On the banks of the Perfume River, historic Huế was once the seat of the Nguyễn emperors. Now, it's a bustling place that's home to ancient architecture and art, sitting alongside glorious mountain views and the sights and sounds of a busy city. Majestic pagodas and the imposing Imperial City hint at the region's history, and the famously delicious traditional food is some of the country's best. You'll want to relax with a bottle of the city's own Huda beer to take it all in.
When it comes to hostels in Huế, you can stay in a traditional homestay right off the main walking street, or at a riverside retreat where rooms are dressed with fresh flowers. Look out for hostels with social common rooms, relaxing green gardens or bars on-site so you can mix and mingle. Some places have motorbike rentals too. Many Huế hostels have free Wi-Fi and air con, and you can choose one with female-only dorms or individual rooms if you want some privacy.
The historic centre of Huế is where you'll find the major sights, and it's where the nightlife is most exciting. For a true taste of the city, try the local Bún bò Huế, a beef and noodle soup with lemongrass. Explore more of the area and get into nature by taking a trip to Bạch Mã National Park, just under 50km away. It covers the Annamite mountains and the coast, and contains lots of native plants and wildlife. You can also take the 40km journey to Alba Thanh Tân hot springs to relax in the thermal pools.
Top of your Huế to-do list should be the Imperial Citadel. This walled, moat-ringed enclosure of buildings built in 1805-1832 was the former home of Nguyen emperors. Now it's a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can also see the seven-tiered Thien Mu Pagoda, originally built in 1601 (though the current structure dates from the 1800s) and still used to train Buddhist monks. Visit the Tombs of the Ancient Emperors to see intricate carvings and 19th-20th century architecture. For a taste of contemporary Huế, head to Dong Ba market and get ready to haggle.
If you're coming from (or going to) Da Nang, you can drive, motorbike or take a taxi over the Hải Vân Pass, known for its mountain views. Flying in from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City? Phu Bai Airport is about 15km outside of Huế. Once in the city, you'll find that a bicycle or motorbike is the best way to get around.