Home to the Nguyen Emperors who ruled Vietnam from 1802 to 1945, the central city of Hue became a key cultural centre, attracting the country's best craftspeople, entertainers and artists, as well as leading scholars and monks. In response to the nobles' thirst for luxury and learning, everything from architecture to dance to cuisine was modified and refined, creating a distinctive court culture that remains evident to this day.
Artisans and trades people established specialized villages around Hue that produced wares ranging from bronze temple objects to incense sticks. While some of these traditional trades have been abandoned, many of the villages remain, as do the dozens of pagodas once patronized by Hue's royals and mandarins.
Drive from the Royal Citadel to Hue's most sacred site, the early 17th century Thien Mu( Celestial Lady) Pagoda, and you'll pass through green countryside that once served as imperial gardens, and villages founded by the Nguyen monarchs. This road will also bring you to Ancient Hue, a 3,000- square- meter site devoted to Hue's ancient arts, cuisine and culture.