History is everywhere amongst the Imperial Citadel Hue, which is where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled for more than a century. This dynasty began its control here back in 1805 and they held their power until 1945, which also happened to be when the new communist government took over in Hanoi.
The Emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty lived and worked in this part of the city and when it was first used, there were more than one hundred and sixty buildings within Imperial Citadel Hue. Many of the temples, walls, pavilions, and even gates were destroyed during a war with the French in 1947 and even more collapsed in 1968 due to the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam war.
Thankfully, most of the Imperial Citadel Hue is being restored, so that future generations can see how wonderful this UNESCO World Heritage Site is for years in the future.
When the Imperial Citadel Hue was constructed it was decided that it would face the Huong River, which is to the southeast. The construction began in 1805 and it took twenty-seven years to complete all the buildings.
There are many massive gates within Imperial Citadel Hue, and they lead to the citadel and the Forbidden City. The latter is where the Emperor and his family lived, and the gates helped keep them safe. The entire grounds are surrounded by fortified ramparts, as well as a moat.
There are three circles of ramparts and they include Kinh Thanh Hue, Hoang Thanh, and Tu Cam Thanh. In English, those would be the Hue Capital Citadel, the Royal Citadel, and the Forbidden Citadel.
There are ten entrances to the Kinh Thanh Hue and there have been more than one hundred construction projects completed on this building over the years. Some of the projects were on the smaller side, while others were quite big. This building is square and at the top of the walls, there are twenty-four bastions for defensive purposes.
Hoang Thanh is the most important part of the Imperial Citadel Hue and you can enter through one of the four gates. Back when King Ming Mang was in charge, there was a gate reserved only for him. Therefore, years ago, only he could walk through what is called the Ngo Mon Gate.
Inside Hoang Thanh, you will discover more than one hundred different architectural delights. A few that you must pay close attention to include Thai Hoa Palace, the internal affairs office where precious objects are kept, the Kham Van Palace, and the Co Ha Gardens. You should also see the temples of Trieu Mieu, The Mieu, Phung Tien, Hung Mieu, and Thai Mieu.
Over at the Forbidden Citadel, or Tu Cam Thanh, you will see the area which was reserved for the current Emperor at the time and their family. The name of this section was originally Cung Thanh, but it was renamed in 1821. There are seven different gates to enter through and at least fifty gorgeous architectural details. The Dai Cung Mon gate is reserved for kings, so no one else can enter or leave through that one.
While in this area, you must check out the Emperor’s Private Palace, the Queen’s Private Apartment, the Royal Theatre, and the King’s Reading Room.
While visiting Imperial Citadel Hue, you may want to consider stopping at some of the imperial tombs. Most of them can be found along the river and you can spend as much time as you wish at each one. A few of the more popular ones to visit include Tu Duc, Minh Mang, and Khai Dinh. We recommend taking a tour when you are at Tu Duc’s tomb, because his story is quite sad and should be heard by everyone.
Before leaving, take the time to watch the monks go about their daily lives over at Thien Mu Pagoda. It is best to visit this area early in the day, well before the crowds start to arrive and block your views.
It is easy to reach Imperial Citadel Hue from the Phu Bai International Airport, as well as the numerous hotels in the area. All you need to do is go to 1A Highway and after traveling down it for a little bit, you will be standing at one of the large gates.
The Hue Imperial City entrance fee is currently 150,000 VND and once that is paid, you can spend hours exploring and seeing all the intricate details inside. The admission fee allows for further preservation and restoration work, so that you can return to enjoy it again and so can future generations.
If you have never been to Imperial Citadel Hue before, now is the perfect time to go and learn more about this fascinating area within the country. The leaders may no longer work out of this destination, but that doesn’t mean that you will not feel the past leaders’ presence while you are there.