Hoan Kiem Lake Hanoi is one of the most vibrant and charming cities in Vietnam, attracting millions of visitors every year with its rich history, culture, and cuisine. However, if you want to experience the soul and spirit of Hanoi, you should visit Hoan Kiem Lake, a beautiful and peaceful lake that is the symbol and pride of the city.
In this blog post, I will share with you some of the reasons why you should visit Hoan Kiem Lake, some of the best things to do and see there, and some of the tips to know before you go. Whether you are looking for a relaxing getaway, a cultural immersion, or a nature exploration, Hoan Kiem Lake will not disappoint you.
Why You Should Visit Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake (Vietnamese: Hồ Hoàn Kiếm, meaning “Lake of the Returned Sword” or “Lake of the Restored Sword”), also known as Sword Lake (Hồ Gươm), is a fresh water lake, measuring some 12 ha in the historical center of Hanoi, Vietnam1. The lake is one of the major scenic spots in the city and serves as a focal point for its public life2.
There are many reasons why you should visit Hoan Kiem Lake, but here are some of the main ones:
Hoan Kiem Lake is famous for its legend, which dates back to the 15th century. According to the legend, Emperor Le Loi was given a magic sword by the Dragon King to fight against the Ming invaders. After defeating the enemy, he was boating on the lake when a golden turtle god surfaced and asked for his sword back. He realized that the turtle god was the messenger of the Dragon King and returned the sword to him. He then renamed the lake to commemorate this event, from its former name Luc Thuy meaning “Green Water”1.
The legend is still alive today, as you can see some symbols and relics related to it around the lake. For example, you can see a small island in the center of the lake with a tower called Turtle Tower (Thap Rua), which represents the turtle god. You can also see a temple on another island called Jade Island (Dao Ngoc), which houses a preserved specimen of a giant turtle that was found in the lake in 19682.
Hoan Kiem Lake is also famous for its beauty, especially its watercolor which is not commonly found in other lakes elsewhere in Vietnam. The water here is greenish with dark or light shade depending on the color of the sky and the reflection of the scene on the shores3. You can also admire the surrounding landscape, such as the ancient trees, the colonial buildings, and the modern skyscrapers.
The beauty of Hoan Kiem Lake changes with different seasons and times of day. In spring, you can see flowers blooming along the banks and birds singing in the trees. In summer, you can enjoy the cool breeze and watch people doing exercises or playing games around the lake. In autumn, you can see the leaves turning yellow and red and falling into the water. In winter, you can see mist rising from the surface and creating a mysterious atmosphere. In the morning, you can see sunrise over
- Beauty: In the morning, you can see sunrise over the lake and feel the freshness and tranquility of the city. In the evening, you can see sunset over the lake and enjoy the romantic and lively atmosphere of the city. At night, you can see the lake illuminated by colorful lights and reflect the stars and the moon.
Hoan Kiem Lake is also famous for its culture, as it is a place where you can witness and participate in various cultural activities and events. You can see some historical and religious sites around the lake, such as the Ngoc Son Temple (Temple of the Jade Mountain), which is dedicated to General Tran Hung Dao, a national hero who defeated the Mongols in the 13th century; the The Huc Bridge (Bridge of the Rising Sun), which connects Jade Island to the shore; and the Ly Thai To Statue, which honors the founder of the Ly Dynasty in the 11th century.
You can also see some artistic and recreational activities around the lake, such as water puppet shows, which are a traditional form of Vietnamese theater that uses puppets on water to tell stories and legends; street performances, which include music, dance, magic, and comedy; and weekend walking streets, which are pedestrian-only zones that offer various entertainment options for locals and tourists.
What to Do and See in Hoan Kiem Lake
There are many things to do and see in Hoan Kiem Lake, but here are some of the best ones:
Walking is one of the most popular activities in Hoan Kiem Lake, as it allows you to explore its natural beauty and cultural diversity at your own pace. You can walk around the lake on a paved path that is about 2 kilometers long, or you can cross one of the bridges to visit Jade Island or Turtle Tower. You can also stop at some of the attractions or landmarks along the way, such as Ngoc Son Temple, The Huc Bridge, Ly Thai To Statue, or Ba Kieu Temple.
Boating is another enjoyable activity in Hoan Kiem Lake, as it allows you to admire its scenery and attractions from a different perspective. You can rent a paddle boat or an electric boat from one of the docks around the lake, or you can join a boat tour that includes a guide and a commentary. You can also see some water puppet shows on floating stages on the lake, or you can watch some dragon boat races or festivals that are held occasionally.
Shopping is another fun activity in Hoan Kiem Lake, as it allows you to buy some souvenirs and gifts for yourself or your loved ones. You can find many shops and stalls around the lake that sell various items, such as handicrafts, paintings, clothes, books, or snacks. You can also visit some nearby markets or streets that offer more shopping options, such as Dong Xuan Market, Hang Gai Street, or Hang Dao Street.
Tips to Know Before You Go to Hoan Kiem Lake
Before you go to Hoan Kiem Lake, there are some tips to know to make your trip more enjoyable and hassle-free. Here are some of them:
- Entrance fee: There is no entrance fee to visit Hoan Kiem Lake, but you may need to pay extra fees for some attractions or activities, such as 30,000 VND for Ngoc Son Temple, or 100,000 VND for a water puppet show.
- Weather: The weather in Hoan Kiem Lake varies depending on the season and time of day. Generally speaking, the best time to visit is from October to April, when the weather is dry, sunny, and cool. The worst time to visit is from May to September, when the weather is wet, hot, and humid.
- Clothing: You should dress appropriately for the weather and the activities you plan to do in Hoan Kiem Lake. You should also dress respectfully when visiting religious sites or rural areas. You should wear comfortable shoes, layers of clothing, hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen. You should also bring raincoats, umbrellas, jackets, gloves, and scarves if needed.
- Food: You should try some of the local food in Hoan Kiem Lake, as it is delicious, fresh, and cheap. You can find many restaurants, cafes, stalls, or vendors that serve various dishes, such as pho (noodle soup), bun cha (grilled pork with rice noodles), banh mi (sandwich), or egg coffee (coffee with egg yolk). You can also buy some fruits, vegetables, or snacks from the local markets or vendors.
- Accommodation: You should stay in a hotel or a hostel in Hoan Kiem Lake, as it is a convenient and comfortable option. You can find many options in different parts of the lake, such as near the entrance, near the water puppet theater, or near the walking streets. You can also find some hotels or hostels in nearby areas, such as the Old Quarter, the French Quarter, or the Hoan Kiem District.
- Transportation: You should walk or rent a bicycle to get around Hoan Kiem Lake, as it is the most convenient and eco-friendly way to explore its scenery and attractions. You can rent a bicycle from one of the shops or stalls around the lake, or you can join a bicycle tour that includes a guide and a commentary. You can also take a taxi, a bus, or a cyclo (pedicab) if you want more safety and comfort.
- Communication: You should learn some basic words and phrases in Vietnamese or in the local language of Hanoi. You can use them to greet, thank, apologize, or bargain with the local people. You can also use gestures, pictures, or translation apps to communicate if needed.
- Respect: You should respect the culture and customs of the local people in Hoan Kiem Lake, as they are very friendly and hospitable. You should ask for permission before taking photos of them or their houses. You should also avoid littering, smoking, or drinking alcohol around the lake, as it may offend them or harm the environment. You should also follow some etiquette rules when visiting religious sites or rural areas.
Hoan Kiem Lake is the heart of Hanoi that offers legend, beauty, and culture. It is a place where you can enjoy the soul and spirit of the city. It is also a place where you can relax, learn, and have fun.
I hope this blog post has given you some useful information and inspiration for your Hoan Kiem Lake trip. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. Thank you for reading and happy travels!