If art and architecture matter more to you than beaches and beer, HuÃ© will be high on your Vietnam must-visit list. The capital of the Nguyen emperors, HuÃ© is packed with temples, tombs, palaces and pagodas â€“ or at least the remains of those that successive armies didnâ€™t manage to completely destroy. Foodies wonâ€™t want to miss the fussy degustation-style Imperial cuisine for which this city is rightly famous.
On the banks of the enigmatically named Perfume River, the peculiar light of this historic place imbues photographs with a hazy, purple tinge. It would all be quite idyllic if it werenâ€™t for the constant dogging most tourists face as soon as they step off the bus. The touts in HuÃ© are more incessant than most.
While the offshoots of mass tourism may be annoying, it should be remembered that HuÃ©â€™s cultural sites were destined for ob livion without it. After 1975 they were left to decay â€“ Imperialist reminders of the feudal Nguyen dynasty. In 1990 that the local Peopleâ€™s Committee recognised the potential of the place and declared these sites â€˜national treasuresâ€™. In 1993 Unesco designated the complex of monuments in HuÃ© a World Heritage site, and restoration and preservation work continues.
The Festival of HuÃ© is celebrated biennially in even-numbered years, with local and international cultural performers at locations throughout the city. Hotel accommodation is at a premium at this time, so book ahead if you can.