Tran Quoc Pagoda is the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi. Situated on a small island on West Lake, Hanoi. The pagoda is famous for its history, dating back to the sixth century. While its original location was the Red River, Tran Quoc Pagoda has gone through major changes over the years to become the icon of Hanoi today. The temple is an epitome of spiritual sanctuary for its citizens,
where they wish for peace and fortune. Not only a place of worship, Tran Quoc Pagoda also attracts visitors for its cultural background and symbolic architecture.
I. HIGHLIGHTS OF TRAN QUOC PAGODA
1. Tran Quoc Pagoda – The oldest temple in Hanoi, Vietnam
The construction of Tran Quoc Pagoda went back centuries ago, under the reign of King Ly Nam De (544-548). Back then, it bore the name Khai Quoc (National Founder), which later on changed to An Quoc (Pacification of the Realm) during the dynasty ruled by King Le Thai Tong (1440-1442). Its location was also different from the current one. It was originally built on the bank of Red River, Hanoi. However, during the period of 1600-1618 of King Le King Tong, there was an ingrained landslide crumbling the foundation of the Pagoda, causing the ruler to move the temple to Kim Ngu Islet (Golden Fish) on the East of West Lake – its current address. Previously, this location was favored by the kings from the Ly and Tran Dynasty as places for sightseeing and relaxation. They would go here to enjoy fishing or boat-watching, especially at festive events.
The Pagoda continued to go through major changes regarding its identity as well as construction over the following decades. These alterations tied to the name of ruling kings at the time. For instance, its name was finally settled as Tran Quoc (National Defence) during the reign of King Le Hy Tong (1680-1705). Later, King Thieu Tri made a further adjustment, calling it Tran Bac (Guardian of the North). Nevertheless, citizens still regard it as Tran Quoc Pagoda. Other Kings who contributed to the manufacture of the Pagoda were King Le Than Tong, King Gia Long, and King Minh Mang. Interestingly, the Co Ngu Dam, or now known as Thanh Nien Street, was erected after the relocation of Tran Quoc Pagoda. This resulted in the division between West Lake and Truc Bach Lake, as well as the construction of the bridge linking the temple with the mainland.
2. Tran Quoc Pagoda – An architectural manifestation of Buddhism in Hanoi, Vietnam
As a symbol of Buddhism, Tran Quoc Pagoda’s design follows strictly its architectural principles with layers of building and three main houses lined up to form a Cong script (工).
Walking along the slightly curved road leading to the temple, visitors would encounter Tien Duong (front house), one among the holy trinity, overlooks West, while incense burning house and Thuong Dien (upper house) are located further inside. The highlight of the precinct is the 15-meter tall stupa called Bao Thap (Precious Stupa). It was built in 1998 with 11 floors. Each floor consists of six vaulted windows and a statue of Amitabha. On top lays a nine-story lotus. All of which are made from precious stones. Just opposite the stupa, there placed a Bodhi tree given to the Pagoda by former Indian President, Rajendra Prasad, on his visit to Hanoi in 1959. The tree was crafted from the divine Bodhi tree in which Sakyamuni meditated to achieve enlightenment 25 centuries ago. It is a symbol of knowledge and sharpness, harmoniously correlating to the image of lotus seen variously around the temple. Followers worship Buddha and consider both lotus and Bodhi tree to be the emblem for the Noble Eight-fold Path to Enlightenment in Buddhism. Furthermore, the lotus is the national flower of Vietnam, representing its beauty and the persistence and perseverance of Vietnamese people. Thus, figures of this beautiful flower are engraved throughout the temple.
3. Tran Quoc Pagoda – A spiritual sanctuary for Hanoi locals
Buddhism is the dominant religion in Vietnam. Embracing the features of a Buddhist temple, Tran Quoc Pagoda is endorsed by devotees as a sacred worshipping sanctuary. This is where they go to pray and wish for peacefulness, fortune, and happiness. Often, people visit Tran Quoc Pagoda to find serenity in the mind. The tranquil atmosphere at the temple makes it a perfect place for busy minds to relax and rest, especially after a long working day. A familiar sight inside the shrine is monks chanting, along with committed devotees who come to worship and follow the teachings of the monks. They go to the temple to learn ways of achieving enlightenment.
Not only famous as a religious site, but Tran Quoc Pagoda is also known to tourist for exhibiting precious antique collection. Although they dated hundred years ago, the objects are meticulously crafted, showing the excellent skill of craftsmanship. They are still in good condition thanks to the preservation effort from the government. The majority of the collection is on display in the upper house. The most noteworthy piece is the Shakyamuni Buddha statue, which is highly regarded as one of the most beautiful Nirvana statues in Vietnam.
III. COMBINED HANOI TOURS OF TRAN QUOC PAGODA
Situated on the biggest freshwater lake of Hanoi, Tran Quoc Pagoda is an ideal stop-over for any tourist who is eager to get a full taste of Vietnamese culture. Here is a recommended one-day tour for travelers to explore Hanoi, crossing all the must-visit destinations including Tran Quoc Pagoda.
Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su
Location: No. 10 Ly Quoc Su, Hang Trong Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Opening hours: daily from 06:00 to 22:00
Price: from VND 50,000
Tel: (+84) 1247 225 586
Location: No. 24B Trung Yen Alley, Dinh Liet Street, Hang Bac Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Opening hours: daily from 05:30 to 11:00, 16:30 to 21:30
Price: from VND 40,000
Tel: (+84) 916 197 686
Location: No. 13 Dinh Tien Hoang Street (2nd floor), Hang Trong Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Opening hours: daily from 07:00 to 22:30
Price: VND from 15,000 to VND 70,000
Ngoc Son Temple
Location: Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hang Trong Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Opening hours: daily from 08:00 to 18:00
Entrance fee: VND 30,000 per adult and VND 15,000 per child
Tel: (+84) 24 3935 1673
St. Joseph’s Cathedral
Location: No. 40 Nha Chung, Hang Trong Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Opening hours: Monday till Friday from 05:30 to 18:15, special opening hours on Saturday and Sunday
Entrance fee: Free
Hoa Lo Prison
Location: No. 1 Hoa Lo, Tran Hung Dao Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Opening hours: daily from 08:00 to 17:00
Entrance fee: VND 30,000 per person for adult, students with student cards have 50% discount
Tel: (+84) 243 9342 253
Banh Beo Cho Do
Highlight: The restaurant is named after its signature dish: Banh Beo (Vietnamese savory steamed rice cake). This is a delicacy from Hai Phong, a Northern province of Vietnam. As the owners explain, the dish is special not only because of its ingredients or how it is cooked, but it is the sentimental values incited to every eater that set Banh Beo apart.
Location: No. 64a Quan Su Street, 250m from Hoa Lo Prison, Hanoi, Vietnam
Opening hours: daily from 10:30 to 21:30
Price: from VND 50,000
Tel: (+84) 984 309 269
Quan An Ngon
Highlight: This restaurant offers a wide selection of Vietnamese food. Well decorated and professional service add-on to making this place a favorite eat-out for both Hanoian and tourists.
Location: No.18 Phan Boi Chau Street, 500m from Hoa Lo Prison, Hanoi, Vietnam
Opening hours: daily from 06:30 to 21:45
Price: from VND 50,000
Tel: (+84) 902 126 963
Temple of Literature
Location: No. 58 Quoc Tu Giam Street, Van Mieu Ward, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Opening hours: daily from 07:30 to 18:00
Entrance fee: VND 30,000 per person for adult, children under 15 years of age can enter without charge
Tel: (+84) 243 747 2566
Ho Chi Minh Museum
Location: No. 19 Ngoc Ha Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Opening hours: daily from 08:00 to 12:00 and 14:00 to 16:30, special opening hours for Monday and Friday
Entrance fee: VND 10,000 (international)
Tel: (+84) 243 846 3757
One Pillar Pagoda
Location: inside Ba Dinh Square and behind Ho Chi Minh Museum
Opening hours: daily
Entrance fee: free
IV. EXPLORING WEST LAKE AREA – THE ROBUST SURROUNDINGS OF TRAN QUOC PAGODA
West Lake is a favorite destination for both Vietnamese and international as it offers various entertainment options. Different from Old Quarter, this area is more dynamic and youthful with lots of activities for expats living in Hanoi. We have compiled a list of things that you can do to experience the best of the city.
1. Enjoying Hanoi’s landscape by the shore – Ideal for outdoor runners and zen seekers
What is more Hanoi-an than getting up early for a run around West Lake or Truc Bach Lake? 17 kilometers in length, the lake offers an ideal route for runners with the sunrise scenery of the emerging Hanoi city. Although early, you might encounter people fishing by the shore peacefully. In the afternoon, some locals go to West Lake for a cooling summer bath.
Don’t feel like waking up early? No worries. You can still experience the calming beauty of the lake by sitting by its shore. There are renting services all through the lake’s perimeter. Rent out a mat and drink up a cup of coconut water to make the best of the gifted view. From certain vantage points, you can observe the bustling developing city in its quietness. Such an experience one can never forget.
2. Taking a picture with the pride of Hanoi, Vietnam
During the month of June, anyone who is lucky to be in Hanoi will be awed by the charming scenery of blooming lotus. As the emblem of Vietnam, lotus stands for purity, for resilience. Such meaning stems from its admiring characteristic: rising from the mud to unfold towards the sun, uncontaminated by the impurity of dirt and lightened the purity of the light. It is the pride of every Vietnamese.
Don’t miss your chance to photograph in the middle of a lotus pond. Take another step by renting the traditional Vietnam costumes Ao Dai or four-part dress to document this special experience in your Hanoi journey.
Sen Tay Ho (Tay Ho Lotus Lake)
Location: Nhat Chieu, Nhat Tan Ward, Tay Ho District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Entrance fee: from VND 30,000
Opening hours: daily from 07:00 to 22:00
Tel: (+84) 123 996 8968
3. Ho Tay Water Park – Hanoi Great Summer Getaway
Who doesn’t like playing in the water to escape the burning weather of Hanoi during the summertime? Ho Tay Water Park offers pools, slides, a lazy river and many more. It is a part of West Lake amusement park, where you can find fifteen attractions and one game zone (Sun Moon Park). There are different activities suitable for both adults (rollercoaster, pirate ship, Crazy Wave, etc.) and kids (bubble house, bumping cars, etc.).
4. Nightlife in West Lake, Hanoi
If the Old Quarter is popular for Ta Hien, the beer junction street. West Lake is known to its inhabitants as hosting some of the most vibrant and diverse bars of the city. Following are the favorite of locals.
Location: No. 112 Xuan Dieu Street, Tay Ho District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Opening hours: Wednesday till Sunday, from 18:30 to 02:30
Price: from VND 50,000
Tel: (+84) 24 6686 6150
Sunset Bar at InterContinental Hotel
Location: No. 5 Tu Hoa Street, Quang An Ward, Tay Ho District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Opening hours: daily from 16:00 to 00:00
Price: from VND 150,000
Tel: (+84) 24 6270 8888
Hanoi Rock City
Location: No. 17/52 To Ngoc Van Street, Tay Ho District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Opening hours: daily from 16:00 to 00:00
Price: from VND 100,000
Tel: (+84) 943 571 984
Location: No. 170 Tran Vu Street, Truc Bach Ward, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Opening hours: Tuesday till Sunday, from 16:00 to 00:00. Extra opening hours on Sunday
Price: from VND 50,000
Tel: (+84) 24 3266 8057
5. Want the authentic gastronomy experience? Opt for Vietnamese traditional dishes in West Lake area, Hanoi
West Lake Shrimp Cake
Recommended: Try the traditional Vietnamese cuisine, Shrimp Cake of West Lake, while overlooking the enchanting view of Truc Bach Lake
Location: No. 1 Thanh Nien Street, opposite Tran Quoc Pagoda, Hanoi, Vietnam
Opening hours: daily from 09:00 to 22:00
Price: VND from 15,000 to VND 600,000
Tel: (+84) 243 829 3737
Cua Hang An Uong Mau Dich so 37
Highlight: Go back in time and dine like a locals in the 70s with simple and ordinary Vietnamese dishes
Location: No. 37 Nam Trang Street, Truc Bach Lake, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Opening hours: daily from 10:00 to 14:00; 17:00 to 21:00
Price: VND 15,000 to VND 180,000
Tel: (+84) 24 3715 4336
Pho Cuon 31 (Pho Roll 31)
Highlight: Eat Pho roll, a variety of spring roll, yet very traditional in Vietnamese food scene
Location: No. 31 Ngu Xa Street, Truc Bach Lake, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Opening hours: daily from 09:00 to 23:00
Price: VND from 25,000 to VND 450,000
Tel: (+84) 243 715 3679
V. THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING TRAN QUOC PAGODA
1. When to visit Tran Quoc Pagoda?
Tran Quoc Pagoda opens daily, from 07:30 until 18:00. You can easily access it on foot from Thanh Nien Street, which connects to Hung Vuong Street, where Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum stands. Coming from Hanoi Old Quarters, there are a variety of routes that you can take. Nevertheless, I recommend going by Yen Phu street to enjoy the Guinness world-record ceramic mosaic mural.
There is no special period to visit Tran Quoc Pagoda because on sunny days of summer, it brings breezes and shades while winter showcases its beauty in the mist. However, important dates to remember for Tran Quoc visitors are the first and 15th day of a lunar month. This is when Tran Quoc Pagoda is most crowded as many come to worship. (Lunar) New Year holidays is a pivotal event for the temple as well, as a lot of Vietnamese people go to the shrine to pray for good fortune in the following year. If you want to experience the most of Buddhism tradition, mark these days in your calendar.
2. The Dos and the Don’ts
a. Wearing appropriate clothing
You will be stopped from entering the shrine if wearing shorts, singlets, or sleeveless shirts. This rule applies to all religious place in Hanoi. It is likely that you are in the city on a hot and sunny day and I absolutely agree that you cannot enjoy while sweating under heaps of long-sleeve clothes, so carry a piece of cloth to wrap around your leg (if you wear shots), and/or your shoulder (if you wear top, tank top).
b. Behaving with respect
Tran Quoc Pagoda welcomes Buddhists and non-Buddhist. However, pay respect to the rituals and norms that are performed at the temple. For instance, lower your voice to not disturb the prayers. Take off your shoes when entering the shrine.
c. Learning the local’s ways
People show their gratitude to Buddha by burning incense. You are encouraged to do the same. However, always lit incense in odd numbers such as 1 or 3 as it is considered to be lucky in Vietnamese culture. You can also present foods, such as a package of biscuit or candy, as an act of gratefulness by placing them on the (main) altar. Return to retrieve it at the end of your visit as a blessing from the gods.
Given the historical and cultural values the temple possesses, Tran Quoc Pagoda is a favorite pick on every traveler’s bucket list. With a scenic landscape and a peaceful atmosphere, it stands out as an excellent spiritual getaway. So while in Hanoi, don’t miss your chance to stop by for an unforgettable experience.