Here’s how I spent one day in Hue when I backpacked through Vietnam!
A lot of people don’t rate Hue but I think this is down to the sights there being lesser-known (except perhaps the highlight below). Hue was actually the capital of Vietnam for 143 years up until 1945. Despite so many beautiful attractions, it was disturbingly also where the Battle of Hue took place – in 1968, thousands of people were killed here.
I rented an easyrider for the day here which cost around 11 pounds. This meant that not only did I have a local guide with me at all times to tell me the history of the historical sights, but also I could easily access them. Alternatively, you could rent your own scooter.
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THE ABANDONED WATERPARK
Best to start your one day Hue itinerary early as it gets so warm! The abandoned waterpark has become well-known as one of the best things to do in Hue.
They spent 3 million US dollars to create the waterpark for families, yet now I was wandering around over barbed wire and broken glass. Although it’s not officially open to the public, everyone goes… Whilst there are loads of tales of people sneaking into the park and dodging security, I found it very easy to enter the park! I think because I had hired a local guide for the day (along with his scooter) it was super easy to get in.
Very atmospheric, it reminded me of a post-apocalyptic video game. This waterpark is not for kids, but otherwise weirdly fun. Out of all the things to do in Hue, this has to be the one people seemed most excited about when I was backpacking in Vietnam!
VONG CANH HILL LOOKOUT
Who doesn’t love a viewpoint? On the outskirts of the imperial city, Vong Canh Hill overlooks the serene Perfume River and was incredibly peaceful. The park here is a really nice way to break up visiting busy tourist attractions.
A visit to the park or river is surely the most romantic way to escape Hue’s crowds and traffics. As well as being a welcome retreat from the heat.
PAGODA OF THE CELESTIAL LADY
My local guide (aka scooter driver) told me all about the folklore surrounding the temple and also mentioned it was the tallest religious building in Vietnam with seven stories. Built in 1601, Thien Mu Pagoda also overlooks the Perfume River which runs through Hue as it gushes towards the mountains.
Including tranquil gardens, this working Buddhist temple is a fascinating stop on your visit to Hue. You may even be lucky enough to chat with the friendly monks or see them playing music.
TU DUC TOMB
Tu Duc is sometimes considered the last emperor of Vietnam and died in 1883. He had no children but 104 wives and even more concubines… sounds stressful, right? His tomb is however surprisingly tranquil, grand architecture scattered around a moat and lily ponds.
Noticed by many as being the most beautiful of the Nyugen emporer’s tombs, Tu Duc Tomb is highly recommended if you only have time to visit one. It is a huge and elaborate site which thus does not get too crowded.
I actually didn’t have time to include the Imperial City in my one day Hue itinerary but it’s definitely worth fitting in if you can.
Hue is home to the Imperial City – a vast 19th-century citadel, full of shrines and palaces – and also the Forbidden Purple City. From 1802 – 1945, Vietnam was ruled by the Nyugen Dynasty who had their capital here. This is where the many emperors once lived and as such as crawling with history.
It’s worth noting that many buildings were damaged during WW2 and the Vietnam War, but enough remains intact to make it worth a visit nonetheless.
LEARN ABOUT THE WAR AT THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE
A great addition if you have two days to spare in Hue as it’s one of the best and most important things to see here.
For a real insight into the divisions created during the war, visit the battleground demarcation line between the Communist North and free South that divided the country into 2 separate states.
The most popular way to visit the DMZ is as a day trip from Hue, usually as part of a tour: click here for an example tour itinerary by GetYourGuide.
THE HOI VAN PASS
When you leave Hue, this is the best route to take to Hoi An.
Hue is also a great place to rent a scooter or get an easy rider to take you on a road trip to Hoi An or Danang via the famous Hoi Van Pass. This winding mountain route HAS to be the best way to get between Hoi An and Hue with cool sights and amazing viewpoints along the way. These include:
- elephant springs
- Lang Co beach
- The Hoi Van Pass (and stopping off at a viewpoint)
- Marble Mountains
This would be my Vietnam MUST-DO as it was my favourite day in the country! I wrote more details about my experience here: Alternative One – Two Week Vietnam Itinerary
TRAVEL SUSTAINABLY IN VIETNAM
To avoid using plastic bottles in Southeast Asia, I used to a Water To Go bottle.
The filters used in their BPA free water bottles are created based on technology originally developed for the NASA space programme. These provide safe water from any non-salt water source in the world.
Read more on their website and use the code HAG15 if you like what you see to get 15% off.
VISAS FOR VIETNAM
Most travellers will require a visa to enter Vietnam which you can organise in advance. Check below to see your requirements. I personally used and paid for the iVisa service in 2020 and it’s a website I would genuinely recommend. I now have the below affiliate link set up with them: ivisa.com