You can hug the corners of the Hai Van Pass from Hoi An to Hue and see the landscape of Hue, and floating down the picturesque Perfume river (or Huong River), Hue – the former capital of Vietnam – is a must-visit destination on your plan

A city that is bound up in the country’s heritage, Hue is undergoing a revival as casual tourists and history buffs alike make the journey from Hoi An to Hue, to explore the royal tombs, palaces, and monuments built during the Nguyen’s dynasty. 

So, what are the not-to-be-missed places in this captivating city, and why should you tag on a tomb-hopping trip to Hue? Read on for our guide to the best historical sites of Hue. 

  1. Go Royal tombs around the city

    Surprisingly the best way to start your tour of Hue is to take in the beautifully constructed tombs dotted around the town’s outskirts.

    The tombs were built for the emperors of the Nguyen dynasty, a powerful line of Vietnamese emperors that led Vietnam from 1802 until 1945. Since Vietnam was technically under French rule for much of this time, Nguyen’s emperors found themselves with little to do and so spent their days building epic monuments to themselves; the royal tombs of Hue.

    There are 7 royal tombs, but most tourists will only visit three: the tombs of Minh Mang, Khai Dinh and Tu Duc since the others are a little off the beaten track, and it is the same construct.

    Travel tip: You can buy a combo ticket for the three key tombs (Khai Dinh, Minh Mang, Tu Duc) as well as the Citadel for about 350, 000 VND (15 USD / 11.50 GBP) at any of the locations, which is far cheaper than giving individual entry fees.

  2. Tomb of Khai Dinh

    If you don’t have more time in Hue and have to choose only one tomb to visit, make it Khai Dinh. Not only are you greeted by an absolutely enormous stair and imposing life-sized statues, but Khai Dinh tomb boasts spectacular sweeping views of the village below.

    Google Map Khai Dinh tomb:
    Opening hours: 8:00 am to 4:45 pm daily

    Tomb of Tu Duc

    Tu Duc tomb is the best preserved of all the tombs, Tu Duc’s tomb is set on a gigantic property and can take 2 hours if you want to see it all. This one has a bit of a backstory too – Tu Duc was an infertile ruler (he suffered a bad bout of smallpox) and became a recluse during his reign, meaning he almost barricaded himself inside this mausoleum until his death in 1883.

    Lê Ngô Cát, Thủy Xuân, Thành phố Huế, Thừa Thiên Huế, Vietnam
    Opening hours: 7.00 am to 4:45 pm daily

  3. Tomb of Minh Mang 

    This mausoleum combines the best of both, Minh Mang tomb is an epic ode to the 2nd emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty, set in a more classical Vietnamese style. If you enjoy this type of architecture, this tomb is a definite must.
    QL49, Hương Thọ, Hương Trà, Thừa Thiên Huế, Vietnam
    Opening hours: 7.00 am to 4:45 pm daily

  4. Visiting Thien Mu pagoda

    While it might not seem as impressive as the royal tomb architect or even the Imperial City, the Thien Mu Pagoda serves as an “unofficial symbol” of Hue city.
    Loosely translated as ‘temple of Lady from Heaven’, this pagoda got its name from a folk story where a beautiful lady in red-green appeared there each evening, foretelling that the site was due to be of great man come here in the future – that is Nguyen Hoang lord – the founder of Hue dynasty
    when you visit here, as you’ll likely find yourself surrounded by the haunting chants of the resident monks.

    Hương Hòa, Thành phố Huế
    Opening hours: Daily from 8.00 am to 4:45 pm

  5. Walk the forbidden grounds of the Citadel 

    Once you’ve completed your round of the Royal tombs and pagoda, the other large sight to explore in Hue is the Imperial Citadel. You really can’t miss this attraction – at over 5,2 km2 in size, it’s a behemoth of a structure with so much to see.

    Hue Imperial citadel was once an epicenter for all the executive functions you would need in a nation’s capital, with palaces, temples, buildings, and administrative offices sprinkled. You could spend up to five hours walking this maze of magical monuments and structures, and 1,5 hours for Forbidden Purple.
    What is the key attractions? Probably the forbidding entrance of the Ngo Mon Gate, Purple Forbidden City where all the important ceremonies would take place, and the To Mieu Temple, which boasts a gallery homage to all Nguyen’s emperors.
    The Forbidden Purple where the emperor and his wife, advisors lived and worked.

    Thành phố Huế, Thua Thien Hue
    Opening hours: Daily from 8.00 am to 4:45 pm

  6. Claw your way to the Tiger Fighting Arena

    This massive arena where snarling tigers used to fight to the death to train the elephant of Nguyen’s army. To experience that, you can visit Hue’s Ho Quyen Tiger Fighting Arena. You won’t find tiger or elephant face-offs there any longer, but you imaging what occurred here in the past
    373 Bùi Thị Xuân, Thủy Biều, Thành phố Huế, Thừa Thiên Huế, Vietnam
    Opening hours: 8.00 am to 5.00 pm

  7. Indulge in imperial cuisine

    If you’ve gotten your fill of history in the city, it might be worth filling your stomach instead. Since Hue is not only famous for its history, but also for its royal food, known as ‘imperial cuisine.’

    The city has over 1,000 specialty dishes, which are still prepared according to Hue’s traditions. Highlights include Banh Beo, delicate rice flour patties stuffed with delicious minced shrimp, Banh Cuon Thit Nuong, which includes delicious grilled pork in rice paper, or Pancake

    You can try many of these by choosing the tasting menu at a local restaurant (Tai Phu, Hanh, Thuy…) where you’ll be able to indulge in seven different courses at surprisingly affordable prices.

You can see our suggestion for local food and the restaurant here: Hue Cuisine

 You can’t have a guide about historical sights without delving a little deeper into just that, the history of the town. And Hue has quite the illustrious past… You can book a tour/ private car services with Hura Car here: Hue city 1 day tour

Located smack bang in the middle of the country, it was the perfect place for the Emperor to create an Imperial City like no other, much of which you can still visit today.


The most popular way to get to Hue is usually via motorbike or private car transfer on the Hoi An to Hue trail, via the breathtaking Hai Van Pass.

If you are more of a fan of rail travel, it’s worth checking out the train from Da Nang to Hue (no train station in Hoi An) or from any province from the north: Dong Hoi Station (Quang Binh province), Ninh Binh Station, Ha Noi station

Have we convinced you to go to Hue? Whether you’re traveling as part of a longer jaunt in the country or using it as a stopover from neighboring Da Nang or Hoi An, the city of Hue is a surprising addition and one that anyone vaguely interested in history has to add to their Vietnam itinerary.

Photo source: Xuân Quang (Photography)