Under the Nguyen emperors, Hué was the cultural and artistic as well as political capital of Vietnam. A rich tradition of dance and music evolved from popular culture, from the complex rituals of the court and from religious ceremonies. Though much of this legacy has been lost, considerable effort has gone into reviving Hué folk songs, Ca Hué, which you can now sample, drifting down the Perfume River on a balmy Hué evening (tickets 60,000đ).

Historically the Perfume River was a place of pleasure where prostitutes cruised in their sampans and artists entertained the gentry with poetry and music. While the former officially no longer exist, today’s folk-song performances are based on the old traditions, eulogizing the city’s beautiful scenery or the ten charms of a Hué woman – including long hair, dreamy eyes, flowing ao dai and a conical hat – while she waits for her lover beside the river. This sounds great, but be warned that the experience can feel somewhat cheap – the fees given to performers are far too low to recruit those with genuine talent, and in 2009 the state of affairs was fiercely lambasted by local authorities.

The city authorities have also instigated a biennial arts festival (held in June) featuring not only folk songs, kite-flying, water-puppetry and other local traditions, but also international groups.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Vietnam features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The 10 most beautiful places in Vietnam – as voted by you

The 10 most beautiful places in Vietnam – as voted by you

Here at Rough Guides we’ve always known that Vietnam is magical. The gleaming skyscrapers of the country's booming cities have a singular kind of beauty that …

27 Jan 2017 • Rachel Mills camera_alt Gallery
The truth about elephant tourism in Asia

The truth about elephant tourism in Asia

Elephants are born free, but are everywhere in chains – and it’s tourism which is increasingly to blame. Riding an elephant used to be on every visitor’s …

25 Nov 2016 • Gavin Thomas insert_drive_file Article
9 tips for backpacking Vietnam

9 tips for backpacking Vietnam

With striking landscapes, large stretches of lovely coastline, intriguing cities and excellent food, it’s no wonder the number of tourists in Vietnam has more…

18 Jul 2016 • Helen Abramson insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month