All photos by Pham Van Vu
On its 10th year, the Huế Festival is highlighting the city’s impressive record of five UNESCO World Heritage listings: The Complex of Huế Monuments, Huế Royal Court Music, Nguyen Dynasty Woodblocks, Nguyen Dynasty Imperial Archives and Poetry on Huế Royal Architectural Works. The festival program for 2018 features 12 major shows and 60 performances. More than 800 Vietnamese artists are involved, and 441 traditional and contemporary artists from 19 countries and territories will show their talents onstage in Huế.
The opening ceremony is always a spectacular show, presenting the theme of the festival through music and dance. Equally cinematic, the Closing Ceremony will be held at the same spot on May 2 at 8pm.
Where and when: Noon Gate Square, 8pm on April 27
This key show tells the story of the five UNESCO-recognized heritages and the imperial city during the 19th century. It will be a creative collision of poetry reading, music & dance with sound and light effects.
Where and when: Imperial Citadel, 7pm on April 28 & 30
Taking inspiration from Huế folk art and Vietnamese silk, top local fashion designers will reimagine the ao dai – Vietnam’s iconic national dress in a stylish show.
Vietnamese culinary artisans will prepare a series of royal feasts. Join one of these elaborate meals and feel yourself transported into the past.
Where and when: Duyệt Thị Đường Royal Theatre, Imperial Citadel, every evening at 7:30pm
The city's fabled Perfume River will make a watery stage for a series of artistic performances after dark.
Where and when: Trinh Cong Son Park, 8pm on April 30
Local and international art troupes put their best foot forward in the streets of Huế. Catch a lion dance performance from Okinawa Prefecture and "De Steltenlopers van Merchtem" (The Royal Stilt Walkers of Merchtem) from Belgium.
Where and when: Along two main routes in the city centre, at 3:30pm from April 28 to May 01
For a sampling of Vietnamese music and vocal talent, catch Trịnh Công Sơn’s Music Concert (8pm on April 28) at Phu Van Lau Park; Huế’s Love Song Concert (7:30pm on April 29) at the Provincial Culture & Information Center; or the National Competition of Ritual Singing (Chầu văn) (April 26 to 28) at the same venue.
One high-energy component of the Huế Festival are the presentations from around the globe. Performers from Korea, Thailand, Mongolia, Sri Lanka and 15 other nations will take the stage to share their culture with audiences in Huế. Keep an eye out for contemporary acts, such as French acapella beatbox group Berywam and Pambil –- a drumming band from Columbia.
If you’re an art lover, you might want to spend a few hours with the exhibits staged specially for the Huế Festival. The displays of Imperial antiques, Bat Trang ceramics, and bonsai from Vietnam’s three regions are good places to start.
If you’re in the mood, hop on a bicycle to check out events taking place in villages surrounding Huế. In Huong Thuy town nearby, a ‘Rural Market on Festive Days’ will be held at Thanh Toan Bridge. Elsewhere, there will be sampan races, human chess competitions, and more.
Pham Ngu Lao – Chu Van An – Vo Thi Sau area, Huế - These areas are all close to the night market and many cafes and restaurants are in walking distance.
Le Loi – Doi Cung area by the Perfume River, Huế - This part of Huế has lovely sidewalks along the river, as well as some colonial buildings.
Thuan An beach, Thuan An town, Phu Vang district (15km from Huế) - If you prefer to stay by the beach and just come into town now and then, Thuan An beach has several options for you.
Lang Co beach, Phu Loc district, (65km from Huế) – Lang Co is home to upscale resorts, golf courses and spa retreats. The drive to Hue takes less than an hour.
Bún bò Huế - Huế style rice vermicelli with beef
Try it: Tran Cao Van – Hanoi St.
Bánh khoái - Fried pancake made of rice flour stuffed with pork, shrimp, diced green onion, and bean sprouts
Try it: Hong Mai restaurant or Lac Thien restaurant, Dinh Tien Hoang St.
Bánh bèo – nậm - lọc – These are typical authentic Huế dishes
Try it: Hanh on Pho Duc Chinh St., Ba Do in Nguyen Binh Khiem St., Hang Me on Vo Thi Sau St., or Chi on Le Viet Luong St.
TIP: Street food lovers should wander over to Mai Thuc Loan street and Huế Night Market; while vegans can check out Bo De restaurant on Le Loi street and San May restaurant, on Thanh Tinh street.
By plane: Vietnam Airlines and Viet Jet Air have direct flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to Huế. Jetstar Pacific Airlines offers direct flights from Da Lat and Ho Chi Minh City.
By train: Several trains a day arrive Huế city from the north and south. These are run by Vietnam Railways. Check http://dsvn.vn for timetable and fares.
By bus: Open buses are operated by Sinh Tourist and Hung Thanh. Both have booking offices in major cities throughout Vietnam.