Hangzhou is renowned for its historic relics and natural beauty. It is often known as one of the most beautiful cities in China, also ranking as one of the most scenic cities. Although Hangzhou has been through many recent urban developments, it still retains its historical and cultural heritage. Today, tourism remains an important factor for Hangzhou’s economy.
West Lake 西湖
West Lake is Hangzhou’s most well known landmark, famous for its gorgeous natural scenery. The great poet Su Dongpo in the Northern Song Dynasty described West Lake as the Great Beauty Xishi (the top one among the Four Great Beauties in ancient China).
You can appreciate the beautiful scenery by walking around or taking a bike ride. If you want to enjoy it in a less energetic way, just sit in a lakeside café or bar, ordering a cup of Longjing tea. Let your day start there.
There are three classic bicycle routes around West Lake:
- Northern route (7.7 km; 2 hours): from Longxiang Bridge (龙翔桥) to Lingyin (灵隐).
- Southern route (7.4 km; 2.5 hours): from Longxiang (龙翔桥) to Nine Steams (九溪).
- Route around the lake (12.4 km; 3.5–4 hours): From Longxiang Bridge (龙翔桥) to Longxiang Bridge (龙翔桥).
You can rent for free a public bicycle from more than 30 service points around the lake.
Prince Bay Park 太子湾
Prince Bay Park is right next to West Lake and an ideal place to get a scenic overview of the Lake from a high angle. At the top of the mountain inside the park, you can enjoy tulips and cherry blossoms in spring. It’s also a romantic park for lovers or newly married couples, and it’s popular with brides and grooms as a background for wedding photos.
The best time to visit is from March to April (20 March – 10 April) when thousands of tulips, cherry blossoms, and apple blossoms are in bloom.
Grand Canal 京杭大运河
The 1,764-km (about 1,200-mile) -long Grand Canal (also called Da Yunhe or the Beijing–Hangzhou Canal) is the longest and the greatest man-made waterway in ancient China. It was built in the Sui Dynasty (581–618), taking more than 6 years to complete the joining of several river systems in different directions from Beijing to Hangzhou, and played a significant role in transporting grains and goods from south to north.
There are several sections of the Grand Canal, and the scenery in Hangzhou is the most marvelous, including more than 40 sights. You can enjoy good food while appreciating the surrounding scenery.
Boating on the old Canal is one of the best ways to get a riverside view of typical river towns in southern China. Starting from Pujia Wharf, the boat takes you along Gongchen Bridge Wharf.
Lingyin Temple 灵隐寺
Lingyin Temple is a Buddhist temple of the Chan. The temple’s name is commonly literally translated as Temple of the Soul’s Retreat. It is one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in China, and contains numerous pagodas and Budddhist grottoes.
The monastery is the largest of several temples in the Wulin Mountains, which also features a large number of grottos and religious rock carvings, the most famous of which is the Feilai Feng .
Meijiawu Tea Plantation 梅家坞茶园
Meijiawu Tea Plantation is home to one of China’s most famous types of tea, Longjing Tea (Dragon Well Tea). Located on the southwest side of West Lake, Meijiawu Tea Plantation is a legendary Hangzhou attraction, where you can tour the grounds, learn about the complexities of tea, and experience a traditional tea ceremony.
Hefang Ancient Street 河坊街
The 1.8-km-long Hefang Ancient Street is a typical pedestrian shopping street that’s been around since the Song Dynasty (960–1279). It’s in old downtown Hangzhou, about a 15-minute walk from West Lake. It’s lined with shops and restaurants typical of traditional Ming and Qing style buildings, and stalls selling various souvenirs.
On the street you can enjoy the well-preserved ‘four-corner buildings group’, which are masterpiece examples of traditional blocks of Hangzhou, with some of the most famous century-old shops and typical ancient buildings, such as Baohetang Pharmacy and Huqingyutang Pharmacy.
You can sample anything from street snacks to fine works of art. You’ll find candy sculptors, pillow shops, caricaturists, old-fashioned movie players, storytellers, bonsai shops, teahouses, and an array of small eateries, all of which make Hefang Street charmingly lively.
Jiuxi (Nine Streams) 九溪
Nine Streams (Jiuxi) is a place to relax and enjoy the water and streams. It’s located at Yangmei Hill, next to Longjin Village, about 10 km from West Lake.
The streams flow through Hangzhou’s west mountains and flow into the Qiantang River. The chief features are its clear waters, verdant trees, and inspirational peace. There is also a temple named Li’an Temple (Fayu Temple), which was built during the Five Dynasties Period (907–960), and is one of the few temples in Hangzhou that does not charge admission.
When you feel tired you can take a rest at the temple and enjoy some tea there. The best season to come is autumn, when sweet osmanthus is in full bloom.
Zhejiang Art Museum 浙江美术馆
Located at 138 Nanshan Road, Zhejiang Art Museum is adjacent to the poetic West Lake. Opened in 2009, with a total area of more than 35,000 square meters, it is the biggest art museum in China, and it’s free to access. The museum is in the style of a local ethnic building and from the top floor, you can oversee the West Lake.
Zhejiang Museum has a great variety of fine art from all areas of China, and there are representative works from all the different schools, as well as from various artists. You’ll find a collection of modern arts, archaic arts, and folk arts. In all there are 14 exhibition halls, which will take visitors roughly 3 hours to stroll around.
Streets and Alleyways 大街小巷
The best way to know Hangzhou and its people is to walk onto the streets. You will find great beauty in local people’s life！