silkpath-hue-imperial-citadel-travel guide

Known as Vietnam’s seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Hue Imperial City has always been the top attraction when visiting the Imperial City of Hue. Let’s find out everything you need to know about this destination.

Since Hue of Vietnam was chosen to be the capital of the Southern Kingdom under the Nguyen Lords’ Dynasty, Hue Imperial Citadel was built as the place for the emperor to hold important national occasions and the Royal to work and live as well. The citadel is located on the North bank of the Perfume River, inside Hue city. It is a huge complex covering an area of 520ha and comprising three circles of ramparts, Kinh Thanh Hue (Hue Capital Citadel), Hoang Thanh (Royal Citadel), and Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden Citadel). So far, this place has still retained many unique imprints of the flourishing history and culture of the Nguyen Dynasty hundreds of years ago.


Silk Path Travel Guide: Notes before visiting Hue Imperial City

Opening hours:

  • Summer: 6:30 – 17:30
  • Winter: 7:00 – 17:00

Ticket price:

  • For Vietnamese visitors: VND 150,000/adult, VND 30,000/ child
  • For international visitors: VND 200,000/adult, VND 40.000/ child

How to reach the Imperial Citadel from Silk Path Grand Hue Hotel – the newest 5-star hotel in Hue city center:

  • Distance from the hotel: 1.8km
  • Travel by Car/Taxi: 5 minutes
  • Walking: 23 minutes


History of Hue Imperial City

In 1803, significant architecture was planned to be built by Gia Long – an emperor who founded the Nguyen Dynasty. During 27 years from 1805 to 1832, the Imperial City of Hue was finally completed under the reign of Minh Mang, making it the most massive structure in the history of modern Vietnam involving thousands of workers, millions of cubic meters of rock, and a huge volume of burden workload. In 1993, Hue Imperial Citadel was made UNESCO Site in 1993 with the remained buildings being actively restored and preserved after the destruction from the Vietnam War.

Ngo Mon Gate. Source: Collected


The architecture of Hue Imperial City

The primary entrance to the Imperial enclosure is Ngo Mon Gate, which faces the flag tower. The central passage with its yellow doors reserved for the use of the emperor, as the bridge across the lotus pond. At the top of the gate is Ngu Phung on its layer with a big drum and bell. Over nearly 2 centuries and having witnessed every change of the city, Ngo Mon Gate still stays strong and has become an outstanding ancient architectural masterpiece.

Straight from the gate, Thai Hoa Palace had utilized for official receptions of the emperor and important ceremonies. Also, on state occasions, the emperor sat on his throne, confronting visitors entering through the Ngo Mon Gate. In this palace, tourists are not allowed to take pictures here. However, tourists can see the impressive audiovisual display that gives a fantastic overview of the total Citadel, its structure, and the historic context.

Route to Thai Hoa Palace
Thai Hoa Palace

Through the middle, tourists can explore Forbidden Citadel which was reserved only for the main individuals in Vietnam. Forbidden Citadel is the residence of the king as well as the royal. In the Forbidden City, there are more than 50 architectural works with diverse scales, typically including Can Chanh Palace (where the court and banqueting party was set up), Can Thanh Palace (where the king slept), Thai Binh Lau (where the king relaxed, read books), etc. From this point, the tourists can explore many remarkable architectures such as temples, palaces, and gardens which depict the flourishing daily life of the royal.


Forbidden Citadel. Source: Collected
Dynastic Urns at the Imperial Citadel. Source: Collected

As a sign of Vietnam history and culture, Hue Imperial Citadel includes the Nine Dynastic Urns which are among the most outstanding works intangible cultural treasures. Completed in June 1837 beneath King Minh Mang, the Dynastic Urns include Nine Urns located right in Front of Hien Lam Pavilion. This art represents the unity and also the beauty of the country and also the sustainable and permanent existence of the Nguyen Dynasty. The images to show on the Nine Urns could also consider as a living encyclopedia of Vietnam at that time. Each urn carved the proper name symbolizing the emperors after their death put into The Mieu Temple. Factually, it had the name of Cao Urn – Emperor Gia Long, Nhan Urn – Emperor Minh Mang, Chuong Urn – Emperor Thieu Tri. And, Anh Urn – Emperor Tu Duc, Nghi Urn – Emperor Kien Phuc, Thuan Urn – Emperor Dong Khanh, Tuyen Urn – Emperor Khai Dinh. Meanwhile, Du Urn and Huyen Urn were not intended to symbolize any kings as the result of the success of the August Revolution. Finally, it ended the feudal period of the Nguyen Dynasty and brought Vietnam country to enter the new history. Discovering the unique features of Nine Dynastic Urns is one of the most things to do in Hue.


Unforgettable Experiences

To explore the entire architecture, tourists should take a walk from the outside to the end. The walking would take tourists about two hours to discover all the hidden beauty of the Imperial City of Hue. If tourists have a guide, telling you the stories and giving detailed information, it could take even longer. Every story told here can bring you to the feudal period of Vietnam which can make you realize how significant the Nguyen Dynasty had been and understand more about Vietnamese cultural quintessences.

Hue Imperial City at night
Hue Imperial City at night. Source: Collected

You can also participate in Nigh of Hue Imperial Citadel held every Saturday. At the night, the Royal Palace is full of light which makes the architecture more shimmering and magnificent. Also, the royal rituals will be reproduced and unique cultural and artistic activities will take place. This will be a very interesting highlight for your exploration of Hue Citadel. More specifically, recently Hue Imperial Citadel has officially opened to welcome visitors from 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. This is an opportunity for you to visit and see the brilliant works in sparkling lights.

Should you ever come inside the citadel, taking a look into the special feudal relics of immense architectural and cultural values, you will surely more or less love the traditional and classical side of Vietnam. As time goes by, thousands of changes have occurred, the precious historical and classical beauty of the nation would never be gone.