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Turtle Tower: The cultural symbol and architectural landmark of Hanoi

05/11/2022 1121 views

Turtle Tower, a tourist attraction at Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, has many secrets for tourists to unveil. It was built based on a legend involving King Le and a holy turtle. The tower is located in a bustling area with many historical sites as well.

Turtle Tower

Turtle Tower Hoan Kiem Lake is a tourist attraction in the heart of the capital (Source: Collected)

Hanoi, the Capital of Vietnam, has so many tourist attractions. Right in the heart of the city, Turtle Tower has been a luring destination, with a legend involving a holy turtle and the fight against northern invaders of Vietnamese people. The tower was built with distinctive architecture in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake, which gathers many cultural and historical sites for you to explore.

1. Where is Turtle Tower Vietnam?

Turtle Tower is a small tower on an islet of some 350 square metres in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake, Hoan Kiem District. As it is in downtown Hanoi, you can easily reach the lake.

Turtle Tower

Turtle Tower Hoan Kiem Lake is a mysterious tourist attraction in Hanoi (Source: Collected)

You can visit Turtle Tower Hanoi at any time of the year. However, it is recommended that you come in autumn, when the weather is cooler and fresher. In addition, the sweet scent of milkwood pine flowers will fill the atmosphere, while yellow leaves fall from the old trees around the lake, creating a romantic sight for you to behold.

2. The legend about Turtle Tower Hoan Kiem Lake

Turtle Tower Vietnam’s construction was officially started in 1886 as the resting place of the father of Nguyen Ngoc Kim, a feudal mandarin supporting French colonists in Vietnam. At first, the tower was named Mandarin Kim Tower. Then, when the French was defeated by the Vietnamese army, the tower’s name was changed into Turtle Tower

It is said that the name “Turtle Tower” is based on the legend of the hero Le Loi (1385-1433), who returned a holy sword to the holy turtle after his successful fight against Chinese invaders. Others say that it is because there used to be several big turtles living in the lake. Legend has it that the turtles in Hoan Kiem Lake were born in Lam Kinh, Thanh Hoa, the birthplace of Le Loi, and they were moved here by Le Loi.

Turtle Tower

Hoan Kiem Lake was the residence of big turtles decades ago (Source: Collected)

Though it is small in size on an islet in the middle of the lake, Turtle Tower has a mysterious and tranquil beauty which can only be contemplated from far away, as visitors can rarely set foot on the islet. You can only admire Turtle Tower from various spots around the lake, which makes the tower seem even more curious.

All the legends and historical facts have made Turtle Tower a holy symbol of culture, history, and spirit of Hanoi.

Turtle Tower

The big turtle in Ngoc Son Temple near Turtle Tower (Source: Collected)

3. The distinctive architecture of Turtle Tower Hanoi

As it was built by the French, Turtle Tower has some European architectural features blended with traditional Vietnamese features. The tower has three floors, with each upper floor smaller than the one under it.

The lowest floor has a length of 6.28 metres and a width of 4.54 metres. There are a total of 10 arched doorways and 3 rooms on this floor.

The second floor has a smaller size of 4.8 metres in length and 3.64 metres in width. There are also 3 rooms and 10 doorways of smaller sizes than those on the first floor.

The third floor measures nearly 3 metres in length and 1.9 metres in width. It has a round doorway to the east. An altar is placed on this floor. The gazebo is on top of this floor, measuring 2 metres in both length and width.

Above the doorway on the third floor, there is a writing that says “Quy Son Thap”, which means Tower of the Mountain Turtle. The tower has curved decoration patterns on the roof, which is often featured in ancient Eastern temples and pagodas.

Turtle Tower

Turtle Tower Hanoi has unique architecture which blends French and Vietnamese styles (Source: Collected)

4. The top 5 must-visit tourist attractions near Turtle Tower

You should spend some time strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake and stop by some historical sites here to understand more about Hanoi.

4.1. Hanoi Post Office

Near Turtle Tower, Hanoi Post Office is a complex that includes three buildings in neo-classical and Art Deco architecture. The first building is located near Chi Linh Garden on Le Thach Street. The second building, designed by Henri Vildieu and completed in 1901, is on Dinh Tien Hoang Street. In the late 1930s, the third building was built on Dinh Le Street.

Later in the 1970s, the main building of Hanoi Post Office was destroyed and replaced by a 5-storey building with a big clock tower on top. The post office has also become a cultural symbol of Hanoi.

Turtle Tower

You can visit Hanoi Post Office, a French architectural work in downtown Hanoi (Source: Collected)

4.2. Trang Tien Ice Cream Shop

From the post office, you can walk to Trang Tien Ice Cream Shop at No. 35, Trang Tien Street. The shop offers one of the best delicacies in Hanoi that you should try. There are various ice-cream flavours here, such as green rice, coconut, vanilla, taro, mung bean, strawberry, cacao, green tea, and durian.

Turtle Tower

Try Trang Tien ice-cream, a delicacy of Hanoi (Source: Collected)

4.3. Ly Thai To Flower Garden

Next to the post office, you will find Ly Thai To Flower Garden, which has many imported trees. The garden is bordered by the streets of Dinh Tien Hoang, Le Lai, Le Thach, and Ngo Quyen. It measures over 12,000 square metres. On the grounds of the garden, there used to be a pagoda named Pho Giac. In 1886, after Paul Bert became the governor in Vietnam, Pho Giac Pagoda was relocated, leaving a square and flower garden at this site.

Here, there is a big statue of King Ly Thai To (974 – 1028), who relocated the royal citadel from Hoa Lu (now Ninh Binh Province) to Thang Long (now Hanoi). His reign started the Ly Dynasty, which lasted for 216 years in Vietnamese history. In fact, there used to be a statue of the Lady of Liberty, which was replaced by a statue of Paul Bert. The statue was then replaced with an octagonal house where the French army trumpet group would perform.

The name of the garden has been changed many times. Initially, it was called Paul Bert Garden. After the August Revolution in 1945, it was named Chi Linh Garden. From 1984, it was called Indira Gandhi Garden. In 2004, when the statue of King Ly Thai To was installed here, the garden was finally named Ly Thai To Garden.

Turtle Tower

Ly Thai To Garden is used as a public park (Source: Collected)

4.4. Pen Tower – Ngoc Son Temple

Strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake, you should not miss out on the complex of Pen Tower, The Huc Bridge, and Ngoc Son Temple.

Pen Tower was built in 1865 under the reign of King Tu Duc (1829 – 1883). This tower has a square structure with a height of 28 metres. There is a stone feather pen on top of the tower, which is 0.9 metres in length. Carved on the tower are 3 Chinese letters meaning “Write onto the sky”. The tower is installed on a stone hill named Doc Ton, which measures 12 metres in diameter and 4 metres in height. The tower is dedicated to the contribution of literature and Trinh Lord’s efforts in the fight against northern invaders.

Turtle Tower

Pen Tower is dedicated to the contribution of literature (Source: Collected)

Not far from the tower, at the entrance of The Huc Bridge, a stone ink pot is installed on a gate leading to Ngoc Son Temple. This symbolic ink pot was carved from blue stone, in the shape of a half of a peach, with a hollow in the middle. The pot measures 0.97 metres in length; 0.8 metres in width; and 0.3 metres in height. The pot lies on the back of 3 stone toads below, which are arranged like 3 firm legs.

In the middle of the pot, there is a poem by famed writer Nguyen Van Sieu (1799 – 1872) with 64 Chinese letters. It is said that on the morning of the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, when the sun rises, the stone feather pen will cast its shadow onto the ink pot.

Turtle Tower

Ngoc Son Temple is also a popular tourist attraction in Hanoi (Source: Collected)

Near the ink pot, at the end of The Huc Bridge, you can see Ngoc Son Temple. Built in the 19th century, the temple is dedicated to Van Xuong De Quan, a deity in charge of examination and education, as well as to the national hero Tran Hung Dao (1231 – 1300), who commanded the Vietnamese army to repel two Mongol invasions in the late 13th century. In the temple, there is a replica of a big turtle which used to live in Hoan Kiem Lake.

4.5. Old Quarter Night Market

If you visit Turtle Tower Hoan Kiem Lake on a weekend night, don’t forget to stroll along the Old Quarter Night Market, which stretches some 3 kilometres from Hang Dao street to the main entrance of Dong Xuan Market. Here, there are hundreds of stalls offering various kinds of goods, such as clothes, accessories, food, souvenirs, etc., to both locals and tourists.

The Night Market is open from 6 pm – 11 pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Turtle Tower

Visit the Night Market to shop and learn more about the local lifestyle (Source: Collected)

In addition to Turtle Tower, there are many other tourist attractions in Hanoi that you should take your time to visit, such as St. Joseph’s Cathedral, West Lake, Temple of Literature, etc. A short distance away, in Hai Ba Trung District, VinKE & Vinpearl Aquarium Times City are the destinations that you should not miss out on, especially if you travel with children.

  • At Vinpearl Aquarium, you will have the opportunity to explore the ocean world at one of the most modern aquarium systems in Vietnam. In a total area of ​​​​nearly 4,000 square meters, Vinpearl Aquarium is home to more than 30,000 sea creatures from around the world.
    In particular, this aquarium is accredited with a number of intriguing records, such as being the first tunnel aquarium in Hanoi, the aquarium with the most unique animal species, the first penguin’s birthplace in Vietnam, etc.
    Here, it also offers many attractive performances like mermaid shows or fish feeding, to entertain visitors and give you an opportunity to interact with the sea creatures through a glass pane.
Turtle Tower

Vinpearl Aquarium and VinKE offer countless fun and exciting games

  • Meanwhile, at VinKE, your family will have a chance to have fun together and educate your children in the complex of 4,000 square metres. VinKE creates a “play and learn” space for children to experience their dream career, learn about their favorite field, and become more confident with the world around them. It focuses on many career-orientation games, such as Fire Department, Traffic Police, Fashion Star, Kid Chef, Auto Repair Workshop, etc.

>>> Book tickets of VinKE & Vinpearl Aquarium to enjoy all the fun on your trip to Hanoi, Vietnam!

Hanoi has become a prominent magnet to tourists in Vietnam with so many interesting things. In particular, Turtle Tower has its own charm with a unique design and a beautiful legend behind it. There are still many other secrets for you to unveil around the city centre that you should not miss out on.

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