Hue is one of those towns where you don’t have to spend ages wondering what sights to see and in what order, since the main attraction is undoubtedly the Imperial City located within the Citadel. The Royal Mausoleums, located in the hills south of town, run a close second, but even then there’s quite a lot to see in the new part of town south of the Perfume River, and the delightful garden houses along the north bank of river to the west of the town centre.
Imperial City of Hue
Though much of the land within the Citadel these days is wasteland, first impressions for visitors don’t disappoint, as the first sight approaching the Noon Gate (Ngo Mon Gate) is of massive walls, seven metres high and 20 metres thick, protecting the enclave.
The walls run almost 10kms and are surrounded by a moat and canal, offering extra protection to what appears an impenetrable defence. Just near this gate is the city’s Flag Tower, a 37-metre high flag pole set on three squat terraces, and the square here is surrounded by nine sacred cannons.
All visitors need to enter by this gate in the southwest corner of the Imperial City, which is open from 07:00-17:30 daily and incurs a charge of 55,000D per person. To get the most out of your visit, it’s wise to rent the services of a guide who can describe what once stood here.
Work to reconstruct the Imperial City is ongoing, but buildings that have been reconstructed and are open to the public include the Thai Hoa Palace, the Mieu Complex and the Thai Binh Reading Room. The Thai Hoa Palace is where emperors would have received visiting guests, and the original throne still stands here.
Another sight that intrigues most visitors lies in the southwest corner of the enclosure – the Nine Dynastic Urns, each weighing around 2,000kgs and dedicated to one of the Nguyen lords who ruled the city. Made of bronze, they are adorned with animals and plants and are considered to be supreme examples of Hue craftsmanship.
Imperial Mausoleums of Hue
There are seven of these mausoleums scattered around the hills near Hue, but each one is so vast that it makes sense to select just a couple to visit rather than try to see them all. Though all follow the same basic principle, containing a tomb and a temple surrounded by landscaped gardens, the style of each emperor is quite different and reflects their character. Two of the most-visited are Tu Duc and Minh Mang, for which an entrance fee of 55,000D each is charged, but are well worth it for their intricate decorations and inspired landscaping.
Other Tourist Sights in Hue
South of the river, you can visit the Ho Chi Minh City Museum, which can be interesting if you haven’t already visited half a dozen others around the country.
The school almost opposite, Quoc Hoc High School, is the one which Ho attended for about a year before being expelled for participating in anti-government demonstrations. If you’d like to see more royal residences, head west of Hue to Kim Long village, where you’ll find seven well-preserved noblemen’s garden houses that are open to the public.