Where to visit in Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi Old Quarter

Hoan Kiem Lake is a famous lake located in the center of Hanoi. Some people say that Hoan Kiem Lake is considered a bouquet, which plays an important role in making the landscape of the city more beautiful and airy. 

1. Discovering the turtle tower, Hoan Kiem lake

Erected on a small islet at the center of Hoan Kiem Lake, the Turtle Tower was built from the middle of 1884 to April 1886. The Turtle Tower was based on the same site with Ta Vong Temple which disappeared between the Restored Le Dynasty and the Nguyen Dynasty. The highlight of this tower is its special architecture which was influenced by French style.

The Turtle Tower has the shape of the rectangle and comprises of 4 floors. The first floor is 6.28 long and 4.54 meters wide. On each long side of this floor (on the East and West), there are 3 doors. Meanwhile, each shorter side has 2 doors. All doors have vaulted shapes like those ones of the church of Gothic architecture. The second floor is 4.8 meters long and 3.64 meters wide and has the same architecture as the first floor. The third floor is 2.97 meters long and only 1.9 meters wide. This floor features one and only oval door with a diameter of 0.68 meters on the East side. Above the door imprinted 3 words “Quy Son Thap” (it means that the tower of turtle mountain).

At the top of the tower is a belvedere which is square-shaped. Each side of the Belvedere is 2 meters long. On this Belvedere, the French used to place their “Statue of Liberty” which was removed in 1945 when the Tran Trong Kim Government regained the control of Hanoi from the French. Back in those years during the French occupation, this Belvedere was also where Vietnamese people hang the revolutionary flag in defiance of French rules. Therefore, over more than 150 years, the Turtle Tower has stood majestically as a symbol of patriotic pride of Vietnamese people.

2. Visiting Ngoc Son temple, Hoan Kiem lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

Location: In the North of Hoan Kiem Lake
Open hours: 08:00 – 18:00
Price: VND 30,000/adult, free for children under 15 years old.


Meaning “Temple of the Jade Mountain”, Ngoc Son Temple is located in an islet in the North of Hoan Kiem Lake. This temple is connected with the lakeshore by a vibrant red bridge called The Huc. According to ancient documents preserved in this temple, Ngoc Son Temple in its original form was a pagoda built on the site of the old Thuy Khanh Palace. This pagoda was also called was donated to build by a man called Tin Trai and was completed in the autumn of 1841. Then it was yielded to a charity which changed this pagoda to Tam Thanh Temple. This charity removed campanile rebuilt the main compartments and the chain of rooms in two sides. They also placed the statue of the national great scholar Van Xuong to worship. At that time, this pagoda was officially changed into and called “Ngoc Son Temple”. In 1865, this temple underwent a comprehensive renovation by Nguyen Van Sieu, an eminent scholar of the old Thang Long Capital. It’s also the time when many other structures were established and upgraded to create a new complex of relics. This complex including The Huc Bridge, But Thap (Pen Tower) and Dai Nghien (Ink Slab) still remains until today.

3. Admiring the beauty of Hoan Kiem lake from The Huc bridge

As mentioned above, The Huc Bridge leading to Ngoc Son Temple was built by Nguyen Van Sieu in 1865. The name of this bridge means that “the place in which the sunlight falls”. This bridge of 15 spans consists of 32 bases of columns which are divided into 16 pairs. The floor was boarded with wooden plank painted red. The Huc Bridge has a vibrant red color which is more gorgeously in the colorful light at night. Overcoming more than 50 years of ups and downs, The Huc Bridge is not merely a normal bridge but a bridge associating the daily life to the spiritual life of those people visiting here.

4. Visiting Pen tower, Hoan Kiem lake, Hanoi

Pen Tower, widely known as Thap But, is located in the entrance to Ngoc Son Temple. Built-in 1865 as the proposal of the scholar Nguyen Van Sieu, Pen Tower is 28 meters high and features five floors. This Tower was constructed with stones and was based on a four-meter-high stone structure. At the tip of the tower resembles a writing brush which is 0.9 meters high.  Imprinted on the tower are the words “Writing on the clear blue sky” which means “always be upright and truthful”. The Pen Tower is not only a principle of feng-shui but also a symbol glorifying the importance of literature. In addition, this tower demonstrates the power and martial art of the Trinh Lord.

5. Visiting the St.Joseph’s Cathedral, Hanoi St. Joseph’s Cathedral

At 40 Nha Chung Street stands a 120-year-old Roman Catholic cathedral called the St. Joseph’s Cathedral? Widely known as Nha Tho Lon, this cathedral was completed 1886 and was based on the site of Bao Thien Pagoda. The highlight of the St. Joseph’s Cathedral is its neo-gothic architecture (also known as the Gothic Revival Style). Built mainly with stone slabs and bricks, this façade is 64.5 meters long and 20.5 meters wide. The St. Joseph’s Cathedral comprises of two towers of 31.5-meter height. Each tower consists of five bells. These twin bell towers are often compared to those ones at Notre Dame de Paris. When visiting this cathedral, you’ll be attracted by the exterior wall made of granite stone slabs.

The St. Joseph’s Cathedral boasts the windows fitted with tall stained glass and featuring pointed arches. All ceiling found in this cathedral are rib vaulted like those ones found in medieval Europe. While the colorful windows and religious paintings for decoration in the St. Joseph’s Cathedral follow the Western style, the main interior part represents strongly the Vietnamese cultures. On the left of the nave is a statue of the Virgin Mary.

When visiting the St. Joseph’s Cathedral, in addition to discovering the beauty of the cathedral, you can join “Tra chanh chem gio” (enjoying iced lemon tea and chatting happily with friends) which is s the highlight of Hanoi’s society. Besides, you can drop in many nearby eye-catching souvenir shops to buy some gifts for your family and friends. The St. Joseph’s Cathedral is also home to a lot of tasty Western Restaurants.

I hope with these 5 suggested destinations you can enjoy a trip around Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi Old Quarter!

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