A key landmark in the historical center of Hanoi, charming Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword) offers a peaceful escape from the hectic pace and crowds of the city. It’s a popular meeting spot, and also makes a great place to people watch and experience local culture.
The best way to enjoy the lake is on foot. A walking path circling the lake can be completed in 30 minutes. Plenty of trees and benches offer shade and a place to rest around the lake. Along the way, take in views of Turtle Tower, or visit Ngoc Son Temple, situated on an island in the lake. Or stop at a café or restaurant nearby and watch life in Hanoi unfold in front of you.
Hoan Kiem Lake is a popular destination and most sightseeing tours will feature a stop here, along with other attractions like the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the One Pillar Pagoda, and the Temple of Literature.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Hoan Kiem Lake is a must-see for first time visitors to Hanoi.
- Don’t forget to bring your camera for, as there are many photogenic spots in and around the lake.
- It’s free to visit Hoan Kiem lake, but there is a fee to enter Ngoc Son Temple.
- It’s not possible to visit Turtle Tower.
How to Get There
The lake is located between the Old Quarter, to its north, and the French Quarter, to its south, making it easy to walk to from either location, as well as most of central Hanoi. It’s also accessible via taxi and the 9 or 36 bus.
When to Get There
In the early morning, catch locals exercising and doing Tai Chi. Come back at night to see the city lights reflected in the water. Weekend nights, the area around the lake is closed off to motorized traffic.
Lake of the Restored Sword
Hoan Kiem Lake is also known is the Lake of the Restored Sword. There are variations to the legend behind how the lake got that name, but they all feature Emperor Le Loi, whose borrowed magic sword enabled him to defeat the invading Chinese in the 15th century. In the center of the lake you can see Turtle Tower, which honors the magic golden turtle that delivered the sword back to its owner.