Published/Last edited or updated: 10th April, 2017
Also known as Ho Tay or Lake of Mist, West Lake covers a sizeable part of northwest Hanoi and offers an array of attractions.
While tourists flock to Old Quarter, West Lake is probably the most popular neighbourhood for expats. And while you'll find an abundance of Western-orientated restaurants, bars and shops here, normal and colourful Vietnamese life filters through all around them, from streetside food joints to fishermen and temples.
As well as escaping the busy streets of Hanoi, the lake provides an opportunity to watch fishermen at work, to see some very pretty temples—scattered around the shore—and to enjoy a coffee or beer while enjoying the breeze that comes across the lake (not so good on a cold and windy day, but lovely in summer). And the views across the lake on a sunny day are impressive.
According to legend, the lake was formed by the footprint of a golden calf running towards the sound of a giant bell. In its heyday, the lake was lined by royal palaces, which are now mostly gone and replaced by high-end housing and luxury hotels.
It's a 15-kilometre walk around the lake. Consider hiring a bicycle to circumnavigate the whole way—clockwise so avoiding the need to cross over too many roads—or do some of it on foot. Exploring a little, especially around the Sheraton and Intercontinental neighbourhoods, will have you stumble across cafes as well as streetside restaurants, and you'll see fishermen either patiently waiting for a catch, or in the lake itself. Watch out for the golf driving range; players whack their balls directly into the lake, where they fall into a large net that collects them all.
Around Truc Bach (the small lake to the southeast of West Lake) you'll spy lovers in swan boats; paddle steamers hosting weddings and parties; and teenagers eating ice cream. It's all overlooked by the Pan Pacific, where you can nip up for a sunset drink to get a view of it all in one eyeful. If heights aren't your think, try a sunset cocktail at the swish low-rise Intercontinental instead, set lakeside.
If you have time up your sleeve, it's a pleasant enough walk to the lake from the Old Quarter. Take Phan Ding Phung Street to see some of Hanoi's swishest villas, and along the way, pop into Quan Thanh and Tran Quoc pagodas before taking a swan boat ride yourself.
If you're spending any length of time in Hanoi, you may return to the West Lake/Truc Bach area several times, perhaps for a good massage, a fine craft beer at Standing Bar or Furbrew or to see the flower market. Hanoi is much more than the Old Quarter, and the fast development around West Lake is part of this boom.
Samantha Brown is a reformed news reporter. She now edits most of the stuff you read on Travelfish.org, except for when you find a typo, and then that's something she wasn't allowed to look at.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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