Top 10 Things To Do at Hue Festival, Vietnam

Vu Pham Van /
Vu Pham Van / | © Culture Trip

Vietnam’s 2018 Hue Festival is currently underway in the former imperial city. The six-day festival boasts a spectacular array of performances, shows, art exhibits and cultural activities that celebrate Vietnam’s history as well as cultures from 19 different countries. Here are the top 10 things to do at the Hue Festival.

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Ao Dai fashion show

Top Vietnamese fashion designers flaunt their creativity by re-imagining traditional Ao Dais. In this popular show, designers use Vietnamese silk and Hue folk art to create gorgeous traditional wear. The elegant combination of modern Ao Dai styles and traditional art is easily one of the top things to see during the festival.

Ao Dai Fashion show in Hue, 2018
Vu Pham Van /

Echoes from the Perfume River

After the sun has set, Hue’s Perfume River becomes the scene for an incredible artistic performance. The story of Hue’s people is told on a submerged stage and invokes universal themes of daily life such as marriage, childbirth, and raising children to follow their parent’s footsteps. It is a beautiful story that symbolizes the circle of life in tandem with the river’s endless flow.

Echoes from the Perfume River
Colourful lights along the river during Hue Festival

Hue Citadel

Hue is a significant place in Vietnamese history. It is home to Vietnam’s ancient imperial city and is also where the last feudal dynasty ruled. The Nguyen dynasty was the last to occupy magnificent An Dinh palace, and both historical locations will host numerous performances and concerts over the course of Hue Festival.

Hue Citadel
Numerous performances are held at historically significant venues

Hue Royal Inspiration

The Hue Royal Inspiration performance depicts the history of Vietnam during the 19th century and is held inside the ancient citadel. History during this era will be told in a sequence of historical events that explore the festival’s 2018 theme, which highlights Hue’s five UNESCO-recognized heritages: Hue monuments, Royal Court music, The Nguyen Dynasty woodblocks, Imperial Archives of the Nguyen Dynasty, and Literature of Hue Royal Architecture. The story is told through dramatic music and dance and it’s a unique experience to see the history of Hue condensed into a (relatively) short, beautiful performance.

Hue Royal Inspiration 2018
Entering the citadel

International art troupes

Some of the most anticipated shows during the festival are performed by various international artists who descend on Hue to share their culture with festival goers. Two shows that look to be among the most popular this year are French beatbox group Berywam, and intense Colombian traditional drumming troupe Pambil. Both promise an incredible show, so get there if you can (or stream it later if you can’t)!

International artists perform in Hue Festival
Mesmerizing acts from 19 different countries display their talent at this year’s festival
Musical performances also display international artists’ incredible talent.

The opening and ending ceremonies

The festival began on April 27 and will close on May 2nd, beginning and ending with intense, dynamic, and exciting ceremonies. The 2018 Hue festival theme (see above) is demonstrated through strong dance and musical performances during the opening ceremony, while the equally cinematic closing ceremonies feature incredible fireworks displays and concerts. Both are held at Noon Gate Square.

2018 Hue Festival Opening Ceremony
Dance performances and fireworks make for an amazing show

Outdoor displays

If you’re not in the mood to attend a ticketed event, you’ll be hard-pressed to wander Hue’s lovely streets without encountering fascinating outdoor art exhibits, installations, and games that inevitably capture a bystander’s attention. This year there are human chess games, dragon boat races, colorful displays (with a selfie line-up or two), and delicious food stalls decorating the city. It really is a cultural spectacle that showcases hundreds of talented Vietnamese artists. There is also a hot air balloon show!

Colourful art installations in Hue
Vu Pham Van /
Vu Pham Van /
Vu Pham Van /
Vu Pham Van /
Hue’s hot air balloon show

Royal banquets

Have you ever wanted to dine like royalty? During the festival you can partake in some serious culinary feasts held at 7:30 p.m. daily at the Duyet Thi Duong Royal Theatre inside the Imperial Citadel. Elaborate meals are served inside the beautiful citadel. If you dress the part you might be able to trick yourself into believing you are a royal dynasty family member – or maybe not, but give it a shot.

Royal Banquet inside the citadel

Street performances

While perusing Hue’s streets you are guaranteed to come across entertaining street performances from dancers, musicians, and even stilt-walkers! Get your camera ready and you’ll come out of Hue Festival with tons of cool pictures of performances to show off to anyone unable to attend.

Hue street performers
Vu Pham Van /

Larger than life art installations

Aside from the numerous outdoor art exhibits, Hue Festival also features fascinating art installations by talented artists. This year there is an enormous installation shaped into a giant man that is the focal point of thousands of camera lenses. It is a magnificent piece, especially when seen against the backdrop of a night performance during the festival.

Life-sized art installation at Hue Festival
Vu Pham Van /

Hue festival really is a cultural extravaganza demonstrating the best of Vietnam’s artistic community. Needless to say, it is a must-see to appreciate the depth of Vietnam’s rich history and artistic achievements.

Vu Pham Van /
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