Hoàn Kiếm Lake is a popular meeting spot in Hanoi and the location of one of the city’s most picturesque temples. Just a short walk from the old town, the lake provides a leafy escape from the city crowds and heat. Join the locals for a game of chess, stroll around the lake or pack a picnic lunch to enjoy beneath the trees.
Hồ Hoàn Kiếm means “Lake of the Returned Sword” and the name is derived from an ancient myth. Legend states that the Vietnamese emperor Le Loi returned a sword, which he used to drive the Chinese out of Vietnam, to a magic turtle at this very spot.
In the middle of the lake lies Jade Island and the majestic Ngoc Son Temple (Temple of the Jade Mountain). Cross the bright red Huc Bridge (Bridge of the Rising Sun) to reach the temple. Peer down into the water and see if you can spot the large soft-shell turtles that inhabit the lake. Unfortunately, due to pollution and destruction of their habitat, the turtles are almost extinct.
Throw down a rug on the grass and relax with a picnic. Hoàn Kiếm Lake is just a short walk from a number of markets and stores selling fresh produce so you can easily pick up supplies. Watch as locals run laps around the lake or join in if you are feeling energetic.
A kiosk serving fresh Vietnamese coffee can be found on the eastern edge of the lake. For something more substantial, you can find restaurants serving local delicacies in the streets of the French Quarter to the south.
Hoàn Kiếm Lake is located between Hanoi’s old town and French Quarter and can easily be reached on foot from most central locations. Bus routes serve the area and some street parking is available. The lake is open daily and is free of charge.