Hoan Kiem Lake is the real heart of Hanoi and the best time to visit is at the weekend….
Hoan Kiem Lake is the real heart of Hanoi. The best time to visit is at the weekend, when the streets are closed off to traffic and filled with games, musical performers and street artists instead. It’s amazing to cross the road and go from the chaos of the capital city to walk on empty streets free from cars and beeping motorbikes.
Every Friday evening through to Sunday, Hanoians and tourists flock to the area to kick-back and enjoy lake life, it’s an oasis of calm in a city that never stops moving. As well as the usual crowds of joggers and people practising tai chi, there are huge games of Jenga and old-school pastimes like tug-of-war and O Quan, a children’s board game chalked on the roads. Big groups play Da Cau (hacky sack) for hours, it’s one of Vietnam’s most popular sports.
As you wander, you’ll come across street performers offering everything from traditional gong singing to Latin and Korean dance music, which is very popular in Vietnam. You might spot young couples posing for wedding pictures by the lake, mass aerobic classes, games of chequers and hawkers selling metallic helium balloons. If you need a break, grab a snack from one of the street food stalls or let a street artist paint your portrait.
At a time when everyone’s always on their phones, it’s great to see people outside socialising at Hoan Kiem Lake on the weekends. The atmosphere is amazing, almost like a carnival. Instead of dodging traffic, I loved watching the little kids drive around in battery operated model police cars.