Visiting the Dong Ba Market in Hue, Vietnam (+Photos)

If there is any one place that can make you feel totally immersed in the culture and daily life of a new country, it would be a market. Every country has its own equivalence, and each is totally unique from one another. Not only does visiting a market allow you to taste produce that might be foreign to you, but it’s also a way to absorb and experience everyday living in a new country.

While the Dong Ba Market is a lot of things, laid-back isn’t one of them. You’ll need to come with high energy to match the buzzing atmosphere, not to mention a pair of comfortable (preferably closed) shoes.

This market boasts a history as colorful as its stalls. It was rebuilt in 1887 on the site of a market that was previously burned down in the Battle of the Hue Imperial City. Commissioned by King Dong Khanh, the market was once a royal marketplace catering exclusively to the imperial court. Today, Dong Ba has evolved into a multifaceted public trading center for food, materials, and clothing.

The Three Sections of the Market

Dong Ba Market

The three-story market building is split into three sections. The ground floor, or food section, sells everything from prepared street food and take-out meals to spices, dried fish, noodles, and fresh produce.

The produce spills out onto the street, where plenty of fresh food stalls are shaded by large umbrellas. One of my favorite parts of this market was the utensils section, located under a corrugated iron roof and filled to the brim with Chinese tea sets, plastic crockery, and other exciting kitchen utensils you never knew you needed.

Dong Ba Market
Dong Ba Market

The handicraft area is located on the second floor. I strolled endless stalls of souvenirs, local handicrafts, eye-catching jewelry, traditional cone hats, and art stacked from floor to ceiling. Since this is usually the most touristic part of the market, you’ll want to research how to bargain your way to a reasonable price here respectfully.

The top floor of the market is dedicated to all things clothing. Since this was the first market I visited with a vast selection of local clothing, jewelry, and fabrics, this easily stood out as my favorite section. I strolled through narrow passageways that seemed neverending, lined with colorful hanging fabrics, folded clothing, and stacked footwear. There really was more to see here than my eyes could absorb.

I finished my visit with a traditional Bun Bo Hue (Hue Noodle Soup with Beef) from the food hall, which cost the equivalent of $2 for a meal so big I struggled to finish. Like many street cafes in the country, seating is shared and on small children-sized tables and chairs, something I came to love during my time in Vietnam.

Things to Know Before Visiting

Dong Ba Market

This market was like a labyrinth of alleyways, spanning 16 thousand square meters along the Perfume River. It is just a short stroll from the Truong Tien Bridge and the Imperial City and is super easy to visit by car or on a Perfume River tour.

I went full-tourist and caught a cyclo from the city center. Cyclos are basically cycle rickshaws that are usually intricately painted with traditional art.

Dong Ba Market

Dong Ba Market is open from 6 am and heaves with activity until 6 pm. If you intend on bargaining your way through the market, visit after 3 pm, when vendors start to lower their prices before closing time. Since the market is located indoors, it can get super hot, so I strongly advise avoiding a midday visit.

I advise you to budget around 100 thousand VND for some jewelry and between 20 thousand and 100 thousand VND for a variety of snacks. I have to say, I regret not purchasing an Ao Dai (traditional Vietnamese dress), which might have cost around 400 thousand VND.

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