Hue is one of the Vietnam’s popular heritage destinations. If you love heritage sites, this city is one place to consider visiting. It is home to several monuments regarded by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites including the Imperial Citadel, the Forbidden Purple City, and several royal tombs. Hue, as the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty, used to serve as the nation’s capital from 1802 to 1945 and remains ’til today, an important cultural and urban center in Vietnam.

I arrived in Hue after a short train ride through the scenic Hai Van Pass, from Da Nang. On my first full day in Hue, I challenged myself by doing a do-it-yourself (DIY) tour of the royal tombs, mostly by bicycle. I went as far as Gia Long Tomb, and then made my way to the other tombs and temples, following the banks of the Perfume River back to the city center. The next day, I went to the Thien Mu Temple, lured by its towering pagoda, and continued to a walking tour the Imperial Citadel. Hue’s heritage sites were not as old and as grand as other heritage destinations in Southeast Asia, so don’t expect to be blown away if you’ve already been to famous ancient monuments in the region. I was a bit underwhelmed, to be honest. The city had other redeeming qualities that made up for it. Out of all the places I visited in Vietnam, food in Hue definitely stood out! Bun Bo Hue is now on my list of delicious local dishes in Southeast Asia.

Detourista Notes

I’ll be writing more about my experience and travel tips in Hue on future updates. In the meantime, here are some quick notes you might find useful if you plan on going.

Da Nang to Hue Train — If you are planning to experience a journey on the Vietnamese Railway. The 2-hour section between Da Nang and Hue is the best in the country. The route passes through the Hai Van Pass, which offers scenic mountain and coastline views. You can get a cheap train ticket easily by buying directly at any railway station. If coming from Da Nang, reserve a seat on the right side of the train for awesome coastline views. I told this to the staff, who spoke decent English, as I was buying my ticket. She booked me on the wrong side of the train regardless. Fortunately, there was a vacant seat on my cabin and they were not strict about switching seats.

DIY or Guided Tour? — If I were to do my Hue itinerary all over again, I would ditch the bicycle and, instead, get a reasonably-priced guided full-day tour that includes the Imperial Citadel and the more impressive royal tombs, namely Minh Mang Tomb and Khai Dinh Tomb. Plus points if the itinerary also includes Thien Mu Pagoda and Tu Duc Tomb. The tour should already include transport, lunch, and more importantly, a decent guide who can reveal a lot about the sites, many of which have been badly damaged by war or fallen into disrepair. A downside of taking the guided tour, though, is coming to the sites with a big group of people, which means you’re always going to be traveling with a crowd.

Hue Monuments Admission Fee — Entrance fees may not be included on the price of all guided tours, so make sure to confirm this when the booking with a tour agency. Buying the packaged rate for multiple sites is more cost effective than paying for them individually. There are two types of “site route” packages that you can buy at the ticket counters, found at the entrance gate of all the sites mentioned. Both are valid within 2 days from the issue date.

  • “4 Site Route” Package — VND360,000 per adult. Includes admission to (1) Hue Royal Palace, (2) Minh Mang Tomb, (3) Khai Dinh Tomb, (4) Tu Duc Tomb.
  • “3 Site Route” Package — VND280,000 per adult. Includes admission to (1) Hue Royal Palace, (2) Minh Mang Tomb, (3) Khai Dinh Tomb.

Best DIY Way — If you really want to do it cheaply, and do it yourself, the best way is to rent a motorcycle for the day and drive yourself around the tombs. Don’t go by motorcycle taxi (moto) unless you really have to because, the drivers will almost certainly try to give you the most expensive price you’re willing to pay. I actually hired a moto once, to get to Tu Duc Tomb. I didn’t think the price I paid was worth it, but I liked that my driver spoke good English and tried to give tidbits about places we passed by.

Hue by Bicycle — If you want to go by bicycle, take a guided tour FIRST for the main sites (as mentioned above), especially the tombs, which are located far from the city center, AND THEN go by bicycle if the tour missed a tomb/temple that you really wanted to see or if you want to go there without the crowd. The Imperial Citadel is located in the city center and can be easily reached by bicycle. Thien Mu Pagoda is around 30 minutes away by bicycle from the city center. Getting to the more impressive tombs by bicycle takes around 1 hour. Side note: Gia Long Tomb was not worth the long bicycle ride.

Where to Stay? — For a cheap stay, Hue has a sizeable backpacker district on the corner of Ngo Quyen Street and Hai Ba Trung Street. The hostels and guesthouses were not located on the main streets, but on two narrow side streets, which made it a bit difficult to find. The area is around 1.5 kilometers or a 20-minute walk from the railway station. Many of the guesthouses have online booking available. You can easily book your room online at and Agoda. A good place to start is Tai Hai Guesthouse (rooms from USD6 per night).

Where From? — Da Nang, Hoi An.

Where Next? — Phong Nha.

You may visit my 2-week trip in Central and Northern Vietnam series page, the Vietnam page, or follow Marcos Detourist facebook page to check for new posts and updates.