I know what you’re thinking – can you really do Hue in one day?
The answer after Alyshia and I made our way through this historical city while it rained half the day? Yes, it’s possible. Should you? Probably not. But if you really only have one day like we did, then never fear, it’s actually pretty easy to take in the highlights of Huế in one 24 hour period!
For a more complete guide, check out my big post of things to do in Hue and my best tips!
Basically what happened is that we planned our trip a little backwards and went from Hoi An – Quy Nhơn, thinking we’d be able to just catch a flight from Quy Nhơn – Huế. And we thought we were meeting friends Saturday afternoon or evening, so we’d at least have two days if we flew in Thursday morning and flew back to Saigon Saturday morning. Well, turns out you can’t fly between Huế and Quy Nhơn and we were meeting our friends for brunch at 11, so… our trip was cut to just one day.
What we did was take a private car via Anantara from their Quy Nhon Villas to Da Nang. Then we swapped to another private car service to go from the Starbucks in Da Nang to TOVO Hostel in Huế (no point spending money on a fancier stay for such a short stay!). Then we booked a flight for Friday evening around 8PM to give us the full day to mosey around the city and give us a night back at our apartments instead of rushing around Saturday morning.
Shockingly, even with the massive downpour and our lack of rain equipment, it all worked out really smoothly! We arrived in Huế in time for dinner Thursday evening, and Tovo was right around the corner from this delicious spot I’d eaten at on my last trip. We even roamed down to the river and grabbed drinks at this very random outdoor cafe/bar spot with some club music for ambience lol.
Anyway, we passed out at night and were up around 8/9 AM to take on Huế!
Hue in One Day
Despite the fact that it rained hard all morning, we were determined to see as much as we could! Since we didn’t have rain ponchos, our hostel host insisted we take two conical rice hats with us that other guests had left behind. Did we look absolutely ridiculous? Absolutely. They half-protected us from the rain and then served to cover our half-wet, half-greasy-from-the-humidity hair later ha!
Get some salt coffee at Ca phe Muoi
First things first, grab a taxi over to Cà phê Muối for a nice cup of salt coffee (or two). If you speak Vietnamese, yes cà phê muối means salt coffee lol. But that’s also the name of the spot that apparently made the drink a thing here! Salt coffee is made with salt and condensed milk mixed together and then the classic drip coffee over top (check this reel to see it in action) They’ll usually give you some ice to put in too. We were kind of waiting for the rain to let up so we had two drinks and hung out for a bit. I’ll never forget Alyshia downing her first coffee and some guy looking at her in horror and shock as she did it LOL.
Walk until you find this Com Hen spot
Since Cà phê Muối is near the back corner of the Imperial City, we decided to walk along the western wall to get to the entrance and find somewhere to eat on the way. Oddly enough, not a ton of spots to eat and I could not for the life of me find a bánh canh cá lóc place. We finally saw this woman selling some sort of dish literally outside of what looked like an empty garage and decided to go eat whatever she was serving because we wanted to get out of the rain.
Turns out it’s this dish called cơm hến and it hit the spot. Cơm hến translates to mussel or clam rice and one of the unique ingredients I liked were the roasted peanuts! It’s not on the map but it was basically in this spot if you’re looking for it.
Go to Imperial City of Hue
Next up, time to explore the Imperial City of Huế, which is absolutely massive and walled-in. You could easily spend a few hours visiting every nook and cranny learning all about its history. This area was chosen by geomancers when the first Nguyễn emperor, Gia Long, decided on Huế, his ancestral land, to be the capital of Vietnam. One bonus is that it’s still possible to visit a good part of it even during a rainstorm as there’s a decent amount of covered walkways to keep you dry-ish.
Also, pro-tip: there’s only one entrance and one exit to the Imperial City and they are nowhere near each other! The entrance is at the Meridian Gate or Ngọ Môn and this is what you want to plug into Grab when you visit. When you exit, you’ll go through Cửa Hiển Nhơn which is about midway on the eastern wall.
Grab some pho for lunch
After we exited, we were again ready to eat something and get out of the rain, which had started to pick up again! The first place we finally found was Phở Vườn Beef Pho, which hit the spot. We got the special and added some fried dough in and I’m pretty sure I chugged a whole water!
Walk around the Abandoned Park
After we finished lunch, we got a Grab taxi over tot he one spot both of us were eager to finally see in person – the Thuy Tien Lake Abandoned Water Park! I think technically you’re not allowed to enter but success varies based on the day. When we went our taxi driver dropped us off and we walked right through. No one was there to stop us or ask for an entrance fee. It’s about a 10-min walk before you see the famous dragon head. At this point we were so bedraggled we kind of didn’t want to walk. Luckily the rain had let up a bit, and we walked anyway with Alyshia just ditching her shoes at one point. When I tell you were were strugglin’…
Anyway, this dragon head is the main thing to see! It kind looks spooky in photos but it’s not in person — just obviously abandoned and derelict. Tons of graffiti and beer cans too. There are other parts to the park if you want to keep walking or have more time but nothing quite as cool as the dragon head!
When we left, there were suddenly guards demanding an entrance fee from people coming in, but they didn’t say anything to us as we left!
Visit the Royal Tomb of Tu Duc
If you can only visit one royal tomb, I’d choose the Royal Tomb of Tự Đức. Tự Đức was the longest ruling Nguyễn emperor and considered the last independent one before the French really insinuated their colonial selves into Vietnam. He also used this area as a retreat from the Imperial City, so it’s much more sprawling than other tombs which were only created to be burial places.
Pop into the Incense Village
Another bonus to visiting the Royal Tomb of Tự Đức is that you’ll drive through the Incense Village both ways! Just ask your driver to make a pit stop so you can get out and see all the colors for yourself. The first shop to the left is called Be Ti and the woman who owns it and her daughter are super cute and friendly. She’ll show you how the incense sticks are made and they have a bunch of fun souvenirs in addition to incense for sale. If you just want to take photos, I recommend just handing them some dong when you ask; they’re super accommodating!
Try some Banh Bot Loc
Absolutely exhausted, we circled our way back to our hostel and ate at this little spot right across the street. They had bánh bột lọc, which we absolutely devoured along with some bánh bèo and a ton of water! Bánh bột lọc is another food that originates from Huế, and is a sort of chewy tapioca thing filled with shrimp. Dip it in some sweet chili fish sauce and enjoy! Seriously, it’s so good. I can eat like 20 in one go.
Finally eat Bunh Canh Ca Loc
Feeling a bit refreshed and actually with plenty of time to kill, we decided to try one more time to try to find a bánh canh cá lóc spot. Luckily, this time we found one! I love this dish so much and watching the cooks make the noodles from scratch. Also really hits the spot when you’re damp from the rain and have been walking all over the city!
A little cafe chillin’
Since we still had an hour or so to kill, we meandered over to this cafe called Phinholic for some A/C and to relax. It’s actually quite a nice cafe and had some good coconut coffee!
And then it was time to say goodbye and head back to Saigon, thus ending Alyshia’s leaving-Vietnam trip! I know, what a hectic way to end! Did I mention I forgot to bring back-up contacts and mine were giving me issues so I was in glasses from the time we left Quy Nhơn? Also not expecting monsoon season to rear its ugly head so soon, I had my brown leather tote to carry around my camera and it totally stained my white shirt? The struggle was real but we made it!
I can’t actually believe we managed to do Hue in one day! And during a big rainstorm! What would you have included?
for more on vietnam
This country is a lot bigger than people expect! When planning your trip to Vietnam, I recommend breaking it up into north, central, and south. Northern Vietnam is known for is stunning landscapes like Sapa with minority tribes like the Red Dzao, the limestone islets of Halong Bay and Ninh Binh, the lesser known Mu Cang Chai, and the caves of Phong Nha. If you visit, your main city base will be the capital of Hanoi.
Moving towards central Vietnam your main city will probably be Da Nang, which is where the intriguing Marble Mountains are. There’s a ton of picturesque history in this region from the royal city of Hue where you can stay at the historic Azerai La Residence, Hoi An where you can get things tailor-made and stay at the lovely Anantara Hoi An, quirky Dalat in the Central Highlands, and the very cool Mui Ne and Phan Thiet where you can chill by the pool at Anantara Mui Ne.
Down south, there’s a ton of things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, the main hub here. Start with District 1, which has most of the main tourist attractions as well as a lot of cool gems like Little Japan. Then branch out to the temples of Cho Lon and District 5, the pool cafes and foreign restaurants of Thao Dien, or the fun spots around District 3, Binh Thanh, and District 10. Move further south to the Mekong Delta, either on a day trip or for a slower visit to one of its cities like Vinh Long or Can Tho. Don’t miss the islands like Phu Quoc or Con Dao either!
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