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Slow Cycling Itineraries from Hue Center: Top 5 “easy, classy, savory”

Hue is a small, peaceful city located by the Perfume River. With slow-pace living, quaint and tree-lined streets, bicycles are the ideal means to explore the city. Top 5 slow cycling itineraries from Hue center offer visitors unique and profound features. You will not only visit cultural relics, but also immerse yourself in the living space of Hue people. You will experience the traditional crafts, Hue cuisine and Slow Boutique.

Top 5 Slow Cycling Itineraries from Hue Center: Best features

Picture yourself standing at Truong Tien bridge and using compass to rotate a circle with a radius of 3km. That circle will embrace all 5 routes to explore Hue by bicycle that we introduce below. All roads are almost flat and stretch approximately 6-10km in length. It’s so EASY, isn’t it?

Hue city is aspired to become a cycling city. The local authorities and residents are planning more dedicated cycle lanes. However, now you can take advantage of many green routes with low traffic density to confidently explore Hue by bicycle. Below self-guided slow cycling itineraries from Hue center are suggestive. You can shorten, swap or combine as you like. There are sufficient highlights to indulge from a few hours to a day.

If you are fond of architecture and wish to learn about cultural relics, then Hue is the place for you. On these routes, we will introduce many works of different cultural value and historical significance. You will explore the built heritages of the Nguyen Dynasty, the French colonial urban planning. You may feel the traditional vibes of Chinese settlers to Vietnamese modernist architecture, etc. This will be a journey of CLASSY discovery. We won’t go into too much detail about the site to avoid making it lengthy. We will gradually share in the coming articles. In case you need advice, don’t hesitate to comment or send us a message.

You will also learn more about Hue’s traditional arts and crafts. There are a few handicraft workshops to participate in the experience. In the Citadel, you can visit  Truc Chi Art Garden, studio making Hue arty kites, lotus leafed conical hat and embroidery, etc.

There are equally many specialties and local food eateries, original coffee houses worth exploring. Savour Hue beef noodle soup, mussel rice, learn vegetarian cuisine in a luxuriant garden house. SAVORY. Slow down and immerse into the authentic Hue local food scenes.

Cycling within the Citadel
Green lanes and interesting salty coffee “Cà phê Muối” inside the Citadel

Things to see on Top 5 Slow Cycling Itineraries from Hue Center

Map of Indicative Itineraries

Itinerary 1: The Imperial City and Southeast of the Citadel

Route (See map, indicative itinerary 1): Total cycling about 7km, 3-4 hours with many breaks.

Explore the Imperial City and the southeastern part of Hue Citadel. Slowly, you wander through important relics under the Nguyen Dynasty such as “Luc Bo” Six Ministries area, “Vien Co Mat” Secret Institute, antiquities museums. Return through the eastern gate and bustling trading streets associated with the historic and photogenic hundred-year-old Dong Ba market.

Some spots you can visit:

  • Hue Royal Antiquities Museum – Điện Long An
  • Thua Thien Hue History Musuem – Quốc Tử Giám
  • Former Vien Co Mat – Hue Monuments Conservation Centre
  • Tinh Gia Vien Garden House – Vegetarian home restaurant
  • Luc Bo and Six Ministries cultural area
  • Uncle Ho Memorial House
  • Temple of wandering souls – Mieu Am Hon
  • Museum of Nguyen Dynasty Commissioned Porcelain


Thuong Bac Pavillion (See location map)

In 1875, in response to the high number of French delegations visiting the Court, King Tu Duc had Thuong Bac moved to its present location. Thuong Bac Institute functioned as foreign affairs office. Its compound stretched from the bank of the Perfume River to the nowadays Hue Cultural Centre. The complex consists of five wooden framed houses with tiled roofs. The main building in the middle is the place to receive the emissaries and working space of the Institute officials. Other buildings served as classroom to teach foreign languages ​​French, English, Thai and Lao to students, to serve diplomatic work.

After 1879, all diplomatic missions had to register with this agency before meeting the court. On June 6, 1884, the Treaty of Pantenôtre was signed on a ship anchored in front of Thuong Bac pavilion. From then on, the French protectorate government of France took over all foreign relations, so the Thuong Bac  ceased to function. In the years 1936, Chief Architect Raoul Desmarets transformed the parks along the Perfume River into flower gardens. In the same year, King Bao Dai commissioned a famous carpentry-masonry artisan to build the Thuong Bac Pavilion as seen today.

Cycling in front of Thuong Bac Pavilion
Thuong Bac Pavilion, former compound of Foreign Affairs Office under Nguyen Dynasty

Former Vien Co Mat – Hue Monuments Conservation Centre (See location map)

Hue people often call this monument “Tam Toa”, literarily means Three Mansions. It is noticeable with a three-entrance gate and colorfully decorative wind shielded wall “Binh Phong”. At present, this is the head quarter of Hue Monuments Conservation Centre. You can visit from outside.

The special feature of Vien Co Mat “Secret Institute” lies in its great historical significance. In 1738, Lord Nguyen Phuc Khoat built the first Phu Xuan Citadel on this site together with royal palace. Later on, King Gia Long moved to the today location. This place became the residence of Prince Nguyen Phuc Dam (King Minh Mang), before his ascending to throne.

According to documents, this place housed a famous freshwater spring. King Minh Mang used it as his private bathing area. Later, the king also turned this place into a stated pagoda Giac Hoang. King Thieu Tri ranked it 17th in the 20 most beautiful landscapes in the capital. Unfortunately, the pagoda was burned in 1885, during the fall of Hue. The French occupied the site until 1902 before returning to the court. It became a working place for the Council of Ministers of Annam and named as “Co Mat Vien” Secret Institute.

Since 1987, the protectorate government increased its control over economic activities. For this reason, the French Resident Superior took over the presidency of the Secret Institute. They built two more blocks of European architecture to receive many delegations from the West. The building undergone many changes in its role as a witness of many historical ups and downs.

Continue on Le Thanh Ton street, you will find Tinh Gia Vien garden house. Owned by Madame Ha, a well-known culinary artisan, this place is famous for its bonsai garden, vegetarian cooking class. You may taste some specialties, crispy pancake at Dinh Tien Hoang, Mai Thuc Loan street.

Itinerary 2: The Imperial City and Southwest of the Citadel

Route (See map, indicative itinerary 2): Total cycling about 8km, 3-4 hours with many breaks.

This slow cycling itinerary from Hue center gives you an overview of the planning of the Imperial City. Pay attention to unveil the perspectives of Feng Shui philosophy and ecological balance. You will follow the system of canals, Ngu Ha River, Tinh Tam Lake. Visit cultural and spiritual relics of the Nguyen Dynasty such as Xa Tac Esplanade sacrificed to the earth god. You can also visit some craft workshops or enjoy salty coffee, lotus tea.

Some spots you can visit:

  • Tinh Tam Lake
  • Lau Tang Tho – Royal archive pavilion
  • Tây Khuyết Đài – West Bastion
  • Tây Thành Thủy Quan – Western Water Gate
  • Phu Văn Lâu – Nghinh Lương Đình
  • Quan Tượng Đài – Observatory
  • Xa Tac Esplanade

Tinh Tam Lake

Tinh Tam Lake in the summer” was ranked 3rd in the 20 landscapes of the capital by King Thieu Tri. Why in summer? Because at that time, the white lotus will bloom and cover the lake. Rowing boat to put tea in the budding lotus flowers in the morning mist was an elegant slow-living art. Lotus from Tinh Tam lake is a famed variety with pure, refined and mildly fragrance. Hue lotus seeds are most wanted specialty gift due to its gastronomic utility. Hue women often cook longan and lotus seed sweet soup or rice wrapped in lotus leaf. Although there are not much left from a royal garden, you can still enjoy the fresh air and green landscape.

Tinh Tam Lake in summer

Lau Tang Tho – Royal Archive Pavilion

Next to Tinh Tam Lake is Lau Tang Tho, which served as a national archive under the Nguyen Dynasty. The architecture stretches on a floating island, in the middle of Hoc Hai “Sea of Learning” lake. The structure has two floors, the ground with 11 compartments, the upper with 7 compartments and 2 wings. Talented masonry artisans designed it to be moisture-proof, termite-proof and fire-proof. The pavilion has been completely restored recently. It is now open to welcome guests from 2021. This cultural institution will be the place to promote the tradition of studiousness.

Bicycle parking at Royal Archive Pavillon
Lầu Tàng Thơ – Royal Archive Pavilion

Quan Tuong Dai – Royal Observatory

Quan Tuong Monument is an astronomical observatory, located in southwest corner of Hue Citadel. Built in 1827, this was the place where astrologers of the Nguyen Dynasty observe the sun, moon and stars. After decades of being forgotten, now the Royal Observatory has been restored, becoming the only remaining astronomical relic since feudal time in the country. If you come here in the afternoon, you will have the opportunity to “catch” a very spectacular sunset.

Watercolor painting of Royal Observatory
The telescope of the Citadel and the so-called “Observatory” pavilion (Watercolor by M. Tôn-Thất-Sa).

Itinerary 3: Cycling Gia Hoi Old Town

Route (See map, indicative itinerary 3): Total cycling about 8km, 2-3 hours with many breaks.

From Dong Ba market, go straight and cross Gia Hoi bridge. You will come to the old town that the French used to call “Ville Marchande” (trading streets). In the early 20th century, they put this area on the tourist map as a favorite place to explore. Gia Hoi used to be a famous trading neighborhood. It flourished with the settlement and trade of the “Minh Huong” Chinese settlers. The overall appearance of Gia Hoi is same as Cho Lon Chinatown in Ho Chi Minh city.

At present, you can visit some chinese assembly halls of Chaozhou, Cantonese, Fujian. They are lying on the same street as the Chieu Ung Tu (Hainan Temple), some old shop houses.

In addition, Gia Hoi area was also the place where the royal descendent chose to reside. They built many “Phu De” princely residences and pagodas here such as Dieu De state pagoda and Dieu Hy Pagoda. Feel free to explore Bach Dang Street to recall the nostalgic feelings of a good old time.

The streets roll out in the chessboard grid, hence it is easy for you to explore according to your preferences. You can return with the same road or take a short ferry to Con Hen Island and Vy Da ward.

Dieu De pagoda
Dieu De pagoda on Bach Dang street, Gia Hoi Old Town

Itinerary 4: Cycling Vy Gia village, Con Hen Island

Route (See map, indicative itinerary 4): Total cycling about 7km, 3-4 hours with many breaks.

Vy Da area lies in the east of Hue city, opposite to Gia Hoi old town. We can connect these two counterparts via a small bridge and a short ferry.

From Le Loi street and Dap Da stone dyke, cross Nhu Y River to reach Vy Da. This area has many “Phu De” princely residence as it used to be a favorited village for royal descendants. In addition to the ancient houses, you may find the communal houses of Lai The and Vy Da villages surprisingly interesting. Just within a handy distance from city center, these typical architecture bring truly countryside ambience.

Furthermore, don’t forget to visit Vy Da market, Con Hen island for tasty local food. Enjoy the famous mussel rice and some other Hue delicacies.

rowing sampan on Perfume River
From Con Hen Island and Vy Da village, just a short distance but into another world

Itinerary 5: Wandering French Quarter and South of Hue City

Route (See map of indicative itinerary 5): Total cycling about 7km, 3-4 hours with many breaks.

In the opposite direction, you can follow the Perfume River and Le Loi Street towards “Gare de Hue”. Along the route, you will encounter many works built by the French from the early 20th century. From Morin Hotel, Truong Tien bridge, you stroll through Hue culture museum, Le Ba Dang art space, Quoc Hoc national school, etc.

At the end of the road, you will face the bridge spanning the An Cuu River, leading to Gare Hue. If you don’t want uphill cycling, you can folk left on Phan Dinh Phung Street, along the An Cuu river. This is the Phu Cam area with important churches, the Redemptorist Cathedral. Certainly, you should not miss the splendid An Dinh Palace.

If interested in the historical and religious sites, turn left to Nam Giao slope. This area has two historically important pagodas. Bao Quoc Pagoda was the cradle of Buddhist renaissance. Tu Dam Pagoda was the center of the Buddhist movement of the 1960s. Round back to Tran Phu street, you’ll see Phu Cam Church. Local people call this area the “intersection of the Cross”.

Lady cycling infront of Quoc Hoc School
Cycling on Le Loi street and the “French Quarter”

Frequently Asked Questions about Slow Cycling Itineraries from Hue Center

When is the best time to explore Hue by bicycle?

Hue climate has 4 seasons with its own characteristics, in which the rainy season is long and the dry season is quite hot. Heavy rain seasons may last from September to December, but the rain brings a pleasant feeling. If fully equipped, slow travel to see Hue in the rain is a unique experience.
The sunny season lasts from April to August. You’d better arrange to cycle before 8 am or after 3 pm to avoid the heat.

What are the most suitable types of bikes to cycle in Hue?

Most of the terrain in the center of Hue city is flat and well paved. You only need a utility or hybrid bike to move comfortably.

Are there many cycle lanes in Hue City?

Hue city is planning to develop a cycling city. Currently, there are several bike lanes along the banks of the Perfume River. In addition, the traffic in Hue is not very dense. The roads are green shaded. You just need to go keep right and pay attention, sometimes you can use the pavement.

Can I combine, shorten the cycling with flexibility?

Certainly, there are endless opportunities to combine, alternate and integrate with different activities. Everything is within cycling and walking distance.

Hue is a soon-to-be cycling city

Overall, we hope the above “Top 5 Slow cycling itinerariesinspires you to spend more time in this central destination. It is a true immersion in a cultural yet smart and eco-friendly city. Hue urban space has evolved in respecting the master planning of the Imperial Citadel. The French continued with harmonious design of the French on the south bank of Perfume River. The indicative routes give you an overview and some highlights to discover. We will dive deeper in each sites and aspect such as food and drinks, crafts in the following posts.

If you want an overview of slow cycling tours from Hue, then check out the essential guide.

You can also spend more time roaming the ancient villages in the vicinity of Hue such as Kim Long, Thanh Toan, Thuy Bieu, Bao Vinh, Thanh Tien and Sinh crafts villages. To enjoy authentic experiences with locals, you can check out Slow Travel Hue’s tours!

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