Photo: One of the entrance gates to Ngoc Son Temple.

Ngoc Son Temple

Our rating:

In the northern part of Hoan Kiem Lake, and accessed from the eastern side, sits Ngoc Son Pagoda, or Pagoda of the Jade Mountain, first used as a site of worship in the 14th century.



To get to the pagoda, you’ll cross The Huc, or Rising Sun, bridge, a beautiful red wooden structure built in 1885 in classic Vietnamese style, and one of Hanoi’s most iconic images. Then you’ll find various little buildings on the island, including an outdoor area with space for just relaxing to take in the lake-side breeze and the colourful crowd—for crowded it usually is.

Takin' in the view and the breeze at Ngoc Son. Photo taken in or around Ngoc Son Temple, Hanoi, Vietnam by Samantha Brown.

Takin' in the view and the breeze at Ngoc Son. Photo: Samantha Brown

At the entrance to the bridge are two monuments constructed in 1864, one representing an ink brush (a nine-metre tower) and the other an inkwell (a hollow rock held by three frogs). In the early morning of the festival of Doan Ngo, held on the fifth day of the fifth month, the shadow of the brush is positioned at the centre of the inkwell. The Chinese characters on the ink brush announce it’s an instrument to write on the sky.

The pretty site surrounded by water has been used as a temple since ancient times, but most of the current structures here were built during the 19th century. It offers an eclectic variety of forefathers for Vietnamese to pay homage to, such as Confucian and Taoist notables, as well as intellectual Van Xuong, national hero General Tran Hung Dao, who defeated invading Mongols in the 13th century, La To, patron saint of doctors, and Quan Vu, a martial arts expert. It’s a testament to how ancestor worship trumps Buddhism in the belief system of the average Vietnamese pagoda-goer.

A popular spot for a snap. Photo taken in or around Ngoc Son Temple, Hanoi, Vietnam by Samantha Brown.

A popular spot for a snap. Photo: Samantha Brown

There are various altars where the devoted worship by lighting incense and making offerings, and resident calligraphers were here when we last stopped by, too.

One of the surrounding lake’s last two revered soft-shell turtles died in 2016, and you’re unlikely to spy the other allegedly still here, but you’ll still have a chance to see one preserved behind glass at Ngoc Son, finished in what looks like lavish gold leaf after its death in 1968.

Fast or slow, nobody ever really wins the race. Photo taken in or around Ngoc Son Temple, Hanoi, Vietnam by Samantha Brown.

Fast or slow, nobody ever really wins the race. Photo: Samantha Brown

Do make sure you have a good wander around outside. We found a tiny little "beach" beneath thick branches that made for an evocative, hushed spot away from the crowds; we felt like we’d stepped back in time.

There’s often a steady river of people streaming in and out of the pagoda, but not just tourists. This is an active temple, with many Vietnamese worshippers coming to light incense and offer prayers. Please do dress and behave accordingly.

Imagining the Hanoi of yesteryear. Photo taken in or around Ngoc Son Temple, Hanoi, Vietnam by Samantha Brown.

Imagining the Hanoi of yesteryear. Photo: Samantha Brown

The temple is a good spot to start and end a circumnavigation of Hoan Kiem Lake, or is easily combined with a stop at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre to book tickets in advance of seeing a show.



Ngoc Son Temple
Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi
Daily 07:00-18:00
Admission: 30,000 dong

By .

Location map for Ngoc Son Temple

Popular attractions in Hanoi

A selection of some of our favourite sights and activities around Hanoi.



Best places to stay in Hanoi

A selection of some of our favourite places to stay in Hanoi.


What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Hanoi.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Hanoi.
 Check out our listings of other things to do in and around Hanoi.
 Read up on how to get to Hanoi, or book your transport online with Baolau.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Hanoi? Please read this.
 Browse tours in Vietnam with Tourradar.




Like what you see? Then you’ll love our newsletter

The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.


See below for more sights and activities in Hanoi that are listed on Travelfish.org.


Top of page