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”. Another folk story claimed that original name of the lake was “Golden Buffalo Lake” 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” 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.
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.
Known locally as Tay Ho Lake, the actual history of West Lake remains a mystery to this very day, though one legend claims that it was formed when the Dragon King Lac Long Quan drowned a wicked fox spirit with nine tails in his lair. Another folklore source claims that the lake was formed when a large Chinese buffalo mistakenly confused a pagoda temple bell with its mothers call and ran so fiercely into a small hollow that the lake was made.
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. 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. 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. The area to the south side of West Lake is the place to go for seafood bites with a whole street of seafood restaurants available to choose from.