Last Updated on 3 years by Tam Le Van
The last dynasty of Vietnam left a hundreds of glorious buildings in its capital Hue. Many of them is chosen to be in the UNESCO list, as same status as Wesminter palace in London. All by all, the most monumental one is the Imperial City where the best constructions stand, best antiquities preserved and most important events of the country occurred. This is the best of its kind nationwide, therefore definitely worth it to check out.
Visiting the Imperial City is a must, one of the best things to do in Hue. Comers not only have the opportunity to learn about history, art, architecture and royal culture of Vietnamese in past centuries, but also see up-close their gorgeous works. To provide you full-packaged information, Hoi An Life makes this article, complete travel guide to the Imperial City in Hue. Take your pack and start with us!
Ornate decoration on the palace’s roof inside the Imperial City Ngon Mon, the South gate of Imperial City at night
General view of Hue Imperial City (Hoang Cung Hue)
Hue Imperial City’s location and history
Hue Imperial City (Hoang Thanh Hue) is constructed from 1804 in the reign of Gia Long, the first king of Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) and at its complete look in 1833 by his successor. It is home of nearly 150 buildings within a square-shaped plan that are ornate palaces, monumental temples, glorious pavillions and resiliences, beautiful designed gardens as well as plenty of functional houses. Most of them serves for work, life of kings and their family. More than that, many ones used for important occasions of the entire country (namely Dai Nam, “Great South” at the time). At its every side, there is a three-arched gate and pavillion for observatory purpose.
Above all, Ngo Mon gate to the South stands as the main entrance and the largest one. Now, tourists can access the Imperial City by this city enblem, instead of emperors only in the past centuries. It takes about 2.5 hours to sightsee around, averagely.
Forbidden Purple City (Tu Cam Thanh) is inside the Imperial City. It composes of various large palaces for king and his family formely. After the wartime, not a lot building still standing but on the roadmap to reconstruct by Vietnamese government.
The Imperial City is in the second wall of Hue Citadel Cua Chuong Duc, the west gate of the Imperial City
Hue Imperial City is second wall of greater Citadel that its setting well-selected by the dynasty founder. His planning is not only of combination with worldwide Vauban fortification concept, but also make full use of natural features. Perfectly corresponds to traditional geomancy principles Feng shui. In front of this best preserved Vietnamese feudal capital, Perfurme river gently runs and further, a wooded mountain (Nui Ngu Binh) functioning as the protective screen. Two fertile river islands (namely Con Hen, Con Da Vien) to its left and right side, shield the main entrance and prevent the entry of malevolent spirits as well. In addition to, the Imperial City mainly faces the South, Vietnamese favourite direction what help people to avoid unhealthy winds from the North during the end of year and welcome moderate winds in hot season. Constructions inside it can survive longer on the another hand.
Compare to previous capital Hanoi, Hue boasts of its middle position of the country. That’s great to , especially for military defence.
The Imperial City features plenty of trees and flowers
@Thai Hoa palace
A king ceremony held in the Imperial City
Hue Imperial City’s opening hours
The Imperial City opens from 6:30 a.m to 5:30 p.m in the dry season and 7 a.m to 5 p.m in the end of the year, “the winter” in some documents. Keep in mind that last tickets sold 5 minutes prior to closing. Read Hoi An Life’s article about the weather and seasons in Hue to know how these times are via. Other sightseeing places in the Complex of Hue’s Monuments also have the same opening hours.
Save your time enough to visit Hue Museum of Royal Antiquities, after walk around the Imperial City. It preserves the largest collection about Nguyen dynasty from 1802 to 1945.
Early sunshine in the Long Corridor of the Forbidden Purple City Lau Tu Phuong Vo Su Pavillion and its nearby waters in late afternoon
A part of the Complex of Hue Monuments: First World Heritage Site of Vietnam
In the course of one hundred fourty-three years from 1802 to 1945, Nguyen royal family established a large complex of momuments at Hue. This enormous tangible collection covers a huge brick-walled fortress with about 150 buildings inside, king tombs, Buddhist temples, prince and princess resiliences as well as numerous religious constructions. All of them together manifests the prosperity of Vietnam’s last feudal dynasty. In 1993, the most presentative ones selected to be titled as an UNESCO World heritage site (see more via http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/678). The United Nations’s organization decribes its outstanding universal value as First places of the country listed ever. Nowadays, Complex of Hue Monuments play very important role in local tourism industry and economy.
A restored gate-fortress in Hue Citadel wall what almost ruined in Vietnam’s modern wars Buildings within the Forbidden Purple City will be reconstructed in near future
How to get Hue Imperial City
Taxi, bicycle, motorcycle and walking from Hue center
The Perfume river devides Hue city centre into two parts, its North and South banks. Everything is a slightly different between these areas, including accommodations. If you stay somewhere around the North bank (Citadel), the Imperial City is in a walkable/bicycleable distance. Or in case prefer to other vehicles, the cost it seems cheaper than starting your trip from the opposite bank because without any bridges. However, that’s relative. Many places in the South bank (Hue new city) offer an ideal location for walking and cycling. Feel free to select your favourite hotel and just keep in mind its distance to the Imperial City.
On the other hand, getting a motorcycle when you plan not a single-destination itenerary. The Imperial City often is combined with royal tombs on forested hills, temples and scenic landscapes around them for one day of adventure in Hue. These tourist attractions are really not close together and several, of the mountain setting. Meaning that, you can save time and a bit money if travel with the motorcycle, instead of taking hours on bicycle in the sun or purchasing much for taxi. Anyway, one of the best choices across Vietnam.
Parkings in the Imperial City
Get Hue Imperial City by boat
You can reach the Imperial City by boat from a couple of stations along the Perfurme river. If start from the South bank ones (the most popular traveler choice about place to stay in Hue), it takes you nearly 15 minutes. This time will be longer when combine the Imperial City with other sightseeing areas such as Thien Mu pagoda or Minh Mang tomb. To get, just come straightaway to Toa Kham station (close by Truong Tien bridge) or So 5 Le Loi station (near Azerai La Residence Hotel). Boat owners usually stand around there to greet and give you the offers.
Bargaining is common, necessary to make the price down to its proper points. Furthermore, there is possible to find out boat trips to the Imperial City (and other sites) at local tour operators as well. Lunch on the cruise included in many selections. Read our article about the best tours in Hue for further information.
Besides the Imperial City, Thien Mu pagoda is another popular destination on Hue’s boat trips.
Dragon boats set along Ben Toa Kham pier @The South Bank A tour guide helps his company’s guests walk in dragon boat @Ben Toa Kham pier
Get Hue Imperial City by cyclo
Cyclo has used in the transport since French colonial time (19th century) when the city was capital of the Annam Trung Ky. At the time, it served for people from upper social classes or richmans only. Today, this doesn’t live anymore and joining actively in carrying travelers, especially to the Imperial City and attractions within Hue centre. On the cyclo with a local driver, your experience is more special than others. Differentiate to Hoi An, cyclo ride here is longer, more flexible and without a fixed price at sometimes. You should discuss about where to stop and how much it cost with the rider before start. Additionally, if worried about the quality or overpricing, come to local operators near you to get a good deal. Check out Hoi An Life’s article about the best tours in Hue for further details through.
Keep in mind to prepare small notes ahead of time to pay for cyclo riders. It helps you avoid the disappointings occasionally.
Cyclo riders near Ben xe Nguyen Hoang parking
From Phu Bai airport
The Imperial City is 17km away from Phu Bai international airport, the second busiest one across Central Vietnam. It takes about 30 minutes on the taxi what you easily get in the outside of arrival hall and the cost is around 200.000 VND (8.7 USD) if take a four seat one. This is among the quickest ways and most fitted when you travel with family or some lugguages.
Private car rental is another good choice, fair to the taxi but you should carefully research to select believable company/driver and a properly-priced offer. Check out reputable online sites like TripAdvisor to see reviews made up by past experiencers. Keep in mind that Grab car drivers are just available around busy hours of airport operation. Early morning or late evening maybe not their prefering times. Therefore, change to the other kinds of transport in case of landing at that parts of day to ensure you have a fine selection to reach the Home of kings.
From Hue Railway Station
At Hue railway station, all vehicles are convenient to get to the Imperial City. If you like to walk, the distance (2.3km, 30 mins) is not too far and green trees line your pathway. There are two choices to choose from, crossing Phu Xuan or Da Vien bridges. First option will be shorter, more things to see en route such as Quoc hoc Hue (Hue National Highschool) and its front war memorial, Museum of Ho Chi Minh presient or City hall. On the other side, you have the panoramic view over Perfurme river when pick the another one.
From Hue’s Bus Stations
Bus stations are established at both the North and South of Hue. Each one of them serves for the provinces/cities according to its corresponding direction. In other words, buses from Hanoi end their itenerary at the North station and from Ho Chi Minh or Da Nang/Hoi An with the last stop in the South one. About the distance to city center and the Imperial City, while it’s only 3 kilometers in case of South bus station (Ben xe phia Nam Hue), passengers have to get a 7km long ride to the another. Meaning that the budget for transfer from North bus station (Ben xe phia Bac Hue) will be more.
Like the airport, taxi is always available with a cost of around 13.000 VND per kilometers (four seat car). Near the entrance of any bus stations, you have no difficult to find and experience motorcycle taxi (Xe om in Vietnamese). Its price generally is cheaper but becomes expensive at sometimes, especially without a pre-agreed deal. Keep in mind to ask and just take it if you’re happy with the pay.
On the another hand, Hue city buses are also easily catched throughout every station. First departure is at 5:30 a.m (until 7 p.m) and the waiting time falls about 15 minutes. During rush hours, this may be longer, however not more than fourty minutes. At the present, ticket fare is 10.000 VND (0.43 USD) per person (no fee for your luggages). The closest stopping points to get the Imperial City are on Le Duan street.
If join an organised tour to Imperial City from Hue’s bus stations, check out carefully information about picking up.
From Chan May port
To visit Hue Imperial City from Chan May port, organised tour is the most popular choice due to its convenience. Travelers will be picked up right after leave the cruise and follow a culture itenerary then, with around 63 kilometers oneway. Prior to make up your mind the best trip, see the reviews in the internet about travel operators recommended.
People wearing traditional long dress and holding flat palm hat with fringes for welcome ceremony
@Cang Chan May port
Get Imperial City of Hue from Hoi An and Da Nang
Basically the Imperial City is in Hue center where accommodations have their most concenstration. In general, it takes you around a half of day to move from both cities, on any kind of vehicles except the train. Make sure you have time enough to leave your luggages in the hotel, getting foods and visiting the site (apprx 2.5 hours to sightsee all highlights). Read our articles about how to get Hue from Hoi An and Da Nang via to find out the best fit to you.
If plan to stop at somewhere stunning en route like Hai Van pass, full-day experience is recommended to have. In this case, traveling on the motorcycle’s the most popular choice due to its high flexibility. To know what are good places to see between Hoi An and Hue, browse our another guide through http://hoianlife.net/from-hoi-an-to-hue-via-hai-van-pass-by-motorbike/.
Unspoiled Lang Co beach en route between Hoi An and Hue @Lang Co town
Best times to visit Hue Imperial City
The best time to visit Hue’s Imperial City is between January and April when the weather in general and temperature in particular is more pleasant to carry out outdoor activities. From the beginning of May onwards, travelers may sightsee its rich-historied buildings in the strong heat and high humidity as well as tropical typhoons with an average rainfall up to 2.700mm per year. Always keep in mind to check the forecast in the previous days and start your trip to the Imperial City early. During the rainy season, you should bring raincoat/umbrella and above all, avoid flooding time. Hoi An Life outlines a full article about Hue’s weather in the year, read it through for more details and hold on hands helpful travel tips from us.
Visit Hue Imperial City at night
Coloful lights are on iconic buildings in the outside of the Imperial City’s wall until the midnight, making the charm of these architectural masterpieces more gorgeous and traveler experience more different. During the summertime, Hue Monuments Conservation Centre allows tourist access between 7 and 10 p.m, it’s called as the Royal night. In which, you will see the novelty look of ornate king palaces, solemn temples, glorious pavillions, imperial ceremonies as well as join in Vietnamese traditional entertainings. The ticket price has no change. Check out the conservation centre’s official webpage to update the most recent information if you come to Hue in another time, the wet months for example.
You may visit the Imperial City in late afternoon and then stay back to admire its beauty in another stunning appearance.
Hue Imperial City ticket and guiding services
Ticket of Hue Imperial City and its price
All travelers will buy an entrance ticket to see rich-historied architectural buildings inside the wall of Hue Imperial City. It cost 200.000 VND (8.7 USD) for adult and 40.000 VND for childrens between 7 and 12 years old (or 0.8 to 1.3 meter height). In case of Vietnamese ID card holder, this fee is 150.000 VND (6.5 USD) and 30.000 VND respectively. The validity is within opening hours and for one time of visit only. There is no charge for childrens under 7 years old (or below 0.8 meter height).
In addition to, you can save with “combined ticket”. The first one is the combo of Hue Imperial City, Tomb of Minh Mang king and Tomb of Khai Dinh king with a price of 420.000 VND (18.2 USD) for adult and 80.000 VND for childrens. 530.000 VND (23 USD) and 100.000 VND if purchase Tomb of Tu Duc king as a bonus. The last offer, for all sites managed by Hue Monuments Conservation Centre, is 580.000 VND (25.2 USD) and 110.000 VND.
Keep in mind that the Imperial City ticket covers the entry into Hue Museum of Royal Antiquities. Morever, a free buggy transfer also is offered to carry you from the exit (Hien Nhon gate) to it.
List of ticketed places in Complex of Hue monuments
Hue Imperial City, Hue Museum of Royal Antiquities, Minh Mang tomb, Khai Dinh tomb, Tu Duc tomb, Trieu Tri tomb, Gia Long tomb, Dong Khanh tomb, Dien Hon Chen temple, Dan Nam Giao altar (The Esplanade of Sacrifice to the Heaven and Earth) and Cung An Dinh palace.
Where to buy Hue Imperial City ticket?
Pass Cua Ngan or Quang Duc gate of the Citadel and move towards Ngo Mon gate, you will see easily the Hue Imperial City ticket counters under the shade of old trees. They’re available from 6:30 a.m to 5:30 p.m in the summer and 7 a.m until 5 p.m in the winter. In this time, you will have a card to show in the checking point at Ngo Mon gate and then, don’t need it anymore until leave. At the moment, cash is only accepted, so you should prepare in advance. Unfortunately, no ATM points stand nearby.
Should I book Hue Imperial City ticket in advance?
There is no limitation of ticket sold during the day at Hue Imperial City. So, pre-booking it is unnecessary and overbooking it seems that never happen. Furthermore, disappearing of sunrise experience here also make this true. Plan your trip and just do it!
The Imperial City ticket validates only a day. It means what you bought, will be not allowed to visit. Get it direct when come.
Guiding services in Hue Imperial City
As one of Vietnam’s most important historic place, knowledgeable guides are many in the Imperial City, with a fee of 150.000 VND (6.5 USD). Both Vietnamese and foreign languages including English, French, Chinese, Japanese, Russian are available during opening hours of the site. Among them, English speaking ones own the highest number that up to 50 persons, a half. Prior booking often is not the popular choice but if you have the contact of someone working in, let him/her know in advance to welcome. In case no ideas about, tell cashiers at ticket counters near Ngo Mon gate when needed.
The Imperial City in the new year festival
Available all the time of opening hours in 11 languages at the Imperial City, this new service lasts 150 minutes at most highlighting places and highly fitted to solo travelers or history lovers. Have a request to cashiers in the ticket counters if like to book. They give you the detailed instructions then.
Not only in the Imperial City, travelers can find audio guide at four other attractions of Complex of Hue monuments. There are Thien Mu pagoda and tomb of Minh Mang, Khai Dinh, Tu Duc kings.
Lau Bat Giac octagonal pavillion where princesses read book
Need to know before visit Hue Imperial City
Entrance and exit are different!
Hue Monuments Conservation Centre designs the entrance and exit to visit the Imperial City by two different gates. Tourists will come in through Ngo Mon gate near ticket counters and leave by Hien Nhon gate “the East gate” (and then can move to Museum of Royal Antiquities). These gates are 650 meters between each other. Therefore, you should sightsee the Nine Holy Cannons or the Flag Tower before enter and explore grand buildings inside the Imperial City if have no plan to come back.
Ngo Mon gate, the entrance Cua Hien Nhon gate, the exit
How long it takes to visit Hue Imperial City?
Travelers are recommended to visit the Imperial City in two and a half hours. Particularly, it’s enough to see and learn about history in hightlighting sites, including Thai Hoa Palace, The To Mieu temple, Dien Tho Palace, Forbidden City and Duyet Thi Duong Theatre. If you are an explorer or like to deepen your understanding about Vietnam’s last feudal period, this time should be lasted longer probably.
Find or take photo of Imperial City visit map, it helps you to save time and avoid walking around confusingly.
Travel regulations in the Imperial City
Visitors are requested to not wear short clothes when come in palaces and temples of the Imperial City. Just keep in mind to cover your harmpits and do not take bikini-like pieces. During the summer, you should bring unbrella/cap/hat to avoid the strong heat and raincoat, waterproof footwears in the wet season. Cap or hat have to be off as same as the way Vietnamese do over centuries here. Beside that, camera prohibited at somewhere. Take note of signposts at the entrance in each sightseeing place to know detailed regulations.
Travelers not allowed to enter Imperial City’s major buildings by the central door what formerly only for kings A group of Vietnamese young people is happy with their beautiful royal costumes
Royal literature on Hue royal architecture: Asia-Pacific’s documentary heritage
What to see in Hue Imperial City
Places in the outside of Hue Imperial City’s wall
Luong Dinh Welcome Pavillion (Nghenh Luong Dinh)
Constructed by the Perfurme river in 1852, Luong Dinh Welcome Pavillion is used as relaxing place of kings during hot summer time. Additionally, this open structure also functions as a boat station where royal cruises usually start the trip to temples and tombs around the upstream area of the river. Nowadays, still seen here. In Hon Chen temple festival annually, there is easy to get a boat to join and much photo opportunities.
Pavillion of Edicts (Phu Van Lau)
This glorious building and Luong Dinh Welcome Pavillion in front are choosen to appear on the note valueing 50.000 VND of Vietnam because of their widely known image to Vietnamese. Within Nguyen dynasty, the king used Phu Van Lau to publicize his announcements and documents to people living in the country (including the official list of winners in royal examinations). Just before it, there are two steles with four Chinese set up to remind visitors to “leave the horse and pay respect”. Morever, the pavillion also is the starting point of former North-South Duong Thien Ly that shape National road 1A today.
Nine Holy Cannons (Cuu Vi Than Cong)
These National Treasure of Vietnam are casted within 12 months by traditional artisans in Phuong Duc village at Hue, from 1803 to 1804 by the request of Gia Long king (founder of the dynasty). Main materials to make them are bronze weapons and artifacts taken from the army of previous Tay Son era. You can find four cannons near Cua Quang Duc gate and five others on the opposite side, representing for four seasons during the year and five elements in Fengshui respectively. Each one has wheels to move around and of 17.000 kilogram weight. Above all, Nine Holy Cannons symbolizes for victory and power of the state at the time as well as masterly skills and creativity of local people. Before 1886, annually the kings pays the bill for the ceremony honoring them. In addition to, never used for any military purposes until now.
Craftmans of Phuong Duc bronze casting village also are creators for many precious relics throughout Hue. Visit if you like to deepen your understanding about this traditional handicraft community.
The Flag Tower (Ky Dai)
Have dominated skyline of the city since a long period, Hue Flag Tower is officially constructed in 1807 under the reign of the first king Gia Long and renovated three times later. It owns a monumental base of 3 flat top pyramid design and a flagpole where the national flag hung. Furthermore, there is easy to witness weather during the day, stars by night, traffic on the Perfume river as well as attacks to the Imperial City from its high positions. Within the history, the flaghole itself is collapsed several times, not only by natural disasters (typhoon) but also by human. The flag we see today is from 1975 when North and South Vietnam unified. Previously, Democratic Republic of Vietnam’s one has ever existed.
In 2018, military cannons are added back to this grand building after their loss in the wartime. To bring something new to Hue nightlife, a fire show held here every Wednesday and Saturday at 9 p.m. The best places to see it around the Pavillion of Edicts (Phu Van Lau). Keep in mind to come early to get your favourite watching/photography spots, among crowds. With recently installed modern lighting system, the Flag Tower turns into the heritage of a gorgeous look in the evening.
Ngo Mon Gate and its square
Architecture and history of Ngo Mon Gate
Ngo Mon gate (The Noon Gate) is the main entrance and the largest one among all gates of the Imperial City. It’s built in the first king’s reign Gia Long and rebuilt by his successor Minh Mang king in 1833. Generally, it composes of two parts, the U-shaped brick base and the upper structures named as Lau Ngu Phung (Five Phoenixes Pavillion). Within Nguyen dynasty, five passageways of Ngo Mon serve for different figures. The middle one with its yellow door is used for kings only (that’s why closed today to keep its original role) and two immediate left-side/right-side paths for civil/military mandarins. During early years, the left-side passageway has a switch in function, for military mandarins to honor their contributions in founding the country (the left side is “more important” in Vietnamese traditional thinking than the another one). Two last ways serve for servants, solders, elephants and horses.
In 2018, the middle way of Ngo Mon gate was opened again following abdication of the last king in very long time, for Japanese emperor.
Before Ngo Mon gate restored, travelers could walk around its upper pavillions and capture great views over the palaces from above. Formerly, just king and his leading mandarins can stand in the central structure while the rest for guardians. The yellow tiled and green tiled roofs show this “regulation” (yellow only for emperors in feudal times). Any other buildings in the Imperial City also have the same thing. Additionally, there is no women over there as well, until Nam Phuong queen (wife of the last king) broke the rule. She paved the way for women rights in the country.
Historic events related to Ngo Mon gate
Upper space of Ngo Mon gate is ideal to witness important events occuring in the front square due to its high position. Annually, kings celebrate Le ban soc ceremony to annouce their subjects about new calendar of the year or Le truyen lo ceremony to honor the winners of royal examination. Daily, Le doi gac ceremony (“changing the guard”) that has reappeared since 2017 to provide the chance to tourists worldwide to know more about former activities. Make sure you come earlier than 8:30 a.m if like to see.
In 1945, the abdication ceremony of Vietnam’s last king Bao Dai also held. This event is seen as the turning point in country’s history. In other words, thousand-year lasting feudal time ends and a new era for Vietnamese begins. The road near Ngo Mon gate later get named as 28th March to memorize it.
From 2000, Hue festival is organized every year to keep the role of Ngo Mon gate area alive. It’s the most featured cultural events across Vietnam. See more imformation here.
Dien Thai Hoa (Palace of Supreme Harmony)
Dien Thai Hoa has the longest history amid all palaces of the Imperial City (from 1805) that also only of them survives until now. It’s constructed to celebrate the most important anniversaries, coronations, national rituals, welcome ambassadors and to hold king’s meetings with mandarins in 1st or 15th days of lunar month. In its center, there is an intricate gold-plated throne where kings sit to chair these events. Because the king would crow here after his predecessor passes away so it’s also called as “Crown palace”.
Keep in mind that too short clothes and taking photo of king throne (Ngai vang trieu Nguyen) are not allowed.
In general, Thai Hoa palace includes two halls connected together and features the quintessences of Nguyen dynasty’s royal architecture. Its front hall has a wealthy decoration, from iron wood columns with beautiful dragons in cloud image, ornate roof structures to particular items. Especially, contains various beautiful paintings and poems of high documentary values in an one-by-one order that honored by the UNESCO. The main content of these works of art showcases us the unification and prosperity of the country at the time. You can see a stunning model indicating the full appearance of the Imperial City, English-caption video about its digital renovation, map of former Vietnam created by Nguyen family kings and a bookshop in the back hall.
Dien Can Chanh (Palace of Audiences)
If Thai Hoa palace is used for meetings between king and mandarins in only two days of the lunar month, Dien Can Chanh palace serves for 5th, 10th, 20th and 25th dates. This most invested building of the Forbidden Purple City is built in 1804, repair a couple of times then and totally destroyed by fire in 1947. By contrast to its past glorious look, not much things left today over centuries and over different wars. Renovation works of it have carried out since a long time and gained some achievements. If like to get more information about related projects and mini reconstuction paradigm, visit the exhibition behind Duyet Thi Duong theatre.
Just before walk in Can Chanh palace, there is a house where tourists can take picture with rental royal costumes on the throne (to the left hand side, Ta Vu hall) and the another Huu Vu hall used to exhibit documents about Hue’s world heritage sites such as Royal court music, UNESCO listed places. In the outside, you can see several huge urns casted in 17th century by Nguyen lords that registered as Vietnam’s national treasure. They’s established for symbolic purpose, more than what else.
Royal palaces behind Dien Can Chanh: Forbidden Purple City
Following 1947 fire and Vietnam war later, sadly palaces of the Forbidden Purple City do not stand on the ground anymore. In the past, they were used to serve for daily life of king and his family. The last one Kien Trung palace, with a big newly-made dragon seal, associates to last king and his dad. Its glamorous architecture is mixed between Vietnamese traditions and western influences. Recently, reconstruction work of this building has started and promise to be done in near future.
Two left and right corridors running parallely from Can Chanh palace to Kien Trung palace are highlights. They were just reconstructed few years ago. As same as Thai Hoa palace, the decoration on their wooden frame follows the rule “one poem, one picture” in an eye-catching red color.
Dien Tho Palace
This gem of history is used as the resilience of several king’s mothers and grandmothers during a long time. Because located next to the Forbidden Purple City, kings conveniently come here to visit and look after their beloved ones.
Dien Tho palace complex includes numerous buildings ranging from its South-facing entrance, two palaces, pavillions, functional houses to temples. The main structure, king grand mother’s palace boasts of its magnificent look, rich decorations. There are lots of antiquities, common-day woodworks, royal costumes and documentations related to their daily life exhibited inside. If you like to buy something as the reminder of your Imperial City trip, a survenir shop is just to its right hand side. Nearby, a coffee shop by a small lotus pond (Ta Truong Du) will be chilly place to rest and enjoy calm atmosphere of the palace. People in the past relaxed, fed the golden fishes and read books. Additionally, there is another palace behind the main one namely Dien Tho Ninh, serving for other “mothers” of king with a smaller scale. Not much things to see there.
1927-built Lau Tinh Minh pavillion to the right direction of the main hall associates to life of last king’s family, especially his mom. Many historic documents are preserved intact on-site showing us more details. Its architecture has a mixture between Vietnamese and western elements. In its opposide side, newly-reconstucted Ta Tra house where the ladies welcome their guests. This is orginally established in 1804 but became degraded over many ups and downs in history. There is an intricate palaquin 10th king Thanh Thai gave his mom as a present, has preserved in it since 2014 (one of the most expensive antiques Vietnam authority bought from a collector). Last but no least, Am Phuoc Tho at a peaceful corner to the right of main hall, is daily praying place where Mother Goddesses and Buddha worshipped on each of its floor respectively. It’s only religious building within the Imperial City.
Truong Sanh Palace
Constructed in 1821 under the reign of Minh Mang-second king of Nguyen dynasty and upgraded fifteen years later by his son (Thieu Tri king), this site originally functioned as a royal garden where kings, queens and king’s mothers meet up for joy. In the end of the dynasty, some king’s mothers and grandmothers lived here. Its current name, Truong Sanh, dated back from 1923.
The To Mieu Temple Complex (Temple for Worship of Nguyen Emperors)
The To Mieu Temple Complex encompasses three temples, Temple for worship of Nguyen kings, Hung Mieu temple for worship of first king’s parents behind it and Phung Tien temple where women can join royal rituals.
If walk from Ngo Mon gate, the first building you see is Mieu Mon (“temple gate”) with a rich decorations created by skillful local craftmans. Behind it, Hien Lam Cac (Pavillion of Glorious Coming) stands as the highest one inside whole Imperial city, 17 meter. This symbolizes for contributions of all people accompanying with the dynasty founder Gia Long. So, as a rule, no constructions should be more than it in height. Currently, houses within greater Citadel also are under the same regulation, majorly to protect visual integrity of architectural heritages. In addition to, there are two side temples nearby as well, established to honor the greatest contributors. Travelers have to walk cross a gate to its right side to visit The To Mieu temple instead of going straightaway.
Interesting facts about The To Mieu Temple
Nguyen Dynasty has thirdteen emperors but originally only seven workshipped in this national temple. Because of royal family rules that deposed kings and kings sent out of the country not allowed. One of six these “absent” persons is Bao Dai, the last emperor who died after the time he abdicated in 1945, a commoner. In 1958, three more are added as Ham Nghi, Thanh Thai and Duy Tan due to their activities in fighting against French colonist’s expansion of power (the reason why they’re forced to leave). So, today there are ten emperors being in the temple like we see. Additionally, every of nine dynastic urns corresponds to an altar in The To Mieu temple as well. Meaning that two among them still have no owner, and never too.
The position of king altars also are in a regulated order, by Nguyen royal family. The first king, Gia Long who found the dynasty owns the central location. And the altar of his successors have to be placed to the left side before the next to the right, one by one. After the death of 4th emperor Tu Duc, this rule is broken because he has no childrens. Therefore, who die prior to will fill the gap.
The pine tree next to the temple is planted by second king Minh Mang in 19th century. It has a dragon shape.
Nine Dynastic Urns (Cuu Dinh)
Hung Mieu Temple (Temple for Worship of Parents of First King)
Thai To Mieu Temple Complex (Temple for Worship of Nine Nguyen Lords)
Symmetrical with The To Mieu temple via Thai Hoa palace, Thai To Mieu is constructed in 1804 by the founder of dynasty to worship his family ancestors (also lords ruling half of current Vietnam between 1600 and 1802). Memorial ceremonies are held five times at good days during the year. As same as any other buildings inside the Imperial City, this spiritual temple is destroyed partly in 1947 fire. However, efforts from Nguyen family association and financial sponsor from U.S Ambassador Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) step by step help it take back its past glorious appearance.
Duyet Thi Duong Theatre: House of Vietnamese Court Music
To the East of the Forbidden Purple City, Duyet Thi Duong theatre is built in 1826 by Minh Mang king. To serve art performances for emperiors, queens, royal family members, high-ranking mandarins and ambassadors (mainly Tuồng/Vietnamese opera). It is designed with two storeys, the stage on the ground and a throne for king set up at the best position on upper one to watch. Today, there are some changes in layout of this Vietnam’s only old theatre. Dozens of chairs are put right on the ground to increase the number of seatings for Nha Nhac performances. All persons can join at several selected days or book for a private group. Get in touch with Hue Monuments Conservation Centre if like to admire and open your horizons about an Asian classic art. Within the interior of Duyet Thi Duong, many documents, photos and items related to Tuồng are showcased.
Nha Nhac, Vietnamese Court Music is the first intangible cultural heritage of Vietnam, registered by UNESCO in 2003. Now, the country has up to 13.
In the surrounding of Duyet Thi Duong, emperors also add gardens of flower and native plants (Thuoc nam) for medical examination and treatment. In addition to, “royal kitchen” where most foods catering for the king stands next to it as well. At the moment, still in ruin.
Vietnamese Court Music show at Duyet Thi Duong
You will pay 200.000 VND (8.7 USD) for a seating to witness performances of Vietnamese Court Music in Duyet Thi Duong daily. Buy the ticket right at its entrance and keep in mind to show earlier than the starting time. The show begins from 10 a.m or 3 p.m and lasts fourty minutes. Nowhere else in the city offer this.
Gardens and other historic buildings
Nhat Thanh Lau Pavillion
Thai Binh Lau Pavillion (Royal Reading Room)
Constructed in 1919 for emperors to relax and read books, Thai Binh Lau
Vuon Co Ha garden
Built in 1837, Vuon Co Ha garden is one of five royal gardens in the Imperial City. During 20th century, this and others are under a poor conditions to care. In recent years, Hue Monuments Conservation Centre erects resortation works to return its appearance as beautiful as in the past. Today, Co Ha garden is a popular spot to celebrate live music and cultural events.
Hue Museum of Royal Antiquities
|Location: Hai Muoi Ba Thang Tam street
|Opening hours: 7:30 a.m to 11 a.m and 1:30 to 5 p.m
|Ticket price: included in the Imperial City’s tocket
Established in 1923, the original name of Hue Museum of Royal Antiquities is Khai Dinh museum (name of 12th king). This is one of the oldest of its kind in the country. Up to the present, it’s home of priceless collections covering porcelains, bronze wares, royal costumes, mother-of-pearl inlay woodworks, seals, musical instruments used in ceremonies, glass paintings and more. Furthermore, there are numerous of memorial steles, urns, bells as well as cannons exhibited in its outdoor space. All of them tells us the richness of art during 143 years of Nguyen dynasty.
The Imperial Academy (Quoc Tu Giam) and Hue War Museum
|Location: Hai Muoi Ba Thang Tam street
|Opening hours: 7:30 a.m to 11 a.m and 1:30 to 5 p.m
The Imperial Academy (Quoc Tu Giam) is established in 1803 to educate students from different parts of the country. It stands next to Temple of Literature (Van Mieu) as a complex like its sibling in Hanoi. Due to far away from the Imperial City, Duy Tan king changes its position to current place in 1908. Over many ups and downs in history, present-day buildings inside the Imperial Academy are still in good conditions of conservation. Some of them are used to be exhibition spaces for 30.000 items of the Hue Historical Museum. Numerous American Air Force’s aircrafts and tanks in Vietnam war are showcased around that you easily notice from a distance. Entry fee here is not covered by the Imperial City ticket.
From May 2020, Hue war museum is moved to a new location, at 268 Dien Bien Phu street. It’s on the way from city center to royal tombs.
Orientation guide to visit Hue Imperial City
You’re recommended to start your trip in the Imperial City (from Ngo Mon gate) at The To Mieu temple complex. From its exit (the back gate), turn right and left to reach Dien Tho palace, Truong Sanh palace. Near these attractions, you will see a gate leading straight away into The Forbidden Purple City, Thai Binh pavillion and Nhat Thanh pavillion as well Duyet Thi Duong theatre. Then, down the South to see Thai Hoa palace before move to Hien Nhon gate to exit and visit Museum of Royal Antiquities.
A guide represents visit plan to the guests before enter the Imperial City
Restaurants in and near Hue Imperial City
You can stop at cafeterias inside the Imperial City for getting a break with coffees or some fast foods and cakes. If like to have something more, find a restaurant near the exit gate Hien Nhon. Keep in mind to keep your tickets to enter Hue Museum of Royal Antiquities later.
Streets lining the wall of the Imperial City are soaked by trees and parks
Attractions near the Imperial City
North bank of Perfume river houses awesome attractions that should be combined in your trip to the Imperial City. Check out Luc Bo Cultural Space (near the exit) if you like to learn about Hue’s traditional handicrafts. One kilometer away to the East, Dong Ba market draws many visitors, especially to taste featured and delicious local foods. Just nearby, China town with its temples (Chi Lang street) brings you a different vibes in comparison to anywhere else.
Don’t miss out Trang Tien bridge, one of Hue’s unofficial enblems for photo opportunities and catch cooling winds from poetic Perfume river. Further, ancient houses of Phu Mong village “village of ancient houses” or Thien Mu pagoda definitely make you fantastic of local rich culture. Read our guide about all destinations in Hue through to find out more.
Typical traditional garden house in Phu Mong village @Kim Long ward Phuoc Duyen tower, the famous enblem of Thien Mu pagoda