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Hue, the Forbidden City and the emperor tombs


Hue is home to three major tourist attractions in Vietnam: the Citadel with the Royal Forbidden City, the Royal Tombs and the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). The city has a long history and became capital of the Nguyen Dynasty in Vietnam in between 1802 and 1945.

Hue, the Forbidden City
Inside the Forbidden City

The former royal city is located in central Vietnam, not far from the Gulf of Tonkin. Because of its location it played an important role in the history of Vietnam.

The city has a history of turmoil, especially in the Vietnam war. In the Tet Offensive (Vietnamese New Year) of 1968, during the Battle of Hue, the city suffered considerable damage not only to its physical features, but its reputation as well.

Hue tombs

This was both from American firepower and bombings on the historical buildings as well as the now infamous massacre at Hue committed by the Communist forces. It's a  piece of history many people prefer to forget these days.

Still, despite the war, many monuments survived and gained the city the selection of UNESCO's World Heritage City. Sure, the Forbidden City is mostly destroyed and by far less impressive than its counterpart in Beijing, but it's still interesting enough. And you can still see glimpses of the former glory of the royal court.

River trip on the Perfume River in Hue
River trip on the Perfume River

The Citadel and the Forbidden City were built by Gia Long Emperor in 1804, the first of Nguyen dynasty in Vietnam. Each emperor added some of it's own glory to the city until the last Emperor Bao Dai.

Most of the monuments are build along or near the river. You can visit several tombs of emperors like Minh Mang, Khai Dinh and Tu Duc. The Thien Mu pagoda is not only the largest pagoda in town, but it also symbol of the city. Almost all are build on the west side of the Perfume River which crosses the city center. A good way to enjoy Hue and the former glory of the city is to join a boat trip.

Hue Tombs

Another must visit is the Museum of Royal Fine Arts which has a great art collection but also contains artifacts from the Royal Forbidden City.

Forbidden City Hue
Forbidden City

Accommodation and Hotels

It can be surprisingly cheap to stay in town but it might take a little research to find a good and cheap hotel. you can use one of the below hotel systems to sort out your favorite hotel but out of the high season you can easily go around and get excellent deals.

DMZ, - Demilitarized Zone

The DMZ is worth a visit. Check our DMZ page for details and why you should visit.

Inside the Forbidden City, reminders of the violent past
Inside the Forbidden City, reminders of the violent past

Getting there and away

Many travelers visit annually the royal city. As a UNESCO World Heritage City site, Hue gets the attention it deserves. The railway station is located just south of the city center. The trains to Vinh, Ninh Binh and Hanoi are comfortable enough. For travelers who prefer the bus, they can use the An Cuu bus station on the east bank of the Perfume River.

Cyclist going south, please read my recommendations here. Hue tomb

If you have to save some time somewhere, this is the time. There is little of interest in between Hue and Ninh Binh. But in case you decide to cycle, here are the distances to cover:

I cycled Vinh to the Lao border in 2011, which was a fine road to cycle, admitting that there are better and more exciting places in Vietnam.

Bigger cities in between Hue and Ninh Binh are Quang Tri, Dong Hoi (172km to Hue, 195 to Vinh) Ha Tinh, Vinh, Thanh Hoa. Calculate for this journey about 5-7 days.

Alternative, you can drop your bicycle on the train and skip this area.

There is an airport which connects you daily to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

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Thien Mu pagoda
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