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Hoan Kiem Lake


Hoan Kiem Lake is not merely a natural landmark but the pulsating heart of Hanoi, encapsulating the essence of the city's elegance, history, and cultural depth.

Nestled at the center of Hanoi's bustling urban expanse, Hoan Kiem Lake, or "Lake of the Returned Sword," serves as a tranquil oasis and a focal point of cultural and social life in the capital. This historic lake is more than just a body of water; it's a symbol of Hanoi's resilience, beauty, and the legendary tales that have shaped the city's identity over centuries. With the iconic Turtle Tower (Thap Rua) standing guard on its waters and the ornate The Huc Bridge leading to Ngoc Son Temple, Hoan Kiem Lake is a must-visit for anyone looking to delve into the heart and soul of Hanoi.

The area around Hoan Kiem Lake is accessible to the public at all hours, providing a serene spot for morning exercises, daytime explorations, and evening strolls.
While there's no fee to walk around Hoan Kiem Lake, entering Ngoc Son Temple on the lake requires a small ticket purchase, contributing to the site's maintenance and preservation.
Budget Free
Address Hoan Kiem Lake is centrally located within the Old Quarter of Hanoi, making it easily accessible on foot, by bike, or via public transportation from various parts of the city.

Hours and Fees

The lore of Hoan Kiem Lake dates back to the 15th century when legend has it that Emperor Le Loi was granted a magical sword by the Golden Turtle God, which he used to drive out invading forces. After reclaiming Vietnam's independence, the turtle god reclaimed the sword in the lake, hence its name, which translates to "Lake of the Returned Sword." Today, the lake and its surrounding areas are steeped in history, serving as a serene gathering place for locals and visitors, offering a peaceful respite from the city's energy.

The lake's shores are a tapestry of Hanoi's cultural landmarks, including Ngoc Son Temple, dedicated to national heroes; the Pen Tower with its poignant inscriptions; and the picturesque The Huc Bridge, leading visitors to the temple's gate. These historical sites, combined with the lake's natural beauty, create a compelling narrative of Vietnam's past, present, and future.

Activities and Experiences

Cultural Exploration: Visit Ngoc Son Temple to pay respects to the revered national heroes and learn about the legendary origins of the lake.

Leisure and Relaxation: Join locals in their morning Tai Chi sessions, enjoy a leisurely walk, or simply sit and watch the rhythmic life of Hanoi go by.

Photography: Capture the stunning scenery of Hoan Kiem Lake, especially during sunrise or sunset when the lake is bathed in golden hues.

Cultural Events: Keep an eye out for cultural performances, exhibitions, and local festivals that often take place in the lake area, offering a glimpse into Vietnam's rich traditions.

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Best Time to Visit

Early Morning or Late Afternoon: Visit in the early morning to experience the peaceful ambiance and observe local routines or come in the late afternoon to enjoy the cooler temperature and picturesque sunsets.

Tips for Travelers

  • Respect the Space: Hoan Kiem Lake is a cherished site for many Hanoians. Visitors are encouraged to keep the area clean and be mindful of the cultural and historical sites.

  • Wear Comfortable Footwear: Exploring the lake and its surroundings involves a fair amount of walking, so comfortable shoes are recommended.

  • Be Mindful of Traffic: The streets around Hoan Kiem Lake can be busy, especially during peak hours. Exercise caution when crossing roads and navigating the area.

Hoan Kiem Lake is not merely a natural landmark but the pulsating heart of Hanoi, encapsulating the essence of the city's elegance, history, and cultural depth. Whether you're drawn to its legendary past, its vibrant present, or simply the tranquil beauty it offers amidst the urban sprawl, a visit to Hoan Kiem Lake promises a memorable and enriching experience that resonates with the soul of Hanoi.

What to do around

Turtle Tower
Turtle Tower

Amidst the peaceful waters of Hoan Kiem Lake stands the magnificent Turtle Tower, a small yet mighty structure that captures the essence of both French and Vietnamese architecture. Its location in the middle of the lake, with no boats to take you there, only adds to its allure.

Ngoc Son Temple
Ngoc Son Temple
Hours: 8:00 am - 6:00 pm

Nestled in the heart of Hoan Kiem Lake, the Ngoc Son Temple is a breathtaking sight to behold. Originally built in the 19th century to ward off misfortune, this temple has been transformed over time into a pagoda and finally into the stunning temple we see today.

The Huc Red Bridge
The Huc Red Bridge

This architectural marvel, built in 1865, is a historic landmark that connects the bank to Ngoc Son Temple, located in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake. With its unique design inspired by the traditional wooden houses of the Red River Delta, The Huc Bridge is a symbol of Vietnam's rich cultural heritage.

Temple of King Le
Temple of King Le
Hours: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm, Monday to Friday | 7:00 am - 9:00 pm, Saturday to Sunday

This architectural complex located in the heart of Hanoi boasts some of the oldest monuments in the city. Visitors will be awed by the three main structures that make up the complex. The communal house, with its four open sides, is a serene and peaceful space.