2 Days in Hue: The Ultimate itinerary on how to see the best Hue tourist attractions
Have 2 days in Hue and wondering what Hue tourist attractions to see? This essential two day Hue itinerary shows you the best things to do and eat in Hue, Vietnam.
Hue served as the seat of power for the Nguyen Dynasty, Vietnam’s last ruling family, from 1802 to 1945. The city’s imperial legacy is evident in its magnificent citadel, royal tombs, and ancient pagodas. Moreover, its picturesque setting along the Perfume River adds to its charm, making it a perfect destination for pretty much anyone who wants to experience this ancient and historically important city.
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General Hue Pre-Travel Information You Should Know
- Currency: Vietnamese Dong
- Whatsapp is your best friend. Hotels, taxi drivers and tour guides use Whatsapp to contact you
- Credit Card can be used at Hotel and some restaurants
- You need cash to pay for attraction tickets, taxi drivers (if not already pre-paid), food at markets, and other smaller restaurants
- Download Grab app before you land in Vietnam. It works the same way as Uber
Where is Hue and How to Get to Hue?
Hue is a city in Central Vietnam and the capital of the coastal province of Thua Thien Hue. It is about 2 hours northwest of Da Nang, another major city in Central Vietnam.
It is easy to get to Hue from different parts of Vietnam since Hue is well connected by train and air. There is an airport in Hue with the code HUI, making it convenient to fly there.
Below are some examples of how to get to Hue from different cities in Vietnam:
Hoi An to Hue
Hoi An is about 130 km (81 miles) from Hue. You can take a car or bus from Hoi An to Hue directly or you can take a bus to Da Nang then take the train from Da Nang to Hue.
- By private car or shared van: ~3 hours. Private car costs VND 900,000 ($40 USD) and shared van costs VND 300,000 ($12 USD)
- By bus: ~3 hours, costs about VND 170,000 – VND 200,000 ($7 – $10 USD) in a day time sleeper bus. There are luxury and non-luxury sleeper buses.
- By train: There is no train station in Hoi An, so you will need to take a bus from Hoi An to Da Nang first, then take the train from Da Nang to Hue
Da Nang to Hue
Da Nang is more north of Hoi An, so it takes a shorter amount of time to travel from Da Nang to Hue. Da Nang is about 90 km (56 miles) from Hue, making it a super easy trip.
- By train: 2.5 hour train ride with Vietnam Railways and costs between $6 – $8 USD (depends on train class).
The most scenic route from Da Nang to Hue is to take a car or bus since the drive will be through the famous Hai Van Pass along the coast, so you will have a beautiful view part of the way. If you hire a private driver you can probably request the driver to stop at the beach and various other spots and make the trip a fun drive!
Hanoi to Hue
Hanoi is in Northern Vietnam so it would take a lot longer to get to Hue from Hanoi. The most direct way is to fly from Hanoi to Hue, it takes about 1 hour to fly and costs around $50 – $100 USD. We took Vietnam Airlines and it was very smooth and fast and costed about $50 USD.
- By Bus: also about 14 hours. Costs between $20 – $30 USD depends on whether it’s a luxury sleeper bus or not.
How to Get Around Hue
Hue is a decent sized city in Vietnam. Although not as big as Hanoi or Da Nang, it is not possible to walk everywhere in Hue.
However, you should only attempt to ride a motorbike in Hue if you are very comfortable with it. If you are from the US like me and have never touched a motorbike before, I really do not suggest riding one as it can get quite overwhelming fast!
With riding a bike out of the question, the other two options to get around Hue is to either book a tour or hire a private transfer or take Grab to take you around.
We used a combination of Grab (works like Uber) and private transfer for our two days in Hue. We used Grab when we first arrived in Hue to take us to the Imperial Palace and dinner.
You should set up the app before arriving in Vietnam. You should definitely bring some cash with you just in case your credit card doesn’t work with the app (mine did with an American credit card).
What Months to Visit Hue
The best time to visit Hue is during the dry season from February to April. The worst time to visit Hue is during the rainy season from August to December as well as the Tet holiday since attractions will be closed.
Even when you visit Hue in February or March, it is possible you may encounter rain, but it generally would not be a downpour like it is in September and October.
Below is the average temperature and rainfall level in Hue throughout the year.
We visited Hue at the end of February and it rained the first day (just slightly), and it was super hot and sunny on the second day, so you can get very different weather.
Keep in mind that if you visit April to May the weather will be pretty hot and humid. Even on a sunny day in February we ended up feeling really hot and sweaty under the sun.
Where to Stay in Hue
One of the most important things to decide when visiting Hue is where to stay. Unlike Hanoi or Hoi An, there is no “Old Quarter” or “Old Town” with a concentration of hotels for tourists in Hue.
In addition, most attractions in Hue are quite far from the city (with the exception of the Imperial Citadel), so it is a little hard to figure out the one best area to stay in Hue.
Based on our research and personal experience, the areas I highly recommend in Hue are near the Citadel or the south side of Perfume River where many bars and restaurants are.
How Many Days in Hue Do You Really Need
Hue is a great destination for both international and local tourists and it totally deserves more attention from visitors than it currently gets. There is a lot to see in Hue especially if you like history and ancient architecture.
You need at least 1.5 – 2 days to see the main attractions of Hue. 3 to 4 days in Hue is also recommended for anyone who likes a slow pace and wants to explore the off-the-beaten paths places (or simply just relax) in Hue.
Best Hue Attractions For This 2 day Hue Itinerary
Depending on your pace, you can do as many as 4 attractions a day while in Hue or as little as one to two things. If you are really into history and architecture, it may be worth it to take it slow and fully explore and learn the history behind everything you see.
Overview of 2 day Hue itinerary
Day 1 in Hue:
– Thien Mu Pagoda
– Hue Historic Citadel
– Dong Ba Market
Day 2 in Hue:
– Abandoned Water Park
– Khai Dinh Tomb
– Minh Mang Tomb
– Tu Duc Tomb
Day 1 – Explore the essence of Hue in the City Center
Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda, also known as the “Pagoda of the Celestial Lady,” is one of the most iconic sites in Hue. The Pagoda complex is located on the northern bank of the Perfume River, about 10 minutes drive (5 km) west of the Hue Historic Citadel.
Legend has it the celestial lady Thien Mu appeared in a dream and said that a Buddhist pagoda will be built here. Therefore Nguyen Hoang, the governor of Thuan Hoa Province (nowadays Hue), founded the Thien Mu Pagoda.
There are several buildings in the Pagoda complex. The most famous one being the 7 story octagonal tower, known as the Phuoc Duyen Tower. Each of the 7 floors of the tower is dedicated to a different Buddha.
No ticket is needed to visit and you should expect to spend at least an hour at Thien Mu Pagoda.
Hue Historic Citadel
The most important attraction in hue is the Imperial Citadel. Located just north of Perfume River, the Hue Citadel was the political and administrative center of the Nguyen Dynasty, Vietnam’s last ruling dynasty, from 1802 to 1945.
It was built during the reign of Emperor Gia Long, the founder of the Nguyen Dynasty, and it took almost 30 years to complete (it was completed under the reign of Minh Mang). It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its historical significance and architecture.
The Citadel is massive, covering an area of 520 hectares. The Citadel complex includes a series of impressive gates, walls, watchtowers, and moats. The main entrance is the Ngo Mon Gate, which leads to the Forbidden Purple City, the innermost section of the citadel. You will also find gardens, palaces, pavilions, and historical gates within the Citadel.
How much does the Hue Citadel Cost?
The Citadel costs VND 200,000 ($8.5 USD) to visit or you can get a combo ticket for 3 or 4 sites (tombs of different emperors) for either VND 420,000 or VND 530,000. You have 2 days to use the combo ticket. Payment is only in cash. You can expect to spend at least 2-3 hours in the Hue Citadel.
How to get to the Hue Citadel?
Depending on where you are staying, you can either walk to the Citadel or ride a motorbike. We got a taxi from our hotel and then called a Grab on the way back. But I have to say that it took us at least 10-15 minutes just to get a Grab back, which was surprising.
Dong Ba Market
Dong Ba Market is the most famous market in Hue. Located just about 20 minutes walk east of the Hue Citadel, Dong Ba Market is a multi-story market with a wide variety of stalls and vendors.
You can find cooked food, fresh produce, meat, seafood, clothings, souvenirs and other household items in Dong Ba Market.
Some of the most famous Hue local foods can be found at Dong Ba Market since there are many restaurants here. These local food include bun bo Hue, a flavorful and spicy beef noodle soup, Hue-Style pancake (Banh Khoai), steamed rice cakes (banh beo), and local fruits.
Dong Ba Market is open from 5am and closes at 10pm everyday, so you can come to Dong Ba Market pretty much any time of the day. Be aware that Dong Ba Market can be quite expensive especially if you are a foreigner.
Day 2 – Visit the Outskirts of Hue to see the Tombs and the Abandoned Water Park
Hue Abandoned Water Park
You may have seen this really cool dragon building in Hue all over Instagram and Tiktok. This is in the Abandoned Water Park, otherwise known as “Thuy Tien Lake Water Park” in Hue.
Located about a 30 minute drive from the Hue Historic Citadel, this abandoned water park of Hue was made Instagram famous after it was shut down.
The Thuy Tien Lake waterpark was originally opened in 2004. It was intended to provide entertainment and recreational facilities for both locals and tourists in the Hue area. There was about $3 million USD of investment poured into the construction of this waterpark.
Unfortunately all that investment went to waste as the park was not efficient. There were not a lot of attractions in a large area, and there were rumors that the lake where the dragon building is built is infested with crocodiles (not sure how true this is as we didn’t see any).
How to get to the Hue Abandoned Water Park
Since it is abandoned you are technically not supposed to visit as the gates are shut and there are guards guarding the place. We asked our taxi driver to drop us off at the back entrance Near Nano Eco-Hostel. There was nobody guarding this gate.
We continued walking until we saw an intersection, we turned left and continued to follow the path until we saw the small lake on our right side. After walking for another 5-10 minutes you will see the famous Dragon building.
There was one guard that was riding a scooter around the park. He saw us, told us “5 minutes”, and left us alone. He did not ask us to pay him or anything, and he didn’t come back for another 15 minutes or so. But even then he didn’t ask us to leave even though we quickly left after we got our photo.
You can walk around the park (as long as nobody stops you) to see other abandoned structures at this water park. But to be honest we just wanted the photo with the Dragon building and we didn’t care to see other things. The whole place does feel creepy after all.
I suggest going early in the morning to avoid other photographers (although not sure how many people actually show up) but we figured the earlier we go the better the mood the guards might be in.
Our private taxi driver waited for us at the entrance and then drove us to the next attraction: the Tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh.
Mausoleum of Emperor Khai Dinh
The Mausoleum of Emperor Khai Dinh, also known as the “Khai Dinh Tomb”, is one of the several imperial tombs and mausoleums in the region, each dedicated to a different Nguyen Dynasty emperor.
Emperor Khai Dinh ruled Vietnam from 1916 to 1925 as the 12th emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty. His tomb is actually one of the most unique tombs we visited in Hue.
Unlike the other imperial tombs, the tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh is characterized by its dark-colored concrete, which was a departure from the traditional white or yellow colors of other imperial tombs. You also need to climb a steep flight of stairs to reach the tomb’s main building. The main building’s colorful and lavish interior is a sharp contrast to the dark exterior outside.
There is a small stand selling water at the tomb and you can also find a bathroom at the tomb as well.
You will need at least an hour at the tomb to explore it in its entirety.
This tomb is included in the 4 attraction package pass if you purchased it when you visited Hue Citadel. If you did not buy the combo ticket, the individual ticket cost VND 150,000 ($6 USD).
Mausoleum of Emperor Minh Mang
The second tomb you will visit on Day 2 in Hue is the Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang. Set alongside the shore of the Perfume River, Emperor Minh Mang’s tomb is probably the prettiest tomb to visit in Hue.
Emperor Minh Mang was the second emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty and ruled from 1820 to 1831.
Compared to the Tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh, the Minh Mang tomb is much larger and much more colorful. The tomb includes about 40 buildings, including palaces, pavilions, temples, etc. If you didn’t know this was a tomb, you’d probably mistaken this as a royal palace of some sort.
You can spend a good 2 hours exploring the Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang and there are plenty of beautiful photo spots as well.
When we visited mid day at the end of February, there weren’t actually many tourists around. So you can totally enjoy the complex in peace.
The Mausoleum of Emperor Minh Mang is also included in the 4 attraction combo ticket. Without the combo ticket it costs VND 150,000 ($6 USD).
Mausoleum of Emperor Tu Duc
Another beautiful tomb to visit in Hue is the royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc. He ruled from 1848 to 1883, making him the longest reign during the Nguyen dynasty. Unfortunately he was unable to have any children despite having more than 100 wives and concubines.
Emperor Tu Duc’s tomb is one of the largest royal tombs in Hue, with about 50 buildings over 12 hectares of grounds. The tomb felt more like a park than a tomb, with beautiful ponds, lakes, pagodas and pavilions.
Our favorite place at the Royal Tomb of Tu Duc is the pond, where you can feed koi fish and rest by the lake.
Because of his fear of theft, his actual burial place is not at this royal tomb. In fact to this day, nobody knows where he was actually buried.
The Mausoleum of Emperor Tu Duc is also included in the 4 attraction combo ticket. Without the combo ticket it costs VND 150,000 ($6 USD).
Royal Tomb of Emperor Gia Long
We only visited 3 tombs but another popular tomb is that of Emperor Gia Long. He was the first emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty. He unified the different territories of Vietnam during his reign and laid the foundation of what is modern day Vietnam.
If we had more time we would have visited his tomb, as there are many unique and beautiful structures in his tomb. There are also rivers and lotus filled lakes at the tomb, making it beautiful to visit.
The tomb of Emperor Gia Long is also included in the 3 attraction combo ticket. Without the combo ticket it costs VND 150,000 ($6 USD). It is not part of the 4 attraction combo ticket, so you may have to pay out of pocket if you want to visit all 4 tombs.
What to eat in Hue
Although 2 days is quite short to try all the delicious food in Hue, you can still find some amazing places to eat and try the local cuisine.
There are several local dishes that are famous in Hue, and you will not be able to find them elsewhere in Vietnam.
Traditional Hue food you have to try
- Bún bò Huế, the famous spicy beef noodle soup in Hue. These are different from pho in Hanoi. The noodles are often thicker and more slippery and the flavors stronger and more pronounced. If there is only one thing you eat in Hue, this should be the one.
- Cơm hến, a flavorful and unique combination of rice and clams. You will usually find overnight white rice topped with bean sprouts, green onions, fried peanuts, pork rind, chili, other herbs and clams.
- Bánh khoái, a traditional Hue pancake, made with rice flour and filled with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts and eggs and dipping sauce.
- Bún thịt nướng, vermicelli noodles served with grilled pork, fish sauce and peanuts.
- Bánh bèo, another Hue steamed rice cake topped with a variety of different things, such as shrimp, mung bean paste, scallion oil, fried shallots, and fish sauce.
- Nem Lui , grilled pork skewers made from finely minced pork mixed with aromatic herbs and spices. They are served with rice paper, fresh herbs, and dipping sauce.
- Banh Bot Loc, also called tapioca dumplings, are steamed dumplings filled with pork and shrimp. The skin is translucent and the dumplings are wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.
- Chè, a sweet soup, which can be served warm or cold with various ingredients like beans, fruits, and jellies.
Best restaurants to eat in Hue
- Huyen Anh Restaurant on 50 Kim Long, known for the Bún thịt nướng (noodle with grilled pork)
- Madam Thu Restaurant, probably one of the most popular restaurants for tourists in Hue. They offer a little bit of everything, including Bun Bo Hue and a platter with all the Hue specialty food. Reservation is needed unless you go super early (like 5pm) to avoid a long wait.
- Bà Gái Hue Beef Noodle Soup, as the name implies, their specialty is the Hue beef noodle soup. This restaurant does not look like a fancy place, but many tourists go there for the noodle!
- Ancient Hue Garden Houses: if you are looking for fine dining experience in Hue, this is the place to be. This hotel serves a “royal tasting menu” which is a multi-course meal accompanied by traditional costume change.
- Nook Eatery, if you are craving a burger or western food then this is the place to go. I understand the craving for some burgers after traveling in Asia for a while.
A word on peanut allergies in Vietnam
Many dishes in Hue (and in Vietnam in general) uses peanuts and some restaurants even use peanut oil. If you have a peanut allergy (or other food allergies), I would recommend that you stick to these very well reviewed restaurants frequented by foreigners.
We did not have an issue with peanut allergy in Vietnam, but I have read that it could be a problem in Vietnam. You should always let them know and emphasize. Also ask about the oil to see if they use peanut oil (places we went to did not).
What to Wear (and Not Wear) in Hue, Vietnam
There is no “dress code” when visiting Hue but it is always a good idea to dress moderately and respectfully when visiting pagodas and royal tombs in Hue.
In general, you should avoid wearing tank tops and mini skirts and super short shorts (like the type that you can see your butt).
When visiting temples, pagodas and other historical sites in Hue, you should wear clothes that cover your shoulders, knees and do not show cleavage. Many Vietnamese tourists actually wear their traditional clothing when visiting these historical sites (many also dress up for photoshoots there).
When we visited the Hue Historic Citadel, there are buildings in the Citadel that require you to take off your shoes before entering. You should also remove hats when visiting religious sites.
What to Pack for Hue, Vietnam
Hue generally has warm weather and you should always check the weather forecast before you go. But below are a few essential things you should pack when visiting Hue.
- Cash: You need cash for the market and entrance tickets to these Hue tourist attractions
- Umbrella/ rain jacket: Hue rains quite a bit, especially between August and December. Even when we visited in February during the dry season it rained a little bit. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for rain when visiting Central Vietnam.
- Medication: don’t forget your medication! Even though you can buy generic medicine in Hue, if you have specific needs you should definitely bring them with you.
Is Hue Worth Visiting
Hue is absolutely worth a visit even if it’s just for a day or two. This historical city is so underrated and I’m not sure why more tourists do not visit.
Hue has such amazing architecture and food scene, with its historical citadel, beautiful royal tombs, mysterious abandoned water park and much more. It is a shame that it does not get the same number of visitors as Da Nang even though it is easy to get to.
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Other Vietnam Travel Guides
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