For the most part the Nguyen emperors lived their lives within Hué’s citadel walls, but on certain occasions they emerged to participate in important rituals at symbolic locations around the city. Today these places are of interest more for their history than anything much to see on the ground, though the mouldering Royal Arena still hints at past spectacles. A visit to at least a couple of the Royal Mausoleums, however, is not to be missed – it’s in these eclectic architectural confections in the hills to the south of Hué that the spirit of the Nguyen emperors lives on. Taking a boat along the Perfume River to get to the best mausoleums also offers the chance to stop off at the Thien Mu Pagoda and Hon Chen Temple on the way.
Thuan An Beach is a bike-ride away, if you have the time and energy, making for an attractive journey across the estuary with views of fish farms to either side, though the beach itself is nothing spectacular. Further afield, one of the most popular excursions from Hué is a whirlwind day-trip round the DMZ. Bach Ma National Park is also within striking distance.