There is a number of choices of transportation when it comes to touring Hue.
Airplane: A one-hour flight with one of the several domestic airlines either from Ho Chi Minh city or Hanoi will get you to Hue. It costs around 300,000VND - 700,000VND per leg if you fly from Ho Chi Minh city or 1 million to 1.5 million VND per leg if you depart from Hanoi.
Train: Hue station is the crossroad for many trains coming from all over Vietnam. Do choose train as your means of transportation to Hue when you're quite close to the imperial city and up for some sightseeing.
Coach: It costs less but consumes more time when travelling to Hue from Hanoi or HCM city takes around 24 hours. There are plenty of coach options such as Camel, TheSinhTourist, Hung Thanh, Hoang Long... if you departs from Hanoi or Phuong Trang, Hanh Café, Thuan Thao if you're from HCM city.
At the imperial city, it's possible to rent a bike to enjoy the freedom in sightseeing and experiencing Hue in your own way. You would be charged from 80,000 to 150,000 VND/bike/day. Otherwise, sit back on a cyclo for 15,000 VND/hour/person to relax and observe the tranquility and simplicity of Hue in a slower pace.
Tourist groups should make a booking in advance to avoid a shortage of room on holiday seasons and to get cheaper rates. You should book accommodations that will suit best to your conditions and preferences. For example, Huong Giang and Saigon Morin are recommended if you fancy watching sunrise over Perfume river.
Otherwise, to fully capture the excitement of the imperial city, there is plenty of options for you ranging from 5-star hotels such as the Imperial, Indochine Palace Hotel or less expensive hotels and guesthouses dwelling on either side of Vi Da and Nguyen Sinh Cung street, for 13 to 20 $USD. On the other hand, hostels should also be taken into consideration for its inexpensiveness.
3-day intinerary exploring the imperial city
If you're too busy to make your own plan in Hue, or still looking for things to do, check out the following recommendations.
1st day: Tu Hieu Pagoda - Nam Giao - Thien Mu Pagoda
For an interesting fresh start of the day, try vegeterian rice on Le Quy Don street before carrying on with your upcoming destinations.
On New Year day, take a sneak peak into one of the everyday traditions of Hue by visiting Tu Hieu pagoda to pay a tribute to the 25 eununches of the Nguyen Dynasty with a burning incense in a desolate pines hill for their silent contribution and dedication to the king. Here is also where you can watch the fish swimming in Ban Nguyet lake and listen to the story of Nhat Dinh monk who, despite the outsider's rumours, bought fish for his sich mother.
Roughly 1 kilometer away from Tu Hieu Pagoda is the sacred Nam Giao, the center point of the earth and the sky. Besides praying for luck and health, Nam Giao, the historic landmark belonging to Nguyen Dynasty, is where you can learn about the interesting origin and religious significance of this landmark to the spiritual life of Hue people. After that, have a delicious dish of baby basket clams rice for lunch in Con Hen or other street eateries along Pham Hong Thai, Truong Dinh street for only a couple of thousands VND.
At 1.30, stick to the Kim Long road to reach Thien Mu Pagoda by the romantic Huong Giang river. Thien Mu is probably the most famous pagoda in the land of the imperial city for it was built 5 centuries ago and considered as an iconic heritage of the Nguyen Hoang Lord and his expedition.
At Thien Mu Pagoda, not only will you have the chance to see in the flesh the historic car used by the late Thich Quang Duc who burned himself to dead in an effort to protest against Ngo Dinh Diem's government, but also you can gaze your eyes at the majestic Phuoc Duyen tower and the fascinating bonsai of Dao Tan - the initiator of Tuong, a Vietnamese traditional music.
Listening to Hue folk music on a boat in the middle of Perfume River is one-of-a-kind experience. Indeed, this Vietnamese pride has been UNESCO-regconized as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage for its distinctive rhythm. For only 100,000 VND, you can sit back and enjoy the rhythmic melodies and deep voices of Hue ladies.
2nd day: Hue Imperial Palace - Hon Chen Hall - Dong Ba Market
On the second day, take a walk around the Citadel and pay a visit to the tombs and palaces of Nguyen kings. With a full package of 150,000 VND/person, you will get to visit the entire Citadel and the royal antiques museum. The remaining landmarks from the Nguyen Dynasty includes the Gate of Noon - the eyewitness of significant events throughout the period of Nguyen, the Hall of Supreme Harmony - the kings' workplace, Dien Tho Residence that used to comprise apartments and audience hall of the Queen Mothers, The Mieu Temple - the ancestral temple to Nguyen kings, or the Nine peak, Hien Lam Cac Pavillion and so on.
Another suggestion by Hello Vietnam Travel is to rent an electric car to tour the Citadel for 120,000 VND/4-seated car, 150,000VND/6-seated car or rent a taxi to do a tombs tour.
Hon Chen Hall is the most unique hall of Hue's imperial city when it combines folk beliefs with royal rituals. Hon Chen Hall is definitely worth a visit you're up for some sightseeing and listening to a legend that involves a king, a lost jade cup and a turtle.
Sailing along the Perfume River towards Dong Ba market - well-known as the largest trading center in Thua Thien - Hue province, to savour delicious local foods, to pick for yourself traditional items as gifts such as Phu Cam conical hat, Hien Luong cutlery, Ke Mon Tuan jewellery, Ho Tinh Tam lotus, Thanh Tien paper flower, Sinh village paintings and so on.
On the evening, take a stroll to enjoy Hue's gentle atmosphere at night in a slower pace. Look for the alleys on Hung Vuong, Nguyen Hue, Dinh Tien Hoang streets and you will find the best, cheapest and most delicious street foods such as Bun bo Hue, steamed rice paper, flat rice flour dumpling and so on. For a more romantic attempt, take your beloved one to the colorful Truong Tien bridge.
3rd day: Garden house - Thuan An - Lang Co
Garden house is the final piece to make Hue a perfect puzzle of warmth, harmony and romance. Stop by at An Hien, Lac Tinh garden house to melt into the nature full of peace and juicy fruits.
Then, your next destination should be Thuan An beach, 13 kilometers away from Hue. Thuan An is where you can set up your tent on the beach and unleash yourself into the cool and fresh water, or stroll along the coastline and have your fresh barbecued seafood right next to the glowing charcoal. Next, 60 kilometers away from Hue southward and 20 kilometers away from Danang northward, Lang Co beach appears in front of sea lovers as one of the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam for its white sands stretching over 10 kilometers, its blue and clear water and fresh mouth-watering sea food such as lobster, grilled prickley snail, boiled clam and so on.
Nestling close to Lang Co is Son Tra moutain which is home to a variety of wildlife and flora. If your fastidious heart by now still remains hungry for natural beauties, the ravishing Lap An coastal lagoon and majestic Bach Ma moutain will blow you away. Still want more? How does slurping spoonfuls of hot congee and sipping zebrafish booze while watching sunset over blue-watered Lap An coastal lagoon and misty Bach Ma moutain in a far distance sound?
Visiting the nicknamed "capital of street foods" and fail to eat bun bo Hue, baby basket clams rice, Hue's flat rice flour dumplings is only undermining your experiences in Hue. Make sure to spend an adequate of time and spare your stomach enough space to try as many of Hue's street food as possible. You won't regret it.
"Whoever that visits Hue dreamland
Leaves with a gift made of conical hat"
This folk poem has, for ages, endorsed Hue's reowned conical hat. On the other hand, you can take with you home salted shredded meat, Me Xung candy and so on.