The former imperial seat of government and Hue’s prime attraction, this is a great sprawling complex of temples, pavilions, moats, walls, gates, shops, museums and galleries, featuring art and costumes from various periods of Vietnamese history. Thanks to its size, it is also delightfully peaceful – a rare commodity in Vietnam.
The citadel was badly knocked about during fighting between the French and the Viet Minh in 1947, and again in 1968 during the Tet Offensive, when it was shelled by the Viet Cong and then bombed by the Americans. As a result, some areas are now only empty fields, bits of walls, and an explanatory plaque. Other buildings are intact, though, and a few are in sparkling condition. For the rest, while restoration has been going on for 20 years, there is still quite a long way to go. Allow several hours to see it properly. Entry 55,000 dong (for foreigners, less for locals of course) and it is open 06:30-17:00. Inside you can pay $1.50 (30,000dong) to dress up in the King or Queen’s clothing and sit on the throne for a fun photo opportunity.
- Ngọ Môn. The main southern entrance to the city, built in 1833 by Minh Mang. The central door, and the bridge connecting to it, were reserved exclusively for the emperor. Climb up to the second floor for a nice view of the exquisite courtyard. The Ngo Mon Gate is the principal entrance to the Imperial Enclosure. The Emperor would address his officials and the people from the top of this gate.
- Thái Hòa Palace. The emperor’s coronation hall, where he would sit in state and receive foreign dignitaries.
- Trường Sanh Residence. Translated as the “Palace of Longevity”, the Truong Sanh Palace was the residence of King Tu Duc’s mother, Empress Tu Du, under the Nguyen Dynasty in the 19th century. It lies in Tu Cam Thanh, one of the two major parts of the Hue Citadel. Currently under renovation, the project, estimated to cost almost VND 30 billion (roughly US $1.8 million), includes the restoration of Lach Dao Nguyen, the Palace’s protective moat, decorative man-made rock formations and mountains, bonsai gardens, and the palace gate. The restoration is expected to be completed in 2009, but this is doubtful. While not officially open to the public, it is possible to enter the grounds and should be seen, as even in it’s overgrown state, it’s beauty is recognizable.
- Forbidden Purple City. Directly behind Thai Hoa Palace, but it was almost entirely destroyed during the 1968 Tet Offensive and only the rather nondescript Mandarin Palaces on both sides remain.
- Hue Jungle Crevice. When the Viet Cong briefly over ran Hue they rounded up 3000 of Hue’s citizens and officials. Fearing the prisoners would slow them down in hot retreat, they tied them up and pushed the people over the cliff into the crevice.
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