Every other year, the city of Hue stages a magnificent festival. On stage, along the Perfume River and in the streets, the city celebrates its legacy as Vietnam’s imperial capital and the home of its last feudal dynasty. This year the Huế Festival kicks off on April 27. With performers coming from all over the world, and a packed line-up of exciting events, Huế Festival 2018 promises to be the best yet. Here’s your guide to this six-day spectacle of arts, culture and history.
Theme: “One Destination – Five World Heritages”
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
‘Hue Royal Inspiration’ program
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
Ao Dai fashion show
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
‘Echoes from the Perfume River’
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
‘Cultural Colours’ street performance
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
In between the main programs, there are plenty of side events and sporting activities to keep you entertained. Take your pick from these below.
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.
International art troupes
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.
Displays and exhibitions
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.