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Visit Hue Citadel, the Imperial City

Hue is one of the most beautiful cities in Vietnam and visiting its imperial city is one of the best things to do on any trip to Vietnam.

Hue Citadel has been a World Heritage Site since 1993. It is a symbol of the country and a place highly valued by locals. It has a long history and in this post I will tell you about the history of the Hue Citadel, which places to visit and practical information so you can prepare your trip to Hue.


A bit of history about the citadel of Hue

The construction of the citadel dates back to 1805 (17th century), ordered to be built by Emperor Gia Long. The style of the empire's architecture is a mix between geomancy from China and the military principles of Sabestien de Vauban, a French architect, who left his mark on the buildings.

Hue Citadel is a very large complex. And going through it will take you a lot of time. It has 10 square km, with walls and 10 gates. In addition, many buildings.

Keep in mind that Hue is located in the center of Vietnam and the area is very hot. We travel at the end of April, beginning of May, when the temperatures are higher. And in Hue we had temperatures up to 44º. In addition, you have to add the humidity.

So you have to be patient to walk around the venue and be very hydrated at all times. For those who do not want to walk the route, they have the option of paying an extra and using "golf carts" driven by locals. They will leave you at each door, to access each enclosure and you will save yourself a lot of walking. I recommend it to you!

How the Hue Citadel is organized

The Citadel could be said to be divided into three parts:

The largest would be the Imperial City; here is the entrance or access to the enclosure, so to speak. (The first area is impressive. You will find some moats full of water lilies and the views from the façade are incredible.

Inside we find the Capital, also known as Civic City or, in Vietnamese, Kinh Thành.

Finally, in the center of the entire complex, the Forbidden Purple City, called Tu Cam Thành in Vietnamese.

Hue Citadel Map

Most essential places to see in Hue Citadel

There are a total of 18 points of interest that you cannot miss in the citadel. Remember that you have the option of hiring a golf cart with a driver that will save you walking between doors (there is quite a distance) and you will stop right at the door to access the different buildings and temples of the citadel.

The Hung Mieu Temple

The Hung Mieu temple is the most beautiful in the area and has a certain resemblance to the temple of literature in Hanoi, although much more colorful. This similarity is based on the fact that it is built following the same philosophy and with the firm intention of resembling him.

The Hung Mieu Temple was ordered to be built in 1821 by Emperor Minh Mang, and he built it in honor of his ancestors. Specifically, in honor of his parents, the main pillar in Vietnamese families.

In the temple, its cobbled patio stands out, its colorful cover, the roofs carved with stone dragons on them.

Dien Tho's Residence

Right behind the Hung Mieu Temple, you will find the Dien Tho Residence. In Vietnamese it would be something like the “Residence of Enduring Longevity”.

The Queen Mother resided in it, so much so that it is also known by the nickname "The Residence of the Queen Mothers".

The Dien Tho Residence is surrounded by walls. In the residence there were a series of tunnels and passageways that connected directly to the Forbidden Purple City.

To access the Dien Tho Residence from inside the citadel, you must enter through the Choung Duc Gate. Although it also has access from the south through the Tho Chi gate.

The Hien Lam Pavilion

The Hien Lam Pavilion has three floors, organized as a pyramid, built in brick and stone, with carved dragons, flowers and leaves, as the Vietnamese tradition marks.

The Hien Lam Pavilion is 17 meters high, with 12 roofs and, as a curiosity, tell you that no building is taller than this one in the Hue Citadel.

Its construction dates from the year 1824 and was built to honor the memory of all those who helped the Nguyen to achieve their social position.

The Mieu Temple

The Mieu Temple is dedicated to the Nguyen. It is located in the southwestern part of the Hue Citadel.

Inside there are altars in honor of the emperors, from the first, Gia Long, to the last, Khai Dinh, hence its name.

The Thai Hoa Palace

The Thai Hoa Palace stands out for having 80 red lacquered wooden columns, all of them with a golden dragon, emblem of the Nguyen Dynasty. Inside the Thai Hoa Palace is the throne of the Nguyen.

It was ordered to be built by Emperor Gia Long in 1805, being the oldest in the Citadel of Hue. Royal birthdays, receptions for ambassadors and other important people were celebrated here.

The 9 Dynastic Urns

The 9 Dynastic Urns are made of bronze, about 2.3 meters high and 2 tons in weight.

These Dynastic Urns are decorated in a traditional way, with floral elements and, as you may have guessed, they represented the 9 emperors of Vietnam. Dynastic Urns played a very important role in all state ceremonies.

The Royal Library of Hue Citadel

Northwest of Hue Citadel is the Royal Library. It was the Emperor's private reading room. It looks like a mansion surrounded by ponds and beautiful gardens. Today, this building is a small theater.

The royal theater

The Royal Theater of the Hue citadel was built in 1826. It stands out for its roofs and construction. They remind you of a pagoda and the golden dragon is omnipresent. The building is not very big, it is rather small. It was used for theatrical performances, musicals...

The Forbidden Purple City

At the heart of the Hue Citadel is the Forbidden Purple City. The name is not accidental, since only the Emperor could enter the enclosure, which is about 10 hectares in size. Any person who will enter that will cross the threshold had the death penalty. (Somewhat similar to the Forbidden City in China).

Although it had a trick, since other people could be with the Emperor, such as the Queen Mother, the empresses, the concubines, the servants or the eunuchs.

From the Dien Tho Residence there were passageways connecting that building to the Forbidden Purple City.

The Citadel Pits

Right next to the walls, are the moats of the Citadel of Hue. Instead of being straight, they are more of a zigzag shape. These pits are more than 30 meters wide by 4 meters deep.

The walls of the Citadel of Hue

The walls of the Citadel of Hue have an important peculiarity; they are not straight.

The reason is that on one side, the walls border the Perfume River (in Vietnamese Sông Huong or Huong Giang), which makes them have a strange shape, accompanying the riverbed to prevent unwanted entrances and maximize space. .

Initially they were made of earth, but later they were reinforced with brick, and their height is around 6 meters.

The gates of the Hue Citadel

There are ten entrance gates to the Hue Citadel, and all of them have their own name, which has to do with the cardinal points.

  • Cửa Thể Nhân (cửa Ngăn)

  • Cửa Quảng Đức (cửa Sập)

  • Cửa Chính Nam (cửa Nhà Đồ)

  • Cửa Tây Nam (cửa Hữu)

  • Cửa Chính Tây (cửa Chánh Tây)

  • Cửa Tây Bắc (cửa An Hòa)

  • Cửa Chính Bắc (cửa Hậu o cửa Mang Cá lớn)

  • Cửa Đông Bắc (cửa Trài o cửa Mang Cá nhỏ)

  • Cửa Chính Đông (cửa Đông Ba)

  • Cửa Đông Nam (cửa Thượng Tứ)

The gates to access the Forbidden Purple City

In addition to the gates to access the Citadel there are also 4 other gates to access the Purple Forbidden City:

Cửa Ngọ Môn or Gate of the South, located in the southern part of the Forbidden City and, without a doubt, the most spectacular of all.

Cửa Hòa Bình or Gate of Peace, to the North.

Cửa Chương Đức, in the western part.

Cửa Hiển Nhơn, to the East.

Other interesting places in the Citadel that you cannot miss

The Balcony of the Five Phoenixes

Hue Citadel Bridges

the holy cannons

Practical information to visit Hue Citadel

  • The hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Although there are days when it is closed if there is any official act.

  • The entrance is about 150,000 VND (about 6 euros).

  • You can book a guide to know all the history of the Citadel of Hue.

  • Don't forget to bring water (plenty), comfortable shoes, appropriate clothing (in the temples you must cover your legs and shoulders), sunscreen and something to eat (you won't be able to buy anything inside).


I hope you enjoy your trip to Vietnam very much and that this article has been useful to you. You can continue reading many more related articles on the blog.

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A hug and see you soon!


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