Hoan Kiem Lake is a natural freshwater lake with an area of about 12 hectares. This famous lake locates in the centre of Hanoi capital, also known as Ho Guom Lake, Luc Thuy Lake, Ta Vong Lake.
Not only carrying tradition, culture, and history, but Hoan Kiem Lake is also a famous tourist destination in Hanoi. Hoan Kiem Lake is like the heart and soul of Hanoi capital.
Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake (Sword Lake) is at Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. This lake connects the central streets of the old town, such as Hang Ngang, Hang Dao, Luong Van Can, and Cau Go with the new streets of Tay Trang Thi, Bao Khanh, Dinh Tien Hoang, Ba Trieu, Trang Tien.
The other names of Hoan Kiem Lake includes the Restored Sword Lake or the Sword Lake (in English), Ho Hoan Kiem, Ho Guom, Ho Luc Thuy, and Ho Ta Vong (in Vietnamese).
1. History of Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake existed several thousand years ago and originated as a distributary of the Red River. Initially, when it was formed, the lake was called Ho Ta Vong. The people of Hanoi also named it Luc Thuy Lake because it has blue water all year round.
In the early 15th century, with the legend that King Le Thai To returned the precious sword to the Tortoise God during a walk around the lake. Then, the name Hoan Kiem Lake (Returning sword lake) or Ho Guom (Sword Lake) officially appeared. Since then until now, these two names have been used a lot. The lake has also been preserved to become an important historical and cultural relic in Hanoi
2. The legend of Sword Lake
Legend has it that during the period of gathering soldiers for the Lam Son against the Ming dynasty, one time Le Loi ((1385 – 1433), also called Le Thai To, walked on the lake. Accidentally, he caught a golden sword. On the sword engraved the Thuan Thien (Following the heaven) and Loi (his name), meaning Le Loi had to follow heaven to support the country.
At that time, Le Loi believed that this was God’s will as a heavenly treasure. By using that precious sword, he and his soldiers won the Minh soldiers. After winning the Minh army, the public crowned him as the king, called Le Thai To.
At the beginning of 1428, while travelling with the mandarins on the lake, the king suddenly saw the golden turtle emerging, and the sword beside him moved and glowed. The king understood that he should give the treasure sword to the Turtle God. Since then, the name of Ho Guom or Hoan Kiem Lake has existed to this day.
3. Places to visit at Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake has become one scenic spot of the capital. This place is not only a political and cultural centre but also covers many tourist places to visit with the significance of the culture and history of Hanoi.
3.1. Turtle Tower
On the mound in the centre of the lake, Turtle Tower Hanoi is the most attractive highlight in the Sword Lake. The Turtle Tower was built in 1884, with French architecture combined with the ancient feudal architecture of Vietnam. The tower emerged in the middle of the ancient lake, mossy, and full of depression.
3.2. Hoa Phong Tower
Unlike Turtle Tower, Hoa Phong Tower is located on the east bank of Hoan Kiem Lake. This tower is the only surviving relic of Bao An pagoda after the French colonialists demolished it in 1898. The tower was built solidly with 3 floors; the first floor opened in 4 directions. This place is a popular site for many tourists to take pictures when coming to the Hoan Kiem Lake.
3.3. Hanoi Post Office
Hanoi Post Office, opposite Hoa Phong Tower, is a work built on the foundation of Bao An pagoda that the French dismantled. The first building of the Post Office was concreted by the French in 1884. Undergoing additional construction in 1943 and the completedly new construction in 1976, Hanoi Post Office retains a modern 5-storey architecture with a frontage facing Hoan Kiem Lake. With the large clock on the roof, Hanoi Post Office is a famous place for the locals and tourists. The locals called it a friendly name Buu Dien Bo Ho (Bo Ho Post Office).
3.4. Dinh Le Street
Dinh Le Street is right next to the Hanoi Post Office. Dinh Le is famous for the capital’s book paradise. Coming to Dinh Le Book Street, visitors can find hundreds of books in all types, including philosophy, history, culture, economics, social sciences, and children’s books.
3.5. Trang Tien Ice Cream Shop
Trang Tien Ice Cream is at 35 Trang Tien Street, which is a famous place in the area of the Sword Lake. Trang Tien is an old ice cream shop and a symbol of Hanoi’s cuisine and culture. If you come to Sword Lake, you should visit this place, wait in line to buy and enjoy the cool-fragrant-sweet ice cream right on the sidewalk to get the exciting feelings.
3.6. Hanoi Opera House
Located in the August Revolutionary Square at the beginning of Trang Tien Street, Hanoi Opera House was built by the French according to the miniature opera house in 1901. Visiting here, you will not only see a beautiful building but also have the opportunity to explore the artistic programs.
3.7. Thang Long Water Puppet Theater
Water puppetry is an extremely unique folk art in Hanoi in particular and Northern Vietnam in general. To learn more about the water puppetry art, you can buy tickets to enjoy the performances at Thang Long Puppet Theater with up to 6 performances a day to choose from.
3.8. Trang Tien Plaza Trade Center
Trang Tien Plaza is a choice for shopping for visitors, which is near the Sword Lake. This building is the most modern and luxurious commercial centre in the capital, selling many items from famous brands.
3.9. Flower garden and Ly Thai To monument
Built in 2004, King Ly Thai To is a monument to commemorate the merit of Emperor Ly Cong Uan (reigned from 1009 to 1028), who moved the capital from Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh to Thang Long, Hanoi. The flower garden and the square in front of the Ly Thai To monument is the place where organizes a lot of community activities and major cultural, social, and artistic programs of the capital and country.
3.10. Hoan Kiem Lake Walking Street
Although only opened on weekends for a few years, Hoan Kiem Lake Walking Street has become a famous and familiar destination in Hanoi. You can see a lot of activities on the walking streets, including folk games, street music, and modern music.
3.11. Thap But (Pen Tower)
Together in the northeastern part of Hoan Kiem Lake, Thap But (Pen Tower) was built in 1865. Thap But looks like a pen with 9-meter-high, and its nib stands straight up to the sky. This symbol is the studious tradition of Hanoi people in particular and the Vietnamese people in general.
3.12. Ba Kieu Temple
Ba Kieu Temple, also known as Thien Tien Dien, is one of the first lady temples in Vietnam. Located at 59 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Ba Kieu Temple worships 3 goddesses of the nation, Princess Lieu Hanh, Que Nuong, and Quynh Hoa.
3.13. The Huc Bridge
The Huc Bridge is a famous work built by the well-known artist Nguyen Van Sieu in 1865. This red-painted wooden bridge has a shrimp-shaped style, connecting the lakeshore with Ngoc Son island. With the unique architecture, The Huc Bridge is the outstanding poetic highlight of Hoan Kiem Lake.
3.14. Ngoc Son Temple
Ngoc Son Temple is on a small island northwest of Hoan Kiem Lake. This island connects to the shore by The Duc Bridge. Ngoc Son Temple worships Van Xuong De Quan, Quan Cong, Tran Hung Dao, and La Dong Tan.
3.15. Hanoi Old Quarter
From Hoan Kiem Lake to the West and the North, visitors will have the opportunity to visit the Old Quarter of Hanoi, such as Hang Luoc, Hang Bong, Hang Gai, etc. Although this area is no longer the same as in the past, the way to sell on these roads, street vendors, and old houses will surely give visitors a sense of Hanoi with the 36 ancient streets.
3.16. Dong Xuan market
Dong Xuan Market is the oldest and largest market in Hanoi. At this market, you can find everything, including street food, household goods, fabrics, clothing, technology accessories, and gifts.
Frequently asked questions about Hoan Kiem Lake
1. When is the best time to visit Hoan Kiem Lake?
The autumn from the end of September to November is the best time to visit Hanoi and Hoan Kien Lake. During that period, the water is fresh to explore the lake and local life. You should come to Hoan Kiem Lake at the weekend nights to join the activities of the Hanoi Walking Streets.
2. Which is the best method to explore Hoan Kiem Lake?
The best way to discover Hoan Kiem Lake is by walking. When strolling around, you are free and flexible to stop looking at the historical buildings, taking pictures, and stepping on The Huc Bridge on the lake.
3. How long should I spend at Hoan Kiem Lake?
For our experience, it is better to range a full day to explore Hoan Kiem Lake. It is because the lake and many attractions around are attractive. You need the time to explore the buildings, scenery, and local life.
There are many attractions around Hoan Kiem Lake, so you should range a day to explore the lake and surroundings. Also, you can see life has changed at a different time of day.
Do not go fast, slow down to see Hoan Kiem Lake as well as Hanoi life, and you will find out plenty of exciting features, which cannot be found at other places.