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The top 5 things to do in Hue with kids

Huế, pronounced as hwe, is located in the heart of Vietnam, about 70km south of the DMZ. It was the intellectual and cultural heart of Vietnam until the beginning of the 1900s. And was also the capital city of Vietnam, during this period. That’s why Hue is the best place to learn about Vietnamese history and culture.

When in Hue, your family will learn all about the era of the Vietnamese emperors. Being in close vicinity of Vietnam’s DMZ, it means you will also learn a lot about the Vietnam War.

Hue is a captivating city that should on your ultimate family road trip itinerary of Vietnam. Stay for 3 days if you really want to get to know this city. This way you’ll have enough time to check out this complete top 5 things to do in Hue with kids. Spend 4 days in Hue with your family, if you also want to take a day trip to the DMZ.

Why Hue is a great choice for a family visit

Hu is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam. The Imperial Citadel, that stood for more than 2 centuries, is the main reason for travelers to make the trip to the center of Vietnam. People also use Hue as a base for a day trip to the DMZ.

But there’s more to Hue than the Imperial Citadel. Hue’s history is deeply embedded within its present. And the architecture, both ancient and recent, shows this. You get a glimpse into the lives of Vietnam’s emperors all over this city and around it. Many tombs and temples can be explored in Hue, some tombs are even hidden in the jungle.

Hue with kids

Everyone with an interest in the history of Vietnam must visit Hue. And while kids can only be entertained by historical facts for so long, Hue will be fun for them as well. The Imperial Citadel, and the Forbidden Purple City within its walls, is filled with statues of mythical creatures. Kids will undoubtedly have fun roaming around here.

Even if your kids are not interested in the ancient history of Vietnam, they will be interested in a walk through the gardens or jungle, while the rest of your family learns all about the Nguyen Dynasty.

Another thing kids will love is a ride on a dragon boat. One of the 5 things to do in Hue with kids. The dragon boat takes your family on a ride over the Perfume River. As the name suggests these boats are shaped like a dragon and are extremely colorful. What kids wouldn’t want to board a dragon?

Kid friendly dishes in Hue

The food in Hue is amazing. This city has the most amazing produce in all of Vietnam. With lots of juicy fruits and fresh seafood, meats and herbs to spice all the dishes up.

Kids will love Bun Bo Hue, a hearty noodle soup. Just make sure they leave out the chili. Another kid friendly fish is Bun Thit Nuong. A BBQ pork noodle dish that’s very yummy. Vegetarians will love Hue, because we haven’t seen that many vegetarian dishes anywhere else in Vietnam.

When to visit Hue

Being close to the equator, Hue has a tropical climate. Try to avoid the wet season. Downpours are most common in October and November. We visited Hue in December. Still some short rain showers and a bit gloomy, but overall we had great weather with temperatures around 18 to 20 degrees celsius.

Spring season is the best time for your family to visit Hue. This lasts from January to April. Temperatures average between 20 to 26 degrees Celsius.

Fisherman on the Perfume River in Hue - Vietnam
Motorbikes crossing the Truong Tien Bridge over the Perfume River in Hue - Vietnam

How to get to Hue

Fly

Some international airlines fly to Phu Bai International Airport (HUI), an airport located about 15km from Hue. But there’s a big chance that you have to travel to Hue via Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) or Da Nang. Hue is located about 700 km south of Hanoi and about 1100 km north of Ho Chi Minh City. Da Nang is closest to Hue, at 94 km south of the city.

Book your international flight to either Hanoi, HCMC or Da Nang via Expedia. And from there travel to Hue by booking a domestic flight (booking this separately from the international flight is mostly cheaper) or train. Expedia usually has great deals available. Do always make sure to double check the flight prices at the website of the airline to make sure you get the best deal!

If you are taking a domestic flight, I recommend 12Go. This is a user-friendly website that will show you all the different price options and comparisons as well as reviews from fellow travelers.

Powered by 12Go system
Night train from Hue to Da Nang

Train

We visited Hue while on a family road trip from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. To get to Hue, we took the sleeper train from Ninh Binh to Hue. This is a 575km journey, that took almost 12 hours. We left Ninh Binh at 10pm and arrived in Hue at 8.30am. The sleeper berth had 4 comfortable beds and the ride was an easy one. We arrived well rested for a day of exploring Hue.

Our next destination was Da Nang, so after exploring Hue, we took another train from Hue to Da Nang. This journey took us 2,5 hours.

We booked the tickets for both trains via 12Go.

The Truong Tien Bridge over the Perfume River in Hue - Vietnam
Restaurant in the center of Hue in Vietnam

Getting around Hue

To check out the best 5 things to do in Hue with kids you have a few options of how to get there. The most important sites are quite easy to get to, because you can use various means of transportation.

Cyclo

The most popular mode of transportation is the cyclo. They first appeared on the streets of Hue during the French colonial era. The cyclo is a 3-wheeled cycle, pedaled by a driver. The front seat holds 2 people max. At first we were hesitant to use them, because we thought it was only for tourists and it felt like taking advantage of the locals. But, when we talked to the host of our AirBnb, we learned that it’s also a popular transportation option amongst the locals.

Of course, the price for the locals differs from the ones they make tourists pay. They pay about 2 euro for 30 minutes, while we pay 4. A rather small price to pay for a ride like this, in our opinion.

Boat

On the banks of the Perfume River you’ll find dragon boats. These boats can transfer you to various tourist destinations. The extra bonus is that you can admire the view, while you’re en route to your fun thing to do in Hue.

An excursion on a Dragon Boat is one of the 5 things to do in Hue with kids. So, more on this subject later.

The Imperial Citadel in Hue - Vietnam

Bus

The public bus is a great choice if you want to venture out into the various districts within the province of Thua Thien Hue. You can choose from 15 routes that will take you to various destinations within Hue and outside of the city.

Car

If you want to be more flexible call a taxi or a Grab. Grab is the Uber of Southeast Asia.

Things to do around Hue

Before we dive into the top 5 things to do in Hue with kids, let’s talk about other things to do around Hue. If you have 4 days or more in Hue, venture outside of the city to explore even more of the area.

Bach Ma National Park

The Bach Ma National Park is situated halfway between Hue and Da Nang. It will take almost 2 hours to drive the 40km distance from Hue to Bach Ma NP. With about 38.000 hectares, Bach Ma is an impressive stretch of land. If you’re really lucky, you can spot rare animals here like the red-shanked douc langur (a monkey), leopard and fire wolf. All endangered species.

The center of it all is Mount Bach Ma, peaking at 1.488 meters. To get to the summit you have to be an experienced hiker. More family friendly is a trail that takes you to a series of dreamy blue lakes, Ngu Ho (Five Lakes). The walk takes about 30 to 40 minutes.

You can book a tour from Hue to this National Park via Get Your Guide.

Day trip from Hue to the DMZ - Vietnam
Khe Sanh Combat Base at the former DMZ in Vietnam

Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) of Vietnam

Like Korea, Vietnam used to be divided into North and South. From 1954 until 1976 the two were separated by the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone, more commonly known as the DMZ. This border was about 75km long, running from east to west and was located near the middle of present day Vietnam.

Visiting the DMZ is not suitable for kids of all ages. Visitor centers and museums that center around the Vietnam war with America, in the 60s and the first part of the 70s of the last century, show the damage that was done in this area. To the land, but mostly the people. We’ve all seen the pictures and every parent can decide for themselves whether or not their kids are old enough to visit this area.

When booking a day tour via Get Your Guide, you’ll be picked up from your hotel very early in the morning. You’ll arrive at the DMZ in 1,5 hours and will visit multiple sites like the Vinh Moc Tunnels, the Dakrong Bridge and the Khe San Combat Base.

Now, without further ado, let’s dive into the top 5 things to do in Hue with kids! To see and do them all you need 3 days in Hue.

5 things to do in Hue with kids

Explore the Imperial Citadel

Feel like an emperor in the Forbidden Purple City

Visit the Royal Tomb of Minh Mang

Check out the Thien Mu Pagoda

Enjoy the Perfume River from a Dragon Boat

The Imperial Citadel in Hue - Vietnam
The Imperial Citadel in Hue - Vietnam

Explore the Imperial Citadel

Hue’s roots can be traced back to the Nguyen Dynasty. Because of this imperial background, Hue is known for its historic monuments, earning the town a UNESCO World Heritage site status.  The main attraction is the Imperial Citadel (Kinh Thành Huế), the former imperial seat of government.

It took 30 years to built the citadel and construction started in 1804. It was constructed to look like the Forbidden Palace in Beijing and that is clear the moment you set foot inside it via the Meridian Gate.

Do you enjoy this list of the top 5 things to do in Hue with kids?

If so, read more about family travel in Vietnam

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Rise and fall of Imperial Vietnam

During the beginning of the 1800s the unification of Vietnam took place. An event that happened more than once, most recently after the Vietnam War.

But let’s get back to the 19th century, when Vietnam’s first emperor Gai Long, ordered to look for the best place in Vietnam to built a new palace. Because of its central location, Hue was the most ideal city to built a citadel. Imperial Vietnam’s demise came in 1955. Instead of an emperor, South Vietnam was ruled by a president. This marked the end of the Nguyen Dynasty in Vietnam.

The Imperial City in Hue - Vietnam
The famous red doors in the Imperial City in Hue - Vietnam

Vietnam War

During the Vietnam War, Hue was attacked by North Vietnam and the Vietcong. About 80% of Hue was destroyed during this attack. Unfortunately that also meant that a lot of the Imperial Citadel (also known as the Imperial Enclosure) and the Forbidden Purple City was damaged.

The entire complex, along with some other sites in Hue, were added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1993. Soon after, renovations started. Many of the buildings’ rich architectural details and the parks within the Citadel can be admired again, because of these renovations.

Visiting the Imperial City is an absolute must, when in Hue. You have to spend an entire day here to see it all, but you can also get a great sense of the place within 2 to 2,5 hours.

The Imperial City in Hue - Vietnam
The Imperial City in Hue - Vietnam

Not to miss sights within the Imperial Citadel

Get yourself a map of the Imperial Citadel at the ticket booth and if you’re a little short on time, or your kids are short on patience, make sure to check out these marvels:

  • The red doors of the Thái Miếu Temple
  • The huge and impressive Thế Miếu Temple
  • After entering via the Meridian Gate, turn around for a fantastic view
  • Visit the Hall of Supreme Harmony, before entering the Forbidden Purple City

Feel like an emperor in the Forbidden Purple City

Forbidden City in Hue - Vietnam
Forbidden City in Hue - Vietnam

Within the walls of the Imperial Citadel, you’ll find the Imperial City. The Imperial City is more commonly known as the Forbidden Purple City.

Unfortunately not only the Vietnam War destroyed parts of the Forbidden Purple City, but also 2 wars before that. UNESCO preserved as much as they could and nowadays you really get a great sense of how the emperor’s lived within this closed off part of the citadel. Therefore you shouldn’t skip a visit to the Imperial City, while checking out the Imperial Citadel.

Opening hours of the Imperial Citadel and Forbidden Purple City

The citadel and the Forbidden Purple City within it’s walls is open all year round. The opening hours of Hue’s Imperial City are from 6.30am to 5.30pm. The ticket booth closes half an hour before closing time.

Dress appropriately and keep your knees and shoulders covered and don’t wear flip flops or other open toe shoes.

Visit the Royal Tomb of Minh Mang

The Royal Tomb of Minh Mang in Hue - Vietnam

The Minh Mang Tomb is known as the most majestic of all of Vietnam’s royal tombs. You can find it about 10km from Hue’s city center and the complex is made out of an impressive 40 sites. You can find palaces, temples, gates and towers within the complex.

The tomb was constructed in 1840 under the order of Emperor Minh Mang. The monument was completed 3 years later, when Minh Mang was already dead. The mausoleum of Minh Mang is both a burial place as a place of worship and the whole complex is beautiful and serene.

The best and nicest way to get to the Royal Tomb of Minh Mang is via boat, since it’s located along the Perfume River.

Check out the Thien Mu Pagoda

The Thien Mu Pagoda in Hue - Vietnam

Next on this top 5 things to do in Hue with kids is a pagoda. The beautiful Thien Mu Pagoda (Pagoda of the Celestial Lady) was built on the hill of Ha Khe on the banks of the Perfume River in 1601. It’s the oldest temple in Hue and was lucky enough to stand the tests of time.

The main reason to visit the Thien Mu Pagoda, also known as the Linh Mu Pagoda, is the Phuoc Duyen Tower. A 7 story octagonal tower with Buddha statues on each floor. Inside a spiral staircase leads to the top of the tower.

Kids might like to check out the giant marble turtle. Legend has is that when you touch it you’ll live forever. If nothing else, it’s an engaging saga to tell the kids.

Like the other ancient sites in Hue, you should wear appropriate clothing when visiting this temple.

Top tip: visit this pagoda around sunrise, when you can see the sun rising on the Perfume River from the Ha Khe Hill.

The dragon boats on the Perfume River in Hue - Vietnam

Enjoy the Perfume River from a Dragon Boat

Along the banks of the Perfume River you’ll see dozens of colorful boats, built in the shape of dragons. Some of them are used as public transport and they will stop at different sights in Hue that are located on or along the Perfume River.

But others can be booked for a scenic cruise. Buy your tickets at Toa Kham Station and enjoy an hour long trip. The ideal time to hop aboard a Dragon Boat is in the early morning at sunrise or the late afternoon at sunset.

Note that during the wet season, the dragon boats don’t operate or only a few of them offer their services. The boats do have a roof, but the sides are open.

Perfume River

How did the Perfume River get its name? It’s said that over a 100 years ago, during autumn, flowers from the orchards along the river would fall downriver. This made the river fragrant, hence the name.

Gardens in the Imperial Citadel in Hue - Vietnam
Outside part of the Dong Ba Market in Hue - Vietnam

Other things to do in Hue with kids

We touched on the top 5 things to do in Hue with kids, but there are also some other great things to do in Hue. They deserve a mention as well.

So if you’re in Hue for 4 days or longer, you can add the following fun things as well:

  • Check out the local produce at the Dong Ba Market
  • Visit the mausoleum of Khai Dinh
  • Check out Tu Duc’s tomb

3 things to do in Hue with kids

If you only have 2 days in Hue with kids, you probably have to drop a few activities. Make sure to keep these things in your itinerary:

  • the Imperial Citadel
  • the Forbidden Purple City
  • a Dragon Boat cruise
About me Sas Crossing Countries

Hi, I’m Saskia!

I travel the world with my family of 4 and write about our adventures.

Sas Crossing Countries is a family travel blog. It’s created to inspire other parents to travel the world with their kids. Gift your kids the world! It’s the most valuable present you can give them.

With all the experience I have as a traveling parent I’ve got lots of tools and tips for you. So on this site you’ll not only find family travel blog posts, you can also download FREE pocket guides, travel checklists and eBooks from my resources page.

All that I share can be used to plan your own ultimate family road trip!

Get FREE ebook The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Planning a Family Road TripVisit our travel shop!Become a member of my private family travel Facebook group


You might also like


About me Sas Crossing Countries

Hi, I’m Saskia!

I travel the world with my family of 4 and write about our adventures.

Sas Crossing Countries is a family travel blog. It’s created to inspire other parents to travel the world with their kids. Gift your kids the world! It’s the most valuable present you can give them.

With all the experience I have as a traveling parent I’ve got lots of tools and tips for you. So on this site you’ll not only find family travel blog posts, you can also download FREE pocket guides, travel checklists and eBooks from my resources page.

All that I share can be used to plan your own ultimate family road trip!

Get FREE ebook The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Planning a Family Road TripVisit our travel shop!Become a member of my private family travel Facebook group

Get my FREE eBook!

The Ultimate Beginners guide: Planning a Family Road Trip

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