If you are keen on historic and culture, then Hue is must-visit in Vietnam. Used to be a old capital of Vietnam and home to Nguyen Dynasty, there are numerous historical sites to explore and learn about Vietnam. Besides,there are also fun interesting things to do in Hue.
#1 – HUE IMPERIAL CITY
This walled fortress and palace were once the home of Vietnam’s emperors. Also called “The Citadel” the palace grounds are surrounded by an impressive moat filled with waterlilies. Much of the structure was damaged in battles, but the restoration is ongoing. Once inside you can see different buildings in their original, restored and damaged stages.
Make sure your taxi driver drops you off at the correct gate! There is only one entrance to the Imperial City but some taxi drivers like to pretend that they don’t know that tourists wish to be dropped off at the main gate.
#2 – KHAI DINH TOMB
The Khai Dinh Tomb is the last of the imperial tombs in Vietnam. The tomb took 11 years to build and was completed in 1931. Despite being quite a recent addition, Khai Dinh Tomb is one of the more popular tombs in the area.
In his lifetime Emperor Khai Dinh spent some time in France. As a result, the tomb is a mixture of both Eastern and Western designs.
A climb up 127 steps up the side of the mountain will bring you to the temple fortified by statue guards. Once inside visitors are in awe of the walls adorned with stunning images made from inlaid glass and porcelain.
#3 – HUE PROVINCIAL MUSEUM
Just a little down the street from the Imperial City is the Hue Provincial Museum. The museum is in bad need of maintenance. The grass hasn’t been cut in ages, and there are holes in the walkways. There is an indoor museum with photos and artifacts but few English explanations. Considering the significance of the battles which took place in Hue the museum doesn’t do the memory justice.
If you are interested in history or wars though the museum is worth a quick visit. It is easy just to pop over if you are already visiting the Imperial City and it costs only about $1. In the front grounds, they have several tanks, planes and a helicopter from the Vietnam War. In both Vietnamese and English, the placards explain where the vehicle was captured and from whom which is quite fascinating. In particular, children from both local and tourist families seemed to be thrilled to be able to check it all out without the crowds.
#4 – THIEN MU PAGODA
Overlooking the Perfume River on Ha Khe Hill, the seven-story Thien Mu Pagoda is the tallest religious building in Vietnam. The temple itself was established at the location in 1601, but the tower was later constructed in 1844.
The temple grounds are not only beautiful, but it is also a site of political significance. During the “Buddhist Crisis” of 1963, the Catholic government cracked down on Buddhism in the country, despite the majority of Vietnamese being Buddhist at the time. When nine unarmed Buddhists were shot in Hue, Thein Mu Pagoda became an organizing point for those involved in the movement. When the government refused appeals for religious equity, Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc drove to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and in protest, sacrificed himself by setting himself on fire.
The event was captured in a world famous photograph by Malcom Browne. In the back of the photo, you can see the car which Thich Quang Duc drove. If you don’t know to look for it, you may even miss it, but tucked to the side in a building behind the main prayer hall of Thien Mu Pagoda the car sits on display commemorating those events.
#5 – THE PERFUME RIVER
Through the center of Hue flows the Perfume River. Many tourists choose to take a boat tour along the river. Passengers can enjoy the river views, have a meal and visit some of the major tourist sites around the area that are accessible by boat.
Another way to take in the river is to stroll along the walkways along the river’s edge. In the morning’s joggers take their morning runs here and in the evening the area becomes transformed. Little shops and restaurants that were closed during the day open at sunset and lanterns are lit.
Families gather to chat and play. Vendors sell snacks, and small toys and some musicians can be heard.
#6- DONG BA MARKET
This may be one of the most relaxing things to do in Hue. If you are keen on discovering Hue city via the traditional products, it is highly recommended to visit Dong Ba (Đông Ba) Market. Considered as the largest market place in the central area of Vietnam, Dong Ba market is a definite place to immerse yourself in the culture of people here. Once visiting here, tourists hardly get out soon as they are strongly absorbed by myriad items as well as local specialties. Tourists could see various features of a traditional Vietnamese market, like the bazaars, the bus station, the sampan landing. A variety of traditional crafts which reflect the ancient cultural features of Hue could be found here like Hien Luong (Hiền Lương) scissors, Phu Cam (Phú Cam) conical hats, Ke Mon (Kế Môn) jewelry, Phuoc Tich (Phước Tích) pottery, Nam Thuan (Nam Thuận) sweets, Tinh Tam (Tịnh Tâm) lotus, and bamboo products. In addition, Dong Ba market is an abundant source of many local daily dishes, for instance, beef noodles, bean puddings, shrimp cakes, pancakes, clam rice, sour shrimps and so on.
Here, you will also see a lot of everyday activities and shop everything from souvenir items to Hue sesame sweetmeat, bronze goods, conical poem hats, etc. If you are really interest in Vietnamese culture and food, you should come here to explore. Despite a few new markets have emerged within Hue City, Dong Ba market still remains its crucial role as the biggest market where various commercial activities happening daily.
#7 – VISIT ELEPHANT SPRINGS
Lying between Hue and Danang (Đà Nẵng), this recreation is still rather genuine and underdeveloped if being seen from the touristic point of view. Located about 17 kilometers north of Hai Van pass, the Elephant Springs makes for a great break in your journey from Danang to Hue or vice versa. Large and small stones look like the elephants which are playing right in the middle of cool streams. Particularly, a big elephant stone locates next to a waterfall with water sprays continuously from its hose, creating an interesting scene. I bet that when standing within that circumstance, you will feel like you are standing right in the middle of the forest with different rare animals. Elephant Springs is approximately 500 meters in length and includes two separate areas. Tourists can soak and swim in the cool water or sit on the flat rocks while breathing the fresh air, or listening the sound of the pouring water, birds singing, wind flowing, et. Another idea, visitors could also hang on the roots of trees and swing themselves on it in order to find the thrills.
Normally, if you want to enjoy yourself the whole place of Elephant Springs, it is recommended to visit this spot on weekdays. Weekends as well as holidays are highly jam-packed with local people and domestic tourists. The springs could be reached from a parking place after walking 5 minutes via the jungle. The area contains a number of great natural pools with cool and clear water, scattered by the huge boulders. Climbing on those boulders and swimming within the springs or simply relaxing on sitting mats, offered by local people will give you chances to visit such a still-undiscovered, lovely area. There are a lot of open-air, bamboo-floored restaurants lining the springs catering to you.
#8 – JUNGLE AT BACH MA NATIONAL PARK
This national park reaches the peak of about 1,450 meters at Bach Ma (Bạch Mã) Mountain. The French built more than a hundred villas here due to the cool climate. In 2008, the national park was extended, from the coast to the Annamite mountain range near the borderline with Laos. Having a wide array of habitats, this park is famous for its biodiversity. Even some people consider Bach Ma National Park as the centre of flora diversity of Vietnam. With over 1400 species of plants, including orchids and ferns discovered in Bach Ma, this national park proudly represents a fifth of the flora of Vietnam.
Bach Ma summit provides a range of unique trails for people interested in the wildlife and history for people who wish to enjoy the wildish natural beauty of the park. Normally, each trail could be walked in less than one day and do not require special hiking equipments.
This park houses two kinds of forest: tropical evergreen monsoon forest about below 900 meters and sub-tropical evergreen monsoon forest about above 900 meters. Featuring with beautiful waterfalls, decaying French villas spotting the whole landscape and hiking trails, the park itself attracts a large number of tourists annually to visit.
When it comes to activities, Bach Ma will not let you bored. You can camp, rappel, trek, or wander through that jungle in order to explore the beauty of flora and fauna of Bach Ma. If you are a natural lover, you will find Bach Ma National Park is a real heaven on the ground. With approximately 358 species of birds, counting for over 1/3 of the bird species of Vietnam, Bach Ma will be worth adding to the bird-watching collection of tourists. It is recommended to visit this park on February as that is the time the famous Rhododendron simsii blossom along the small streams and also at the bottom of Rhododendron waterfall. The weather is also dry with comfortable temperature. Besides, if you want to escape from the heat of summer, you can visit Bach Ma National Park during June to August.
Generally, this park is really a welcome and different break from the touristy Hue or Hoi An (Hội An) that tourists will most likely kick themselves for now letting more time here. Some tourists said that they ended up with spending two additional unplanned nights, and despite that may be too long for some people, they still loved every second of it and could not wait go to back.
#9 – Boost some adrenaline with Zipline and Highwire
Having a dream of flying like a bird, free hanging Highwire is absolutely for you. You’ ll be sliding down from the height of 45,5 m on Ma Yen hill to the ground. With the total length of 560m, this Zipline broke the Vietnam Record for the longest free hanging uninterrupted Zipline all over the country.
Zipline at Hue is allegedly the longest cable in Asia (560 meters) and at the altitude of 45.5 meters. Positioned inside the hot spring area of Alba Thanh Tan Resort, the cable is from Ma Yen Mountain (Phong Son Commune) to a poetic lake. This experience of sliding by an inclined rope will be great enough to help you overcome your own fear of heights whereby you can peer down at splendid scenic paintings which are never found by walking on the ground.
#10 – Enjoy Hue Cuisine
Wondering what to eat in Hue? Tasting food is among worth-trying things to do in Hue you should not skip. The cuisine in Hue is elegant, noble, light and rather different from other provinces in Vietnam. Spices, particularly lemongrass and chili, are the must-used ingredients. Just in Hue, local people and tourists can have a chance to experience dishes which used to be served to the Vietnamese emperors. Due to the noble heritage of the city, dishes are very diverse and famous for their distinctive flavors. The taste and the decoration of Hue food are very important factors in Hue food culture. Each dish has its own particular colors and shapes as well. There are some must-try cuisines when traveling in Hue:
- Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup (Bún Bò Huế)
You can easily find Bun Bo Hue in different restaurants here. This is a famous dish coming from Hue. It is said that if one has not tasted Bun Bo Hue when visiting this ancient city, they are considered as not visiting Hue. Indeed, it is hard to deny the great taste of Bun Bo Hue if having a chance to try. This noodle soup is made from pork bones boiling slowly, noodle, along with a good combination of lemongrass, red annatto-see-colored oil, shrimp paste, chili and different spices. The bowl is a medley of pork knuckle, soft white noodles, beef slices, a vibrant spicy broth, veggies, and the texture of the blood of ducks.
- Rice with clams (Cơm Hến)
This is another famous dish you must try in Hue. This intricate but simple dish combines a lot of flavors from fried pork fat, onion, clams, cabbage, roasted peanuts, crunchy rice cracker, banana flower, chili pepper, start fruit, Vietnamese coriander (a.k.a rau ram), mint, rice and taro stems. These ingredients are perfectly combined together and served cold in a bowl, followed by the hot ginger clam broth with fermented shrimp paste. The final result is the balance of saltiness, sweetness, sourness and spiciness. A true traditional Com Hen has to be severed spicy. However, the fermented shrimp paste, one of the favorite dishes of Vietnamese people, has a strong smell so it takes time to get used to.
- Banh Hue (Bánh Huế)
This is a bite-sized dish presented in a range of different types, but all originate from the same basic daily ingredients: shrimp / or pork, cassava flour, glutinous rice flour. The trick is lying in the method to arrange and cook them together. Though there are different variations, the followings are the most common:
- Banh Beo (Bánh Bèo): it is a small sauce dish consisting of steamed rice flour which is topped with mung bean powder, ground shrimp, green onions, and a small piece of crispy pork fat.
- Banh loc (Bánh Lọc): it is a translucent rice flour patty including either green bean paste or a whole shrimp (containing shell, head, and tail) and presented in the figure of a mandarin segment.
- Banh Nam (Bánh Nậm): a rectangular, flat steamed rice flour bite which is wrapped within the banana leaf and then topped with grouped pork and shrimp.
- Banh Ram It (Bánh Ram Ít): This dish is made from sticky rice flour balls which are filled with shrimp and cubed or ground pork decorated with fried shallots and displayed on a base of the crunchy pork fat.
The great thing about these dishes is their sauce. Each dish has its own sauce. Nuoc mam (nước mắm), the unique Vietnamese fish sauce might be hard to smell for those international tourists, yet it is a basic ingredient in most dishes in Vietnam and just by proper additions could give the desired results. Banh Nam and Banh Loc often go with fish sauce that contains just a few slices of red chilies and green. Banh Ram It (Bánh ram Ít) and Banh Beo (Bánh Bèo) are perfectly served with fish sauce that contains sugar, lemon juice, sugar, and shrimp paste – another awkward, distinctive smelling accompaniment which is an acquired taste.
- Banh Xeo (Bánh Xèo) and Banh Khoai (Bánh Khoai)
Tasting these Hue-style pancakes is another interesting suggestion in regard to things to do in Hue. They are both made from water / coconut milk, rice flour and turmeric powder filled with a few slices of the fatty pork plus with a de-shelled or whole shrimp along with bean sprouts before being pan-fried till getting crispy.
You can see local people sometimes wrapping these pancakes in lettuce / mustard leaves and adding basil leaves or mint leaves for additional flavor.
Banh Khoai is often served open-faced whilst Banh Xeo is beautifully folded into shape of half-moon like a taco or an omelette. They are accompanied by fermented soybean sauce. Because of the spicy sauce taste and its greasiness, these are reckoned as winter dishes.
- Banh Uot Thit Nuong (Bánh Ướt Thịt Nướng)
Known in English as “wet cakes grilled meat”, Banh Uot Thit Nuong is a great specialty of Hue. The wet rice paper is carefully wrapped in the roll, filled with grilled beef or pork and fresh herbs. The most important ingredient of this dish, again, is its sauce – a combination of Vietnamese fish sauce, freshly sliced chilies, lime juice and garlic.
- Che Hue (Chè Huế)
Being a sweet desert soup, Che Hue refers to the traditional beverage of Vietnam which tastes sweet. The dessert soup is made from different mung beans (green or yellow), black eyed peas, tapioca, red kidney beans, lotus seeds, aloe vera, sesame seeds, jelly, taro, fruits like longan, jackfruit, mango durian, and lychee. Though there are various versions of Che, each has the prefix of the word “Chè” and followed by a term or phrase describing the special ingredient of the dish. There are four noticeable types of Che that Hue locals are most proud of, which are Che with lotus seed tastefully wrapped within longan (Chè long nhãn bọc hạt sen), Chè with purple sweet patotoes (Chè khoai tía), Chè with floating sticky rice cakes plus with shrimp (Chè trôi nước nhân tôm thịt), and Chè with rice pastry and bean (Chè đậu ván bột lọc).