Hangzhou (Hangchow), the capital of Zhejiang province, is located on the south side of China’s famous grand canal city– a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, at 1,776 kilometers, the world’s longest canal – connecting the city to Beijing. Thanks to the canal and the city’s location at the base of a picturesque mountain range, Hangzhou is also one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, making for an excellent starting point for travelers seeking to explore the rich cultural heritage of eastern China.
Considered quieter than many of China’s other major cities, the city is built around the beautiful West Lake with its many ancient shrines and temples, romantic bridges and pleasant vistas. Famously described by Marco Polo as the most beautiful city in the world, Hangzhou is also referred to as the Silk City for its long tradition of crafting the material – a tradition that lives on in its many silk factories and markets. Today, the city is also popular for its famous Dragon Well Tea (lóngjǐng chá), hand-picked twice a year and celebrated, like its silk production, in a variety of beautiful attractions.
1 western lake
The focal point of a visit to Hangzhou is the beautiful West Lake, where much of the oldest part of the city is centered. Surrounded by hills and ancient temples, this large lake covers an area of nearly six square kilometers and is divided into five sections by the Su and Baidi Causeways: the Outer Lake (Wai Hu), the North Inner Lake (Beili Hu), the West Inner Lake (Xili Hu), the South Lake (Xiaonan Hu), and Lake Yue (Yue Hu).
Built in 1089, the nearly two-mile Su Causeway is itself one of West Lake’s main attractions, connecting its north and south shores and hugely popular for walks, particularly in spring when the flowerbeds and peach trees are in bloom . It is also home to many beautiful old bridges, most notably the Broken Bridge(Duanqiao) connects the Baidi Causeway to the coast.
Other highlights include the Pavilion of the Autumn Moon (Pinghu Qiuyue) from 1699, and the Pavilion of the Cranes built around 1300 in honor of poet Lin Hejing who died in 1028 and whose tomb is located near the pavilion. Also worth visiting are the Isle of the Hill of Solitude (Gushan) with its scenic views and museums; Little Paradise Island with its four mini lakes connected by the zigzagging Bridge of the Nine Arches and famous for its lotus blossoms, water lilies, pavilions and terraces; and the Bay of Flowers (Huagang), a 50-acre park that dates back to the 12th century.
2 House of the General: Yue Fei Temple
If you are only able to visit one of the many fine architectural structures on West Lake, make sure to see Yue Fei Temple (Yuewang Temple). At the north end of the Su Causeway, this beautiful ancient temple was built in 1221 in honor of the acclaimed General Yue Fei. Despite successfully disproving several Tartar raids, he was falsely accused of high treason and hanged together with his son in 1142. He was later cleared of charges and reburied on the site of the temple built in his name. Highlights of a visit include a statue of Yue Fei in the temple hall, the ceiling of which is lavishly decorated with cranes, a symbol of immortality.
The temple also contains 86 stone slabs on which Emperor Gaozong and his wife inscribed classical texts by Confucius, while its most valuable treasure is a stone celestial sphere from the Five Dynasties era (907-960). Also worth a visit is the nearby 500-acreHangzhou Botanical Gardens with 4,000 species of plants, a beautiful herb garden and many different types of bamboo.
3 A city of beautiful pagodas: Liuhe, Leifeng and Baochu
Just five miles south of Hangzhou on the north bank of the Qiantang River, the magnificent 60-foot Pagoda of the Six Harmonies is well worth the short commute for a visit. The current structure, which stood 150 meters high and served as a lighthouse, traced its roots back to 970 AD to the former pagoda.
The current structure was built in 1899 with the original old brick core preserved and covered with wood cladding (also of interest are the many replicas of other pagodas from around China). A climb to the top of the building, accessible by stairs, is worth it for its beautiful view over the Qiantang River and its 1322-meter road and train bridge built in 1937.
Also worth a visit is the city. Leifeng Pagoda(Léi Fēng Tǎ), a magnificent five-storey octagonal tower overlooking West Lake dating from 975 and the ancient stone Baochu Pagoda sat atop Precious Stone Hill.
4 Lingyin Temple and the peak that flew from afar
Another of Hangzhou’s many beautiful historical sites is Lingyin Temple (Língyǐn Sì), the Temple of the Soul Retreat, which dates back to 326 BC and is one of the most famous Buddhist monasteries in China. Highlights include the Hall of the Celestial Kings with its many fine 12th-century sculptures, including those of the Heavenly Kings, and the 111-foot-tall Opulent Hall of the Great Hero(Daxiong Baodian), famous among pilgrims for its 20-meter-high gilded statue of Buddha made of 24 pieces of camphor wood.
Also of note here is The Peak That Flew from Afar (Feilai Feng), a mountain dotted with numerous caves and niches, the the latter contains 380 Buddha statues from the 10th century, including the three oldest examples from 951 and found in the east. wall of Qinglin Cave. North of the Temple of the Soul’s Retreat is the North Peak (Beigao Feng) with its beautiful view of West Lake and the surrounding landscape.
Adres: Zhejiang, Hangzhou, Xihu
5 Longjing tea and dragon good
Hangzhou is famous around the world for its local Longjing tea (lóngjǐng chá), named after the small village just three kilometers southwest of West Lake where it is grown. The picturesque village of Longjing – literally translated as Dragon Well – is set amidst some of China’s most beautiful scenery and is easily accessible from Hangzhou. A highlight of a visit to the village and its many plantations is the chance to sample the traditional teas at the source, the unique flavor of which is credited as coming from the ancient spring, which supplies water to the village’s well, the Dragon Well .
Tours take in one of the tea factories where the fresh tea leaves are refined, processed and packaged, as well as the exquisite China National Tea Museum, highlighted by numerous exhibitions related to the production of tea and the many ceremonies surrounding its use.
Adres: 88 Longjing Rd, Xihu, Hangzhou, Zhejiang
6 Qinghefang Ancient Street
When visiting Hangzhou, be sure to take a few hours to wander through the city’s beautiful historic district, centered on Qinghefang Ancient Street (qīng hé fāng gǔ jiē). An easy walk from west lake, this always busy and relatively unspoilt area gives a glimpse into what life in China was like in days gone by.
In addition to its many traditional restaurants and teahouses, the area is a hotbed of creative culture with countless street performers demonstrating ancient writing skills and art techniques, along with boutiques and market stalls selling everything from silk products to tea (Longjing, of course). Be sure to check out some of the many unaltered side streets leading into Qinghefang for a look at how Chinese traders and artisans have lived through the ages.
7 The Chinese National Silk Museum
Hangzhou’s famous silk is celebrated all over the city in its many markets and shops, as well as its cultural and arts facilities. The best place to learn about the impact of this ancient industry on the city is the superb Chinese National Silk Museum. Just a short walk from West Lake , this world-class facility – the largest of its kind in the world – offers a fascinating display of the history of the country’s most important textiles through the ages, from their manufacture to the many products made from them. are made. Highlights include the numerous silk relics, including artwork and clothing, as well as exhibits on the importance of silk as a commodity and the famous Silk Road.
Adres: 73-1 Yuhuangshan Rd, Xihu, Hangzhou, Zhejiang
8 Beautiful Mount Mogan
One of the best excursions from Hangzhou (and easily accessible by public transport and coaches) is to Mount Mogan (Mògànshān), a 719-meter mountain about 50 kilometers northwest of the city. Taking its name from a legendary couple who lived here in the 5th century BC – both gifted blacksmiths who devoted their lives to crafting two incomparably beautiful swords for the Emperor – it is highly regarded for its outstanding natural beauty and has long been a favorite retreat for the country’s social elite (Chiang Kai-shek had a place here).
Apart from sightseeing, other popular activities are walking and cycling, with many stops at quaint local inns or smaller hotels housed in some of the older villas built in the early 1900s. A good starting point is the townMoganshan , home to many traditional restaurants and modern accommodation options.
9 Wūzhèn Water Village
An hour’s drive northeast of Hangzhou is Wūzhèn, one of China’s most famous ‘water villages’. Like a much smaller version of Venice, Wūzhèn is criss-crossed with waterways both wide and narrow, each bustling with long boats piloted by locals punting along the water with large poles, carrying everything from vegetables to livestock to tourists.
This popular tourist destination is divided into six unique districts, each focusing on a particular facet of the area’s rich culture, including those devoted to crafts and workshops, traditional housing, food and drink, arts and entertainment, as well as a shopping district.
Exploring the city is easy thanks to a variety of well-marked routes that lead to whatever part of the area interests you most, and it’s easy to spend hours on its many trails and bridges (be sure to join a boat tour). The city’s most popular crossings are the Tongji and Renji Bridges, famous for being able to view both through the arch of the other.
10 Running Tiger Spring
Running Tiger Spring (Hǔpáomèngquán), also known by its romantic name Dreaming of the Tiger Spring, is located just three miles south of West Lake and is one of China’s most famous springs. Legend has it that spring was discovered by a monk around 819 AD who, in times of drought, dreamed that he would be led by two tigers to a source of water.
To celebrate the discovery, a number of beautiful statues of tigers have been erected. built overlooking the springs and the healing mineral water that flows at an impressive 80 gallons per second (it is also famous for enhancing the taste of locally grown Longjing tea, served at a nearby teahouse and in the region).
Adres: 39 Hupao Rd, Xihu, Hangzhou, Zhejiang
Where to Stay in Hangzhou for Sightseeing
We recommend these convenient hotels in Hangzhou near shops, restaurants and attractions:
- Hangzhou Marriott Hotel Qianjiang: 5-star luxury, river view, floor-to-ceiling windows, serene room decor, full-service spa, attractive swimming pool.
- Courtyard Hangzhou Wulin: mid-range prices, modern decor, casual cafe, indoor pool.
- The East Hotel Hangzhou: affordable boutique hotel, well-appointed rooms, spacious bathrooms, free use of bicycles.
- Jinjiang Inn Central Hangzhou West Lake Avenue Nansong Yujie: budget hotel, pedestrian street location, free parking, multilingual staff.