Located on the banks of the Huong River, the Imperial City of Hue is a regal reminder of Vietnam’s feudal past. Rich in decadent architecture and opulent gardens, this former royal complex has stood the test of time.
During the Nguyen Dynasty, Hue served as Vietnam’s capital city. During its heyday, the city possessed all of the opulent bells and whistles that you would expect from a cultural and political center. Like the medieval cities of Europe, Hue was surrounded by an impenetrable, 2 km long city wall, which served to keep potential invaders at bay.
The Imperial City continued to serve as Vietnam’s capital for nine generations until the fall of the Nguyen Dynasty in 1945. After Ho Chi Minh’s rise to power, the city was subsequently abandoned and Hanoi was crowned as the nation’s new capital. Unfortunately, after the Communist party rose in power, much of the area was destroyed in an attempt to erase its history.
Furthermore, the warfare of the 1960s brought widespread destruction to the Imperial City and only a fraction of its original buildings survived unscathed. In 1993, the complex was named a UNESCO World Heritage site and has remained one of the country’s most unique tourist attractions ever since.
The Imperial City
While there isn’t much left of this once-grand city, it’s still possible to see glimpses of its old grandeur and prestige. Walking through the pavilions and structures, you will feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
The Forbidden Purple City
Once home to Vietnam’s political and social elite, the Forbidden Purple City is graced with stunning pavilions and ornate homes. In the city’s heyday, this would have been the residence of the emperor’s parents. Today, the area features historical photographs along with utensils and other artifacts.
Thai Binh Pavilion and Royal Tombs
The fully restored Thai Binh Pavillion was once the Emperor’s study and reading area. Today, it is a well-maintained time capsule complete with artistic landscaping and ornate railings. Being a former royal complex, the Hue Citadel is also home to several Emperors’ tombs.
If you’re a history buff, visiting these fascinating royal burial sites will provide insight into the sheer prestige of Hue’s former residents.
Thien Mu Pagoda
This soaring, 7-tiered monolith is regarded as the city’s unofficial symbol. This temple was first constructed in 1601, but a series of demolitions and fires over the years has seen it rise and fall several times. The current temple has been standing since the mid-19th century.
Situated proudly on the banks of the Perfume River, this majestic temple is one of Vietnam’s most iconic examples of historic architecture.
The Moc Vien Restaurant
Nestled in an idyllic garden setting, the Moc Vien Restaurant is only a short distance away from the Imperial City and boasts a stunning, authentic menu.
The Imperial City is quite a distance away from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, so flying or taking a train are the only viable options for getting there. There are also plenty of overnight accommodations in the vicinity that will suit every budget, including a few five-star hotels.
Although the Hue Citadel’s glory days have long gone, it still retains plenty of its former beauty and a visit there will give you a tantalizing look into Vietnam’s storied past.
Address: Thành phố Huế, Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam
Hours: Friday-Wednesday (8 AM – 5:30 PM) | Thursday (8 AM – 10 PM)