West Lake (Ho Tay), the largest freshwater lake in Hanoi, provides a tranquil escape from the chaos of Vietnam’s capital. Lakeside cafés offer gorgeous views; historic attractions such as the Tran Quoc Pagoda and Quan Thanh Temple provide insight into Vietnam’s past; and 5-star hotels offer fine dining and luxury accommodation.
The sheer size and energy of Hanoi can make it an intimidating place for first-time visitors. Introductory sightseeing tours, many of which stop at West Lake to see the Tran Quoc Pagoda—Vietnam’s oldest pagoda—make for an easy way to orient yourself. Visitors can choose between exploring on the back (or front) of a moped, on foot, by bicycle, or in an air-conditioned vehicle.
Things to Know Before You Go
- West Lake is a place to relax and to see two significant historical attractions.
- Evening tours, several of which reveal West Lake in its illuminated splendor, give you the chance to see the city from a different perspective.
- Visitors can rent paddle boats or bicycles with which to explore the lake.
How to Get There
West Lake is a 15-minute drive from Hanoi Old Quarter by private taxi. Visitors can walk to the lake in one hour; however, traffic and a lack of pedestrianized roads mean that this is not recommended. Buses 31, 55A, and 58 service the West Lake area from the Old Quarter.
When to Get There
Although West Lake is accessible at all hours, the best time to go is early evening: Watch the sunset over the water and indulge in some street food or fine lakeside dining.
Dining Options at West Lake
Culinary options at West Lake range from street food to fine dining. Popular street-vendor snacks include ngo nuong (grilled corn) and banh tom ho tay, crispy shrimp cakes that were conceived in the adjacent neighborhood. If you’re looking for a bit of luxury, indulge in gourmet Vietnamese or French cuisine at a lakeside seafood restaurant on the northern side of the lake.