One day in Hue: best things to do + hotel recommendation
One day in Hue: best things to do + hotel recommendation
I have never heard of Hue in Vietnam (pronounced as Hway) until the city turned up in our search results while planning the itinerary to Hoi An. Even then, the results were few compared to other cities in Vietnam.
I’d admit I was a little apprehensive about the trip at first but Hue turned out to be a destination beyond our imaginations! The city had a rich history with places like the imperial citadel, which used to be the capital of Vietnam, and various royal tombs. There were just so many things to do in Hue and we somehow managed to jam-pack quite a number of things in our one-day Hue itinerary.
Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to Trip.com and Klook. I may get a commission if you purchase through the links but they are at no additional cost to you.
Getting to Hue, Vietnam
There are no direct flights from Singapore to Hue. Instead, we flew from Singapore to Da Nang International Airport via Jetstar and arranged for a car from our hotel to pick us up. It took us about 2 hours by car from Da Nang to Hue. The ride cost us about USD50 which was more expensive than one night of hotel stay! 😂
Which hotel to stay in Hue
We stayed in Serene Shining Hotel Hue in Hue, Vietnam. It’s less than S$45 (USD35) per night with breakfast included. The service was impeccable; service staff was always friendly and eager to help. We had absolutely no issues from the time they picked us up at the airport to the time we checked out.
Serene Shining Hotel is located in a quiet street just a stone’s throw away from Perfume River and the night streets. The hotel room was also well-kept and furnished.
But really, the most amazing thing had to be their breakfast. Breakfast was à la carte buffet style with a variety of local dishes and English breakfast choices. You can keep ordering until you’re full!
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What to do in Hue in one day
Make the best of your day in Hue with this city tour itinerary:
- Explore the Imperial City within the citadel
- Visit the beautiful royal tombs of Ming Manh and Khai Dinh
- Head over to Thien Mu Pagoda
- Get a ride on a local’s boat down Huong River (Perfume River)
- Enjoy local food in Cho Dongba
- Cross the Truong Tien Bridge during sunset
0900 | Breakfast in the Hotel
We started the day in Hue with the most sumptuous breakfast ever in Serene Shining hotel. Some dishes we tried: Bun Bo Hue (beef noodles), omelettes, crepes, fruits, and fresh fruit juices. My favourite has got to be the passionfruit juice!
☝🏽Breakfast for two 😂
1000 | Hard-sold into cyclo rides
Our hotel was on a quiet street off the main road. Having heard stories of pickpockets and thieves, we clutched tightly to our belongings as soon as we stepped out and maneuvered our way to the main streets.
Disclaimer: We did not experience/witness any robbery or pick-pocketing throughout our entire trip but we were really cautious! Hue and Hoi An felt relatively safer compared to Ho Chi Minh City.
Within minutes of reaching the main street, we were coaxed into a cyclo ride for around USD2 each to the Citadel.
Touristy as it may be, the cyclo was a great way to experience the traffic and roads with you sitting in the ‘front’ seat. I actually liked it!
1015 | Explore the Imperial City of Hue
Exploring the place requires some walking as the palace covers a fair bit of land. You could glimpse the glory and magnificence of the architecture in its heyday which is contrasted by the ruins and rubbles of buildings that ceased to exist due to war and negligence.
Along the way, there will be exhibits offering information on the history of this World Heritage site.
It would have been a comfortable and relaxing tour, if not for the sweltering heat as we visited in the dry summer season. Hue has better weather from January to March, ranging from the high 10s to 20s.
💡Smart traveler tip: Didn’t book a tour? Follow tour groups around to eavesdrop on the commentary instead.
Exiting the Citadel from the other end, we entered a small eatery and treated ourselves to a local dessert drink.
I dare say it was one of the most local experiences we had.
The locals didn’t seem to understand English but there was only one drink on the menu so we went ahead with it, anyway.
The ingredients were a mystery, but the drink surprised us with its sweetness and chewy crunchy bits. If anyone knows what it’s called, please share! 🙂
1300 | Ming Manh Tomb
Don’t miss this when you are in Hue!
We debated if it was safe to use Grab in Vietnam then (that was about 4 years ago) but eventually flagged down a Ma Linh taxi. The Internet has it that Ma Linh is the most reliable taxi company in Hue. Thankfully, our driver lived up to the company’s reputation online and went by the meter.😅 Please also remember to check with your driver if he can stay and wait for you outside the tomb. If you don’t, you may find yourself stranded there as we later found out that few taxis come by. We were lucky to meet a good driver who waited for us without us asking!
According to TripAdvisor posts, it seems like taxis are still the way to go in Hue but do take note that the most recent post I found was a year ago.
The road into the tomb is unassuming (that’s an overstatement in fact). But once inside, the architecture and landscape blew me away.
The grounds were sprawling. Even in its derelicts, the compound was impressive. The tomb easily made its way to my favourite locations in Vietnam.
The experience through the tomb compounds was serene and every composition, no matter where you looked, was in harmony.
1430| Khai Dinh Tomb
Khai Dinh was the emperor of Vietnam from 1916 to 1925. Before his death, Khai Dinh visited France which could have explained the architectural influences witnessed in his tomb.
Despite being much smaller than other tombs, the tomb of Khai Dinh was perhaps the most elaborate and lavish.
The exterior featured blackened concrete designed with a gothic touch and had steep steps up to the main hall (Thien Dinh palace) to create an imposing atmosphere.
The interior was plastered with intricate mosaics in grandiose hues, a huge contrast from the outside.
Bas-reliefs came together to display spectacular workmanship and artist. If you looked closer, you see that scenes were created using ceramic fragments, giving a sense of dimension and layers to the patterns.
And if you thought that was it, step deeper into the chamber and be prepared to be blown away by the extravagance. It felt like everything was gilded in gold. Nothing was left undecorated. This was such a huge contrast from Ming Manh tomb.
Stepping out of the palace, you will find yourself greeted with lush greenery, refreshing after the almost psychedelic visual feast inside.
I definitely recommend this Tomb to visit, especially since it is only a 15-minute drive away from Minh Mang tomb.
1545 | Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda (Pagoda of Heavenly Lady) is a temple complex along the Perfume River featuring a seven-storied Pagoda. The Pagoda is also the tallest religious building in Vietnam.
Go deeper into the temple grounds to reach the Dai Hung Palace. The religious sculptures will impress with its details and emotions.
The temple also displays the car driven by the monk, Thich Quang Duc, to his self-immolation in Saigon to seek religious equality in a regime that favoured Catholicism and was oppressive towards Buddhism.
There is also a small market outside the temple. Get a drink there to quench your thirst but I recommend shopping for your souvenirs in Dong Ba market instead (see below).
1630 | Ferry ride down Huong River
Thien Mu Pagoda is right beside the iconic Perfume River (also known as Huong River). After visiting Thien Mu, walk along the river bank and try to get a boat back to the Citadel area.
We managed to get on a boat quickly. I think the boat was probably used for fishing or other work but the locals also use their boats to earn extra bucks by ferrying travelers up and down the river.
They dropped us off in the middle of nowhere and we oriented ourselves towards Dong Ba Market using Google Maps. On the way, we passed by this old lady selling cream buns and decided to try it for fun. 😁
It tasted okay!😂
1715 | Exploring Cho Dong Ba
After some navigational mishaps, we finally found our way to Dong Ba market. It is a market, so don’t expect it to be a shopping haven like Chatuchak in Bangkok. Instead, you will see stalls peddling vegetables, fresh produce, meats and condiments in most parts of the market.
We took some time to explore the market and bought some souvenirs. Take some time to compare as there’s almost always a cheaper option in a different stall.
You can have a meal in the market like we did. We randomly chose a stall and sat down at the low table. The ladies manning the stall were extremely hospitable and perhaps because they knew we didn’t speak Vietnamese, they replaced their words with generous smiles. Our original intention was to try the popular Bun Bo Hue but the ladies kept piling food on our plates. We had to keep our guards up for additions.
The Bun Bo was tasty, as with the other side dishes that we got. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite know what we were eating.
1845 | Crossing the Truong Tien Bridge
We were lucky to catch the tail of sunset when crossing the Truong Tien Bridge. The bridge was an iconic structure in Hue and was designed and built by the Eiffel of France (who also created Eiffel Tower). Something I only realized when I wrote this post.
The bridge overlooked Perfume River and had three sections; middle one for vehicles while pedestrians could walk on either side.
After a breezy walk, we strolled around to look for a comfortable place to rest and get some snacks. There was this stretch with relatively modern and air-conditioned shops so we popped into a Bingsu joint to grab some Korean dessert while we researched for our dinner/supper place.
Relying heavily on TripAdvisor, we settled for Hanh (after failing to locate one or two restaurants). 😂 The restaurant was bustling, so we did a takeaway. Unfortunately, we had limited funds and could only do one dish. Even though almost every other table in Hanh ordered a Banh Beo, a signature dish of Hue, I persuaded my friend to go with a safe choice of Com Chien (a Vietnamese fried rice dish). Looking back, I regretted not trying Banh Beo. This dish, made of steamed rice cakes topped with shrimps, fish sauce and chilli, is almost only found in Hue! I only saw Banh Beo once outside of Hue so be sure to try it while you are there!
With that, we’ve completed a city tour around the main sights of Hue!
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Would I recommend Hue? Yes, totally!
One concern we had was whether it was worth it to take a detour to Hue since our original plan was just to visit Hoi An, which was less than an hour from Da Nang airport in the opposite direction. We definitely didn’t regret our decision for this ‘detour’! Hue maintains its local flavour with a dash of modernity. It was delightful to explore, more so than the other Vietnamese cities I was about to tour. It was amazingly easy to feel the authenticity of their culture and local habits. Amongst other things, just take a stroll down their streets, try a meal in their markets amidst the locals, or take a local’s boat down Perfume River.
If you prefer to travel hassle-free without having to worry about getting transport from one place to another, you could also consider this small-group tour from Klook! It covers pretty much the same itinerary and is highly rated on Klook. For less than S$60, transport, lunch and most importantly, a knowledgeable tour guide are included! Honestly, I might have gone for this tour if it was available when I visited.
Visit Hoi An after Hue
We continued with our original plan to Hoi An after a day in Hue. Reluctant to go back the same way, we searched for alternatives and found out that motorbike tours from Hue to Hoi An were very popular. We booked one just hours before and enjoyed the many spots en route, beautiful places which we would have missed if we didn’t take .
[…] Don’t miss out Hue when you visit Vietnam! Though lesser known than other cities in Vietnam such as Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, Hue felt considerably more local and less modernized (read: homogenized). Here is part 2 of my day in Hue and if you missed out on part 1, click here. […]
Hue looks so pretty, I feel sad that we missed seeing it when we were in Vietnam. The heat is intense there, I could actually feel it through your photos! I love the broke traveler tip lol, I do the same sometimes! That drink looks like a Vietnamese iced coffee, but I don’t know what the chewy bits are!
The architecture there is amazing — both the Citadel and the Ming Mahn Tomb look incredible. The tip to follow tour groups is a great one for broke travelers haha I guess you just have to try to not be obvious about it. Very cool that you got such a varied breakfast with your hotel stay, that’s a great value!
I haven’t been to this country. And, I haven’t heard of this place either. But you are article is very informative. If I plan to go there this would be a good reference for me. Thanks for sharing.
The cyclo looks so cool, I’ve never seen one of those! I haven’t heard of Hue either, as yet, but seems like a great place for someone looking to experience culture and history. The dessert drink you mention sounds like something I would like to try!
Hue will be fabulous for the history and culture buffs!
I was looking into a few destinations off-the-grid for this winter with some history and great food… I was not convinced about South-East Asia but you proved me wrong. Hue seems so genuine and less touristy than the main places in Vietnam. I also think the drink you had was a Vietnamese iced coffee. They are my favourite!
Yes, definitely. I mean it’s still touristy, but not as entrenched as the more popular places. Nah, it wasn’t coffee. I really had no idea what I was drinking. 😀
Even though I prefer slow travel, I think 12 hours is enough to explore the ancient town and there isn’t much else to see around. Hence, I think this is a perfect itinerary for Hue for people that are traveling around the country and don’t have a lot of time to waste. The tip to follow groups on a guided tour is genius too haha 🙂
Yes, it really was more like a quick stopover.
I would love to see this place. I love smaller and lesser crowded places. And posiitvely trying Banh Beo, should I manage to reach Hue. The walk by the river is my thing. Cyclo looks interesting but perhaps would give this a miss. But open markets are a must go, so going to see that too, including the local drink you had.
Haha, yes, I would probably skip the cyclo too.
I must agree I’ve never heard of Hue, but it looks very beautiful. I like the architecture of the Imperial city. The dessert drink looks delicious. Ming Manh Tomb also sounds impressive. Hope to explore this lovely place someday.
Woah, Vietnam is on my bucket list from such a long period and i have to admit that i had no idea about Hue which is a shame. This place looks so beautiful specially For a person like me who loves rich architecture and history. Thanks for sharing your knowledge , it was really nice knowing about Hue
I was lucky to have a friend who did the intensive research! Otherwise, we would have missed Hue. Do visit if you have the chance!