The Citadel has a perimeter of 10 km, and joggers and walkers use the path around the outer moat to measure their distance. You do not have to pay to enter the citadel, but you do have to pay an entrance fee to get into the Imperial Enclosure.
The photograph on the left shows one of the busy entrances to the citadel. It is really scary walking through one of these if you are unlucky enough to chose to enter the same time as a truck or bus, as there is little provision for pedestrians.
History of the Citadel
Construction of the citadel began in the early 1800s. Originally the wall was made of earth, then a covering of bricks was added. It took tens of thousands of Vietnamese to do this by hand.
During the 1968 Tet offensive there was heavy fighting in Hue, and much of it was concentrated in the area of the citadel. Consequently much of it was damaged. And because of economic difficulties there has been little restoration until quite recently, however work is not underway in may areas, and tourist interest can only help with this.
The Forbidden Purple City
Within the citadel itself is another, smaller, citadel – the Imperial Enclosure or Forbidden Purple City with walls 6 m high and 2.5 km in length. This functioned largely as a private residence of the emperor, his family and servants.
The Forbidden Purple City has many gates, but you can only enter through the one near the flag tower.
This tower, though it doesn’t look like much has had quite a story since it was first built in 1809. It is the tallest in Vietnam at 37 m high, and has been destroyed by typhoons twice. During the Tet offensive the National Liberation Front’s flag flew defiantly over the city for 3 1/2 weeks, until the city was retaken by the South with enormous help from the US.
The photographs on the left and below show Thai Hoa Palace. This is where the emperor held official receptions and ceremonies of state. It is also where he received homage from the mandarins.
Today it is a very good vantage point to view the rest of the Imperial Enclosure and surrounding moat.
The moat around the Imperial Enclosure as seen from the Thai Hoa Palace. This makes a really pleasant walk with shade from some really beautiful trees, some of which have perfumed flowers.
Be careful if you pick some of the fallen flowers as the sap from the stems can react with sunlight to burn the skin.
For a dollar or two tourists can dress up as the emperor and his family and have their photographs taken.
Because many buildings were destroyed in 1968 and have not yet been repaired and restored, there are some neglected-looking parts inside the Forbidden Purple City. These areas are still worth looking at though if you have the time as they are full of wildlife, mainly butterflies and lizards.
They are also among the most peaceful and quiet places in the whole of Hue. You can sit surrounded by beautiful, fragrant vegetation, seemingly alone except for the tell-tale buzz or rustle to let you know that you are the interloper.