Formerly the Imperial capital of Vietnam and currently recognized as the culinary epicentre of the country, Hue is worthy of a stay of a few days or more. Although many of the historic sites were damaged during the Vietnam war, enough has been preserved to validate a couple of days of sightseeing and some leisure time trying the local cuisine and relaxing on or by the banks of the Perfume River. Clearly, food is going to rank high on my list of top things to do in Hue but there are also a number of must-sees to catch (on your way to the next food find, of course).
Things to Do in Hue – Walk Around The Citadel
The wide open spaces of the Citadel and lush gardens make spending a few hours here very pleasant. Surrounding the Forbidden Purple City, formerly residence to the Nguyen emperors, the architecture and grounds are both colourful and very photogenic. I recommend walking to make the most of the scenery but if time is short, there are small buggies that zoom around filled with snap-happy tourists covering the grounds in 30 minutes flat.
Top Attractions in Hue – Admire the Views from Thien Mu Pagoda
With over 300 active Buddhist pagodas in Hue, there is no shortage of culture to observe. If you were to choose just one, however, the Thien Mu Pagoda, standing on a hill overlooking the Perfume River would be a top pick. From here you can also catch a dragon boat and take a leisurely cruise along the Perfume River.
Top Attractions in Hue – Take a Moment to Relax at the Minh Mang Tomb
There are seven royal mausoleums in Hue but if time is of the essence, the Minh Mang Tomb is one of the top picks. Resembling a giant parkland, the grounds feature lakes, gardens and classical Chinese architecture. Construction of the tomb was ordered but the emperor did not live to complete it and he was laid to rest three years after his death in 1843 after his son finished it off. It’s a very peaceful setting and would make a pretty spot for a picnic in fine weather.
Things to Do in Hue – Drink Coffee
Of course, Vietnam is known for its coffee culture and, even if you don’t develop a fondness for the strong traditional brew, it is a must-try at least once. Coffee fans will soon discover that Hue has distinct coffee experiences that encourage café hopping and opportunities to take the perfect Instagram shot in Hue abound.
Our top three cafes to visit in Hue offer diverse character. The first, and most traditional, is Vy Da Xua Coffee. An elegant old building beautifully restored is surrounded by gardens and water features and is the place to hang with the locals, especially later in the evenings. The second café, Hue Café Roastery, offers more of a hipster feel and seems to be the place where the contemporary crowd head to quench their coffee cravings. With views over the river and an extensive drinks menu, it’s a place to feel that you have integrated with the young and hip. Lastly, conveniently located in the tourist strip where many hotels and restaurants are found is Ceci Station. This is the spot to head to when you want the comfort of a western-style latte (or cocktail or three) in a charming setting. Sit on the downstairs patio to street watch or head to the rooftop greenery for a pleasant hang out with friends.
Things to Do in Hue – Feast on Local Food
Hue is recognized not only by locals as the food capital of Vietnam but by the Vietnamese in general. Formerly, the home to the Nguyen emperors, the food heritage is claimed to be both diverse and beautiful due to the demands of the royalty. Hue food is often served as multiple small plates with a focus on variety and attractive presentation. Find some of the must-tries and an itinerary for a half-day food tour in Hue here.
For a fancy meal in Hue, the most recognised establishment is Le Parfum headed by a well-respected chef offering both a fine experience in Hue delicacies but also honouring a French history with some spectacular desserts. More on Le Parfum here. For another good introduction to the local cuisine in a pretty and hygienic setting, try Spice Viet next to the Emm Hotel in the town centre.
Things to do in Hue – Stay In a Colonial Mansion
Built in the 1930s, Azerai La Residence, Hue, was formerly the residence of the French Resident Superieure. Designed with the long streamlined edges, shiny metallics and bold geometrics characteristic of the art deco era, it is the most prestigious hotel in the city and truly makes a memorable stay.
What do you recommend we visit (or eat and drink) in Hue?
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