Hoan Kiem Lake: Explore thousands of years of culinary culture history

Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as Ho Guom Hanoi, is a picturesque and historic lake located in the bustling city of Hanoi. It is situated in the heart of the charming Old Quarter, surrounded by bustling streets, ancient temples, and vibrant markets.

Hoan Kiem Lake history

Panorama of Hoan Kiem Lake
Panorama of Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as Lake of the Returned Sword, is a freshwater lake in the historical center of Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. The lake has great cultural and historical significance to the Vietnamese people.

Hoan Kiem means “Lake of the Returned Sword”. The name comes from a legend about the 15th century Vietnamese emperor Le Loi. According to the legend, emperor Le Loi was boating on the lake when a golden turtle god surfaced and asked for his magic sword back, which Le Loi used to fight against Chinese invaders. The emperor returned his sword and hence the lake was named Hoan Kiem (“Returned Sword”).

Hoan Kiem Lake night
Hoan Kiem Lake night

The lake was built in the 11th century under the reign of Emperor Ly Thai To. It was part of his plans to move the capital city from Hoa Lu to Thang Long (now Hanoi). The lake was originally a branch of the Red River but later separated by dams. It plays an important part in the city’s feng shui and has always been a symbol of Hanoi’s culture.

Hoan Kiem Lake measures about 12 hectares. There is a small island called Jade Island on the lake which is home to the Temple of Jade Mountain. The ancient red The Huc Bridge that connects the island to the shore is a beloved symbol of Hanoi.

Emperor Ly Thai To
Emperor Ly Thai To

History highlights

  • 11th century: Built under Emperor Ly Thai To as part of Thang Long imperial capital plans
  • 15th century: Named “Hoan Kiem Lake” as per the legend of Emperor Le Loi and the golden turtle
  • Late 19th century: French colonial buildings constructed around lake

Cultural significance

  • Linked to Vietnamese legend and imperial history
  • Feng shui element of Hanoi’s design
  • Historic architecture surrounding lake shows blend of Asian and European influences

Hoan Kiem Lake map & direction

Hoan Kiem Lake map
Hoan Kiem Lake map

Hoan Kiem Lake is located right in the heart of Hanoi Old Quarter area. It is bordered by some of Hanoi’s most iconic streets and attractions.

Some key streets and locations around the lake are:

  • North: Dinh Tien Hoang street, Ngoc Son Temple
  • East: Le Thai To street
  • South: Hang Khay street, Pen Tower
  • West: Dinh Tien Hoang street, Old Quarter

The easiest way to reach Hoan Kiem Lake is to take a taxi or rideshare service like Grab to the northern end of the lake. From there, you can explore the perimeter on foot. Another option is to take the metro to Hoan Kiem station on Line 2 which is about 300 meters south of the lake.

Here is a map view of Hoan Kiem Lake and the surrounding area:

As you can see, the heart of Hanoi Old Quarter wraps around Hoan Kiem Lake making it very convenient to access. Key landmarks are all within a short walk.

Hoan kiem Lake opening hours

Hoan Kiem Lake is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is free to access. There are walking paths, benches, and grassy areas surrounding the lake that can be enjoyed at any time.

Some specific opening hours to note:

  • Ngoc Son Temple: Opens daily from 7:30am to 5:30pm. Entrance fee is 30,000 VND.
  • Pedestrian streets: Sections of the streets surrounding the lake are closed to vehicles on weekend evenings from 7pm to midnight.
  • Exercise/dancing areas: Certain lawn spaces are popular in the mornings and evenings for group dancing, tai chi, aerobics and other exercise.

So while the lake itself is always open, the liveliest times to visit are weekend nights when the pedestrian streets fill up with locals and tourists or early morning/evening to catch the exercise culture.

Tips for visiting

  • Go for a long walk around the lake perimeter and nearby Old Quarter streets to soak in the atmosphere
  • Find a lakeside cafe to sit, relax and take in the views
  • Visit on weekend evenings when there is lots of energy and activities around the lake

Attractions around Hoan Kiem Lake

There are many fascinating cultural and historic attractions located right around Hoan Kiem Lake. Here are some highlights:

Ngoc Son Temple

Ngoc Son Temple
Ngoc Son Temple

Ngoc Son Temple is a prominent cultural and historical landmark located on Hoan Kiem Lake in the heart of Hanoi, Vietnam. Also known as the Temple of the Jade Mountain, it is situated on a small island connected to the lakeshore by the iconic red-painted Huc Bridge.

The temple was built in the 18th century in honor of Tran Hung Dao, a revered military commander, and Nguyen Van Sieu, a Confucian scholar. Inside the temple, you’ll find various artifacts and altars dedicated to these figures, as well as other historical and cultural relics. One of the notable features is the preserved giant turtle shell, believed to be from one of the lake’s legendary turtles.

The picturesque setting, with the temple nestled amidst lush greenery and overlooking the tranquil waters of Hoan Kiem Lake, makes Ngoc Son Temple a popular destination for both locals and tourists. Visitors can enjoy a peaceful escape from the bustling streets of Hanoi while exploring the rich history and spiritual significance of this iconic Vietnamese temple.

Ly Thai To monument

On the east side of the lake stands a monument to Emperor Ly Thai To who founded the Ly dynasty and constructed Hoan Kiem Lake in the 11th century. This shrine commemorates the emperor who established Thang Long (Hanoi) as Vietnam’s capital.

St. Joseph’s Cathedral

St. Joseph’s Cathedral is the oldest church in Hanoi, dating back to 1886. It features neo-Gothic architectural style with arched windows and towering spires. This Catholic cathedral stands on the southwest corner of Hoan Kiem Lake near the Old Quarter.

Hanoi Old Quarter Night Market

Hanoi Old Quarter Night Market
Hanoi Old Quarter Night Market

Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night the streets around the west and south end of Hoan Kiem Lake come alive with the bustling Old Quarter Night Market. Vendors, food stalls and shoppers pack the pedestrian streets from 7pm to midnight. It’s a fun place for shopping and street food.

Trang Tien plaza

On the south end of the lake, Trang Tien plaza is a popular hangout spot. There is an open-air shopping mall, historic French colonial buildings and lots of shops, cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating around the plaza.

Hoan Kiem Lake food & restaurants

In addition to the night market street food, there are many excellent local restaurants and cafes around Hoan Kiem Lake serving everything from Vietnamese fare to international cuisine.

Street foods

Hanoi street foods
Hanoi street foods

Hanoi’s Old Quarter is renowned for its vibrant street food scene, offering a wide array of delicious and affordable options. Here are some popular street food items you might want to try when exploring the Old Quarter:

  • Pho – This is Vietnam’s most famous dish. Pho is a flavorful noodle soup typically made with beef or chicken, rice noodles, and a fragrant broth. You’ll find many small pho stalls serving this iconic dish.
  • Bun Cha – Grilled pork patties and pork belly are served with vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs, and a dipping sauce. It’s a tasty and filling dish.
  • Banh Mi – A Vietnamese baguette sandwich filled with various ingredients like grilled pork, cold cuts, pate, fresh herbs, and mayonnaise. The combination of flavors and textures is delightful.
  • Bun Thang – This is a Hanoi specialty, a delicate noodle soup made with shredded chicken, thin slices of egg, and sometimes pork. It’s a visually appealing and tasty dish.
  • Banh Cuon – These are steamed rice rolls filled with minced pork and wood ear mushrooms. They are often served with fried shallots, crispy pork skin, and a side of fish sauce.
  • Xoi Xeo – Sticky rice with mung beans and fried onions. You can find vendors selling various versions of this savory dish on the streets.
  • Egg Coffee (Ca Phe Trung) – While not a traditional food item, Hanoi is famous for its egg coffee. It’s a unique and delicious coffee preparation where egg yolks are whipped with sweetened condensed milk, creating a creamy and rich topping for the strong Vietnamese coffee.
  • Che – A variety of sweet soups or desserts made with beans, fruit, and glutinous rice. It’s a great way to end your street food journey on a sweet note.

Remember that the best way to experience Hanoi street food is to explore the narrow alleys and busy streets of the Old Quarter. Be adventurous, try new things, and immerse yourself in the local culinary scene.

Pho Thin Bo Ho

Located just a short distance from the beautiful Ho Hoan Kiem, Pho Thin Bo Ho is renowned for its famous pho dish featuring thinly sliced beef. The beef is expertly cooked to perfection, resulting in tender and juicy slices, while the broth is bursting with rich umami flavors.

As you savor your bowl of pho, you can also take in the stunning surroundings, making it a beloved spot for both locals and tourists alike. Come indulge in the delectable pho and soak up the charm of Hanoi’s historic quarter at Pho Thin Bo Ho.

Joseph Restaurant

Joseph Restaurant
Joseph Restaurant

Joseph Restaurant offers a carefully curated selection of premium steaks from top suppliers in Australia, Japan, and the United States. Our commitment to quality is evident in every bite, making us a top choice for steak lovers in Hanoi.

But our menu at Joseph Steakhouse goes beyond just exceptional steaks. Our skilled chefs, trained internationally, also specialize in delicious fish and pork dishes, catering to a variety of tastes and dietary preferences.

We take pride not only in our high-quality ingredients, but also in the expertise of our chefs. Each dish is meticulously crafted with attention to detail, resulting in an unparalleled dining experience. Whether you prefer classic steak dishes or want to try something new, our diverse menu has options for everyone.

In addition to our mouth-watering food, Joseph Steakhouse boasts a sophisticated and elegant atmosphere, perfect for any occasion. From intimate dinners to celebratory gatherings, our restaurant provides a warm and inviting ambiance that will enhance your dining experience.

Come indulge in the best steak in Hanoi at Joseph Restaurant, where we combine top-quality ingredients, expertly prepared dishes, and a welcoming environment for an unforgettable dining experience.

Garden House Restaurant

Garden House Restaurant
Garden House Restaurant

Garden House Villa Restaurant is a top Vietnamese food destination located in the charming Old Quarter of Hanoi. Tucked away in the winding streets, our restaurant offers a peaceful escape from the busy city. Spacious dining area can accommodate large parties and private events upon request. With four distinct sections, including an outdoor seating area, guests will be pleasantly surprised by the cozy atmosphere throughout the entire building.

The Rhythms Restaurant

The Rhythms Restaurant
The Rhythms Restaurant

The Rhythms, located on the 7th floor of La Sinfonía del Rey Hotel Spa, offers a lovely outdoor dining area with stunning views of Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old Quarter. With delicious food, tempting cocktails, and premium wines, it has been ranked as one of the top five fine dining restaurants in Vietnam by Tripadvisor Travellers Choice in 2022. It is a popular destination for couples to enjoy the romantic sunset from its west-facing terrace.

Lake View Side Restaurant & Cafe

For nearly a century, this establishment has been a go-to spot for Vietnamese cuisine. The Lake View Side Restaurant offers a serene atmosphere to savor delicious dishes from Vietnam. Located in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, the restaurant boasts a peaceful setting and traditional architecture. With highly skilled chefs at the helm, the restaurant sets itself apart with its exceptional Vietnamese cuisine. From the dining area, guests can take in the sweeping views of Hoan Kiem Lake, a historic landmark that has stood for thousands of years.

Trang Tien ice cream

Trang Tien ice cream
Trang Tien ice cream

Founded in 1958, Trang Tien Ice Cream was named after its original location on Trang Tien Street in Hanoi. Over the years, it has been known by various names such as Trang Tien Ice Cream 35, Trang Tien Ice Cream since 1958, and Walking Street Trang Tien Ice Cream.

Despite many changes, Trang Tien Ice Cream remains a beloved dessert spot at No 35 Trang Tien Street in Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. With over 50 years of history, it has become a well-known brand not only in Hanoi but throughout the country. What makes Trang Tien Ice Cream stand out is its traditional and unique flavor.

Despite the passing of time, Trang Tien Ice Cream still maintains its distinctive and delicious taste that cannot be replicated by any other brand. One bite of this ice cream will immediately melt in your mouth, leaving a soft and refreshing sensation. It has captured the hearts of generations, from the elderly to children, with its slightly sweet and perfectly cool flavor.

In addition to its great taste, Trang Tien Ice Cream is also known for its use of natural ingredients and absence of food coloring, making it a safe and hygienic choice for customers. If you ever find yourself in Hanoi, don’t miss the chance to try this famous and beloved local delicacy.

Hotels around Hoan Kiem Lake

With its central location, there are many excellent hotel options just steps from Hoan Kiem Lake for every budget.

L’Signature Hotel & Spa

L'Signature Hotel & Spa
L’Signature Hotel & Spa

LSignature Hotel Spa, located on Bao Khanh Street, offers guests a convenient base to explore Hanoi Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake. Within walking distance, guests can find popular restaurants, bars, shopping areas, and entertainment options.

The hotel boasts 40 luxurious rooms and suites with a blend of classical, traditional Asian, and modern architecture. Each room features calming colors, creating a peaceful atmosphere for both business and leisure travelers after a day of exploring Hanoi.

Guests can enjoy a variety of dining and drinking options at the hotel, including a rooftop Sky Bar with stunning views of the city and lake. In the evenings, guests can watch the sunset and admire the lights of Hoan Kiem Lake while sipping on signature cocktails and wines.

For ultimate relaxation, guests can visit the hotel’s spa and indulge in locally-inspired treatments. The dedicated team of professionals at LSignature Hotel Spa is committed to providing exceptional service from the heart.



Experience the enchanting charm of Hanoi’s Old Quarter at GRAND HOTEL du LAC, our luxurious boutique hotel. Immerse yourself in Vietnamese culture and discover the local treasures as you relax in our British colonial-inspired design with traditional Vietnamese touches.

Every aspect has been carefully designed to provide you with comfort and luxury, creating an unforgettable experience. Take in the stunning views of Hanoi’s skyline from our Ozone Skybar or indulge in authentic Vietnamese cuisine and impeccable service at Café La Rue Pastry.

Treat yourself to a variety of indulgent treatments at La Maison Spa or host intimate gatherings and special occasions at Ding Doong restaurant. However, what truly sets us apart is our dedication to exceptional customer service.

Our team members are friendly and always go above and beyond to exceed your expectations and cater to your every need. Come and discover the best of Hanoi with us by booking your stay today.

Scent Premium Hotel

Scent Premium Hotel
Scent Premium Hotel

Scent Premium Hotel is a hidden gem in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, situated on Hang Hanh Street. It’s conveniently located near Hoan Kiem Lake and surrounded by popular shopping and entertainment areas, making it an ideal spot for both leisure and business travelers.

With 45 modern and stylish rooms, Scent Premium Hotel offers everything that discerning travelers desire. From its floor-to-ceiling windows that offer stunning views of the bustling city, to its luxurious neoclassical design and cozy atmosphere.

The hotel also boasts a variety of onsite dining and drinking options, such as The Scent Ha Noi Restaurant and Scent Sky Bar – known as one of the top rooftop bars in Ha Noi. These venues are perfect for enjoying delicious French cuisine, sipping on fine wines, or simply hanging out with friends.

The friendly staff and management of Scent Premium Hotel warmly invite you to experience the best of Hanoi during your stay.

La Siesta Classic Hang Thung

La Siesta Classic Hang Thung
La Siesta Classic Hang Thung

La Siesta Classic Hang Thung is our latest project, situated on Hang Thung Street in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. With the Red River nearby, this project offers a unique concept with a modern twist. Our aim is to create a Vietnamese-inspired atmosphere, incorporating traditional materials like rattan and ceramics, to help guests better understand our culture while providing a comfortable stay.

The hotel boasts 70 guestrooms spread across 12 floors, with many offering views of the famous Red River and Long Bien Bridge. On the 11th floor, you can dine at our luxury restaurant, or take a dip in the deluxe swimming pool on the ground floor. We offer a variety of room types, from cozy Deluxe rooms to grand La Siesta suites with private terraces, all equipped with amenities, plush mattresses, and double-glazed windows for a peaceful night’s sleep and stunning city views. Free WiFi is available throughout the hotel for your convenience.

Experience top-rated customer service and a stylish stay at La Siesta Classic Hang Thung.

The Oriental Jade Hotel

Oriental Jade Hotel is rated as a 5-star hotel in Hanoi

The Oriental Jade Hotel
The Oriental Jade Hotel

The Oriental Jade Hotel, part of the Oriental Hospitality Group OHG, has 120 luxurious rooms and suites that offer breathtaking views of Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi Cathedral, and the Old Quarter. Situated on Hang Trong Street, the hotel is a convenient starting point for exploring the Old Quarter on foot.

At The Oriental Jade Hotel, guests can unwind at OSpa Lotus, which offers locally-inspired treatments for ultimate relaxation. For those who want to stay active while traveling, our modern gym and outdoor pool on the 12th floor provide a stylish way to exercise while enjoying the stunning scenery of the Old Quarter.


Hoan Kiem Lake is truly the heart of Hanoi. This ancient lake has an intriguing legend tied to Vietnam’s history. Today, it remains the focal point of cultural activity in Hanoi. Exploring the temples, shops, restaurants and streets around the “Lake of the Returned Sword” offers an enchanting glimpse into the city’s heritage. Whether you sit peacefully on a small island pagoda, sample street food at the bustling weekend market or wake up to misty morning views from your hotel room, Hoan Kiem Lake is an essential Hanoi experience.