The capital of Vietnam throughout the 19th and early 20th century was Hue, in Central Vietnam. The nerve center of the Nguyen Empire still stands, at least part of it does - the Hue citadel palace complex, with its high stone walls and the refined palaces and temples behind them, were the center of Vietnamese governance and politics during the Nguyen Emperors' rule.
The French conquered Vietnam late in the 19th century, but decided to leave the Emperors in place as puppet rulers beholden to Paris. Reigning with the consent of the French, the Nguyens ruled as figurehead monarchs at the Hue Citadel till 1945, when Bao Dai turned over the reins of government to the revolutionary government of Ho Chi Minh.
The Hue Citadel is about 520 hectares in size, sitting close to the banks of the Perfume River. The inner sanctum is still open to the public as it undergoes continuous renovation. Most of the buildings were obliterated during the Tet Offensive in 1967, as American bombs helped push the invading North Vietnamese troops back to Hanoi.
Begin at the Ngo Mon Gate, the entry point into the Citadel across from the Flag Tower. You'll pay the entrance fee of VND 55,000 (about US$3) at the gate.
The Hue Citadel is easily accessible via taxi and cyclo. They can take you straight to the Hue Citadel from your hotel.
The tour will take about two hours and involves a fair amount of walking. To fully enjoy your trip, you'll need:
- Entry fee to the Hue Citadel: VND 55,000 (about US$3)
- comfortable shoes
- a camera
- bottled water; alternatively, you can also buy water along some of the many refreshment stands within the Citadel Grounds.