
When to Visit Hue?
As I’ve spoken about in many of my posts about Vietnam, including this one on the 15 things to know before you travel here, this country has a vast range of temperatures and climates due to its long, narrow shape.
The change between the south of the country and the north, in particular, is quite substantial and when it’s the best time to visit one end, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great time to visit the other!
In general, however, the shoulder seasons of Spring and Autumn are the best time to visit Hue and central Vietnam.
These generally include the months of March and April, as well as September and November.
How Long to Spend in Hue?
It might sound strange, but I honestly think 1 day is more than enough to see central Hue.
This isn’t really a city with huge amounts of sights, so the main thing to do here is to really absorb the ambience, wander its streets and take in the sounds, smells and tastes.
After that, I recommend another day or 2 to enjoy some of the great day trips on offer around Hue – see my list above for the top picks!
Where to Stay in Hue?
There’s no question in my mind, that you really should stay in the Old Quarter in Hue.
This is the epicentre of the city and, although it’s where most tourists base themselves, it’s still incredibly genuine and authentic – the best place to get amongst Hue in all her glory.
When it comes to budget travel accommodation, I really recommend Bon Ami Guesthouse, which has a superb location, is lovely, modern and clean and boasts private rooms with some great staff.
If you’re looking for something more upmarket, check out this top-rated apartment in Hue.
Top 4 Packing Items for Vietnam
#1 Walking Shoes – There’s likely to be a lot of walking in Vietnam, especially around those temples and cities. As such, I advise packing a pair of good runners, like these New Balance trainers, which were perfect for my time here.
#2 European & British Power Adapters – Vietnam has a mix of power outlets, but generally opts for a combination of the European and British ones, so make sure you come prepared with a Skross world adapter.
#3 Camera and Lens – I love my Sony A6000 mirrorless camera, which was ideal for capturing the colour, chaos, cuisine and charm of Vietnam.
#4 Travel Scarf – A great multi-purpose travel item that can be used to safely store valuables, as well as cover your shoulders while you explore many of Vietnam’s top sights, a travel scarf is a must for me!
Travel Insurance for Vietnam
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
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So there you have it, my list of the top 15 things to do in Hue, Vietnam.
Have you visited this city before?
What was your favourite thing to do there?
Let me know all in the comments box below…