Nestled on the banks of the Perfume River, slightly inland from the coast of Central Vietnam, lies the imperial city of Hue. Famous as the seat of the Nguyen dynasty, which dominated the country from the 1600s right up until 1945, Hue is most often visited for its Imperial Citadel, which remains largely intact despite American artillery bombardment.
The city is one of the main hubs of central Vietnam, around 400 or so miles south of Hanoi, and approximately 700 miles north of Ho Chi Minh City. Many visitors arrive by train, and there are both soft and hard-sleeper carriages running this route. Coming into Hue by train gives you an opportunity to enjoy the scenic views of central Vietnam, on your journey towards the city. Those arriving from Da Nang may choose to take the bus, which takes around three hours. Some travelers arrive by air – either at Hue’s own airport, or at Da Nang, which has a greater choice of international connections. Getting around the city can be done by taxi, motorcycle taxi, bicycle or even on foot.
In case you’ve worked up an appetite and you want to sample some of the local fare before taking in the sights of Hue, you’ll be pleased to know that this city has its own cuisine. Hue food is associated with imperial splendor, and presentation is a key element in its preparation. Perhaps the most liked local dish is Bun Bo Hue – beef noddles with chilli. It is not difficult to find an eatery in the downtown area, or you could head over to Dong Ba market to enjoy an authentic Hue dining experience with the locals.
As mentioned, the main attraction of Hue, for travelers, is usually its Imperial Citadel. At one time, all of Vietnam was governed from this huge complex. Highlights include the courtyard of Ngo Mon and the gardens of the Truong Sanh residence, which can both easily inspire thoughts of a distant time, when the world was not the global village it is today, and the Nguyen dynasty ruled in splendor over this East Asian country. The Imperial Citadel is so large and has many surprising and charming corners, that it is worth taking a full day to try to take it in at your leisure.
The other main attraction for visitors are the Tombs of the Emperors – another large attraction, which warrants at least half a day or more to take in properly. These really are the elaborate tombs of Ngyuen emperors from the 1800s. In many cases, the emperors played a major part in designing their own tomb – aiming to ensure that it was more splendid than the nearest neighboring tomb. The best way to see the tombs is by riverboat, and you’ll find it relatively easy to find someone who will take you there, as well as serve your lunch on the boat itself. If you prefer, you can rent a bicycle to cycle around the area, too – giving you more freedom to stop as and when you want.
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