When we first started planning our trip to Huế, we were pronouncing it very wrong. We were saying H-You, which is pretty common among Westerners. It turns out, it’s actually pronounced H-Way. Tricky name aside, Huế is actually a really cool city.
Huế is located in Central Vietnam about halfway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It kind of reminds us of Hoi An since it’s a very historic city and it’s also located along a river. With history dating back hundreds of years, amazing weather, and plenty to see and do, there are plenty of ways to stay busy should you find yourself in Huế.
While Huế doesn’t have the amount of hustle and bustle that Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City do, it is a wonderful place to stop off for a few days while exploring Vietnam.
11 Fantastic Things To Do In Huế, Vietnam
1. Stroll along the Perfume River
The Perfume River isn’t particularly long, as it’s only about 80 kilometers in total. It gets its name because during certain times of year, it brings fresh aromas down from the forests it passes through.
In Huế, there is a beautiful riverwalk along the Perfume River which is a pedestrian-only zone. No need to worry about motorbikes here! The best time to stroll along the Perfume River is at night, when the Trường Tiền Bridge is lit up in all different colors. It’s also a good place for a early jog since it’s very quiet in the mornings.
2. Visit the Thien Mu Pagoda
On top of the history, beauty, and serenity here, it’s arguable the best part is the free entry! The Thien Mu Pagoda is a gorgeous pagoda about 6 kilometers outside of the Huế city center.
The Thien Mu Pagoda is the oldest pagoda in Huế and has quite the history, which dates back to 1601 AD. The grounds today have an incredible seven story pagoda, a golden buddha, a koi pond, and masterfully done bonzai trees. Despite it’s popularity with tourists, it still felt incredibly serene to us.
Getting a taxi or motorbike ride there is easy, getting one back is a little more difficult. Unless you arrange with a driver ahead of time, expect to pay about 70,000 VND ($3.00 USD) to get back into town after walking for 10-15 minutes away from the pagoda.
3. Have lunch at Quán Bánh Khoái Hạnh
Quán Bánh Khoái Hạnh is right in the heart of Huế and came as a recommendation from our hotel. We’re sure glad we listened and went for ourselves! The staff is very attentive and friendly, but the variety of food is the selling point here.
We ordered the sampler platter for 135,000 VND ($5.81 USD) and shared it. It wasn’t quite enough to fill us up, but it would definitely be plenty for one person. The sampler platter came with Bánh bèo, Bánh khoai, Nem Lui, fresh spring rolls, and fried spring rolls.
Best of all, our server was kind enough to show us the proper way to eat everything. It was a great experience and definitely an excellent way to get introduced to the different foods Huế is known for.
4. Get around by Grab Bike
Sure, you can do this anywhere, but this is the first Vietnamese city we’ve been to where Grab doesn’t work with cars or taxis. It only works with motorbike! We spent between 12,000 and 30,000 VND ($0.52 to $1.29 USD) per ride and goodness is it fun. We’ve seen how crazy it can be with all the motorbikes zooming around in Southeast Asia, but to be on one sure is a great time.
Pro tip: Have a hat or some sort of hair cover (even a plastic bag) on hand if you’re doing this. The drivers have a spare helmet for you to wear, but you never know who has worn it before you.
5. Check out the Dong Ba Market
This is a local market if ever we’ve seen one. The Dong Ba Market is definitely not trying to cater to tourists, but that shouldn’t stop you from peeking inside to see what it’s all about.
The entire second floor is devoted to various textiles, while the ground floor sells everything from laundry detergent to gold chains. As the largest and oldest market in Huế it is quite the scene to see even if you’re not buying anything.
There is a food section too, though admittedly, we had trouble finding it.
6. Experience the coffee culture
One thing is certain about Huế, and it’s that the cafe culture is alive and well. Our first night in Huế, we went out to look for a good dinner spot. We walked block after block in search of a good restaurant, but only passed by coffee shops selling croissants and drinks.
Fortunately, that means there is some good coffee in town, and plenty of options. Egg coffee is all the rage these days, but have you tried salted coffee?
7. Eat Bún bò Huế
As the name would suggest, this savory soup originates in Huế. The broth is made from pork and beef bones, and the rich flavor comes from a combination of lemongrass, shrimp paste, various herbs and spices, some meat, and sometimes even congealed pig blood.
Pho has become incredibly popular around the world, and it’s quite possible that someday Bún bò Huế will be too.
8. Visit the tombs
In Huế, it’s easy to spend the day tomb hopping. There are several different ones worth checking out, but the three most popular are the Imperial Tomb of Dong Khanh, the Tomb of Minh Mang, and the Royal Tombs.
Unlike the Thien Mu Pagoda, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee. The entrance fees are $4.50 USD, $5 USD, and $10 USD respectfully, so if you’re on a budget it might be best to pick one.
No matter which tomb (or tombs) you visit, you’ll certainly be impressed by the breathtaking architecture and the intricate designs.
9. Head to Huế Imperial City
At different times throughout Vietnamese history, Huế was the capital city. As such, there are remnants of the Imperial times throughout Huế. Imperial City is just across the Perfume River from downtown Huế and features a massive palace with a moat, gardens, and pagodas.
The entrance fee is 200,000 VND ($8.61 USD) so it’s one of the more expensive attractions in Huế. Some people stay for an hour, but many feel that at least half a day should be devoted to exploring Imperial City.
10. Hangout at DMZ Bar
Right in the heart of Huế, not far from the Perfume River, is the military-themed DMZ Bar. The bar has two levels and affordable drinks and food. The staff is friendly and attentive, though the real selling of DMZ Bar are the views. Since it’s on a corner of two busy streets, it’s the perfect place to grab a patio table and watch the world go by.
11. Take a riverboat ride
If you’re interested in a boat ride on the river, there will be plenty of options along the Perfume River walkway. We didn’t do a boat ride, but the salesmen were throwing out numbers around 150,000 VND ($6.45 USD) for an hour, but that can likely be negotiated down.
There are simple boat rides, dinner and drink boat rides, and some are fancier than others. Most of the boats have dragons painted on them which is an admittedly very cool look.
The bottom line
While Huế isn’t nearly as busy as Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, it’s still a beautiful city worth visiting. The pagodas, tombs, and temples dating back hundreds of years are truly incredible and it would be very easy to spend an entire day exploring them.
The pace of life in Huế really is a pleasant change from the bigger and busier cities. Huế really is the perfect place to slow things down a little and enjoy sitting in a coffee shop or strolling along a river.
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