Ngo Mon Gate leading into Imperial Enclosure of Hue Citadel.

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Imperial Enclosure

Top choice in Hue

The Imperial Enclosure or Imperial City is a citadel-within-a-citadel, housing the emperor’s residence, temples and palaces, and the main buildings of state, within 6m-high, 2.5km-long walls. What’s left is only a fraction of the original – the enclosure was badly bombed during the French and American Wars, and only 20 of its 148 buildings survived. Expect a lot of broken masonry, rubble, cracked tiling and weeds as you work your way around, but it's a fascinating site and easily worth half a day.

At a leisurely stroll, many of the less-visited areas are highly atmospheric and sublime. It's best to choose a day with decent weather, with late afternoon (when there are fewer visitors and the sun is setting) a superb time to visit. There are little cafes and souvenir stands dotted around. It's best to approach the sights starting from Ngo Mon Gate and moving anticlockwise around the enclosure. Restoration and reconstruction are ongoing.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

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1. Purple Forbidden City

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In the very centre of the Imperial Enclosure, there's almost nothing left of the once-magnificent Purple Forbidden City. This was a citadel-within-a…

2. Emperor's Reading Room


The exquisite (though crumbling) little two-storey Emperor’s Reading Room was the only part of the Purple Forbidden City to escape damage during the…

3. Dien Tho Residence

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The stunning, partially ruined Dien Tho Residence (1804) once comprised the apartments and audience hall of the Queen Mothers of the Nguyen dynasty. The…

4. Halls of the Mandarins

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Located immediately behind Thai Hoa Palace, on either side of a courtyard, these halls were used by mandarins as offices and to prepare for court…

5. Truong San Residence

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In 1844, Emperor Thieu Tri described this as one of Hue's most beautiful spots, but it was devastated by war. Check out the superb entrance gate with…

6. Royal Theatre

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The Royal Theatre, begun in 1826 and later home to the National Conservatory of Music, has been rebuilt on its former foundations. When performances aren…

7. Thai Hoa Palace

0.15 MILES

This 1803 palace is a spacious hall with an ornate timber roof supported by 80 carved and lacquered columns. It was used for the emperor’s official…

8. To Mieu Temple Complex


Taking up the southwest corner of the Imperial Enclosure, this highly impressive walled complex has been beautifully restored. The imposing three-tiered…