The former imperial capital of Vietnam is home to an amazing collection of gorgeous French architecture. Jim Sullivan, author of Over the Moat and writer for National Geographic Traveller Vietnam, gives his take on the most stunning French colonial buildings in the city and their fascinating history.
1. Hue Railway Station
The pink Hue railway station (2 Bui Thi Xuan St) opened in 1906 as the northern terminal for the Danang-Hue leg of the TransIndochinois line and makes for a picturesque stop between Saigon and Hanoi. Though Gustave Eiffel’s name is mentioned frequently in Vietnam, he was not responsible for this building. But his firm did design the nearby White Tiger Bridge, which finally linked the north-south railway in the 1930s.
2. La Residence Hotel and Spa, Hue
In 1930, the colonial French governor of Indochina needed a guest house, and so he built the Art Deco marvel that endures today as the La Residence Hotel and Spa, Hue. The centrepiece of the hotel – from the Streamline Moderne school of Art Deco – is the colonial guest house. Note its nautical features: the porthole window, the long horizontal coping, and the bowed facade. The railings evoke the romance of a ship at sea. Neither of the annexes is original to the era, but look as if they are.
3. Quoc Hoc High School
Quoc Hoc (12 Le Loi, Vinh Ninh) is Vietnam’s Eton. Everyone from Ho Chi Minh to Ngo Dinh Diem studied here, and its alumni is a who’s who list of major 20th-century Vietnamese leaders. Such is the school’s prestige today that the city’s very best students still flock to its halls. The school was founded in its present location in 1896, but the plum-coloured European buildings you see date back to 1915.
4. Le Cercle Sportif
This is another fine specimen from the Streamline Moderne school of Art Deco. Back in the day, the city’s colonial elite congregated here to play tennis, swim, and drink in the view of the river from a veranda. One contemporary French source dates the building’s construction to 1940.
5. Truong Tien Bridge
One of 27 bridges built by the legendary Gustav Eiffel, the Truong Tien Bridge plays a big part of the dreams and poems of the people in Hue. Construction of the 400-metre seven-trestle bridge began in 1897 and was completed in 1899. Its grand opening was celebrated in 1900 with King Thanh Thai himself cutting the red ribbon.
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.