Hoan Kiem Lake
Covering an area of around 12 hectares, Hoan Kiem Lake (Hồ Hoàn Kiếm, meaning Lake of the Returned Sword, also known as Sword Lake), is located at the historical center of the city. The lake is considered the center of Ha Noi, not only physically but also symbolically.
This name is related to the famous historical legend of King Le Thai To in the 15th century. Originally, it used to be called Luc Thuy (Green Water) Lake, since the water was green all the year round. It is said that during the war against Minh aggressors, King Le Thai To was given a precious fairy sword by the Golden Turtle God. After ten years of continuous struggling, the King finally defeated the invaders and reclaimed the nation’s independence. One day, while boating on Luc Thuy Lake, suddenly a large turtle surfaced, took the sword from his belt and dived back into the deep water carrying the glowing sword. Efforts were made to find both the sword and the turtle but without success. Le Loi then acknowledged that the sword had gone back to the Golden Turtle (Kim Quy), and he renamed the lake Hoan Kiem (Returned Sword).
The Turtle Tower (Tháp Rùa) standing on a small island near the centre of lake is linked to the legend. Near the northern shore of the lake is Ngoc Son (Jade Mountain) Temple, which is connected to the shore by the wooden red-painted The Huc Bridge (meaning Morning Sunlight Bridge).
Not only special for its history and nearby historical sites, Hoan Kiem Lake has a beautiful landscape; it is considered a scenic, relaxing escape from the chaos and bustle of the Old Quarter’s streets.
Since Hoan Kiem Lake is centrally located, it takes only few minutes walking from Ha Noi Old Quarter and about 40 minutes driving from Noi Bai International Airport to get here. Visitors can do exercise in the morning, wander or take a cyclo tour around the lake to enjoy the stunning landscape, fresh air and peaceful moments.
Truc Bach Lake
Located northwest of Ha Noi's Old Quarter, Truc Bach is one of the city’s natural lakes surrounded by beautiful landscape and historical sites.
Truc Bach Lake is immediately adjacent to the eastern shore of the city's largest lake, the West Lake (Hồ Tây), a former branch of the Red River. Truc Bach Lake was separated from West Lake by the construction of Thanh Nien Road.
The front side of the lake is open only along Thanh Nien Road; the other sides are occupied by houses and streets. There are different historical sites around the lake, such as Quan Thanh Temple to the southwest, Chau Long Pagoda to the east, An Tri Temple on Pho Duc Chinh Street. On a small islet in the northern corner of the lake, is a temple.
In 2000, Truc Bach Lake was upgraded; two streets called Truc Bach and Tran Vu were built, circling the lake and linking the two ends of Thanh Nien Road. The lake’s banks are paved with stone. There are small flower gardens around the lake, along with rows of willow and bamboo trees. Today, Truc Bach Lake, West Lake and Thanh Nien Road make a harmonious complex of beautiful spots that can fascinate anyone to Ha Noi.
Visiting Truc Bach Lake, travelers can enjoy beautiful landscape and fresh air, have a cup of Trung Nguyen coffee at nearby cafe, or walk around the lake to see daily life of Vietnamese people.
With a shore length of 17 kilometers, West Lake is the largest freshwater lake of Ha Noi and a place for recreation with beautiful landscape and many historical sites.
Legend said that West Lake was founded after the battle between Lac Long Quan and a nine-tailed fox spirit, and therefore called "Fox Corpse Swamp" (Đầm Xác Cáo). Another folk story told that it was created when a golden buffalo mistook the sound of a bell of a pagoda for its mother's voice and ran away, creating the lake by stepping into a hollow.
Walking around the lake, visitors will enjoy peaceful and serene moments, have great views of the beautiful landscape and observe the daily life in the city, as they see the locals fishing, having morning coffee or doing exercises. In early summer days, the area is highlighted with beautiful lotus flowers.
The West Lake area is bordered by many historical places. Highlight is Tran Quoc, the oldest pagoda of Ha Noi, originally built in the sixth century. Located on a small island near the southeastern shore of the lake, the pagoda offers unique architecture, beautiful landscape and peaceful atmosphere. Another one is Quan Thanh, one of the four sacred temples built in four directions to protect the capital from malevolent spirits.
The surrounding area of West Lake is abundant with gardens, hotels, restaurants and other entertainment centers both in Western and Vietnamese styles, and therefore attracts many foreigners.