The Guides to Visit the Imperial Citadel of Hue for the First Time [32 photos]

The Imperial Citadel of Hue, also called Hue Old Citadel or the Royal Palace, is a large area surrounded by the great outer wall. This place includes many significant architectural works of the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945.

Traveling to Hue City, you cannot miss the opportunity to explore this vital region, which carries essential cultural and historical significance and covers the buildings with high artistic and aesthetic value.

Hue imperial citadel
Hue Imperial Citadel. ©Vietnamdrive

The Imperial City of Hue:

  • Address: Old City of Hue, Thua Thien Hue Province, Vietnam
  • Visiting time: 7:00 am – 5:30 pm. End selling tickets at 5:00 pm.
  • Entrance fee: Adults: 200,000 VND/person, and children from 7-12 years old: 40,000 VND/person
    (ticket prices are correct at the time of posting)

The Royal Palace was built on a nearly square foundation. The front and back sides have a width of 622m; The left and right sides have a length of 604m.

The Royal Palace covers the Forbidden City, where Nguyen kings and their royal families lived and worked. In addition, the most important political and cultural agencies of the Nguyen Dynasty were placed.

With 15 years of experience as a tour guide, the writer will introduce the methods and routes to give you a clear and complete guide to exploring this unique relic destination. So, he will not delve too much into historical details.

The journey will start from the parking lot.

1. Parking lots to visit Hue Imperial Citadel

There are two parking areas to enter the Imperial Citadel area:

1.1. Nguyen Hoang parking lot:

This parking is a bus station outside the Hue Citadel, about 50m from The Nhon gate – often called Ngan gate, and about 450m from the Royal Palace’s gate – Ngo Mon.

You can come to this parking at 01 Le Duan Street, Hue City. You will easily recognize it as soon as you arrive at the northern side of Phu Xuan Bridge.

nguyen hoang bus station
Nguyen Hoang Bus Station

Nguyen Hoang station is usually only for big buses with 24 seats or more because large vehicles are not allowed inside the Imperial City. However, you can still park smaller cars inside.

1.2. The two other parking lots inside the citadel include:

You can move into the inside first parking lots, from 4-seat cars to 16-seat vans, motorbikes, and bicycles.

  • The first inside parking lot is on the right of Cua Ngan, also called The Nhan Gate, only 200m away from each other.
  • The second inside one is on the left side of Quang Duc Gate, also known as Sap Gate, 250 meters away from each other.

These parking lots are convenient when traveling in small vehicles. Parking at Ngan Gate is much better than at Cua Sap because you can save time by walking to the royal palace’s gate. At the same time, it is also much closer to the exit of the Imperial Citadel.

through cua ngan gate to the inside parking lot
Going through the Ngan Gate and turning left, you come to the first inside parking.

A small note is to park your vehicle in the right place! If not, it can bring unnecessary trouble to the driver.

2. Instructions on the order of attractions inside the Imperial Citadel

Many attractions inside the old citadel area wait for you. If you don’t go with a guide, save our article for a tailored itinerary to avoid wasting time going around and still missing points.

The duration to explore here can last from 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on your purpose: just sightseeing, taking lots of photos, or looking more closely at the architectural features and patterns.

palace in imperial city hue
A royal palace in Hue Imperial Citadel

Below are suggested routes by time frame for you.

Visit the Imperial Citadel in 1 hour, including the following points (in order):

Ngo Mon Gate => Lake and Dai Trieu Yard => Thai Hoa Palace => Tu Cam Thanh, including two main points: Library and Theater => Hien Nhon Gate => Back to the parking.

Visit the Imperial Citadel from 1.5 hours to 2 hours, including:

Ngo Mon Gate => Lake and Dai Trieu Courtyard => Thai Hoa Palace => The Mieu => Dien Tho Palace => Tu Cam Thanh, including Library and Theater => Hien Nhon Gate => Back to the bus station.

Please save this route map as a reference when visiting this place!

route map to visit the imperial citade
The route map to visit various places in the citadel was created based on a Google map.

Note: Orange arrows indicate long sightseeing routes and white arrows indicate short sightseeing ways.

3. Explore the Royal Palaces on your own as if you were traveling with a tour guide.

Let’s follow the order and explore the charming and mysterious beauty of Hue Imperial Citadel.

3.1. Buy tickets to visit the Royal Palace

Before buying tickets to enter the Imperial Citadel area, please stop to learn about the Nine Divine Canons of the Nguyen Dynasty!

There are 9 cannons arranged in front of the Imperial Citadel, right behind the two gates of The Nhon and Sap.

royal canon in hue citadel
These 4 canons are close to Ngan Gate.

At The Nhon Gate (Cua Ngan), there are 4 cannons on display, named after the 4 seasons of Spring – Summer – Autumn – Winter. At Sap Gate (Quang Duc), there are 5 cannons named after the five elements: Metal – Wood – Water – Fire – Earth.

Although these cannons have never participated in the battle, they have great historical, cultural, and artistic value. The Nguyen Dynasty treasured them as a victory with spiritual significance to protect the country.

Today, the Nine Divine Cannons are still the largest in Vietnam. It is on the list of the most valuable set of fine art products in the nation.

Admire the exquisite patterns engraved on the body of the treasure. Take souvenir photos with these outstanding relics.

Saying goodbye to the canons, let’s go to Ngo Mon Square, take photos with the flagpole, and enjoy the view.

taking pictures at flag pole in hue citadel
Taking pictures at the flag pole

Next, go to the ticket counter on the right to buy tickets to enter the Imperial Citadel.

ticket counter in hue imperial citadel
The counter sells tickets to enter the Imperial City.

3.2. Ngo Mon Gate: the first vital project of the Imperial Citadel

The first magnificent structure you see is Ngo Mon Gate, which is one of the symbols of strength and authority of the ancient royal family.

ngon mon gate in hue citadel
Ngo Mon Gate

From the outside, the building is designed in a U shape with three main doors in the middle and two walkways cleverly hidden on both sides of the platform.

Above is a building called Ngu Phung Floor with a 2-storey design, highlighted by a glazed tile roof. In particular, the middle roof is covered with yellow lapis lazuli tiles, symbolizing the royal family. On both the left and right sides of the building are green lapis lazuli tile roofs presenting for all people and plants.

You can take beautiful photos at any corner in front of Ngo Mon gate. Or step through the ticket gate and turn left to go up to Ngu Phung Floor to see the view around. The harmonious beauty of this work blends wonderfully with the surrounding scenery and colors.

on ngo mon gate
From the second floor of Ngo Mon Gate

3.3. Thai Dich Lake and Dai Trieu Yard

Right behind Ngo Mon gate is Thai Dich Lake and a wide bridge connecting Ngo Mon with the Dai Trieu yard.

The lake attracts tourists because of its happy and quite “hospitable” Koi fishes. Next to the lake is a small table selling fish food, so if you want to feed the fish jostling for bait, buy a small food bag that the fish are eagerly waiting for.

thai dich lake
Thai Dich Lake and Trung Dao Bridge

In addition, the lake is also decorated with countless fragrant pink and white lotus flowers in the summer, from late May to July.

After crossing the bridge, you will reach Dai Trieu yard, a place for mandarins to stand during court meetings.

On both sides of the yard are two rows of small steles, which are landmarks to divide the hierarchy from high to low when performing the ritual.

dai trieu yard
Ranking stone stele at Dai Trieu Yard

3.4. Thai Hoa Palace

Note: You cannot enter Thai Hoa Palace because the local government is restoring it. So, you turn right to go around Ta Vu and Huu Vu behind.

This architectural work is considered a symbol of the strength and longevity of the Nguyen Dynasty. The king held royal courts and vital events at this palace, such as welcoming diplomatic delegations.

Thai Hoa Palace
Thai Hoa Palace

Outstanding features of Thai Hoa Palace include:

  • The roof is covered with yellow lapis lazuli tiles and decorated with 9 delicately carved and inlaid dragons.
  • The interior of the main hall is painted and gilded. In which red – “vermilion” represents strength and happiness, yellow – “gilded” symbolizes wealth and kingship.

One thing to note when visiting this area: photography is not allowed in the main hall. Especially with photography equipment that uses flash with high light intensity because it can destroy the paint color.

Please only take photos from outside this particular principal building!

3.5. Left Vu and Right Vu

Passing through Thai Hoa Palace, you will enter the Forbidden City area, which had many of the strictest regulations in the ancient Royal Palace.

On the left and right are two buildings, Huu Vu and Ta Vu, with relatively similar architecture, used for civil and martial mandarins, who were allowed to meet the king, waiting and adjusting their clothes and hats.

ta vu building
Ta Vu

Currently, Ta Vu (the left building) is to display Nguyen Dynasty antiques. The collections here may be subject to change from time to time.

Huu Vu (the right-side building) is a place for souvenir photography services. You can rent a Vietnamese traditional dress, royal costumes, and a throne simulation area to take satisfactory photos.

huu vu in hue citadel
The guests prepare to take pictures in Huu Vu.

When visiting the Ta Vu and Huu Vu areas, you can stop by the old city wall, which remains next to the foundation of the destroyed Can Thanh palace.

If you choose the 1-hour route, follow the newly restored hallway to the Library and Theater.

Below is the longer route from 1.5 to 3 hours.

After visiting Ta Vu and Huu Vu, go back to the front. As soon as you leave the Forbidden City area, you turn right and walk along the wall to reach The Mieu (King Worshipping Temples).

way to the to mieu
This way will lead you to The To Mieu.

3.6. The To Temple area

The To Mieu, often called The Mieu (King Temple), is a building used for worshiping the Nguyen Dynasty kings and is a large temple of the royal family.

the mieu temple
The Mieu Temple

The center of this area is The Mieu, which has a yin-yang tiled roof and a gilded interior. The inside includes the altars of the Nguyen Dynasty kings.

This area is holy, so when visiting this place, you need to walk lightly and speak softly. In particular, you should avoid turning your back to the altar when taking photos.

Located opposite The Mieu Temple is Hien Lam Cat – the tallest building in Hue Royal Citadel. Its highlight is the four large and tall wooden pillars connecting straight from the foundation to the third floor. In addition, the entire architectural building is designed and built quite balanced and harmonious, achieving high artistic and aesthetic value.

Hien Lam Cat
Hien Lam Cat and Nine Dynasty Urns

The other impressive relics in this area are the 9 bronze urns (Cửu Đỉnh in Vietnamese) cast during the reign of King Minh Mang and called the Nine Royal Urns. These urns are in front of The Mieu, corresponding to the altars of the 9 kings worshiped inside.

dynasty urns in hue citadel
The bronze dynasty urns

The Nine Urns have become a symbol of the authority, strength, and longevity of the Dynasty. Today, Cử Đỉnh is on the list of valuable national treasures.

When looking at these, you can find the decorative patterns cast and carved quite sophisticatedly on them, demonstrating the perfect development of bronze casting art and the nation’s culture.

3.7. Dien Tho Palace area

After visiting The To Temple, continue around the back and turn left to reach Chuong Duc gate – the west one of the Imperial Citadel. With sophisticated patterns carved from porcelain, the Chuong Duc door becomes an ideal place to take photos.

Chuong Duc Gate
Chuong Duc Gate

From Chuong Duc gate, you turn right and walk along the wall for about 80 meters, continue to turn right, and then go another 30 meters to reach Dien Tho Palace on the left.

Dien Tho Palace is decorated with phoenixes on the roof.
Dien Tho Palace is decorated with phoenixes on the roof.

Dien Tho Palace is the residence of the Queen Mother – the king’s mother, and the Queen GrandMother – the king’s grandmother. In the entire campus of Dien Tho Palace, currently, there are remaining main architectural works: Dien Tho Palace, Tho Ninh Palace, Truong Du Palace, Phuoc Tho Am and Tinh Minh Palace.

The most prominent here is Dien Tho Palace in the middle of the campus. It has a yellow yin-yang tiled roof, and phoenix-shaped images are elaborately carved on it.

On the right side of Dien Tho Palace is a new building – Tinh Minh in Asian – European style, which used to be the resting place of King Bao Dai – the last king of Vietnam.

tinh minh palace in hue citadel
Tinh Minh Palace

From the writer’s perspective, the area on the left side of Dien Tho Palace is the most beautiful place here. This subdivision is named Ta Truong Du, also often called Thuy Ta. The building includes a 560m2 lake with fish and lotus plants. Above the water is a house with an area half the size of the lake.

thuy ta building
Beautiful Thuy Ta Building

Located symmetrically with Ta Truong Du across Ninh Tho Palace, slightly to the west, is Am Phuoc Tho, also known as Khuong Ninh Cac. This building is both used as a small temple to worship Buddha and takes on the task of worshiping saints. Therefore, it became a holy place for female owners in the ancient palace to pray and wish.

Indeed, there are very few visitors to this area. Perhaps because of the mystically spiritual feelings created by worshiping divine spirits?! As a tour guide, the writer rarely introduces tourists to this section and even less encourages taking photos here. Of course, there are no bans to visitors to do so. Just a spiritual matter!

Another compelling point in this area is a small path through many gates. Located on the left of Dien Tho Palace, with a caged gate design, this place becomes appealing for you to create beautiful and strange photos.

gate inside gate
The gate inside gates is a place where you can create beautiful photos.

3.8. Library and Theater

Leaving Dien Tho palace by walking through these gates, you return to the Forbidden City area but in a different location.

Follow the covered walkway that leads to the library, also known as Thai Binh Lau. On the way, you see many empty spaces, which are the old foundations of dozens of destroyed architectural palaces.

walkway with roof
This walkway takes you to the library and the Forbidden City.

The library Thai Binh Lau is an architectural work with lively exterior decoration and beautiful motifs on the roof. Currently, this building is for introducing and selling souvenir products.

royal library in hue citadel
The decoration on the library roof made of porcelain is very eye-catching.

Ahead, slightly to the right of Thai Binh Lau is Thieu Phuong Garden. This area has just been restored and reconstructed, including miniature landscapes, aquariums, ornamental plants, and colorful flowers. Thieu Phuong Garden often gets art exhibitions.

thieu phuong gadern
A corner in Thieu Phuong Gadern

From Thieu Phuong Garden, head left to reach Duyet Thi Duong Theater. This theater used to be the place to organize court music performances to serve the king, royal family, and VIP guests.

Today, this theater usually performs Hue royal court music, meeting the needs of tourists to see and learn about this art form. If you want to enjoy court music, pay attention to the time and performance so you don’t miss the opportunity.

The highlight of this theater lies in the interior decorations and colors. You can also visit and take photos inside the theater during non-performance hours.

royal theater in hue imperial citadel
It’s colorful in the royal theater.

3.9. Hien Nhon Gate and Royal Fine Arts Museum

In front of the theater, there is a path to the gate. Through the gate, turn right, go about 30 meters, then turn left and continue walking to reach Hien Nhon gate.

If the west side of the Imperial Citadel has Chuong Duc Gate for females during the king’s time, the east side has Hien Nhon Gate for males. Like Chuong Duc Gate, Hien Nhon Gate also has beautiful patterns. Many tourists still cannot help but take lovely photos at this gate before leaving the old royal place of Hue.

hien nhon gate
Hien Nhon Gate

After leaving Hien Nhon gate, if you turn right and follow the small path along the outside of the wall, you will return to the first inside parking near The Nhon Gate, meaning you will return to the starting place. End of the visit to this destination!

If you want to see the Royal Fine Arts Museum, from Hien Nhon gate, go straight about 15m to Doan Thi Diem Street, turn right, and go another 30m, then you will see Le Truc Street on the left. The museum is at 03 Le Truc Street, Hue City.

Royal Museum in Hue Imperial City
Royal Museum

The distance from Hien Nhon gate to the Royal Fine Arts Museum is quite close, less than 300m if walking. But because Doan Thi Diem Street only has one-way traffic, you have to take a further detour if you go to the museum by car.

Note: A few cyclos in front of Hien Nhon gate may invite you to use this service to move to the museum. If you want to try, cyclo will take you on a roundabout route, and the price for a short experience is usually not too much, about 20,000 VND to 40,000 VND. Please tell the cyclo driver a clear price before using it!

cyclo in hue citadel
Many cyclos are waiting for guests at Hien Nhon Gate.

Tickets to visit the royal palace include visiting this museum, so you do not need to buy additional tickets. Please use it to enter this attraction!

In the museum, there are many antiques of the Nguyen Dynasty’s royal family on display, which are worth seeing. At the same time, the scenery and architecture of this project are also quite beautiful to admire.

After visiting the Royal Fine Arts Museum, you only need to turn right a few steps, then continue left to return to the parking lot. End the journey to explore the Imperial Citadel.

car parking in front royal museum
Small cars can pick you up in front of the Royal Museum. ©Vietnamdrive

In conclusion:

This article about the Imperial Citadel of Hue is intended as a sightseeing guide for you who are new to this place for the first time.

It can also be useful for new tour guides and young people pursuing their dreams in the tourism industry. At the same time, it is a reference document for tour leaders and tour guides who are still unfamiliar with Hue City.

After visiting Hue Imperial City, you can explore Dong Ba market, one of Hue’s nearby famous markets.

If you have any questions about these attractions, please tell us!

Please fill out the form to contact us for any requests! Or Whatsapp +84 934 889 667 to our phone! Thank you!

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    About the author

    The editorial staff of Vietnamdrive is a team of travel experts managed by Mr. Thom who has worked in tourism for 14 years. Trusted by thousands of tourists from all over the world.

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