West Lake was created from a curved part of Red River and appeared in several Vietnamese legends. One legend suggests that West Lake was shaped after the battle between Lạc Long Quân and a nine-tailed fox spirit, and that's why the lake was once called "Fox Corpse Swamp" (Đầm Xác Cáo). Another folk story claimed that original name of the lake was "Golden Buffalo Lake" (Hồ Trâu Vàng, or Han Viet: Hồ Kim Ngưu) because it was formed from struggle of a buffalo after the disappearance of her calf. In the 11th century, the lake was named "Foggy Lake" (Han Viet: Hồ Dâm Đàm) due to its misty condition. Ultimately its name was changed to "West Lake" in 1573 to avoid the given name of king Lê Thế Tông, which was Duy Đàm.Location
: Tay Ho district, Hanoi
: 5.3 km²
Shore length: 17 km
West Lake is bordered by many significant places in the history of Hanoi and Vietnam. Trấn Quốc Pagoda, the oldest pagoda in Vietnam, was built in the 6th century by Lý Nam Đế and is located on a small island in the middle of the lake. Near Tran Quoc Pagoda is Quán Thánh Temple, one of the Four Sacred Temples of ancient Hanoi (Vietnamese: Tứ trấn Thăng Long). Chu Van An High School, one of the oldest high schools in Vietnam, is also located close to the lake.
Tay Ho District is known for housing Hanoi’s largest freshwater lake, called West Lake. It’s a huge body of water – it has a circumference of 17km – and there are plenty of historic places of interest, five-star hotels, stylish restaurants, cafes, and nightlife venues that are worth exploring along the shoreline.
Accessible within a 15-minute drive from Hanoi Old Quarter, many locals and tourists seeking respite from the busy city make their way to this high-end district as it provides a sanctuary of great natural beauty with plenty of quiet spots in the sizeable botanical gardens.
The other main attraction is Quan Thanh Temple, which is located at the West Lake crossroads of Thanh Nien Street and Quan Thanh Street. One of Vietnam’s ancient Four Sacred Temples built during the reign of King Ly Thai To from 1010 to 1028, the temple features detailed wood carvings of sacred animals, trees and flowers in its structure. Quan Thanh Temple is open for all to enter with sightseers encouraged to pray for health, luck and happiness during their visit.
When it comes to dining options, the southern part of West Lake is the place to go for seafood bites, with a whole street dedicated to local seafood restaurants while the northern side is where you can find the affluent residential neighbourhood and five-star hotels in Tay Ho District.
West Lake is a beautiful place to while away an afternoon: there are boats for hire and lunch on a floating restaurant makes a novel dining option. Notable points of interest at West Lake include Tran Quoc Pagoda which was built in the 6th century, making it Vietnam’s oldest temple. Tran Quoc Pagoda resides on a small island built by King Ly Nam De as a cultural symbol of Vietnamese Buddhism. The pagoda is particularly stunning when viewed early evening at sunset.
Hemispheres Steak & Seafood Grill offers specialties from both the northern and southern hemisphere, complemented by an extensive wine list for affluent visitors in Hanoi. Located within Sheraton Hanoi Hotel, this elegant steakhouse features expansive views of the fountain courtyard and West Lake, while the kitchen is headed by Australian chef Patrick Morris.
Nightlife in Tay Ho District is limited compared to Hanoi Old Quarter and French Quarter, but there are several quality nightlife venues that stay busy until late. Savage Club Hanoi, open between 18:00 and 04:00, is an industrial-style nightlife venue where travellers can enjoy house and techno music spun by renowned international and local DJs during their holiday in Hanoi.
The Summit Lounge, located on the 20th floor of Pan Pacific Hanoi, is perfect if you’re looking to enjoy a wide range of cocktails with panoramic views of Tay Ho Lake and Hanoi. Signature cocktails include Lip Stick (Absolut Mango Vodka, Malibu, raspberry, cranberry and lime sugar), Zacapa le Rouge (Zacapa 23, Creme de Cacao Dark, raspberries, lime juice, honey and ginger), but the rooftop bar’s menu also comprises single malt whiskies, premium spirits, wines and champagnes by the glass and bottle.
7 Things to Try Around Hanoi’s West Lake
Taking pictures at the Lotus Pond
If you are coming to the capital of Vietnam around May or June, you’re in luck. Be sure to capitalize on the picture perfect moment being surrounded but blooming lotuses all around the lake. West Lake lotus flowers have a beauty that is almost exclusive, with its fresh light pink petals. As the flower blooms, layers and layers of its petals are open, you can see the tiny yellow seeds inside of it. Lotus flowers represent for Vietnam not only in its appearance, but also in its pleasant and sweet fragrance. Wear a Vietnamese Ao Dai and take pictures to give yourself the true Hanoian experience!
Lake View cafes
Hanging out with your travel buddies and stopping by one of the coffee shops by the lakeside is definitely a must! During the cool and peaceful autumn days, taking a sip of your Vietnamese iced coffee while enjoying the sunset at West Lake is an incredibly relaxing experience. If coffee isn’t for you, there is always an assortment of refreshing beverages and snacks for you to choose and enjoy! Hundreds of cafes are there for you to choose; however, we recommend that you choose the multi-level ones, where you can watch the sunset from a high place without being your view being impaired by vehicles on the streets.
Over the last couple of years, cycling around West Lake has become a trend for enthusiasts and visitors alike. Being one of the largest lakes in the country, a ride on two-wheels around the lake would be more preferable to those who want to experience the whole round in just one day. It takes an average of an hour and a half to completely circle the lake. Cycling in the early mornings or late afternoons allows you to beat the heat, and potentially even join others on the same journey!
Eating West Lake Ice Cream
There is Thuy Ta Ice-cream, Trang Tien Ice-cream, and yes, West Lake Ice-cream as well. It is not hard for you to spot out the unique West Lake Ice-cream store on Thanh Nien Street, opposite Tran Quoc Pagoda. The price for a West Lake ice-cream is cheaper than a Trang Tien one. Although there are not many seats available in this store, you can still sit anywhere you want and ask the sellers to serve the ice-cream cups to you. Or, take the ice cream in a cone and continue your walk around the lake!
Banh Tom Ho Tay – the West Lake crispy shrimp cakes
We can’t mention Hanoi’s West Lake without mentioning its namesake dish, Banh Tom Ho Tay. Take fresh, raw crayfish, wrap them in flour and deep fry until golden; crispy seafood deliciousness! These are best served with some sweet and sour dipping sauce and a bowl of pickles, creating perfect blend of textures and taste. What could be better than having this as an afternoon snack with your friends after a long day of cycling around the lake? One of the most famous restaurants to enjoy this dish is the one located on Thanh Nien Street, actually the first to bring this street food specialty to the restaurant setting. Both as a street food snack and a dine-in delicacy, the dish brings a unique taste to patrons.
Enjoy a date on a Duck Pedal Boat in West Lake
Duck Pedal Boats are the perfect date night idea for you and that special someone you want to impress while enjoying West Lake. Offering rentals by the hour, there is an opportunity to have a private moment to enjoy each other’s company while escaping the hustle and bustle of city life for a bit. Enjoy the peacefulness while you cruise across the lake! Just keep in mind the weather: the sun can be quickly cause the moment to heat up to uncomfortable levels.
Fine dining restaurants, why not?
Hanoi West Lake is huge, and there’s a variety of restaurants to enjoy located right on the lakefront. No matter what kind of food you are craving, there is something for everyone! One of the main attractions, is the selection of fresh seafood. Keep in mind, however, you may want to make reservations before arriving these lakefront seafood restaurants do attract quite the crowd!
What to Eat in West Lake Hanoi, Vietnam
Where to Go at Night in West Lake Hanoi, Vietnam