Hoan Kiem Lake, or the lake of the returned sword as known by the locals, is the place to look for turtles. If spotted, they are said to bring you great fortune. This neighbourhood is loved by the local citizens of Hanoi. There are a few scenic spot and activities taking place around Hoan Kiem lake. The weekends turn this area into a kind of festival atmosphere, which is celebrated by locals and visitors alike. The enchanting story sums up the magical feel which sprinkles around Hoan Kiem Lake.
The legend has it that the Emperor, Le Loi, was sailing around the lake. He had just defeated the invading army from Ming Dynasty China and was sowing gratitude by visiting the lake. While crossing the lake, a golden turtle god came to the surface and requested Le Loi return his sword, the sword which gave him the victory of the Ming Army. Le Loi figured that this sword must be returned to the dragon god and so gave the sword back to the turtle. To commemorate this event, the turtle tower is displayed in the middle of the lake. This is a favourite photo shot for many visitors to the lake.
The lake has a pathway stretching the circumference of the lake. From here, people can walk around the lake. At the north of Hoan Kiem lake is the Temple of the Jade Mountain, located on Jade Island. The temple pays homage to the local General Tarn Hung Dao, who defeated the legendary Genghis Khan and the Mongol Armies in the 13th Century. Jade Island is connected by the wooden bridge painted in vermillion red, The Huc Bridge. This has some fabulous views during sunrise, which is why it is named the perch of morning sunlight’ by the locals.
Local craftsmen and artists are surrounding the lake all week long. The best time to see the lake in full swing is during the weekends. From Friday evening to Sunday evening, all the roads around the lake are pedestrianised. Live music shows and opportunities to taste local delicacies arrive in the form of pop up stages and stalls around the lake. You’ll see buskers familiar to those seen in the West. Craftsmen and artists are around to make personal gifts for you at reasonable prices. There’s a children’s games section at one part of the lake, a local dancing milonga and a small outdoor market close to the Jade Temple. Hoan Kiem lake is lit up with a calm white-yellow glow during this time and is a soothing yet exhilarating stroll around during this time.
It is recommended to visit the lake at weekends, but the weekdays still have various sights and entertainment to be seen and is a calmer experience. No visitor can come to Hanoi without seeing this immortal timepiece that represents Hanoi, present, past and future.
Hoan Kiem Lake is open all day, every day. You’ll need to cross a road to access the pathway, though roads become part of the lake during weekends.