Hue is located in Central Vietnam and is known as the Imperial City- it was the nation’s capitol for 143 years back in the day (1802-1945). Hue (pronounced hway) is characterized by its ancient tombs and pagodas, and has the picturesque Perfume River flowing through the city. I recommend spending more than one day in Hue, however if you don’t have the time- here’s the top things to do in Hue in one day!
Best Things to Do in Hue:
One of the best things to do in Hue is to eat their local cuisine! Check out the Dong Ba Market and make your way through the maze of hundreds of colorful stalls filled with textiles and souvenirs until you reach the food section of the market in the back-left. There are several small food stalls- your best bet is to choose one that has locals sitting there eating. Make sure to try some of Hue’s specialties- Bun Bo Hue (spicy beef noodle soup) Banh Xeo (crispy crepe normally stuffed with shrimp and herbs) and Banh Beo (tiny rice flour discs topped with shrimp and pork skin).
Also… in your one day in Hue you HAVE to try the Banh Trang Trung. This was one of my favorite things I ate during my whole two weeks in Vietnam! It’s essentially Vietnamese pizza- the crust is made of crispy rice paper, and the toppings can include egg, pork, chives, sweet chili sauce, dried onions, and mayo. It’s delicious! You cut it with scissors into slices. It actually took us awhile to find this Vietnamese delicacy- I ended up asking my motorbike taxi driver where to find it, and he took me to this super local spot on the outskirts of town. I wish I had written down the name of to share with you guys! But if you don’t stumble upon it, you can always ask a local to point you in the right direction.
Lastly- if you’re craving Western food, definitely check out Nook. This restaurant is super chill with cute decor and an upstairs patio, and has amazing cheeseburgers and smoothies!
2. Thien Mu Pagoda
One of the most popular things to do in Hue is to see the Thien Mu Pagoda. This iconic, seven-story pagoda is situated on a hill overlooking the perfume river. It’s definitely worth a visit! About 4 miles from the city center, it’s not really walk-able, but you can take a quick motorbike taxi there.
3. The Citadel (Imperial City)
The Imperial City (also called the Citadel) is a walled palace in the middle of Hue that was the capital of Vietnam during the reign of the Nguyen dynasty. The Imperial City was where all the royal family lived, protected by the thick walls of the Citadel and the moat surrounding it, fed by the Perfume River. It’s definitely a must-see if you are interested in Hue’s history, and it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It costs about $2 USD to enter. The destruction from the American War is extremely evident, but they are slowly restoring it, and there’s also videos inside that show how the area looked back in the day for comparison.
4. Get a Foot Massage
After all the walking, you’ll definitely want to add “getting a foot massage” to your list of things to do in Hue! You’ll see lot’s of places offering foot massages, especially on the main road near the bars and restaurants (Pham Ngu Lau). We went to a place called Paloma (right across from DMZ Hostel) and it was only about $4 USD for 30 minutes! So worth it.
5. Check out the bars in town
There’s a really great nightlife scene on the main road in town with a wide variety of bar options- from hostel bars, to beer gardens to rooftop bars!
6. Book a Motorbike Tour from Hue to Hoi An
Assuming Hoi An is your next stop, I highly recommend booking a motorbike tour of the Hai Van Pass through Le Family Riders to get there. This is one of the most scenic roads in Vietnam, with gorgeous mountain and coastal views! We were actually planning on renting a motorbike and driving there ourselves, until we met Uy- the owner of Le Family Riders- on the streets of Hue while trying to get a motorbike taxi ride. We are so glad we happened to run into him and book this tour! You can read more about it in my blog post “Hai Van Pass: Vietnam’s Epic Motorbike Day Trip”
If you have more time, some additional things to do in Hue are:
Tomb of Khai DinhTomb of Tu DucPerfume River Boat Cruise
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Where to next? Check out my full 2-week Vietnam itinerary here.