Set against the harmonious backdrop of rolling hills, ancient temples, and the shimmering waters of West Lake, Hangzhou stands out as a testament to China’s rich history and its majestic natural beauty. Located in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, this city, often called the “Paradise on Earth”, seamlessly blends ancient Chinese culture with modern dynamism, offering travelers a unique tapestry of experiences.
With a history that stretches over 2,200 years, Hangzhou’s cultural legacy is deep and rich. It was once the capital of the Song Dynasty, a period when Chinese art, culture, and economy were at their zenith. To walk through Hangzhou is to take a journey back in time. The remnants of its imperial past are evident in its centuries-old pagodas, meticulously preserved traditional houses, and ancient waterways.
The Enchanting West Lake
At the heart of Hangzhou lies the iconic West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This freshwater lake, dotted with pagodas and bridges, has inspired countless poets, painters, and artists over the centuries. Whether you’re drifting on a traditional wooden boat, watching the mist curl over the lake at dawn, or listening to the rhythmic beat of the evening fountain show, the serene beauty of West Lake is an experience like no other.
Tea Culture and Silk Tradition
Hangzhou is also the birthplace of Longjing tea, one of China’s most renowned green teas. Venture into the terraced tea plantations of the city, particularly in the Dragon Well area, and immerse yourself in China’s rich tea culture. Sip on freshly brewed tea while looking out at panoramic views of the verdant plantations.
Moreover, Hangzhou’s historical role in the Silk Road has cemented its reputation as a hub for silk products. The China National Silk Museum in Hangzhou, the largest of its kind in the world, showcases the intricate process of silk production and its significance in Chinese culture.
Beyond its historical wonders, Hangzhou is also a rapidly growing modern city. The impressive skyline, peppered with skyscrapers, signifies its role as a significant tech hub, housing many of China’s leading tech firms including Alibaba. Numerous shopping malls, gourmet restaurants, and nightlife venues provide a cosmopolitan edge to this ancient city.
Beyond the urban landscape, Hangzhou’s natural beauty is breathtaking. From the dense bamboo forests of Yunqi to the tranquil waters of Xixi Wetland Park, there’s a piece of nature for every traveler. The Nine Creeks in Misty Forest, a picturesque trail that meanders through lush landscapes, is a must-visit for those seeking solace in nature.
Hangzhou is not just a destination; it’s an experience that blends the ancient with the modern, the tranquil with the dynamic. It’s a city where every alley has a story to tell, and every scenic spot invites you to pause and reflect. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or someone seeking urban luxury, Hangzhou promises an unforgettable journey.
So, as the ancient Chinese proverb goes, “Above there is heaven, below there are Hangzhou and Suzhou.” Discover the charm of Hangzhou and let its allure captivate your senses.
Hangzhou City Guide: A Brief History Of Hangzhou, China For Visitors
Nestled in the fertile delta of the Yangtze River, Hangzhou has long been a city of historical and cultural prominence. From its strategic role in ancient trade routes to its artistic and philosophical contributions, Hangzhou’s history is an intricate tapestry that has helped shape the cultural identity of China.
Ancient Foundations: The Qin and Han Dynasties
The earliest records of Hangzhou trace back to the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), when it was established as a county. However, it was during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) that Hangzhou, known then as Qiantang, began to rise in significance due to its proximity to the Qiantang River, an essential waterway for commerce and transport.
Prosperity Under the Tang and Song Dynasties
Hangzhou’s golden era began under the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). With the Grand Canal’s construction, linking Beijing to Hangzhou, the city became a nexus for trade, particularly silk and tea, and the transfer of grains.
Yet, it was during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) that Hangzhou reached unparalleled heights. After the Northern Song Dynasty lost its capital to the Jurchens, they established a new capital in Hangzhou, then known as Lin’an. This was the beginning of the Southern Song Dynasty. Under its rule, Hangzhou transformed into a bustling metropolis, with its population soaring and commerce thriving.
Cultural Flourishing: Arts, Literature, and Philosophy
Hangzhou’s prominence wasn’t solely economic. The city became a sanctuary for intellectuals, poets, artists, and philosophers. It was during this time that the West Lake became a source of inspiration for numerous poets and painters, making it a symbol of classical Chinese beauty.
Renowned poets like Su Shi and Bai Juyi penned some of their most famous works, inspired by Hangzhou’s beauty. The city became a canvas for artistic expression and philosophical discourses, with teahouses, pavilions, and temples acting as the common grounds for exchanges.
Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties: Transformation and Preservation
The Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) marked a shift in Hangzhou’s fortune. The Mongols, led by Kublai Khan, brought China under their rule. While Hangzhou remained an essential city, it no longer enjoyed its former capital status.
The Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) Dynasties, however, saw efforts to rejuvenate and preserve Hangzhou’s cultural heritage. The West Lake underwent significant renovations, with bridges, pavilions, and pagodas constructed, many of which stand to this day.
Modern Era: Revolution and Rejuvenation
In the early 20th century, amidst the nationalistic fervor and socio-political changes, Hangzhou played a role in shaping modern China. It was in Hangzhou that the renowned Zhejiang University was established, becoming a cradle for modern thought and innovation.
Post the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Hangzhou underwent rapid modernization. Despite the urban development, concerted efforts have been made to preserve its historical and cultural landmarks, especially the West Lake.
Hangzhou’s history is not just about the past but also about its persistent spirit. It is a city that has seen empires rise and fall, yet its cultural heart continues to beat strongly. For visitors, Hangzhou offers more than scenic beauty; it provides a window into China’s soul, where tales of yore come alive amidst the whispers of ancient trees and the placid waters of the West Lake. It’s a city that invites one to embrace history, to walk the same paths as poets and emperors, and to be part of a narrative that spans millennia.
Hangzhou Top Attractions and Best Places to Visit in Hangzhou
Located just to the south and west of Shanghai, Hangzhou makes sense as a first stop on your grand tour of China, especially given its natural beauty and tranquility, especially compared to the urban mass and chaos of the megacity you just departed from.
In fact, the visages present here are so significant, that when it is combined with the temples and tea cultivating and drinking culture that is present here, the West Lake area in Hangzhou has garnered UNESCO World Heritage status recently in 2011. Additionally, incredibly scenic mountains begin to rise on the doorstep of this city, granting many opportunities to get active after being prevented from jogging due to the often terrible smog that often plagues Shanghai.
While the big cities of this country possess much of what makes this rapidly growing nation impressive, the heart of China is in its countryside. And while Hangzhou isn’t exactly small at 8.5 million people, it serves as a gateway into the rural areas of Eastern China.
So enjoy the nature within the city that hints at the greater treasures that lie just beyond the city limits. After spending some time here, you’ll be ready to venture into the real China that lies a short distance beyond the urban areas of this great nation.
The most visited cultural attraction in Hangzhou is the Baochu Pagoda, which shoots up 45 metres into the sky like a slender sewing needle. With seven stories of stone and brick wrapped in a tight, thin formation, there is no inner staircase like some other pagodas in China. As for it origin, it was originally built in the 10th century by members of King Chu’s council after he had failed to return on time from a trip to see the emperor. This structure was used to say prayers for his safe return, which apparently worked as intended, as he did return to Hangzhou, going on to rule this portion of China until his death in 988.
Those looking for Chinese temples in Eastern China should make a point to see Baopu Taoist Temple, which is a truly remarkable structure in this region. Located in the verdant hills above gorgeous West Lake (more info on this place in Other Attractions), this striking yellow temple is your just reward for the vigorous hike it takes to get here. A Tao master called Ge Hong sought to create a youth elixir that could end aging forever. While he failed in his quest, the temple that he once called home will impress you with its design, periodic festivals, and the food at its on-site restaurant.
Other Cultural Attractions: Trip to Hangzhou, China
Sitting at the edge of a significant tea-growing region, there are many worthwhile tea houses that are a world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Hangzhou. To the west and north of West Lake, the tea villages of Longjing, Manjuelong, and Meijiawu all host tea houses that not only serve fresh tea harvested from the leaves that were just recently plucked from the hills above, but also local food that will pair well with your drink.
If there is any place you don’t want to skip on a quick jaunt through Hangzhou, West Lake is one such place. Featured on the back of the ¥1 note, and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the breathtaking natural beauty here will make you forget, if only temporarily, that you are in the midst of another Asian metropolis.
With different aspects of beauty dependant on the seasons (snow on Broken Bridge is one highlighted sight by the tourism board, and cherry blossoms in the Spring are also a top draw for many travelers), any time of year is a great time to visit West Lake. Numerous museums and galleries also line the shores of this popular public gathering point, but if you have limited time, a boat ride across the surface of the lake will provide vantage points that will certainly take your breath away!
One attraction near the lakeshore that you should also make time for is Guo’s Villa, widely considered to be one of the best private gardens in Hangzhou. With many sublime design elements in the traditional Chinese structures, ponds, trees, and flowers here, you have the ideal place on West Lake to enjoy a spot of tea and enjoy a moment of Zen, while the touristic madness swirls outside the grounds of this peaceful place.
With steep mountains rising from the edge of Hangzhou, going for a hike is an excellent way to get physically active after consuming too many calories indulging in the decadent cuisine that is readily available in China. With many hidden temples, shrines, streams and waterfalls in the hills behind this city, it will serve as the ultimate getaway from the frenetic pace that prevails in much of this country.
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Top 55 Things To Do in Hangzhou, China For Visitors
Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, is often referred to as “Heaven on Earth,” thanks to its stunning natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. Known for the legendary West Lake, a source of inspiration for poets and painters throughout Chinese history, Hangzhou blends ancient charm with a vibrant, modern lifestyle. Here’s an extensive guide to the top 55 things to do in Hangzhou.
1. West Lake (Xi Hu)
No visit to Hangzhou is complete without a boat ride on the serene West Lake. The lake’s beauty is enhanced by pagodas, gardens, and temples that line its edges. A leisurely stroll around the lake at dawn or dusk is a must.
2. Lingyin Temple
This ancient Buddhist temple, whose name means “Temple of the Soul’s Retreat,” is one of the largest and most famous in China, featuring stunning statues and rock carvings.
3. Longjing Tea Plantations
Hangzhou is the home of Longjing, one of the best green teas in China. Visit the plantations to learn about the tea-making process and enjoy a fresh cup.
4. Leifeng Pagoda
Climb the Leifeng Pagoda for a panoramic view of West Lake. The sunset from here is particularly spectacular.
5. The Broken Bridge (Duan Qiao)
Walk across the Broken Bridge, which is famous for the legend of the White Snake, especially beautiful when the winter snows partially cover it.
6. Xixi National Wetland Park
Explore this tranquil wetland area by boat. It’s a great place to experience nature and spot local wildlife.
7. Hefang Street
This historic street is perfect for a stroll, offering an array of shops selling traditional Chinese medicine, tea, silk, and souvenirs.
8. Bai Causeway
Named after the Tang Dynasty poet Bai Juyi, this pathway offers stunning views and access to several small islands on West Lake.
9. Hangzhou Botanical Garden
Lose yourself in this lush garden, which features a variety of plants and peaceful spots perfect for relaxation.
10. China National Silk Museum
Discover the history of silk production and Chinese silk culture in this museum.
11. Wuzhen Water Town
Although a bit of a trip from Hangzhou, this ancient water town with its canals and traditional architecture is worth a visit.
12. Hu Qing Yu Tang Chinese Medicine Museum
Learn about traditional Chinese medicine in this professional museum with a history dating back over a hundred years.
13. Zhejiang Provincial Museum
Gain insight into the local culture and history at this museum with its extensive collection of artifacts.
14. Solitary Hill (Gu Shan)
The only natural island on West Lake, Solitary Hill offers beautiful views and historic sites like Zhongshan Park and the Zhejiang University Museum.
15. Six Harmonies Pagoda (Liuhe Ta)
This multi-storied pagoda provides an excellent vantage point to view the Qiantang River and understand ancient Chinese architecture.
16. Grand Canal
Take a boat tour along the longest canal in the world, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, to see the city from a different perspective.
17. Qinghefang Ancient Street
This ancient street gives a glimpse into Hangzhou’s past with well-preserved buildings and traditional crafts.
18. Nine Creeks Meandering Through a Misty Forest (Jiuxi 18 Stream)
A scenic area perfect for hiking, with lush forests and clear streams.
19. Song Dynasty Town (Songcheng)
This theme park brings the Song Dynasty to life with performances, displays, and ancient-style architecture.
20. Tiger Spring (Hupao Quan)
Visit this famous spring, known for its clear water, and enjoy a serene environment surrounded by legends.
21. Dreaming of the Tiger Spring (Hupao Meng Quan)
Nearby the Tiger Spring, this spot is known for its picturesque landscapes and tea culture.
22. Baochu Pagoda
Situated on Precious Stone Hill, the pagoda overlooks the lake and is a great spot for photography.
23. Hangzhou Cuisine
Try local dishes like West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy, Dongpo Pork, and Beggar’s Chicken.
24. Impression West Lake
A stunning outdoor performance created by Zhang Yimou, performed on the lake itself.
25. Jinghang Grand Canal Museum
Dive into the history of the Grand Canal at this museum situated along its banks.
26. National Wetland Museum
Learn about the importance of wetland ecosystems and conservation efforts here.
27. Southern Song Dynasty Guan Kiln Museum
Explore the history of Southern Song porcelain through its well-curated exhibits.
28. Mid-Lake Pavilion (Hu Xin Ting)
Accessed via the Bai Causeway, this pavilion is a peaceful spot to view the surroundings of West Lake.
29. Three Pools Mirroring the Moon
On the night of the Mid-Autumn festival, candles are placed in the three pools, creating a magical reflection.
30. Yue-Wang Temple
Dedicated to General Yue Fei, this temple is a site of historical importance and traditional architecture.
31. Hangzhou Polar Ocean World
A family-friendly attraction featuring polar animals and marine life.
32. Seal Engraver’s Society
Discover the traditional art of Chinese seal engraving in this cultural spot.
33. Qiantang River Tidal Bore
Watch the world’s largest tidal bore, especially during the Mid-Autumn festival.
34. Yunxi Zhujing Scenic Resort
A tranquil bamboo forest ideal for nature walks and escaping the city bustle.
35. Hangzhou Flower Nursery
A beautiful and extensive garden with a variety of flowers, particularly renowned during spring.
36. Adults and Children’s Painting Gallery
Engage with local art at this gallery dedicated to both adult and children’s artworks.
37. Hangzhou Underwater World
An aquarium that showcases the rich aquatic biodiversity of the region.
38. East Lake (Dong Hu)
This lake area is less crowded than West Lake and offers a peaceful alternative with beautiful scenery.
39. Former Residence of Hu Xueyan
The opulent home of a 19th-century businessman, featuring traditional architecture and gardens.
40. Meijiawu Tea Village
Another spot to enjoy the Longjing tea culture with beautiful plantation views.
41. Museum of Traditional Chinese Hand Fans
Explore the art and history behind Chinese hand fans in this unique museum.
42. Hangzhou Cuisine Museum
Experience the culinary history of Hangzhou and even participate in cooking classes.
43. Hangzhou Snack Street
Indulge in local snacks and street food, a real treat for food lovers.
44. Zhejiang University
Visit one of China’s oldest and most prestigious universities with lovely campus grounds.
45. Phoenix Temple
A historically significant temple offering a quiet retreat from the city.
46. Fish Viewing at the Flower Pond (Huagang Guanyu)
A classic West Lake spot where you can feed the fish and enjoy the lotus flowers.
47. Santai Mountain Covering
A less touristy hiking area offering panoramic views of the city and West Lake.
48. Ruan Gong Islet
An islet on West Lake that’s home to the relics of an imperial garden.
49. World Leisure Expo Garden
A garden that showcases leisure activities and garden designs from around the world.
50. Sweet Osmanthus Rain at Manjuelong Village
Visit during autumn to experience the sweet fragrance of osmanthus trees in bloom.
51. Hangzhou Arts and Crafts Museum
Appreciate the traditional crafts and perhaps buy some authentic souvenirs.
An old village area where you can experience traditional Hangzhou rural life.
53. Daci Rock
Climb to this spot in Lingyin Scenic Area for a spectacular view of the region.
54. Hangzhou China Science Museum of Printing
A niche museum dedicated to the history and art of printing.
55. The Romance of the Song Dynasty
A performance show combining dance, music, and drama to tell stories of Hangzhou’s history.
This list barely scratches the surface of what Hangzhou has to offer, but it’s a comprehensive starting point for anyone looking to explore this beautiful city’s rich tapestry of nature, culture, and tradition. Each attraction presents a different facet of Hangzhou’s identity, from ancient relics to modern amusements, from natural wonders to man-made masterpieces. Visitors are sure to find themselves captivated by the charm and beauty of Hangzhou, a city that indeed feels like a slice of paradise on Earth.
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What To Eat and Drink in Hangzhou, China
Hangzhou, renowned for its picturesque landscapes and rich history, is also a culinary heaven. The city’s cuisine, often referred to as Zhejiang or Hangbang cuisine, is known for its delicate, light, and fresh flavors with a subtle sweetness. Here’s an elaborate guide to help you savor the best of Hangzhou’s gastronomic offerings:
- West Lake Fish in Sweet and Sour Sauce (西湖醋鱼): One of the most emblematic dishes, this involves cooking a fresh-caught fish from the West Lake, typically grass carp, in a delightful sweet and sour sauce. The tender flesh of the fish paired with the sauce is truly unforgettable.
- Dongpo Pork (东坡肉): Named after the Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo, this dish consists of braised pork belly, slowly cooked to achieve a melt-in-the-mouth texture, with a sweet caramelized glaze.
- Beggar’s Chicken (叫化鸡): An intriguing dish with a rich history, it is a marinated chicken wrapped in lotus leaves and clay, then baked. The chicken remains incredibly juicy and tender, absorbing all the aromatics.
- Longjing Shrimp (龙井虾仁): Tender shrimp cooked with the famous Longjing (Dragon Well) tea leaves. The freshness of the shrimp paired with the fragrant tea leaves is a delightful combination.
- Sister Song’s Fish Broth (宋嫂鱼羹): A thick, rich soup made from fish and other ingredients, known for its nourishing qualities.
- Lotus Root Stuffed with Glutinous Rice (糯米藕): Sweetened glutinous rice is stuffed into lotus roots, which are then boiled in a sweet syrup. It’s both a visual and taste delight.
Street Food Delights
- Pork-filled Buns (生煎包): These are pan-fried buns filled with juicy pork, with a crispy bottom and a fluffy top.
- Stinky Tofu (臭豆腐): A fermented tofu snack, deep-fried and served with a spicy sauce. Despite its strong aroma, it’s a favorite among many for its unique taste.
- Hangzhou Dumplings (杭州水饺): Filled with pork, shrimp, and vegetables, these are juicy and bursting with flavors.
- Osmanthus Jelly (桂花糕): A delightful jelly dessert infused with the sweet aroma of osmanthus flowers.
- West Lake Water Shield Soup (西湖莼菜汤): A sweet, refreshing soup made from water shield (a type of aquatic plant) and jasmine flowers.
What to Drink
- Longjing Tea (龙井茶): When in Hangzhou, you can’t miss sipping on the world-famous Dragon Well tea. Fresh, fragrant, and smooth, this green tea is best enjoyed in one of the many tea houses overlooking the tea plantations.
- Osmanthus Wine (桂花酒): A fragrant wine made from the blossoms of the osmanthus tree. It’s light and slightly sweet.
- Nongfu Spring Water: Hailing from the mountains surrounding Hangzhou, it’s one of the most popular bottled waters in China.
Dining Etiquettes and Tips
- When dining, it’s customary to use chopsticks. It’s good etiquette to avoid sticking them upright in a bowl of rice, as it resembles incense offerings to the deceased.
- Hangzhou dishes, in general, are lighter and may be sweeter than the cuisines of other Chinese regions. If you prefer less sweetness, you can inform the restaurant in advance.
- Many traditional Hangzhou restaurants offer a view, either of the West Lake or traditional gardens, enhancing the overall dining experience.
Hangzhou’s culinary scene reflects its essence — a harmonious blend of nature, culture, and tradition. The city offers not just a feast for the eyes but also a culinary journey that engages all senses. Dive into its flavors, and let Hangzhou tell you its story through its delectable dishes.
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Top Restaurants In Hangzhou, China
Hangzhou’s culinary heritage, coupled with its rapid modernization, has led to an eclectic blend of traditional eateries and contemporary dining spots. If you’re on the lookout for the best dining experiences in Hangzhou, here are some top-notch recommendations:
Lou Wai Lou (楼外楼)
- Overview: Established in 1848, it’s one of China’s oldest operating restaurants. Renowned for its classic Hangzhou dishes, it has hosted many notable figures throughout history.
- Specialties: West Lake Fish in Sweet and Sour Sauce, Dongpo Pork, Beggar’s Chicken.
- Setting: Overlooking the scenic West Lake, diners can enjoy their meal with a breathtaking view.
28 Hubin Road
- Overview: Located within the Hyatt Regency Hangzhou, this upscale restaurant offers a modern twist to traditional Hangzhou cuisine.
- Specialties: Longjing Tea Prawns, Crispy Sea Cucumber.
- Setting: An elegant interior with panoramic views of the West Lake.
Zhi Wei Guan (知味观)
- Overview: Another iconic eatery, operational since 1913, it’s known for its traditional snacks and dishes.
- Specialties: Steamed Buns, Sweet Osmanthus Lotus Root with Glutinous Rice.
- Setting: Traditional Chinese architecture with nostalgic décor.
Green Tea Restaurant (绿茶餐厅)
- Overview: A trendy spot among locals and tourists, it offers a variety of Chinese dishes in a contemporary setting.
- Specialties: Green Tea Roast Pork, Spicy Lotus Roots.
- Setting: Modern and laid-back with vibrant greenery.
- Overview: Located in the Four Seasons Hotel, Jin Sha is a luxury dining experience that offers both Hangzhou and Cantonese cuisines.
- Specialties: Braised Beef Cheek, Drunken Chicken.
- Setting: A sophisticated ambiance with private dining rooms and an open-air terrace.
Alibaba’s Hema Xiansheng
- Overview: A futuristic dining experience where you shop for ingredients, and chefs cook it for you. It’s an initiative by Alibaba, China’s e-commerce giant.
- Specialties: Fresh seafood dishes, Sushi.
- Setting: Modern supermarket combined with dining areas.
Grandma’s Home (外婆家)
- Overview: A popular chain offering home-style Zhejiang dishes at reasonable prices.
- Specialties: Braised Pork Belly, Bamboo Shoot Soup.
- Setting: Cozy, like dining at your grandmother’s.
- Overview: Specializing in Huaiyang cuisine, it’s a must-visit for food enthusiasts wanting to explore beyond Hangzhou flavors.
- Specialties: Yangzhou Fried Rice, Sweet and Sour Mandarin Fish.
- Setting: Traditional interiors with intricate woodwork.
Colombo Italian Restaurant & Bar
- Overview: For those craving international flavors, this Italian spot is among the best in Hangzhou.
- Specialties: Wood-fired Pizzas, Homemade Pasta.
- Setting: Modern chic with Italian charm.
Shan Wai Shan (山外山)
- Overview: Located on the outskirts of Hangzhou, it offers a tranquil dining experience amidst nature.
- Specialties: Local wild vegetables, Bamboo Shoots.
- Setting: Surrounded by mountains and greenery, the ambiance is calm and serene.
Tips for Dining in Hangzhou:
- Reservations: Given the popularity of some establishments, it’s advisable to book in advance, especially during weekends and holidays.
- Tea Pairing: When in Hangzhou, ask for tea pairings. The city’s famous Longjing Tea complements many local dishes beautifully.
- Language: While larger restaurants and hotels usually have English-speaking staff, it might be helpful to have a translation app or a phrasebook at smaller local eateries.
Hangzhou’s dining scene is a reflection of its rich history, vibrant culture, and the innovative spirit of its people. From century-old establishments preserving age-old culinary traditions to modern eateries pushing the boundaries of fusion cuisine, Hangzhou offers a diverse palate that promises to tantalize every discerning food lover. Whether you’re here for the traditional Hangbang delicacies or international flavors, Hangzhou’s restaurants won’t disappoint.
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Tours For Visitors To Hangzhou, China
Hangzhou, with its mesmerizing West Lake, ancient temples, tea plantations, and vibrant cityscape, offers a plethora of opportunities for immersive tours. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, nature lover, or someone looking for a cultural immersion, Hangzhou has a tour tailored for you. Here’s an in-depth look:
West Lake Boat Tour
- Description: Navigate the pristine waters of the iconic West Lake on a traditional wooden boat. Enjoy views of ancient pagodas, mist-covered hills, and traditional bridges.
- Highlights: Broken Bridge, Su Causeway, Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, and the serene island temples.
- Tips: Opt for an early morning or sunset tour for magical lighting and fewer crowds.
Hangzhou Historic and Cultural Day Tour
- Description: Embark on a journey through Hangzhou’s ancient streets, uncovering its rich history and vibrant culture.
- Highlights: Leifeng Pagoda, Six Harmonies Pagoda, Qinghefang Ancient Street, and Hu Qing Yu Tang Traditional Chinese Medicine Museum.
- Tips: Hiring a local guide will enrich your experience with anecdotes and insights.
Longjing Tea Plantation Tour
- Description: Wander through the lush tea terraces where China’s most famous green tea, Longjing, is cultivated. Learn about the intricate tea-making process.
- Highlights: Plucking your own tea leaves (seasonal), watching the roasting process, and tea tasting with panoramic views.
- Tips: The best times to visit are during the spring and autumn harvests.
- Description: Explore Hangzhou’s spiritual side by visiting its serene temples and monasteries.
- Highlights: Lingyin Temple (with its intricate Buddhist carvings), Faxi Temple, and Jingci Temple.
- Tips: Dress modestly and observe silence in the prayer areas.
Hangzhou Culinary Experience Tour
- Description: Dive deep into the flavors of Hangzhou. Visit local markets, savor street food, and even attend a traditional Chinese cooking class.
- Highlights: Hefang Street food tour, Wet market visits, and cooking sessions where you can make dishes like Dongpo Pork.
- Tips: Make sure to inform the tour operators of any dietary restrictions in advance.
Xixi Wetland Park Tour
- Description: Explore China’s first national wetland park, a beautiful fusion of urban landscapes and rich ecosystems.
- Highlights: Birdwatching, boat rides through interconnected lakes, and traditional folk performances.
- Tips: Wear comfortable shoes and carry mosquito repellent.
Grand Canal Night Cruise
- Description: Experience the world’s oldest and longest man-made waterway with a night cruise, observing the lit-up ancient architecture and lively waterfront.
- Highlights: Gongchen Bridge, historic docks, and traditional residences.
- Tips: The canal can be chilly at night, so bring a light jacket.
Hangzhou Silk Tour
- Description: Discover the city’s historic silk industry, with visits to silk farms, markets, and museums.
- Highlights: National Silk Museum, silk weaving demonstrations, and shopping for authentic Hangzhou silk products.
- Tips: Learn to distinguish authentic silk products from synthetics with the help of your guide.
Hangzhou Bike and Hike Tour
- Description: Pedal and trek through Hangzhou’s picturesque landscapes, from lakeside promenades to mountain trails.
- Highlights: Biking around West Lake, hiking in the Wuyun Mountain, and exploring secluded pathways often missed by tourists.
- Tips: Wear appropriate attire, including sturdy shoes, and stay hydrated.
Traditional Arts and Craft Workshop
- Description: Engage in hands-on workshops, learning traditional crafts like Chinese calligraphy, tea ceremony, or paper cutting.
- Highlights: Crafting your own souvenirs, understanding the significance of each art form, and interacting with local artisans.
- Tips: Carry your creations with care; they make for unique souvenirs!
Hangzhou, often described as “Paradise on Earth,” offers diverse tour experiences that delve deep into its natural beauty, historical legacy, and rich culture. By immersing yourself in these curated tours, you not only witness the city’s marvels but also engage in stories, flavors, and traditions that have shaped Hangzhou through the ages. Whether you’re there for a short stay or an extended visit, these tours ensure that you capture the essence of this magnificent city.
source: Rafa Goes Around on YouTube
Hangzhou 3-4 Days Travel Itinerary
Day 1: Embrace the Beauty of West Lake
- Breakfast: Start your day with a traditional breakfast of “Xiao Long Bao” (soup dumplings) and “Dingsheng Cake” at a local eatery.
- West Lake Exploration: Head to the West Lake, the heart of Hangzhou. Begin at the Broken Bridge, then stroll down Bai Causeway enjoying the picturesque views.
- Lunch: Try the famed “West Lake Fish in Sweet and Sour Sauce” at Lou Wai Lou, an iconic restaurant overlooking the lake.
- Boat Ride: Hire a boat to visit some of the lake’s islands. Three Pools Mirroring the Moon is a must-visit spot.
- Huagang Park: A beautiful park, known for its fish viewing spots. Great for a leisurely walk.
- Dinner: Head to Qinghefang Ancient Street for street food delicacies.
- Impression West Lake Show: A captivating outdoor performance that showcases the folklore of Hangzhou, set on the backdrop of West Lake.
Day 2: Ancient Temples & Tea Plantations
- Breakfast: Visit a local tea house for a light breakfast accompanied by the famous Longjing Tea.
- Lingyin Temple: Explore this ancient Buddhist temple, also one of China’s largest and most visited. Don’t miss the Feilai Feng grottoes with their stunning Buddhist rock carvings.
- Lunch: Try vegetarian dishes at the temple’s restaurant, reflecting traditional Buddhist cuisine.
- Longjing Tea Plantation: Delve into the world of tea at Hangzhou’s renowned tea village. Engage in tea-picking, watch the roasting process, and sip fresh brews with a view.
- Dinner: Visit Grandma’s Home (Wai Po Jia) for home-style Zhejiang dishes.
- Night stroll at the West Lake: The lake offers a different charm under the moonlight, with shimmering reflections and serene ambiance.
Day 3: Nature and Wetlands
- Breakfast: Relish Hangzhou noodles at Kui Yuan Guan, an establishment dating back to the Qing dynasty.
- Xixi Wetland Park: Spend the morning exploring this national wetland park, known for its ecology and beautiful landscapes. Opt for a boat tour to get an in-depth experience.
- Lunch: Enjoy seafood delicacies at a restaurant within Xixi Wetlands.
- Bamboo-lined Path at Yunqi: A serene path, perfect for a quiet stroll amidst nature.
- Dinner: Experience luxury dining at Jin Sha, located in the Four Seasons Hotel.
- Grand Canal Night Cruise: View the ancient architecture and the vibrant waterfront on a night cruise along the world’s oldest and longest man-made waterway.
Day 4: Modern Hangzhou & Departure
- Breakfast: Savor a modern twist to Hangzhou breakfast at Alibaba’s Hema Xiansheng.
- Hangzhou Qianjiang CBD: Explore the modern side of Hangzhou with its skyscrapers and the iconic Qianjiang New City.
- Lunch: Indulge in an international meal at Colombo Italian Restaurant & Bar for a change of palate.
- Shopping: Head to Hubin Shopping District, a hub for international and luxury brands. Look out for Hangzhou silk as a souvenir.
- Farewell Dinner: Enjoy a panoramic view of Hangzhou city at a high-rise restaurant.
- Departure: Depending on your schedule, depart for Hangzhou Railway Station or Xiaoshan International Airport, marking an end to your memorable journey.
Four days in Hangzhou offer a perfect balance between its natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and modern-day marvels. Through this itinerary, you get a comprehensive experience of what makes Hangzhou a “Paradise on Earth”. Safe travels!
source: Creative Travel Guide on YouTube
Where To Visit After Your Trip To Hangzhou?
After immersing yourself in the serene beauty of Hangzhou, there are several exciting destinations nearby to continue your exploration of China. Each offers a distinct flavor and can complement your Hangzhou experience by adding layers of history, nature, or modernity. Here’s a detailed guide:
- Why Visit: Only about a 45-minute high-speed train journey away, Shanghai is China’s dazzling cosmopolitan city. It offers a unique blend of East and West, modernity and history.
- The Bund: An iconic promenade showcasing colonial-era buildings.
- Shanghai Tower: China’s tallest skyscraper offers a bird’s eye view of the city.
- Yu Garden: A beautiful traditional Chinese garden in the heart of the city.
- Nanjing Road: A shopper’s paradise, lined with stores and neon lights.
- Tips: Opt for a river cruise on the Huangpu River during sunset or nighttime to see the skyline light up.
- Why Visit: Known as the “Venice of the East”, Suzhou is famous for its intricate canal system, classic gardens, and silk products.
- Master of the Nets Garden: A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is the most renowned garden in Suzhou.
- Suzhou Museum: Designed by I. M. Pei, this museum has an intriguing mix of old and modern art.
- Pingjiang Road: A historic alley lined with shops, tea houses, and ancient architecture.
- Tips: Taking a boat ride along the Grand Canal offers a different perspective of the city’s charm.
- Why Visit: As one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, Nanjing is rich in history and culture, offering numerous historical sites and modern attractions.
- The Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum: A tribute to the founder of modern China.
- Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall: A touching memorial dedicated to the victims of the Nanjing Massacre.
- Confucius Temple: A bustling area with a historic temple, vibrant market, and scenic views of the Qinhuai River.
- Tips: Try the local specialty, Nanjing Salted Duck, when you visit.
Wuzhen Water Town
- Why Visit: Part of the six ancient water towns south of the Yangtze River, Wuzhen offers a peek into China’s traditional water town architecture and lifestyle.
- Xizha: With canals lit by lanterns at night, traditional performances, and ancient bridges, this part of Wuzhen is enchantingly atmospheric.
- Handicraft demonstrations: Witness traditional indigo fabric dyeing and other craft forms.
- Tips: Stay overnight in a traditional guesthouse to fully experience the town’s charm.
Huangshan (Yellow Mountain)
- Why Visit: Famous for its breathtaking sunrises, ancient pine trees, hot springs, and winter snowscapes, Huangshan is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has inspired countless poets and painters over millennia.
- The Sea of Clouds: Watch the peaks of Huangshan emerge from a dreamy blanket of clouds.
- Ancient villages: Explore nearby villages like Hongcun and Xidi, which have preserved Ming and Qing dynasty architecture.
- Tips: Wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll be doing a lot of hiking. Check the weather in advance; the scenery changes dramatically with the seasons.
Zhouzhuang Water Town
- Why Visit: Often dubbed the most beautiful water town in China, Zhouzhuang boasts stunning ancient architecture, stone bridges, and a network of canals dating back over 900 years.
- Double Bridges: Twin bridges that offer a scenic view and form the iconic image associated with Zhouzhuang.
- Zhang Residence and Shen Residence: Ancient mansions showcasing the opulence of former wealthy merchants.
- Tips: Visit during weekdays to avoid the weekend crowds. Don’t forget to try “Wansan Pork Shank”, a local delicacy.
Xitang Water Town
- Why Visit: Famous for its cobbled streets, ancient bridges, and narrow lanes, Xitang offers a cinematic ambiance. It gained international fame when scenes from the movie “Mission Impossible III” were shot here.
- Ceilinged Corridor: This sheltered walkway along the riverbank is unique to Xitang and is lined with numerous shops and eateries.
- Boat Rides: Drift peacefully on wooden boats through the town’s waterways.
- Tips: The town is particularly mesmerizing at dusk when red lanterns light up the paths and reflect on the water.
- Why Visit: Known as the “world’s supermarket”, Yiwu is a city that has the world’s largest small commodities market.
- Yiwu International Trade City: This massive market is a shopping paradise where you can find almost anything imaginable.
- Futian Wetland Park: A peaceful break from the market’s bustle, this park offers a relaxing natural setting within the city.
- Tips: If planning to buy in bulk or for business, hiring a local agent might help you navigate the market efficiently.
- Why Visit: Shaoxing offers a rich history and is famous for its traditional Chinese wine and waterways.
- Lu Xun Native Place: The former residence of one of China’s greatest modern writers.
- Anchang Ancient Town: Famous for its black-awning boats and preserved ancient architecture.
- Shaoxing Wine Museum: Delve into the history and making of the city’s renowned rice wine.
- Tips: Don’t leave without tasting Shaoxing’s traditional dishes like “Stinky Tofu” and “Prawn Sauce Noodles”.
Qiandao Lake (Thousand Island Lake)
- Why Visit: A man-made freshwater lake covering over 570 square kilometers, Qiandao Lake offers a refreshing escape with its 1,078 islands of different sizes.
- Island hopping: Explore some of the main islands, each having its own theme.
- Water Activities: Engage in activities like fishing, swimming, and boating.
- Tips: Consider staying overnight on one of the islands to truly appreciate the tranquility of the lake.
Putuoshan (Mount Putuo)
- Why Visit: Located on an island southeast of Shanghai, it is one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in China, dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy, Guanyin.
- Puji Temple: A major pilgrimage site and one of the largest temples on the mountain.
- Beaches: Emerald waters and sandy shores offer a chance to relax.
- Sunset at Foding Mountain: Witness a breathtaking view as the sun dips below the horizon.
- Tips: Being a pilgrimage site, expect it to be busy during major Buddhist festivals. It’s best to stay overnight for a full experience.
- Why Visit: An ancient harbor city, Ningbo is a blend of rich history and modernity with numerous cultural relics and a thriving port.
- Tianyi Pavilion: The oldest existing library in China, with a vast collection of ancient texts.
- Ningbo Port: One of the busiest ports in the world, offering an impressive view of shipping vessels.
- Old Bund: A colonial-era waterfront area with European architecture and a lively atmosphere.
- Tips: Sample Ningbo’s seafood, especially the yellow croaker dishes which are a local delicacy.
- Why Visit: Located between Hangzhou and Shanghai, Jiaxing is a city with historical significance, especially related to the Communist Party of China.
- South Lake: A scenic spot with beautiful pavilions and bridges, it’s also where the Communist Party of China held its first National Congress.
- Wuzhen: While we’ve mentioned it before, it’s worth noting that this beautiful water town is under Jiaxing’s administration.
- Tips: If you’re visiting in late October, the Red Boat Festival at South Lake is an interesting cultural event to witness.
- Why Visit: Located near Shanghai, this island is a peaceful retreat from city life with green landscapes and an agricultural vibe.
- Lavender Farms: Gorgeous fields of lavender, offering a fragrant and visually stunning experience.
- Agricultural Tours: Get an authentic experience of China’s rural life.
- Tips: The island is perfect for cycling, so consider renting a bike to explore its charming countryside.
- Why Visit: It’s the largest archipelago of China and boasts stunning beaches, seafood, and cultural attractions.
- Dinghai: A bustling town with historic sites and a mix of cultures.
- Daishan: An island famous for its serene beaches and seafood.
- Tips: The seafood market in Dinghai offers a diverse range of fresh catches. Try the freshly caught and grilled fish for an authentic experience.
The regions surrounding Hangzhou are incredibly diverse, from sacred Buddhist sites and lush islands to bustling cities with deep historical roots. Each place offers a new adventure, a chance to delve deeper into the intricate tapestry of Chinese culture, history, and natural beauty. Taking the time to explore these areas will surely enrich any traveler’s journey through China.
Hangzhou Travel Guide: Final Thoughts
When one thinks of China’s vast and diverse landscape, cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi’an often come to the forefront of a traveler’s mind. They are, undeniably, jewels in the country’s historical and modern crown. Yet, Hangzhou, a mere whisper away from the bustling metropolis of Shanghai, stands as a testament to China’s timeless ability to marry the classical with the contemporary, the spiritual with the mundane, and the natural with the man-made.
A City of Poetry and Prose
Hangzhou’s allure has been immortalized in countless poems, paintings, and prose for over a millennium. Its picturesque West Lake has inspired romantic tales and has been the muse for many artists. With its misty mountains, pagodas that dance with reflections in tranquil waters, and the historic tales of legendary creatures and love, Hangzhou seems to be a city plucked straight out of a lyrical poem. Every visitor inevitably becomes a poet at heart, even if just for the duration of their stay.
The Pulse of Modernity
But it’s not all ancient allure; Hangzhou is a city with its gaze firmly fixed on the future. As the host city of the G20 summit in 2016, it showcased its ability to take center stage in global affairs. Moreover, it’s home to Alibaba, the e-commerce giant, representing China’s tech-driven ambitions. The city’s infrastructure, with its efficient metro system, high-speed train connectivity, and modern architecture, all underscore its contemporary significance.
The gastronomic scene in Hangzhou is a tantalizing orchestra of flavors, colors, and textures. Its dishes, rooted deeply in its history, are a celebration of the region’s bounty. From the delicate Dragon Well Tea to the robust flavors of Dongpo Pork, Hangzhou offers culinary journeys that are as memorable as its scenic vistas.
A Hub and a Haven
One of Hangzhou’s undeniable strengths as a travel destination is its strategic location. Close to other significant cities and attractions, it serves both as a hub and a haven. After the urban adventures of Shanghai or the water-town tranquility of Suzhou, Hangzhou offers a balanced blend, making it an essential stop in any East China itinerary.
From the meditative calm of Lingyin Temple to the vibrant bustle of the Hefang Street market, Hangzhou provides a gamut of experiences. Adventure seekers can hike in the bamboo forests or explore the waterways, while culture enthusiasts can lose themselves in traditional tea ceremonies or opera performances.
Hangzhou, often overshadowed by its more globally renowned counterparts, stands as a beacon of China’s multifaceted charm. It’s a reminder that sometimes, the most profound experiences aren’t in the most obvious places. In Hangzhou, every turn is a story, every sound is a melody, and every moment is a memory in the making.
As travelers, when we seek destinations that offer both an escape and an immersion, that dance between the past and the future, and that satiate both the heart and the soul, Hangzhou emerges as an undeniable answer. So, as you close this guide and contemplate your journey, remember that Hangzhou isn’t just a destination; it’s an experience, waiting to be lived. Safe travels!
“Whispers of Hangzhou”
In the heart of ancient China, by waters deep and clear, Lies Hangzhou, the poetic, that travelers hold dear. With West Lake’s gentle ripples, and pagodas standing tall, Every step within its bounds, a siren’s silent call.
Bridges arch with elegance, over canals winding slow, Bamboo forests rustle tales, of ancient dynasties’ glow. Mist-kissed tea plantations, on rolling hills they sprawl, Where every leaf tells stories, if one listens, after all.
The city’s hum, a gentle lull, a modern beat, yet old, Where tales of love and legends, in hushed tones are retold. Silk and spices, tech and trade, in bustling markets blend, While temples offer solace, and peace that knows no end.
Traveler, in Hangzhou’s embrace, let your weary spirit soar, For in its verses and its views, are dreams and much, much more. In this city of reflections, both in water and in soul, Find the whispers of millennia, that make your heart whole.