5 reasons why you need to add Hue to your bucket list

Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam, has always been a city steeped in history and culture. Now, with new galleries, garden houses, and river cruises, it has become an even more compelling destination post-COVID. 

This vibrant city, home to one of Vietnam’s few UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Citadel, offers much more than its historical landmarks. Here’s a glimpse into the magic of Hue and why it should be your next travel destination.

Azerai La Residence is the place to stay© Darrin James
Azerai La Residence is the place to stay

Luxurious stays

Located along the picturesque banks of the Perfume River, Azerai La Residence is the epitome of elegance and comfort. This colonial meets Art Deco-inspired mansion, built in the 1930s for the French Resident Superieure, boasts 122 exquisite rooms. Among these, the most enchanting suites are housed in the main building. 

Stepping into the grandly curved lobby, guests are greeted by a wall of French doors overlooking the garden, pool, and river beyond. The warm terracotta decor adds a cozy yet opulent touch.

The pool is perfect at dusk© Darrin James
The pool is perfect at dusk

Le Gouverneur Bar, with its striking green lighting, offers a full menu of cocktails, beers, and wines, making it the perfect spot for a relaxing evening. Meanwhile, Le Parfum Restaurant serves a delightful array of local and international dishes in both indoor and outdoor settings.

We stayed in the Voyage en Chine suite, a beautifully designed space featuring an expansive balcony, a claw-foot tub, and a well-situated workstation with river views. The hotel’s 40-meter saltwater pool provides a serene spot for swimming, while the attentive staff ensure every need is met, often anticipating requests before they are made.

The streets are so vibrant in Hue© Darrin James
The streets are so vibrant in Hue

Vibrant streets

Just beyond the gates of Azerai La Residence lies Hue’s vibrant river path. This tranquil area comes alive at dusk, with locals jogging, taking aerobics classes, and enjoying after-work coffee or beer in lantern-lit cafes. A stroll along the river offers a glimpse into everyday life in Hue, with swimmers splashing in the water and dragon boats cruising by.

Take a dragon boat to explore the city© Darrin James
Take a dragon boat to explore the city

Historical gems

A visit to Hue wouldn’t be complete without exploring its historical sites. Thien Mu Pagoda, the city’s symbol, is a must-see. Its gardens provide a shaded, serene environment perfect for a leisurely stroll. The best time to visit is after 4 p.m., when the golden hour light enhances the pagoda’s beauty, and vendors arrive selling delicious tofu snacks.

Taking a dragon boat to the pagoda is a delightful experience, especially with the newly expanded pavement and added spots for boats to dock. For those who prefer cycling, a new walking and cycling road stretches from the pagoda to Truong Tien Bridge, making biking a fantastic option. We joined an organized bike tour with Azerai and thoroughly enjoyed meandering through the city with our knowledgeable guide.

The historical sights are incredible in Hue© Darrin James
The historical sights are incredible in Hue

Another highlight is the mausoleum of Khai Dinh, the last Emperor of Vietnam. This mountainside tomb features stunning mosaics and frescoes depicting dragons emerging from clouds. Local legend says that no gecko has ever stepped on these artworks, attributing this to their fear of the mythical dragons.

Art and culture

The newly opened Lebadang Memory Space is a modern tribute to Vietnamese artist Lebadang. The space, which includes sculpture-filled gardens and a rooftop offering lush vistas, is a must-visit. The staff are passionate about Lebadang’s life and work, making the visit both educational and inspiring.

A visit to the teahouse is a must
A visit to the teahouse is a must

Hue’s garden houses are another cultural treasure. An Hien Garden House, recently restored, offers tours that include tea and refreshments in the garden. Ben Xuan Garden House and Theater, a labor of love by Camille Huyen and Truong Dinh Ngo, provides a unique blend of garden house and performance space. Built from upcycled materials, this ironwood home regularly hosts visitors and occasionally classical concerts and dinners, featuring seasonal Vietnamese-European fusion cuisine.

Culinary delights

Hue is renowned for its street food, and no visit is complete without sampling its culinary offerings. Hanh, a local favorite, serves fresh spring rolls, shrimp pancakes, and other Vietnamese classics, all paired with delightful sauces.

The food is incredible at Azerai Gai© Darrin James
The food is incredible at Azerai La Residence

One of our best meals was on the Azerai La Residence’s new dinner cruise. As we sailed along the Perfume River at sunset, we enjoyed banana flower salad, Hue pancakes with local seafood, grilled beef in betel leaf, and wok-fried prawns in tamarind sauce. Toasting the Thien Mu Pagoda with a chilled glass of white wine, it was clear that life in Hue is indeed magical.

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