The Hoan Kiem Lake Walking Street, open during weekends, stands as a vital hub for leisure and recreation, catering to both tourists and locals in the heart of the capital.
Opened officially in September 2016 after a two-year pilot, the pedestrian street area around Hoan Kiem Lake is now accessible every weekend, starting from 7 p.m. on Friday and ending at midnight on Sunday.
A corner of Hoan Kiem Lake pedestrian street near Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
The walking street passes through downtown streets including Trang Tien, Dinh Le, as well as Hoan Kiem Lake itself. In conjunction with a night market and street food area, it extends into streets such as Hang Duong, Hang Ngang, Hang Dao, Hang Buom, Ma May, and Hang Giay, ending at Dong Xuan Market.
At the end of 2020, the city’s expansion plans also include additional streets south of the Old Quarter, connecting the northern region of Hoan Kiem Lake.
After seven years of operation, the walking pedestrian street around Hoan Kiem Lake has become an iconic destination, drawing both domestic and international visitors.
Each weekend, an average of 25,000 to 35,000 people come to the walking street, with numbers surging to up to 50,000 during the Lunar New Year.
How to get there
First-time visitors can opt for taxi services or ride-sharing platforms for transport.
For those traveling on motorcycles or bicycles, there are many parking facilities around the lake, including locations along Hang Trong, Bao Khanh, Luong Van Can, Ly Thai To and Ngo Quyen streets.
Some car parking options encompass the area around the Vietnam National Museum of History near the Hanoi Opera House, Tran Nhat Duat, Le Phung Hieu, Ly Thuong Kiet, Tran Hung Dao, and Hai Ba Trung streets.
Public transportation routes servicing Hoan Kiem Lake include bus lines 08, 09, 14, 31, 36, and 86.
What to do
Historical sites bordering Hoan Kiem Lake include Ngoc Son Temple and The Huc Bridge, the flower garden at Ly Thai To Monument, the Monument ‘Determined to Brave Death for the Survival of the Fatherland’, Ba Kieu Temple opposite to Ngoc Son Temple, and the statue of King Le. Most of these landmarks are available for free.
Youth groups and art troupes perform on Hoan Kiem Lake pedestrian street. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Anh.
Alongside traditional games, visitors come to the walking street for these regular displays of music, dance, magician acts, and other variety performances. Special activities usually intensify during the Tet holidays.
Thang Long Water Puppet Theater, situated at 57B Dinh Tien Hoang Street, is a long-standing institution dating back over 50 years. This is one of the few traditional puppet theaters that remains open and continues to captivate audiences, especially foreigners.
Some of the engaging performances are Uncle Teu’s Tale, Vinh quy bai to (Honoring ancestral homage after achieving academic distinction), Mua tu linh (Dance of the four holy beasts), lion dance, fairy dance, and programs catered to children. The duration of each show typically spans about 45 minutes.
– Summer: 4:10p.m., 5:20p.m., 6:30p.m., and 8p.m.
– Winter: 3p.m., 4:10p.m., 5:20p.m., 6:30p.m., 8p.m., and 9:15p.m.
– Sundays: 9:30 a.m.
– Ticket prices: VND100,000 ($4.20) – VND150,000 ($6.30) – VND200,000 ($8.40).
Double-decker bus tours
Hanoi has two operators running double-decker bus tours, both starting and ending near the Toad Flower Garden next to Hoan Kiem Lake Walking Street. These routes encompass landmarks including the Vietnam Military History Museum, Thang Long Imperial Citadel, Quan Thanh Temple, Tran Quoc Pagoda, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Temple of Literature, Hoa Lo Prison, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, and renowned streets such as Thanh Nien, Hoang Dieu, Phan Dinh Phung. A complete route takes approximately 90 minutes. Tickets can be purchased on-site or online.
A double-decker bus in Hanoi stands out with its vibrant red hue. Photo courtesy of Hanoi City Tour
The buses run every 30 minutes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with narration available in Vietnamese, English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French, Spanish and German. Other entertainment features are also provided onboard.
Route 1 offers four ticket categories: VND196,000 for 2 hours, VND300,000 for 4 hours, VND450,000 for 24 hours, and VND650,000 for 48 hours.
Route 2 offers three ticket categories: VND219,000 for 4 hours, VND329,000 for 24 hours, VND479,000 for 48 hours.
Children’s activities and traditional games
To recapture the charm of old-fashioned folk games, the organizers of the pedestrian street often arrange contests involving games like o an quan (Mandarin square capturing), walking on stilts, danh chuyen (bamboo jacks), shuttlecock kicking, tug-of-war, and making to he (rice flour toy figurines).
These games can be enjoyed along the route encircling Hoan Kiem Lake. Children can also partake in other activities such as riding kids’ electric cars, rollerblading, statue painting, and reading.
Artists offering portrait services on Dinh Tien Hoang Street. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Anh
Located along Dinh Tien Hoang Street, the portrait sketching area offers an opportunity to sit for around 10 minutes and receive a personalized portrait at a cost of VND100,000 to VND150,000 ($4.20 to $.6.30). With over 10 artists, often art school students or traditional painters, this service has garnered popularity, especially during Tet.
The night market, spanning Hang Ngang, Hang Dao, and Hang Duong streets, operates from 7 p.m. until midnight during three weekends. Besides eateries lining the sides of the streets, vendors are also permitted to set up mobile stalls in the middle, leaving a walkway measuring 3 to 3.5 meters on each side. Offerings at the night market include clothing, handicrafts and souvenirs.
What to eat
Papaya salad at Hoan Kiem Lake Street
Stretching along the lakeside, Hoan Kiem Lake Street extends between Dinh Tien Hoang on one end and Cau Go on the other. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Anh
Located by the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater, Hoan Kiem Lake Street encompasses 52 meters and is known as the shortest street in Hanoi. It is renowned among food enthusiasts, especially for its green papaya salad with beef jerky.
This dish combines green papaya, shredded carrots, beef jerky, roasted peanuts, herbs, and a sweet and sour fish sauce dressing. Apart from beef jerky, it also features other options like beef liver, roasted bird, and banh bot loc (clear shrimp and pork dumplings).
Mixed fruits at To Tich Street
To Tich Street offers a refreshing treat called mixed fruits with various fruits chopped, mixed with milk, condensed milk, yogurt, or caramel sauce. This dessert is perfect for savoring on warm days. Despite its short length of 100 meters, To Tich Street has about a dozen mixed fruit shops. The shops on To Tich Street have also expanded to serve che (sweet soup) from other regions.
Recognizable by its neon yellow signage, Cafe Dinh is renowned for its signature egg coffee. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Anh
Hoan Kiem Lake is known for its cozy attic cafes, often featuring a small space with balconies offering picturesque lake views. To reach these cafes, you will venture down narrow alleys and ascend steep stairs. Among these, the most famous is Dinh Coffee at 13 Dinh Tien Hoang Street. With a history spanning about four decades, this establishment serves traditional coffee and egg coffee.
Additional options include L’etage Cafe, Highlands Coffee, Cong Coffee, Cafe Balcony, and Old Quarter Coffee. Moreover, there are several shops near the lake such as Luc Thuy Cafe & Lounge and Four Seasons Coffee.
Four Seasons Coffee is situated near Hoan Kiem Lake. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Anh
Trang Tien ice cream
Trang Tien, founded in 1958 alongside other ice cream brands influenced by the French presence, is situated on Trang Tien Street.
It offers a variety of flavors such as green beans, young green rice, and chocolate. Its ice cream cone is also a hit among diners. Although products were once primarily consumed on-site, they are now packaged for takeaway, making this culinary brand an iconic cultural feature of Hanoi.
Thuy Ta Restaurant
Thuy Ta Restaurant allows diners to savor their food while enjoying a view of Hoan Kiem Lake. Photo courtesy of Thuy Ta Restaurant
Thuy Ta Restaurant stands on Ly Thai To Street and overlooks Hoan Kiem Lake. Established in 1958, the restaurant offers Vietnamese cuisine, coffee, and ice cream. While it is considered an iconic eatery ideal for first-time dates seeking an authentic Hanoi ambiance, locals find it pricey with food that doesn’t measure up to other options.
Within a radius of 500 meters to 1 kilometer around the Hoan Kiem pedestrian street, visitors can savor a wide array of dishes like pho, snail noodle soup, sticky rice, crab noodle soup, grilled pork with vermicelli, Siamese duck noodle soup, fermented pork rolls, and deep-fried pillow cakes.
Places to check out include:
- Pho Suong at 24 Trung Yen Alley, Dinh Liet Street, Hoan Kiem District
- Pho Ly Quoc Su, 10 Ly Quoc Su Street, Hoan Kiem District
- Pho Au Trieu, 34 Au Trieu Street, Hoan Kiem District
- Pho Bat Dan, 49 Bat Dan Street, Hoan Kiem District
- Chicken pho Bao Khanh, 20 Bao Khanh Street, Hoan Kiem District
- Snail noodle soup at Mrs Them, 6 Hang Chai Street, Hoan Kiem District
- Yen’s sticky rice, 29A Tran Hung Dao Street, Hoan Kiem District
- Trang’s crab noodle soup, 23 Nguyen Sieu Street, Hoan Kiem District
- Grilled pork with vermicelli, 74 Hang Quat Street, Hoan Kiem District
- Nhan’s Siamese duck noodle soup, 11 Trung Yen Alley, Hoan Kiem District
- Deep-fried fermented pork rolls, Tam Thuong Alley, Hoan Kiem District
- Deep-fried pillow cakes, 52 Ly Quoc Su Street, Hoan Kiem District
Visitors should ask ahead about motorbike and car parking prices around Hoan Kiem Lake. The city’s regulations stipulate VND3,000 to VND5,000 for motorbikes, and rates ranging from VND20,000 to VND30,000 per hour for cars based on the time of day or night. However, note that around the lake, parking fees can be two to three times higher.
Visitors are encouraged to always keep the area clean. Trash cans and public toilets are conveniently situated around the lake area.