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Hue is a charming city in central Vietnam that is known for being the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors and for having the grand Dai Noi Citadel at its heart. As Hue is situated in the middle of the country, it is a great stopping off point for traveling both north and south along the coast. While there is quite a lot to see and do in Hue, travelers can easily tick off most of the top sights in one day (if they don’t mind cramming a lot in) and this one-day itinerary allows you to visit the highlights in an easy, efficient way.
Hue is ideal for travelers with an interest in history and culture as it has so many significant sites that even the most discerning traveler will be entertained and engaged. When not visiting historical sites, Hue also features a whole host of great restaurants, markets, shops and walkways to discover.
The best time to visit Hue
Thanks to Hue’s location in between the coast and the mountains, the climate can be pretty variable, with two distinct seasons and a range of weather changes even within one day! If you don’t mind the heat, the best time to visit Hue is between January and August as these months feature temperatures in the mid-30s and hot, dry days. September onwards, however, is another story. These months are distinguished by their heavy rainfall which is known for cooler, yet humid temperatures and enough rain to cause problematic flooding. Regardless of the time of year you visit Hue, you should pack for every eventuality with everything from beachwear and shorts to a raincoat and wet-weather shoes!
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How to get to Hue from Hoi An and Danang
Most travelers arriving in Hue will either be heading north, from Hoi An or Danang or south from Hanoi. Alternatively, if Hue is your first destination you are likely to be arriving from Danang, the closest international airport to the city. From the airport, you can take a private taxi which will cost around $40-50 or you can opt for public transport.
Travelers have various other options when it comes to getting to Hue, with both buses and trains being available from around the country. These tend to be the cheapest and easiest options and are best for solo travelers. The journey from Hoi An to Hue takes around 4-6 hours by bus (130,000 VND/$6) and a similar time by bus/train combo stopping off in Danang en route to change to the train (90,000 VND/$4). The train is arguably the better option as the journey travels along the coast offering wonderful views along the way.
If you are traveling as part of a group it may work out better to take a private transfer and split the cost. A private transfer allows you freedom and flexibility to stop off en route at sights such as My Son and Marble Mountain. This is likely to set you back around $80-100 from Hoi An, so you’ll want to plan your trip somewhat to really make the most of the journey.
Finally, if you’re traveling solo but would still like to visit a few different destinations on your way from Hoi An or Danang to Hue, you might want to consider joining a tour or transfer. A Jeep Transfer from Hoi An to Hue takes you along the Hai Van Pass with stops at villages, beaches and Marble Mountain en route. This is a fun way to travel as you are able to sight-see and make new friends while also getting from A to B.
If you have less time but know you want to visit the citadel in Hue, you can book onto a day tour from Hoi An or Danang, with minivan transfers and a guide for the day.
How to get around Hue
Once you arrive in Hue, you’ll need to think about how you want to get around the city. The sights here are quite spread out and as such, you’ll need some form of transport in order to travel between the Imperial City and the other attractions. While travelers can opt for public buses, this can sometimes be quite confusing and if you’re only visiting Hue for a day this option may be too time-consuming. Another option is to hire a bicycle. This is a lovely way to see the city but it is not for the faint of heart as a full-day of exploration can be pretty tiring! Alternatively, I would advise travelers to hire a driver for the day or hopping in Cyclo-taxis between sites. As with anywhere, it’s always worth bartering and agreeing on a price before you travel.
You can also ask your hotel to help you book transport or a private tour if you are worried about overpaying or being scammed. Hue Tours are a good option if you wish to enjoy additional information about each of the sites and to make the most of your day.
One day in Hue itinerary
So, now you know when to visit Hue, how to get there and how to get around, you’ll want to think about what sights and attractions you wish to discover. This is where my one-day Hue itinerary comes in handy as I’ve chosen all the best bits that you can see in a day. Read on for the ultimate Hue plan of action.
Imperial City, Hue
Of course, the most famous and important site in Hue is the citadel, the former home of the Nguyen Dynasty Emperors. The Imperial City is the walled enclosure within this grand complex of ancient ruins which houses the Purple Forbidden City.
This is the perfect place to start your day, learning about the history of the emperors before seeing pagodas, tombs, and statues later on throughout the day.
Thien Mu Pagoda
Another site on the agenda is the Thien Mu Pagoda, a temple overlooking the Perfume River and the city. This pagoda is known for having gold and silver images of the Buddha and is one of the most recognizable and fascinating sites in the city.
The To Mieu temple complex is an area of the Imperial Enclosure that dates from 1824 and which comprises a three-tiered pavilion (Hien Lam), the To Mieu temple and the Nine Dynastic Urns. This is an important location in relation to the Nguyen Dynasty emperors and as such is well worth a visit!
Thanh Toan Bridge
Next up is the Thanh Toan Bridge, a picturesque wooden structure that is thought to be around 200 years old. This small bridge (similar to the covered Japanese bridge in Hoi An) crosses the Nhu Y River and features intricate carvings as well as ancestral altars and a shrine to the patrons who helped create the bridge.
Tombs of the Ancient Emperors
Another highlight of visiting Hue is the Tombs of the Ancient Emperors, historic temple/statuesque ruins which convey Buddhist legend as well as history about the Emperors of ancient Vietnam. The Royal Tomb of Khai Dinh is one of the largest and most significant mausoleums, with a distinct blend of Eastern and Western architecture. This tomb features a large staircase and detailed carvings and columns as well as having a number of statues outside.
The Tomb of Minh Mang is different in style to Khai Dinh, with a tiled pavilion roof and red exteriors giving it more of a Chinese feel. Last but by no means least is Tu Duc, a temple and tomb complex designed by Tu Doc himself before his death. This complex is made up of a collection of temples, courtyards, and pavilions located on a small island. Each of these tombs is highly intricate and breathtakingly beautiful so it is worth seeing all three so that you can compare and contrast the different styles.
Dong Ba Market
When you’ve had your fix of historical sites, you may want to explore the Dong Ba Market for a fun and relaxing way to spend the afternoon. The market is filled with everything from household wares and clothes, to food, handicrafts, drinks and more. Everything here is pretty affordable, but even if you’re just window shopping it is still an entertaining attraction.
Trang Tien Bridge
Another great sight in Hue is the Trang Tien Bridge, a surprisingly modern-looking structure considering it was built in the late 1800s! The bridge crosses the Perfume River and offers wonderful views, but it is also worth seeing by night when it lights up in five different colors.
Cruise the Perfume River
A cruise along the Perfume River is a lovely way to end your day in Hue, gently moving through the city seeing the sights from a new perspective. As day turns to night the city is lit up with a glimmering, golden tone which makes it all the more magical.
Where to stay in Hue
Located on Hung Vuong boulevard in the center of the city, Imperial Hue is well placed for exploring this world heritage destination and is also close to the peaceful Perfume River. The Imperial Hotel seamlessly blends ancient and modern, East and West, while also offering all the luxuries you could need during your vacation.
Day Trips from Hue
If you have longer to spend in and around Hue, you might want to consider a day trip or two out of the city. There are loads of options available so whether you’re into history or nature there’s a day trip for you.
DMZ tours are a popular choice for those interested in history as they take you to explore the Demilitarised Zone of Vietnam. This area was the designated dividing section between the Communist North and the free South as signed off by the Geneva Conference on 21 July 1954. This is a truly fascinating tour that gives you a wealth of insight about the history and conflict within Vietnam. The tour also allows you to learn about ethnic minorities within the area and to witness the natural beauty of the region.
Phong Nha Cave Tour
Vietnam is known for its spectacular caves and grottos that have been carved out of limestone over centuries. This half-day tour allows you to visit the Phong Nha Cave in the Quang Binh Province which contains 14 grottos and an underground river that stretches almost 14,000m!
Bach Ma National Park
The area of Bach Ma National Park is a hub of natural activity with rich biodiversity and a range of amazing trails and routes that you can explore. If you take a private transfer from Hue to Bach Ma National Park you can spend the day discovering the park at your leisure, choosing when you wish to return to the city.
While this one-day Hue itinerary may seem pretty jam-packed, it’s the perfect option for those with little time who want to explore the real highlights of Hue. One day with a private driver gives you enough time to fully discover the Imperial City that makes Hue so famous as well as balancing out your time with visits to bridges, markets and walks along the river.