Ho Tay (West Lake)
Hanoi’s immense Ho Tay (West Lake) offers a peaceful alternative to the bustle of the city. Take a boat cruise and explore historic temples, meander through markets, enjoy the breeze off the water and relax in a serene atmosphere.
Ask about the legends that surround the formation of this large lake. In one, a Chinese buffalo stepped in a hollow in the ground and created the lake. Another tells of the Dragon King, Lac Long Quan, who drowned an evil fox that had nine tails.
Spend a few hours or the whole day here. Walk, jog or cycle around the perimeter or meander through the surrounding gardens.
Enjoy a Ho Tay boat cruise. Sail to the small island where the Tran Quoc Pagoda is located. You can also cross a bridge to reach the island. This 6th-century pagoda is the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi. Explore it at sunset when the stupa stands against the horizon and the colors of the setting sun reflect on the water. May is a particularly stunning time to visit when the lotus flowers bloom and cover parts of the lake.
Another interesting historic building, the Quan Thanh Temple, is located at Thanh Nien Street. It was erected between 1010 and 1028 as one of four sacred temples. Relax in its serene gardens and admire the ancient architecture and ornate woodcarvings that detail sacred animals.
Sample local food, including coconut ice cream eaten from a coconut. Have lunch in a floating restaurant or purchase a coffee and walk along the shore.
Explore the once sleepy town of Tay Ho. This former fishing village has been revived as the city’s creative and fashion quarter where you’ll find boutiques and upscale bistros. Be sure to catch the Tay Ho weekend market on Saturday.
Visit other nearby attractions including the Ho Chi Minh Museum and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Along the south side of the lake are seafood restaurants and east, along the Xuan Dieu, are cafés, restaurants, boutiques and hotels.
Located in northwest Hanoi, Ho Tay is a 10-minute drive from the Old Quarter.