Hoan Kiem Lake (also known as Guom Lake) is situated in the heart of Hanoi city and is a popular destination for both locals and tourists to visit, enjoy the beautiful natural scenery, and engage in recreational activities and dining.
Apart from West Lake, the most renowned scenic spot in the capital city, Hoan Kiem Lake must be mentioned as an indispensable location in the Hanoi travel guide. Hoan Kiem Lake (or Guom Lake) is a natural freshwater lake located in the center of Hanoi. This place is associated with the legendary story of King Le Thai To returning the precious sword to the Turtle Deity.
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Where is Hoan Kiem Lake located?
- Address: Hang Trong Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Hoan Kiem Lake (Guom Lake) is situated in the center of Hanoi and serves as a connecting point for famous ancient streets such as Hang Dao Street, Hang Ngang Street, Luong Van Can Street, and areas like Trang Thi, Trang Tien, Ba Trieu, Hang Bai, Dinh Tien Hoang. This prime location provides favorable conditions for both the city’s residents and tourists to stroll around the lake, explore nearby famous landmarks, and learn about the distinctive cultural features of the surrounding ancient quarter.
The most common means of transportation to Hoan Kiem Lake.
In Hanoi, you have various options for getting to Hoan Kiem Lake (Guom Lake). Here are some suggestions that you can consider based on your conditions and preferences:
- Motorbike: While touring Hanoi, you can rent a motorbike at hotels or rental services to explore the city. If you’re unfamiliar with the routes, you can use the Google Maps navigation app and then enjoy discovering many beautiful roads and exciting addresses in Hanoi. This mode of transportation is seen as an active, convenient, and cost-effective choice for travelers.
- Bus: To save on transportation costs, you can take buses with stops near Hoan Kiem Lake, such as bus lines 04, 08, 09, 11, 14, 18, 23, 31, 34, 36, or 40.
- Private car rental with driver: Another transportation option to Sword Lake that you can consider is renting a private car when traveling with a group of friends or family. Private car rental services allow you to comfortably explore and have control over your travel itinerary in the city. VnCarRentals.com’s provides private car rental services with experienced drivers in Hanoi, ensuring you have a safe and efficient journey.
How long is the distance around Hoan Kiem Lake? What means of transportation can be used to explore Sword Lake?
Hoan Kiem Lake has a large area, approximately 12 hectares, and the circumference around the lake is about 1.7 kilometers. Therefore, when embarking on a sightseeing journey, enjoying the scenery around the lake, you can walk to improve your health, leisurely admire the surroundings, or choose from the following modes of transportation:
- Motorbike: This is a flexible and popular mode of transportation, suitable for travelers who want the freedom to explore Hoan Kiem Lake and the surrounding area. You can consider renting a motorbike service in Hanoi, with costs ranging from around 120,000 to 200,000 VND per bike per day.
- Cyclo (Cycle rickshaw): Taking a cyclo ride around Sword Lake is an excellent choice to experience a relaxed feeling while admiring the scenery around. The cost of renting a cyclo will depend on different times and routes; you can negotiate with the driver according to your itinerary. The average price for a cyclo ride in Hanoi is around 150,000 to 300,000 VND per route.
- Electric Car: Electric car tours are a new service loved by many. The electric car route passes through the Old Quarter, famous landmarks, historical sites, and the Sword Lake area. If you’re traveling in a group, this will be a convenient and cost-effective mode of transportation. The average rental price for an electric car is around 250,000 to 350,000 VND for 7 people per 30 minutes.
Explore the history and legend of Hoan Kiem Lake.
In the past, during the feudal period, Hoan Kiem Lake was known as “Luc Thuy Lake” due to its characteristic blue-green water color. Additionally, the lake was where the kings inspected their naval forces, so it was also called “Thuy Quan Lake.”
In the late 16th century, Lord Trinh divided the lake into two parts, known as Tả Vọng Lake and Hữu Vọng Lake. However, when French colonialists invaded Vietnam in 1884, Hữu Vọng Lake was filled to expand the capital city, leaving only Tả Vọng Lake, which is present-day Hoan Kiem Lake.
The name “Hoan Kiem” appeared in the 15th century, linked to the legend of the Sword Lake involving King Le Thai To and the Golden Turtle. According to the legend, King Le Loi (Le Thai To) while leading the resistance against foreign invaders, came across a magic sword called “Thuan Thien.” This sword was believed to be the sacred sword of the Dragon King that helped him defeat the Ming invaders, maintain peace, and ascend to the throne in 1428.
Once, while the king was boating on Tả Vọng Lake, the Golden Turtle suddenly surfaced and requested the return of the sacred sword to the Dragon King. The king returned the sword, and afterwards, the Golden Turtle disappeared. From then on, the king decided to rename the lake “Hoan Kiem Lake” or “Guom Lake,” and it has been used with that name to this day.
Famous Tourist Destinations around Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake has always held a special allure, not only for travelers from afar but also as a beloved destination for the residents of the capital city. In addition to its stunning natural beauty, the Hoan Kiem Lake area is home to numerous historical sites and famous landmarks, offering a diverse range of experiences for visitors.
Tortoise Tower on Hoan Kiem Lake
The Tortoise Tower is an ancient structure located on Tortoise Island in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake. The tower boasts a rectangular architecture with three floors, adorned with many windows, balustrades on the upper floor, and intricate decorative details. This is a historical landmark with enduring significance, representing the passage of time. Visiting the Tortoise Tower, you will experience tranquility and peace amidst the heart of Hanoi. The timeworn appearance of the tower has become an iconic image of the city, a subject of romantic paintings depicting the capital.
Ngoc Son Temple
Ngoc Son Temple is a renowned spiritual destination situated on Jade Island within Hoan Kiem Lake. Constructed in 1841, the temple is dedicated to the worship of Van Xuong De Quan and General Tran Hung Dao. The temple also serves as a meeting point for Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. A visit to Ngoc Son Temple allows you to explore the unique architecture of the Pen Tower and the Ink-Slab, the Huc Bridge, and the two inner sanctuaries. This place is not only a famous tourist spot but also a repository of cultural and historical values of the capital. You can choose to visit the temple during festivals or the Lunar New Year to immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere and seek blessings and peace for yourself and your family.
Pen Tower and Ink-Slab Tower
Pen Tower and Ink-Slab Tower are two unique architectural structures built simultaneously in 1865 at Ngoc Son Temple on Jade Island, Hoan Kiem Lake. Pen Tower features three stone frogs supporting the tower, and its inclined body bears a 64-character classical Chinese poem from the Ming dynasty.
The Huc Bridge
The Huc Bridge is a distinctive highlight against the vibrant backdrop of Hoan Kiem Lake. The red-painted bridge stretches from the lakeshore to Ngoc Son Temple and curves gracefully like a soft silk ribbon. While a popular photo spot, the Huc Bridge holds a special meaning. Its orientation towards the sunrise symbolizes capturing positive energy and light. The bridge’s color represents life, joy, and happiness. The name “The Huc” also translates to “Sunbeam Bridge.”
Ba Kieu Temple
- Located at 59 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hang Trong Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
Ba Kieu Temple was constructed during the reign of King Le Trung Hung and is divided into two sections: Tam Quan and the main temple. This mother goddess temple is also known as Thien Tien Dien and is situated to the northeast of Hoan Kiem Lake. It honors Princess Lieu Hanh, Quynh Hoa, and Que Nuong. With cultural and spiritual significance, Ba Kieu Temple has become a popular destination for both locals and tourists to explore beliefs and cultural heritage.
Hoa Phong Tower on Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoa Phong Tower is a rare historical relic located near the eastern shore of Dong Ho Gươm. This tower is the last remaining structure of Bao An Pagoda, which was demolished by the French colonial authorities to build a post office. The three-story tower is imposing, and its first floor features four windows facing all directions. This building is representative of the vigorous history of the nation and a testament to history, architecture, culture, and art. With its ancient beauty, Hoa Phong Tower is a favorite spot for many visitors to Hoan Kiem Lake.
Thang Long Water Puppet Theater, Hanoi
- Located at 57B Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
The Thang Long Water Puppet Theater offers a wonderful opportunity to experience the traditional folk art of water puppetry in Vietnam. Each day, the theater hosts around 6 shows featuring skillfully crafted water puppet performances. Over more than 50 years of development, the theater has presented thousands of performances spanning various genres and forms of art. The theater consistently introduces new elements without diluting the essence of Vietnamese culture, thus honoring the profound values of water puppetry.
King Le Temple
- Located at 16 Le Thai To Street, Hang Trong Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
King Le Temple stands on the western bank of Hoan Kiem Lake, near Nam Huong Communal House. This temple was built to commemorate King Le Thai To, the first king of the Le dynasty. The temple compound features a statue of King Le Thai To standing on a tall pedestal, holding his sword as if preparing to hand it over to the mythical turtle in the lake. This is one of the oldest statues in the capital city and a significant relic within the Hoan Kiem heritage site.
Hanoi Opera House
- Located at 01 Trang Tien Street, Phan Chu Trinh Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
The Hanoi Opera House, over 120 years old, is situated in the area of August Revolution Square. This structure, constructed by the French in 1901, combines neoclassical architecture with a perfect blend of contemporary Baroque styles. The opera house has been the stage for generations of artists and has maintained its cultural and historical value. While wandering around Hoan Kiem Lake, you can visit the Hanoi Opera House to admire its splendid architecture, take photos, or purchase tickets to enjoy various artistic performances.
Hoan Kiem Pedestrian Street
Unlike the quiet ambiance of historical sites, Hoan Kiem Pedestrian Street comes alive in the evenings with a bustling atmosphere. The street offers a diverse range of products, a rich culinary world, and various street activities and traditional games. This makes it a popular weekend destination for both locals and visitors. As you explore the pedestrian street, you can stop at historical sites for photo opportunities, savor local specialties, or enjoy aromatic street-side coffee with friends. Note that the pedestrian street is only open on weekends, so plan your schedule accordingly.
Hanoi Old Quarter
- Located in Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
When visiting Hoan Kiem Lake, don’t miss the chance to stroll through the ancient streets to admire unique architecture and experience the spirit of old Hanoi. Hanoi’s Old Quarter is also a place to savor various local delicacies. The boundaries of the Old Quarter are Hang Dau Street to the north, Hang Bong, Hang Gai, Cau Go, and Hang Thung Streets to the south, Phung Hung Street to the west, and Tran Nhat Duat and Tran Quang Khai Streets to the east. The Old Quarter is also home to many souvenir shops where you can purchase distinctive Hanoi gifts for friends and family.
Dinh Le Street
- Located on Dinh Le Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
Dinh Le Street is often referred to as the “book paradise” of Hanoi, situated near Hoan Kiem Lake. The street is lined with numerous bookstores, making it easy to find a diverse range of books, from philosophy, history, culture, and economics to social sciences and specialized subjects. This street is considered the “intellectual paradise” of the capital city, making it a meeting place for authors from both within and outside the country to engage in discussions about books.
Trang Tien Plaza
- Located at 24 Hai Ba Trung Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
Trang Tien Plaza is a renowned shopping and entertainment complex located near Hoan Kiem Lake. Built by the French in 1901, this establishment has historical and cultural significance, and it has become the most upscale commercial center in the country. A visit to Trang Tien Plaza allows you to appreciate its elegant and eye-catching architecture, dominated by shades of gold and white. The plaza hosts many premium brands, showcasing their products in this prestigious environment.
King Ly Thai To Monument
- Located at Ly Thai To Garden, Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
The bronze statue of King Ly Thai To is a single-piece cast that depicts the heroic figure of the king, wearing a ceremonial hat and holding a royal decree. This sculpture serves as a distinctive cultural architectural piece at Hoan Kiem Lake, commemorating and honoring the king’s significant contributions in establishing Thang Long Imperial Citadel. For the people of Hanoi, this statue is a familiar leisure spot, and beneath its base, cultural and artistic events are often held, as well as important national ceremonies.
Monument of Determined Will at Hoan Kiem Lake
- Location: Beside Hoan Kiem Lake, next to Ngoc Son Temple and Ba Kieu Temple.
The Monument of Determined Will portrays the image of a soldier standing proudly beside a traditional Vietnamese woman in an Ao Dai dress holding a sword, as well as a male worker holding a gun, all ready for combat. This monument symbolizes the courageous and unyielding spirit of the capital’s soldiers and citizens during the early days of the resistance against the French colonial forces.
Information about the Hoan Kiem Lake Turtle
Many tourists, when visiting Hoan Kiem Lake, are curious about the turtles that used to inhabit the area. In reality, the Hoan Kiem Lake turtle, also known by its scientific name Rafetus Leloii, is a species of softshell turtle. This turtle belongs to the family Trionychidae within the order Testudines. According to various records, there were four different individuals of the Hoan Kiem Lake turtle, including one that had died and was preserved in Ngoc Son Temple, another preserved in the Hanoi Museum, and another that was killed in the years 1962 – 1963 when it came ashore in Chi Linh Flower Garden. By around 2011, there was only one surviving individual of the Hoan Kiem Lake turtle. During its time in the lake, the turtle was often rescued and treated for injuries, and it was affectionately referred to as “Cụ Rùa” (Grandfather Turtle). By 2016, the last individual of the Hoan Kiem Lake turtle had passed away.
To catch a glimpse of the Hoan Kiem Lake turtle, you can schedule a visit to Ngoc Son Temple, a sacred temple located in the middle of the lake, to explore and discover. Here, a replica of the turtle’s body is displayed, its colors resembling its appearance when it was alive, providing you with the most authentic view of this species.
What to Eat at Hoan Kiem Lake? Must-Try Delicious Eateries
The area around Hoan Kiem Lake and the adjacent Old Quarter is known as a culinary paradise, brimming with numerous shops and renowned eateries selling Hanoi’s specialties. Below are some excellent suggestions for your culinary journey around the Hoan Kiem Lake area:
Dong Xuan Market – Culinary Paradise of the Old Quarter
- Address: Dong Xuan Ward, Hoan Kiem District.
- Price range: 15,000 – 35,000 VND/dish.
Dong Xuan Market is the oldest and largest market in Hanoi. It’s also a destination to enjoy various famous dishes such as “bun cha,” “bun ngan,” “banh tom,” “bun oc,” “thit xien,” and “che” at affordable prices. Check out Dong Xuan Market and discover the rich culinary world during your journey around Hoan Kiem Lake.
Bun Thang Cau Go
- Address: 48 Cau Go Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
- Price range: 30,000 – 55,000 VND/portion.
Bun Thang Ba Duc on Cau Go Street attracts a large number of diners due to its long-standing reputation and irresistible flavors. The bowl of Hanoi-style “bun thang” at the eatery is filled with chicken, pork sausage, dried shrimp, young eggs, shiitake mushrooms, scallions, and laksa leaves. The harmonious blend of these ingredients creates a delicious and fragrant taste, capturing the essence of Hanoi’s culinary art.
Kem Trang Tien 35
- Address: 35 Trang Tien Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
- Price range: 5,000 – 9,000 VND/stick.
Kem Trang Tien is a longstanding ice cream shop and a renowned brand around Hoan Kiem Lake. The shop is known for its cool and refreshing ice cream sticks, offering traditional flavors. You can choose from options like vanilla, coconut milk, mung bean, according to your preferences. Walking around Hoan Kiem Lake with a cold ice cream stick in hand has become an unforgettable experience for many visitors.
Bun Cha Hang Quat
- Address: Alley 74 Hang Quat Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
- Price range: 25,000 – 55,000 VND/portion.
“Bun cha” is a signature dish you can’t miss when visiting Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi. The “bun cha” eatery on the entrance of Hang Quat Street has been around for a long time and is well-known for its satisfying portions, flavorful grilled meat, and authentic dipping sauce. This dish is a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
Nom Bo Kho Dinh Tien Hoang
- Address: 23 Ho Hoan Kiem Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
- Price range: 30,000 – 45,000 VND/portion.
If you’re seeking lighter options, visit the “nom bo kho” shop at 53 Dinh Tien Hoang Street. This place not only serves “nom” salads but also offers other delicious items like spring rolls and “banh bot loc.” However, “nom” is the most popular choice due to its crispy and refreshing papaya combined with the rich flavors of fish sauce and dried beef.
Che Bon Mua No. 4 Hang Can
- Address: 4 Hang Can Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
- Price range: Starting from 15,000 VND/portion.
“Che Bon Mua” at No. 4 Hang Can Street is one of the famous dessert shops near Hoan Kiem Lake. The shop offers a wide selection of “che” desserts, suitable for different seasons, from warm and fragrant to cool and refreshing. This shop has a history of over 50 years and is a familiar place for locals and travelers when visiting Hanoi.
Oc Nong Dinh Liet
- Address: 1 Dinh Liet Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
- Price range: 50,000 – 110,000 VND/portion.
Oc Nong at 1 Dinh Liet Street is always bustling with customers due to its excellent quality. The hot and savory escargot dish is served quickly, with fresh and tender escargot, combined with a flavorful dipping sauce. The owner has a secret recipe for cooking clean and delicious escargot, and the dipping sauce is also very rich, leaving an unforgettable taste for diners.
Thuy Ta Ice Cream Shop
- Address: 2 Ly Thai To Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
- Price range: 10,000 – 30,000 VND/ice cream cone.
Thuy Ta Ice Cream Shop is also a well-known brand with several branches across Hanoi. Here, you can choose from a variety of ice cream flavors. The prices are reasonable, and the staff is friendly and willing to help you choose if you’re trying the ice cream for the first time.
Cafe Dinh – Egg Coffee Shop near Hoan Kiem Lake
- Address: 13 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
- Price range: 17,000 – 25,000 VND/drink.
When at Hoan Kiem Lake, take a moment to stop by Cafe Dinh and enjoy a cup of delicious and creamy egg coffee. This is a famous drink at the shop, made with a unique brewing method. Egg coffee has a rich and creamy texture, combined with the aroma of coffee. It’s an unforgettable experience and a must-try for coffee enthusiasts.
Ha Cao Hang Bo, Hoan Kiem Lake
- Address: 55 Hang Bo Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
- Price range: 25,000 – 55,000 VND/portion.
Ha Cao Chien at Hang Bo Street wins over many diners with its perfect combination of crispy fried outer layer and delicious, flavorful meat filling. When eating, you can pair it with fresh vegetables and dip it in a sweet and sour fish sauce, creating a unique and memorable taste.
***Note: The price range at the mentioned locations is for reference only. Actual prices may vary based on specific dishes and the current period.
One-Day Itinerary for Exploring Hoan Kiem Lake with Complete Joy
With countless appealing destinations, you should have a specific itinerary for exploring Hoan Kiem Lake to have the most complete and memorable experiences. If you’re unsure about where to go and what to eat during a day at Hoan Kiem Lake, you can refer to the suggested itinerary below and customize it according to your preferences for the best trip:
- Start your journey at Dong Xuan Market, enjoy breakfast with Hanoi’s specialties such as “pho,” “bun oc,” or “bun rieu.”
- Stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake, admire the serene green scenery on the still surface of the lake in the early morning.
- Explore Hanoi’s Old Quarter streets like Hang Ma Street, Ta Hien Street…
- Have lunch with “bun cha” at Hang Quat Street or “bun thang” at Cau Go Street.
- Take a rest at Cafe Dinh, savor egg coffee, and admire the romantic Hoan Kiem Lake view.
- Continue your exploration of Hoan Kiem Lake, visit Ngoc Son Temple, take photos at Thap But, The Huc Bridge, and Nghien Tower.
- Check in at Hòa Phong Tower, pay respects at the Le King Temple, and visit the statue of Ly Thai To.
- Spend time resting and exploring book stalls on Dinh Le Street, enjoy a cup of ice cream at Trang Tien.
- Take photos at the Hanoi Opera House, Trang Tien Plaza, and visit the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater to watch water puppetry.
- Enjoy dinner with hot snails at Dinh Liet Street and street food at the night market.
- Have fun and relax at the pedestrian street, admire the Hoan Kiem Lake view at night.
Useful Travel Experiences for Hoan Kiem Lake
To have the best sightseeing experience when visiting Hoan Kiem Lake, don’t overlook the following useful travel experiences:
- The attractions around Hoan Kiem Lake are not too far from each other, so walking is the ideal option that allows you to conveniently explore and leisurely enjoy the natural scenery.
- When you want to experience a cyclo (rickshaw) service, it’s advisable to inquire with the driver beforehand about the route and applicable prices.
- Any time of the year is suitable for visiting Hoan Kiem Lake. Among them, autumn is considered the most beautiful time with crisp weather and the romantic scenery of falling yellow leaves.
- Around the lake, Dong Xuan Market and the Old Quarter streets have many shops selling a variety of goods. You can buy souvenirs for friends and family such as handicrafts, Hanoi’s “com” cake, and preserved fruits.
- According to Hanoi travel experience, it’s recommended to go shopping in the afternoon for better price negotiation, as shops often dislike visitors who inquire without making purchases in the morning.
- For convenient exploration, you should choose a hotel near Hoan Kiem Lake or in the Old Quarter area.
These are the most detailed information and travel experiences for visiting Hoan Kiem Lake, including addresses, transportation methods, attractions, delicious food, and itineraries. When you have the opportunity to visit Hanoi, dedicate a full day to explore and experience the distinctive beauty here. The romantic scenery of Hoan Kiem Lake, along with unique architectural structures and a diverse culinary world, will provide you with unforgettable memories of Hanoi.