If you are visiting Hanoi's Old Quarter, one of the first sights you'll see is Hoan Kiem Lake, the "Lake of the Returned Sword". The small lake is the heart of Hanoi's historical old town, and is steeped in ancient myth and legend. Ngoc Son Temple, the Temple of the Jade Mountain, sits on a small island within the lake. Both the lake and the temple are picturesque historical and cultural sights that you must see when visiting Hanoi.
Built in 1865, Ngoc Son Temple is a Confucian and Taoist temple on Hoan Kiem Lake. Visitors to the temple must cross the beautiful and historic red bridge to Jade Island. It's a beautiful and picturesque spot, and very popular for taking photos!
There is a small entrance fee to enter the temple, which goes towards upkeep and maintenance.
Ticket: 30,000d ($1.50)
Student (including ISIC card): 15,000d ($0.75)
Ngoc Sen is a dual Taoist and Confucian temple. There are shrines inside the main temple hall to the Taoist deities and philosophers, and braziers for burning joss paper and ghost money.
There is a very famous Vietnamese legend about Hoan Kiem Lake. 15th century Vietnamese emperor Le Loi was given a magical sword. He used this sword to fight and vanquish the invading Chinese army. After the war, he rowed out on the lake, and returned the sword to the Golden Turtle God, who took it back under the water. The turtle is one of Vietnam's "Four Sacred Animals", and represents knowledge, longevity, and wisdom. Today, the turtle and the sword is a symbol of Hanoi, and you will see the iconography all over the city,
The turtles aren't just a myth! There is even a stuffed Hoan Kiem turtle on display inside the temple. Although the last known Hoan Kiem turtle died in 2016, who knows if the turtle from the legend is still waiting under the water with his magical sword?
Spend a relaxing afternoon sitting by the lake. It's a beautiful and calm spot in the midst of the chaos of Hanoi! In the center of the lake is the Turtle Tower, which is dedicated to the Golden Turtle God of legend. Although you can't cross the water to the historic tower, it is a beautiful sight for taking photos, especially at night, when the tower is lit up with golden light.
There are many shops and cafes on the lake shore. Order a famous Vietnamese iced coffee and sit by the lake enjoying the view. If you wake up early enough, join the old folks practicing Tai Chi in the park or go for a jog on the path around the lake.