Hue – Citadel & Imperial Palace with the Forbidden City (Vietnam)

Categories: Travel reports, Asia, Vietnam

After we had arrived in Hue in the early morning with the night train from Hanoi and had sufficiently strengthened ourselves in the hotel for the breakfast buffet, our today’s excursion program could start. Our Gebeco trip “Typical Vietnam!” included the approximately 3-hour trip to the imperial citadel of Hue.


The old imperial city of Hue is a must-see

From 1802 to 1945, Hue was the capital of the last imperial dynasty, the Nguyen. Located halfway between Hanoi and Saigon, the city has developed over the years into a hub in central Vietnam. Today, the city has a population of about 340,000. Hue is located not far from the sea in front of a beautiful hill and mountain landscape directly on the Giang river – the so-called “perfume river”. The highlight in the city is the imperial citadel with the Forbidden City, which is a magnet for tourists from all over the world.

The Citadel & the Imperial Palace of Hue

Around 10 o’clock we left our hotel and drove with our tour group to the imperial citadel. It was originally the palace complex of the Nguyen dynasty, which from 1802 to 1945 represented the Vietnamese emperors and was built on the model of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Fires, typhoons, bombings and battles have left little of the ancient splendour of the palace over the centuries. However, the site has undergone extensive restorations, so that today you can get an approximate impression of what it might have looked like here in the past. Since 1993, the Citadel of Hue has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The size of the square citadel is gigantic – a 10 km long and 6 meter high fortification wall with a 4 meter deep and more than 20 meter wide moat surrounds the terrain. It used to be a state in the city with temples, apartments for officials, landscaped gardens and wide streets.

Location, entrance & opening hours

The imperial citadel is located on the northern bank of the Perfume River. Access to the citadel offers ten gates, four of which are located in the south wall. The entrance fee for an adult is 150,000 Dong, i.e. about 6 euros. From 01.01.2020 the price will rise to 200,000 dong (about 8 euros). The opening hours are from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. in summer and from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. in winter.

A map of the Citadel and Imperial City can be downloaded here as a .pdf version.

A tour of the Citadel of Hue

We walked with our group through one of the southern entrances to the facility. At the entrance, our guide showed us the dimensions of the palace complex on a map and told us some historical backgrounds before we went in.

Noon Gate & Thai Hoa Palace

The mighty Noon Gate (“Lunch Gate”) is the main gate to the imperial city. In earlier times, only the emperor was allowed to use this entrance. Today, tourists from all nations flock here to get inside the imperial city. We walked over a courtyard and the Trung Dao Bridge to the Thai Hoa Palace (“Hall of the Highest Harmony”), which is decorated in the ruler colours red and gold. In the hall is the carved, gilded throne on which the emperor used to sit. Photography is strictly forbidden in the hall!

Hien Lam Pavilion & To Mieu Temple

We continued our walk through the complex to the west and then visited the southwestern part of the citadel. The impressive colourful gate in front of the Hien Lam Pavilion really thrilled us, because even in the grey weather the colours were really beautiful. At the back of the pavilion is the elongated To Mieu Temple.

After leaving the area via a western gate, we walked along the western palace wall and passed a very beautiful, colourful gate, the Chuong Duc Gate.

Dien Tho Residence & Truong Du Pavilion

Our next port of call was the Dien Tho Residence, built in 1804, where the mother and grandmother of the respective emperor once lived. The rectangular complex originally consisted of 10 buildings; today, only a few buildings remain. Here you will find a photo exhibition illustrating the earlier use and an exhibition of embroidered royal robes. Next door there is a gazebo at a water lily pond, which now has a café.

The Forbidden City

Within the palace district, with another wall delineated is the innermost part of the complex: the forbidden purple city. It was once the home and working place of the rulers and their families. On the grounds we were able to discover not only a royal theatre, where folk music performances take place nowadays, but also a beautifully landscaped ornamental garden with an infinite number of orchids, as well as temples and pavilions.

Royal Treasury Building & East Bastion Gate

Over the East Gate (Hien Nhon) we left the imperial city and passed the old Royal Treasury Building, where countless beautiful lampions hung.

We really enjoyed the visit to the imperial city. The terrain is huge and we were glad that we had our Gebeco tour guide with us to get a first orientation. The terrain offers an infinite number of great photo motifs, so we could have stayed here for a few more hours. After about three hours in the citadel we went back to the hotel, because in the afternoon the next trip to the emperor’s tomb of Minh Mang and the Thien Mu pagoda was already scheduled.

All travelogues from Vietnam

During our 10-day trip with Gebeco through Vietnam we got to know many different sides of the country. Starting with the pulsating capital Hanoi and the millions of scooters on the streets, the majestic beauty of Halong Bay, an exciting night train ride to the cultural centre of Hue, further to the old town of Hoi An, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and on to the megacity of Saigon in the south of the country. Our trip was very varied and full of contrasts and here you can find an overview of all travel reports: 7 Days Vietnam » Day 1: Our trip “Typical Vietnam!” with Gebeco (Vietnam)
» Day 2: Hanoi – Tourist Attractions, Things to Do & Photo spots (Vietnam)
» Day 3: Halong Bay – A day trip from Hanoi (Vietnam)
» Day 3: The Night Train from Hanoi to Hue (Vietnam)
» Day 4: Hue – Citadel & Imperial Palace with the Forbidden City (Vietnam)
» Day 4: Hue – Emperor’s Tomb of Minh Mang & Thien Mu Pagoda (Vietnam)
» Day 5: From Hue to Hoi An – The Cloud Pass & Da Nang (Vietnam)
» Day 5: Hoi An – Tourist Attractions, Things to Do & Photo spots (Vietnam)
» Day 6: My Son – The ruins of the ancient temple city at Hoi An (Vietnam)
» Day 7: Saigon – Die Sehenswürdigkeiten von Ho Chi Minh Stadt
» Day 7: Saigon – A culinary Vespa tour of the city (Vietnam)
» Day 8: The Mekong Delta – A bike & boat tour (Vietnam)
» Day 9: Cu Chi – The Tunnels of the Vietcong in the Vietnam War (Vietnam)