Situated in the Centre of Vietnam, Hue used to be the former capital of the emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty. Thus, Hue has been one of Vietnam's main cultural, religious and educational centres. With diversified and beautiful landscapes, Hue possesses a unique and harmoniously beauty. Today, its main attractions are the royal tombs, notable pagodas and the remains of the Citadel.
In 1993, Hue Citadel was recognized as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO and followed is Hue Royal Musical declared as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2003. The Perfume River runs between the city of Hue and the remains of the Citadel, "dragon" boat trips as well as dinner cruises on the river are an enchanting way to see the city. Also, royal emperor Hue-style food is "can not be missed" experience.
Things to See :
Highlights of Hue City are the ancient Citadel, nearby royal tombs, Thien Mu Pagoda and Dong Xuan Market. All can be seen in one or two full days. Around Hue, there are the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Vinh Moc underground tunnels and Bach Ma National Park, promising destinations for day tours starting from Hue.
When to Go ?
The best seasons to visit The best time to visit Hue is from March to August, particularly in March and April when it is normally dry and the temperatures are cooler although light rain is still likely. Rainy season started from September to January, heavily and frequently.
Most of the city's major sites, beside the Forbidden City, are not within walking distance from the city center. It is recommended to arrange a tour either by boat, private car or motorbike. Bicycling is also an option. For the DMZ tour, in fact, there are few remnants of the war and not much left to see. If you are interested in the war history, bring along a good tour guide who can color in the sites with stories. Don't forget to bring along an umbrella and a torch to explore the Vinh Moc Tunnels.
Exploring Hue Citadel:
At the very heart of the vast Hue Citadel lies the ImperialCity, also known as Dai Noi or the Great Enclosure. Over the past few years, this historic and unusually evocative part of the Citadel has undergone extensive restoration work, which has allowed more than just a glimmer of its former glory and grandeur to shine through. Entrance to this royal city is via the imposing Ngo Mon Gate, beyond which a bridge leads between lotus-filled ponds to the splendid ThaiHoaPalace. Behind this is an open courtyard that overlooks a stretch of land, once home to the ForbiddenPurpleCity.
Cot Co or FlagTower
Looming over the Citadel at a height of 120 ft (37m), the FlagTower or Cot Co has dominated Hue’s skyline since 1809, when Emperor Gia Long (1802-1820) erected it over a big 59-ft (18m) brick redoubt. On January 31, 1968, during the Tet Offensive, Cot Co achieved international recognition when the communist force seized the Citadel, hosting the National Liberation Front’s yellow starred banner on the FlagTower’s mast.
Nine Holy Cannons
Cast by Emperor Gia Long in 1803 as symbolic protection for his new capital, these colossal cannons were made out of bronze. Each weapon is said to represent one of the four seasons and five elements-earth, metal, wood, water, and fire. The cannons can be seen flanking the Ngan and Quang Duc Gates on their side of Cot Co.
Five Phoenix Watch Tower
Located above the huge stone slabs of the main gateway, this elaborate pavilion was where the emperor sat enthrone on state occasions. Viewed from above, it is said to resemble a group of five phoenixes. The middle section of the roof is covered with yellow glazed tiles, and decorated with dragons, banyan leaves, and bats, while the panels along the eaves are embellished with ceramic orchid, chrysanthemum, and bamboo mosaics. Above the pavilion, a concealed staircase leads up to a room from where women of the court could see through finely carved grills.
Thai Hoa palace
Originally built by Emperor Gia Long in 1805, Thai Hoa or Hall of Supreme Harmony housed the throne room of the Nguyen Emperors. The most impressive of Hue’s remaining palaces, it has been beautifully restored. It is easy to envisage the hall as the venue for coronations, royal anniversaries, and the reception of ambassadors. On these occasions, the emperor would sit on the resplendent throne, wearing a crown with nine dragons, a gold robe, jade belt, and other attire. Only the most senior mandarins were allowed to stand in the hall, while others waited outside.
Hall of the Mandarins
On either side of a paved courtyard, just behind Thai Hoa, are the Halls of the Mandarins. One hall was for the military, and the other for the civil mandarins. In keeping with their ranks, they would gather at their pavilions to dress in ceremonial robes for imperial functions. Some of these gorgeous vestments are now kept on display here.
Forbidden Purple City
No man except the emperor was permitted to set foot in the 25-acre (10ha) city-within-a city known as Tu Cam Thanh or ForbiddenPurpleCity-any male who crossed its threshold was condemned to death. Only the queen, nine separate ranks of concubines, female servants, and court eunuchs were allowed to enter.
Built during 1802 and 1833, the Forbidden City once comprised more than 60 buildings arranged around numerous courtyards, but unfortunately, it was damaged extensively by heavy bombing during the 1968 Tet Offensive.
Rebuilt in 1825, the Duyet Thi Duong or the Royal Theater is once again leading venue for traditional entertainment, offering the performances of Nha Nhac or court music. Declare a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of humanity by UNESCO, Nha Nhac features bamboo lutes, zithers, and fiddles, accompanied by drums.
In the northeastern quarter of the Forbidden City, the Royal Library was constructed by Emperor Minh Mang in 1821, as a retreat where he read in solitude. The well-restored building stands before an artificial pond, with a rock garden to its west. Small bridges, crossing other lakes and ponds, connect various galleries, creating a tranquil atmosphere. The library is now used to stage performances of Hue music, as well as various theatrical events.
Queen Mothers’ Residence
Once the exclusive preserve of the Queen Mothers, Cung Dien Tho or the Residence of Everlasting Longevity, was built in 1803 during the reign of Emperor Gia Long. Recently opened to the public, the elegant building is surrounded by a wall that is pierced on the south by Cua Tho Chi or the Gate of Everlasting Happiness, inside the building, the crafted furniture is carefully inlaid with delicate mother-of-pearl, and carved lanterns hang from the ceiling, which is ornamented with fans made from feathers. To the east of the entrance to the palace is the Truong Du Pavilion, with a small artificial lake and a graceful rock garden.
Emperor Minh Mang built Hung Mieu in 1821 to honor his grandparents. The temple was renowned for its refined design and fine root carvings, but unfortunately was seriously damaged by fire in 1947 at the beginning of the first Indochina War, and is currently still awaiting full restoration.
Located in the southwest area of ImperialCity, The Mieu or the Temple of Generations is dedicated to the Nguyen Dynasty, and contains altars honoring emperors from Gia Long to Khai Dinh. The building has a roof of yellow glazed tiles, the ridge of whichis decorated in the shape of a wine gourd. The altars were once stacked high with gold ingots, but today these have been replaced with gilt and lacquer ornamentation.
Nine Dynastic Urns
Cast on the orders of Emperor Minh Mang, Cuu Dinhor Dynastic Urns of the Nguyen Dynasty weigh about two tons each. Decorated with traditional patterns, and rich in symbolic detail, they play a big role in the cult of imperial ancestor veneration.
Hien Lam Pavilion
Located in the center of the Mieu court, Hien Lam was built in 1824 by Emperor Minh Mang to honor those who gave the great Nguyen Dynasty its formidable status. As a mark of respect, it was declared that no other building in the Citadel could rise higher than Hien Lam, which is distinguished by its pyramid shape, as well as its finely crafted wooden facade and brick paving.