hangzhou

The 18 Best Things to Do in Hangzhou in 2024

Hangzhou, renowned for its natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, is a must-visit destination. The city’s crown jewel, West Lake, offers stunning landscapes, historical pagodas, and serene boat rides. Surrounding tea plantations, especially the Longjing Tea fields, provide picturesque views and a taste of one of China’s finest teas.

Beyond its historical and natural beauty, Hangzhou is also famous for its vibrant cultural scene. The China National Silk Museum and the National Tea Museum provide fascinating insights into local traditions. Hangzhou’s culinary scene is a treat for food lovers, with delicacies like Sweet and Sour West Lake Fish and Dongpo pork.

With its blend of natural beauty, cultural depth, and modern vibrancy, Hangzhou offers a unique and enriching travel experience. In this blog post, let’s explore the 18 best things to do in Hangzhou!

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🌟 Hangzhou Travel Planning Guide

Considering a last-minute trip to Hangzhou?

🇨🇳 Top Activities and Tours in Hangzhou:

1. Flexible Hangzhou Private Tour from Shanghai by Bullet Train
2. Best of Hangzhou: A Comprehensive Tour of the City’s Top Sights
3. One-Day Hangzhou Dragon Well Tea Culture & West Lake Private Tour
4. Jack HangZhou Private Tour
5. Wuzhen Water Town Delight Tour With Riverside Lunch Experience


🏨Top Hotels in Hangzhou:

West Lake State Guesthouse (⭐️ 4.8 luxury)
Zhejiang Xizi Hotel · Wangzhuang (⭐️ 4.8 luxury)
Wyndham Grand Plaza Royale Hangzhou (⭐️ 4.6 mid-range)
Grand Hotel (⭐️ 4.7 mid-range)
Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake (⭐️ 4.8 top-luxury)

🌐Make sure to install ExpressVPN or NordVPN in advance for unrestricted internet access during your stay in China!

🌏 Where is Hangzhou Located

Hangzhou is a city in the Zhejiang province of Eastern China. It is located at the southern end of the Grand Canal, which connects it to Beijing in the north. Hangzhou is situated on the lower reaches of the Qiantang River and is renowned for its picturesque West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site surrounded by temples, pagodas, gardens, and historic sites. The city is about 180 kilometers (110 miles) southwest of Shanghai, making it easily accessible by high-speed train in just over an hour.

The city is known for its rich history, vibrant culture, and thriving economy, with a strong emphasis on technology, e-commerce, and finance. It is a popular destination for both domestic and international tourists, drawn by its natural beauty and cultural heritage.

👑 Best Things to Do in Hangzhou

1. West Lake (西湖)

West Lake, located in Hangzhou, is one of the most famous and picturesque lakes in China. I’ve always felt that Hangzhou is an extremely beautiful city. West Lake is not only a hallmark of Hangzhou but also its soul, with each season having its own unique beauty.

West Lake is surrounded by mountains on three sides, covering an area of about 6.39 square kilometers, with a circumference of nearly 15 kilometers. It’s best to allocate a whole day to fully enjoy all that West Lake has to offer.

There are over 100 parks along the lake and the famous Ten Scenes of West Lake, which originated in the Southern Song Dynasty when literati enjoyed boating on the lake and writing poems and paintings, leading to the initial selection of these ten scenes. The Ten Scenes of West Lake include:

  • Melting Snow on Broken Bridge
  • Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake
  • Lotus in the Breeze at Crooked Courtyard
  • Twin Peaks Piercing the Clouds
  • Spring Dawn at Su Causeway
  • Three Pools Mirroring the Moon
  • Viewing Fish at Flower Pond
  • Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping Hill
  • Leifeng Pagoda in Evening Glow
  • Orioles Singing in the Willows

These are listed in a sequence starting from Melting Snow on Broken Bridge in the north of West Lake, going clockwise, and ending with Orioles Singing in the Willows.

If you only have a day, it’s recommended to visit Melting Snow on Broken Bridge, Spring Dawn at Su Causeway, Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, Viewing Fish at Flower Pond, and Orioles Singing in the Willows. Select a few that are convenient to visit, and except for the snow on the Broken Bridge, the other scenes are worth visiting during their respective seasons.

Melting Snow on Broken Bridge: It is best seen in winter when it’s snowing. Standing on the bridge and looking at the mountains and the water, it feels like stepping into a painting. Even without snow, the scenery from the bridge is equally worth seeing.

Spring Dawn at Su Causeway: The causeway is 2.8 kilometers long, the only passage connecting the north and south banks of the lake, and the best place to view the entire lake. Along the causeway are planted willows, peach trees, and a large number of flowers and plants.

Three Pools Mirroring the Moon: This is the largest and only island among the three islands in West Lake that is open to the public. Taking a boat to the island is a must. The island is shaded by green trees, and pavilions, towers, and curved bridges form a beautiful picture of a Jiangnan water town.

Lotus in the Breeze at Crooked Courtyard: Here, hundreds of varieties of lotus flowers are cultivated in ponds, showing an especially charming attraction in summer.

Viewing Fish at Flower Pond: There are various flowers and fish here. The Red Fish Pond is the central area for touring the entire garden.

When visiting West Lake, it’s a must to experience a boat cruise. There are several types of boat cruises available:

Hand-rowed boats are available at the Bai Causeway on West Lake, costing CNY 150 per boat for 4-6 people. To board, simply look for areas with “Hand-rowed Boat Docking Points” (Chinese: “手划船停靠点”) along the lake, wave your hand, and a vacant hand-rowed boat will approach for boarding.

In addition to hand-rowed boats, there are also leisure boats and traditional Chinese-style boats. Regular Chinese-style boats can be boarded at the Huagang Dock and the Hongqiao Bridge Dock. Deluxe Chinese-style boats can be boarded at the Hu Bin No.2 Park Dock, which can sail around West Lake but cannot dock on the islands.

There are also two types of boats suitable for families with children: self-paddling boats and self-rowing boats, which are quite interesting as visitors have to operate them manually. These boats can be boarded near the Broken Bridge and Bai Causeway, but with restricted areas. Self-rowing boats are very affordable, starting at CNY 30 per hour, with a minimum rental of 1 hour.

“Impression West Lake” stands out from typical tourist performances with its authentic mountains, waters, and landscapes.

The show consists of ten acts featuring classic music from around the world. It blends traditional Chinese cultural elements like poetry, opera, music, dance, Tai Chi, and tea art, making for a breathtaking experience.

P.S. Adult ticket prices range from CNY 360-420. Showtimes are not fixed daily, and the prices are subject to the scenic area’s real-time updates.

🎫Admission ticket: free (fees apply for certain scenic spots)
⏰Opening hours: 08:00 – 20:00
🚗How to get there: Take metro line 1 to Longxiangqiao Station.

👉 Book the West Lake Tour on Viator

2. Lingyin Temple (灵隐寺)

Lingyin Temple, located near West Lake, is one of China’s earliest Buddhist temples and one of the ten most famous ancient temples in the country. Known for its continuous flow of incense and worshippers throughout history, it remains a key site to explore Hangzhou’s Buddhist culture.

The Lingyin Temple area includes two main attractions: Peak Flown From Afar and Lingyin Temple, each requiring a separate ticket. It’s recommended to visit in the following order: Peak Flown From Afar, Lingyin Temple, Yongfu Chan Temple, and Taoguang Temple.

Peak Flown From Afar, or Feilai Feng, is notable for its limestone composition, contrasting with the surrounding sandstone hills, making it look like a rock that “flew” in from elsewhere.

This site is renowned for its historical Buddhist carvings, featuring over 300 stone carvings from the Song and Yuan dynasties (960-1368 AD). These carvings, depicting Buddhist deities, scenes from scriptures, and historical figures, make Peak Flown From Afar an important cultural and religious landmark.

The three main halls of Lingyin Temple, arranged along a central axis, are the Hall of the Heavenly Kings, Mahavira Hall, and the Hall of the Medicine Buddha.

Hall of the Heavenly Kings: At the center of the Hall of the Heavenly Kings is a statue of Maitreya Buddha, flanked by a statue of Skanda, a guardian deity. The Skanda statue, carved from camphor wood, dates back to the Southern Song Dynasty and is highly valuable.

Mahavira Hall: The impressive Mahavira Hall features a lotus-seated statue of Shakyamuni Buddha, one of the tallest wooden seated Buddha statues in China, flanked by Ananda and Mahakasyapa.

Hall of the Medicine Buddha: This hall is dedicated to the Medicine Buddha, who is believed to have the power to heal physical and spiritual ailments.

Yongfu Temple has a history of over 1,600 years. Having experienced many ups and downs and undergone multiple reconstructions, it does not possess particularly ancient relics. However, the scenery is beautiful and picturesque, with some tea houses and academies inside, making it an ideal place for a peaceful retreat.

Taoguang Temple is built in a staggered manner along the mountain slope. Compared to Lingyin Temple at the foot of the mountain, Taoguang Temple receives fewer visitors. The environment is relatively quiet, and the layout of the halls is more compact compared to Yongfu Temple.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 30 (Lingyin Temple); CNY 45 (Peak Flown From Afar)
⏰Opening hours: 07:00 – 18:15
🚗How to get there: Take bus 7, 324, 807, j1 or y2, and get off at Lingyin Station.

3. China National Silk Museum (中国丝绸博物馆)

The China National Silk Museum, situated by West Lake in Hangzhou, is the country’s first national museum dedicated to silk and the largest of its kind globally. The museum houses several galleries, including the Silk Road Gallery, the Weaving Galleries, the Textile Conservation Gallery, and the Fashion Gallery.

The Silk Road Gallery is highly recommended, as it showcases the 5000-year history of Chinese silk and the Silk Road. The gallery features textiles from the Han and Tang dynasties, Liao and Jin artifacts from northern grasslands, Song dynasty garments from the Jiangnan region, and modern qipao and pictorial textiles.

In the Weaving Galleries, visitors can see various wooden silk weaving machines, from simple to intricate designs, with live demonstrations of weaving.

The Fashion Gallery spans three floors and is filled with an array of fashionable garments, giving the impression of stepping into a high-end women’s clothing store, surrounded by exquisite and elegant attire.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: 09:00-17:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 12, 31, 42, 87 or 133, and get off at Silk Museum Station.

4. Hangzhou Tea Plantations (龙井茶园)

Longjing Village, the birthplace of West Lake Longjing tea, offers a unique tea experience due to its exceptional natural environment and the dedicated efforts of tea farmers. This village holds an irreplaceable position in Hangzhou and the broader Jiangnan region as the origin of top-grade West Lake Longjing tea.

The tea plantations are terraced along the mountainside, creating lush, green layers. Visitors can stroll along the garden paths, enjoying fresh air and the scent of tea. You can also learn tea-picking techniques from local farmers and experience the joy of harvesting tea leaves. Nearby, several farmhouses serve authentic local dishes and Longjing tea, providing a true taste of Hangzhou.

One of the oldest temples in Longjing Village is Longjing Temple, known for its long history and rich cultural heritage. Visitors can admire ancient architecture, beautiful Buddha statues, and deep Buddhist culture. The temple also houses an ancient well, the Old Longjing Well, known for its clear and sweet water, perfect for brewing tea. Enjoying a cup of Longjing tea at the temple offers a unique blend of Zen and tea fragrance.

In Longjing Village, visitors can purchase authentic Longjing tea and local handmade crafts. It’s important to verify authenticity when buying these products.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: all-day
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 87 to Longjing Chashi Station.

5. Prince Bay Park (太子湾公园)

Prince Bay Park, a park renowned for its romantic atmosphere, is one of the premier cherry blossom viewing spots throughout Hangzhou.

The optimal time for flower viewing is from March 20th to April 10th each year when tulips and cherry blossoms bloom, infusing the park with vibrant hues. This makes Prince Bay Park a favored location for couples to take their wedding photos.

The lawn with the Big Pinwheel is the park’s densest area for cherry blossoms. The vast sea of red and yellow flowers, combined with the numerous cherry blossoms, creates a magnificent scene, truly deserving its reputation as a prime cherry blossom viewing spot.

During the spring cherry blossom season, the park attracts 70,000 to 80,000 visitors daily, with tourists arriving as early as 4-5 AM. By 7 AM, the first wave of visitors peaks. Therefore, attempting to avoid the crowds is futile; every moment during the cherry blossom season is peak time.

Even outside the flower season, the autumn scenery of Pipa Island and Jadeite Garden in the park’s center and the winter snow scenes offer their own unique attractions.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: all-day
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 87 or 197 to Chishanbu Station.

6. Meijiawu Tea Plantation (梅家坞茶文化村)

Meijiawu Tea Plantation, encircled by verdant mountains and terraced tea hills, is a renowned Longjing tea production area in Hangzhou. Numerous tea farmers run their own tea houses here, and the area becomes particularly lively during the tea-picking season in April and May.

Tea plants are abundant on the mountains and in the fields, with tea houses dotting the roadsides. The picturesque houses set against the lush mountains create a scene reminiscent of a painting.

The small homes of tea farmers are situated at the mountain’s base, where each family roasts and sells tea. These homes often double as tea houses and farm-style restaurants, with some nestled on the mountainside, others by the water, and some featuring courtyards filled with osmanthus trees.

Most of these establishments are rustic and natural, infused with the fragrance of tea and the cultural essence of Jiangnan. Visitors can choose different tea-tasting settings based on their preferences.

It’s crucial to remember: if you are not well-versed in tea, refrain from purchasing tea to avoid being scammed.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: all-day
🚗How to get there: Take bus 103b, 103, 121b, 121, or 324 to Meijiawu Station.

👉 Book Dragon Well Tea Culture & West Lake Private Tour on Viator

7. Qinghefang Ancient Street (河坊街)

Almost every city has a historic street that exudes a sense of history. Qinghefang Ancient Street, situated at the base of Wushan Hill, is a section of Qinghefang. This street, after renovation, now reflects the late Qing Dynasty and early Republic of China style, making it one of the best representations of Hangzhou’s historical and cultural landscape.

The street is bustling with specialty snacks, antiques, calligraphy, paintings, and over a hundred shops, including many long-established ones unique to Hangzhou. A major highlight of Qinghefang Ancient Street is its variety of interesting museums and themed exhibition halls. Notable among them are the Zhu Bingren Bronze Art Museum, Guanfu Museum, Rongbaozhai Gallery showcasing Ming and Qing Dynasty paintings, and the Ancient Ceramics Museum.

The area is also rich in tea culture, offering Longjing tea brewing experiences. Additionally, visitors can find portrait paintings, paper-cutting, and clay figurine crafts as memorable keepsakes.

🎫Entrance fee: free
⏰Opening hours: all-day
🚗How to get there: Take bus no.195 or 8 to Qinghefang Station.

8. Southern Song Imperial Street (南宋御街)

Southern Song Imperial Street, located next to Qinghefang Ancient Street, offers a quieter, less crowded alternative. This historic street can be fully explored in about an hour.

Paved entirely with stone slabs and flanked by waterways, the street recreates the look of the Song Dynasty era. Modern-day Southern Song Imperial Street is home to numerous small shops selling handicrafts, silk, and Longjing tea, as well as various hotels, snack bars, and convenience stores.

Staying on this street is highly recommended for visitors, as there are many affordable inns with excellent value. The nightlife is lively, and you can enjoy local delicacies and scenic views, making it a great place to spend the evening.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: all-day
🚗How to get there: Take bus no.195 or 8 to Qinghefang Station.

9. China National Tea Museum (中国茶叶博物馆)

The China National Tea Museum is the country’s only first-class national museum focused on tea and its cultural significance. It features two main sections: Shuangfeng and Longjing.

The museum’s layout is characterized by picturesque pavilions and towers, capturing the charm of Jiangnan-style courtyards. The serene environment enhances the experience of exploring tea culture.

The museum comprises six interrelated exhibition halls: the Hall of Tea History, the Kaleidoscope Hall, the Hall of Tea Properties, the Tea-friendship Hall, the Tea Sets Hall, and the Tea Customs Hall.

These halls offer a comprehensive view of tea culture from various angles, covering topics such as tea trees, harvesting techniques, tea-making tools, and the historical evolution of tea-drinking practices.

Midway up the mountain, visitors will find the Tea Altar and the Ask-Tea Pavilion, where they can learn about the “Eight Sights of Longjing” and enjoy scenic views of the tea fields.

As visitors descend, they will encounter a street that highlights tea customs from different regions of China, providing an enriched understanding of the extensive tea culture.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: 09:00-17:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 27 or 87 and get off at Shuangfeng Station.

10. Former Residence of Hu Xueyan (胡雪岩故居)

The Former Residence of Hu Xueyan, situated on Hefang Street, was constructed at the height of Hu Xueyan’s success as a notable merchant during the late Qing Dynasty. Known as the most magnificent mansion of Chinese merchants from that period, it showcases an impressive mix of traditional Chinese and Western architectural elements, making it a must-visit attraction.

Although the exterior looks rather unassuming, the interior offers a remarkable experience. The garden features high towers, winding corridors, pavilions, ponds, and rockeries. The buildings are made with luxurious materials like rosewood, redwood, and golden nanmu, epitomizing opulence. The Western-style stained glass windows, along with other imported items from that era, such as telephones and chandeliers, emphasize Hu Xueyan’s lavish lifestyle.

Zhiyuan’s artificial hill, with its rugged rocks, is open for climbing and is reputed to be the largest surviving man-made karst cave in the country. Be sure to enjoy the view from the top.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 20
⏰Opening hours: 08:00-17:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 327, 34, 71, or 127 to Huxueyan Guju Station.

11. Mantoushan Community (馒头山社区)

This neighborhood, built in the 1980s at the base of Phoenix Mountain, remains a vibrant enclave of old Hangzhou. Elderly residents still inhabit this area, which is free of modern skyscrapers and retains its historical charm.

The community is characterized by old buildings and railways, making it one of Hangzhou’s most dilapidated yet vibrant streets. Residents live in close-knit old houses where balconies overlook neighboring roofs. Small bamboo chairs line doorways, laundry hangs overhead, cured meat dangles by entrances, and elders and children find shade under trees. Red paper cutouts for “happiness” adorn windows, contributing to the tranquil and uncommercialized vibe.

Amidst this lively setting, the neighborhood also hosts various small shops and studios, including photography, sculpture, and advertising studios, offering a sense of hidden serenity within the urban environment.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: all-day
🚗How to get there: Take bus no.66 to Fengshan Xincun Station

12. Song Dynasty Town (杭州宋城)

Hangzhou Song Dynasty Town is a cultural tourism area designed to resemble the capital city of Lin’an during the Southern Song Dynasty. The streets and alleys within the area reflect the ancient market scenes of China. This place is like traveling through time, offering a fantastical experience with twenty theaters and a hundred shows, all impossible to see in one day!

The scenic area is divided into several squares, with streets and alleys connecting around them. It is recommended to start your tour from Songhe East Street in a counterclockwise direction. Liujianfang Square is the liveliest part of the entire area, hosting numerous entertainment activities. The most distinctive feature of Song Dynasty Town is the street performances, with shows taking place at almost every time of the day. Here are some must-see attractions:

The main highlight of Song Dynasty Town is the “Romance of the Song Dynasty” show, known as a must-see performance and one of the world’s top three shows. This show, with the highest number of performances and audience numbers globally, lasts nearly an hour.

It covers cultural themes from the Liangzhu culture to the flourishing Song Dynasty palace, legendary stories, and international Hangzhou. The exquisite costumes, meticulous actor movements, realistic scenes, and the impressive integration of stage changes and advanced lighting and sound technology leave a lasting impression.

Mysterious Street features various bizarre scenes, including slanted houses, upside-down houses, sideways houses, and invisible houses. Each building within this street presents numerous strange occurrences that are truly astonishing.

The “Reproducing Area of ‘Along the River during the Qingming Festival'” uses technology to bring the famous painting to life. On a screen nearly 200 square meters, dynamic environments vividly depict the bustling canal transport, noisy markets, peaceful residences, and the alternation of day and night, instantly transporting you back to the prosperous Song Dynasty.

You can spend a long time in the scenic area, enjoying performances, tasting snacks, taking pictures, and experiencing different atmospheres from day to night. When the lanterns light up, it feels like witnessing the grandeur of the Southern Song Dynasty.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 300
⏰Opening hours: 9:00 – 40 minutes after the last Romance of the Song Dynasty show
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 4, 39, 121, 189, 190, 202, 287, 308, 314, 318, 354, 439 or 1400 to Songcheng (Song Dynasty Town) Station

13. Xixi National Wetland Park (西溪国家湿地公园)

Xixi National Wetland Park is situated on the western side of the city, offering a serene environment with an intricate network of waterways, making it one of the rare natural wetlands within urban areas.

Xixi stands out among other wetlands mainly because of its rich blend of cultural landmarks. The park is filled with charming features like small bridges, willow trees, bamboo paths, and fruit trees that bloom throughout the seasons. Spread across its expansive wetland, there are numerous old-fashioned houses and courtyards. Strolling through Xixi Wetland, one experiences the feel of a true ancient town.

The peaceful and natural setting has attracted various cultural exhibitions, unique bookstores, secluded retreats, and architectural museums, creating a space where nature and art harmoniously coexist.

Covering an area three times the size of West Lake, Xixi Wetland is divided into the East Area, West Area, and Fu Causeway across its first to third phases. Each area has unique characteristics, so with limited time, it’s best to focus on just one area.

The East Area is known for its natural beauty and is the oldest and most popular section. Gao’s Villa here is a garden that rivals those in Suzhou.

In contrast, the West Area offers a more cultural ambiance and is quieter than the East Area.

Another notable feature of Xixi Wetland is the rowing boat experience, which is incredibly relaxing and offers great value for money.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 80
⏰Opening hours: 08:00 – 18:30
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 136, 193, 265, 356, 381, 382, b4 or j13 to Xixi Shidi Gaozhuang Station.

14. Grand Canal Cruise (京杭运河水上巴士)

The Grand Canal, known for being the world’s longest and most extensive ancient canal, is also among the oldest. Hangzhou is one of the cities traversed by the Grand Canal. Today, canal cruises and water buses have become popular attractions, offering tourists a chance to experience Hangzhou’s leisurely lifestyle from the water.

A highly recommended segment of the Grand Canal Cruise Route is from Wulinmen to Gongchen Bridge. You can board a boat at Wulinmen Pier next to Building C of Hangzhou Tower, with the trip taking just over 20 minutes. If you want to visit Shengli River Food Street, get off at Xinyi Fang. For Qiaoxi Straight Street, disembark at Gongchen Bridge. Notable sights along the route include:

Gongchen Bridge marks the end of the Hangzhou section of the Grand Canal and is currently the highest and longest ancient stone arch bridge in the city. One side of the bridge connects to the bustling modern city, while the other leads to a historical district with a slower pace. The canal’s banks feature museums, teahouses, fine dining establishments, cozy bookstores, and shops selling nostalgic sweet rice wine.

This historic canal street showcases the everyday life of Hangzhou locals. You’ll often find elderly residents speaking in the Hangzhou dialect, playing mahjong, and card games. Hangzhou is known for its noodles, and this street has many modest yet delightful noodle shops.

Historically, the canal was essential for transporting grain from Jiangnan, and large granaries like Fuyi Cabin were built along its banks. Today, Fuyi Cabin has been transformed from a grain storage facility into a cultural and creative park.

15. Xiaohe Zhijie Historical and Cultural District (小河直街历史文化街区)

Xiaohe Zhijie, situated on the banks of the Grand Canal, was a busy land and water hub as early as the Southern Song Dynasty, with boats constantly traveling between the north and south. The area has a rich variety of historical relics, especially from the prosperous Republic of China period, reflecting a diverse historical and cultural heritage.

Though only two to three hundred meters long, Xiaohe Zhijie has preserved the traditional water town residences of old Hangzhou. Despite its central location, it remains tranquil and sees few tourists.

The street maintains the traditional setup of shops on the ground floor and residences above. Renovations have integrated old brands and shops like sauce gardens and rice stores with modern establishments such as artisanal shops, cafes, tea bars, mahjong parlors, and noodle houses. This combination of early 20th-century architecture and contemporary lifestyle makes Xiaohe Zhijie an excellent spot for a deeper exploration of Hangzhou.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: all-day
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 1005M or 76 to Changzhengqiao Station.

16. Thousand Islets Lake (千岛湖)

Thousand Islets Lake, located in Chun’an County in the western suburbs of Hangzhou, is quite far from Hangzhou, approximately 130 kilometers away. The lake has clear water and a tree-branch-shaped form, with 1,078 islands of various sizes scattered throughout, each with unique landscapes and features.

Thousand Islets Lake is generally divided into several major areas: the Central Lake District, the Southeast Lake District, and the Southwest Lake District. The Central Lake District and Southeast Lake District are the main scenic areas, with seven islands open to visitors, including Meifeng Island and Huangshanjian Island. The Southwest Lake District is farther from Qiandaohu Town and requires self-driving to reach.

There are many ferry terminals in Thousand Islets Lake Town, with the classic route being a boat tour of the Central Lake District and Southeast Lake District, visiting the islands, each with its own charm. You can also take a luxury cruise to explore the islands, and there is a night tour route to enjoy the lakeside nightscape.

For a half-day visit, a boat tour of the Central Lake District is recommended. Start at Meifeng Island, which has the highest peak in the lake at 601 meters. You can hike up or take the cable car, and there are two viewing platforms at the top.

Yule Island offers various amusement activities such as jet skiing and a water sports carnival. Baocuilou Restaurant on the island provides buffet lunches for CNY 45 and CNY 60.

Longshan Island features an ancestral hall dedicated to Hai Rui, a respected Ming Dynasty official, with intricate wood and brick carvings. Yueguang Island, made up of five connected islets, is like a love park with various themed activities available for an extra fee.

The Southeast Lake District includes Huangshanjian Island, Guihua Island, and Tianchi Island, each with different attractions. Huangshanjian Island offers high-altitude views accessible by walking or cable car.

Guihua Island has a karst landscape with wild osmanthus flowers among the rocks. A path allows you to enjoy the flowers and various stone formations.

Tianchi Island features a “Heavenly Pool,” a clear water-filled pit left from ancient stone quarrying, now home to numerous fish.

🎫Admission ticket: Mar. – Nov.: CNY 130; Dec. – Feb.: CNY 110;
⏰Opening hours: Mar. – Nov.: 8:00 – 17:00; Dec. – Feb.: 8:40 – 16:30
🚗How to get there: Take a long-distance bus to Qiandao Lake from Xiaoshan Airport. It departs at 10:20, 11:50, 13:20, 15:10, 17:10, and 19:00. The ticket price is CNY 90 and the duration is around 3 hours.

Wuzhen Water Town is a picturesque ancient town located in the northern part of Zhejiang Province. It is one of the most famous water towns in China, known for its charming canals, ancient architecture, and rich cultural heritage.

Wuzhen is divided into East, West, South, and North Scenic Areas. The East and West Scenic Areas are the most famous and require admission fees. They perfectly preserve the appearance and layout of a water town from the late Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China era, earning the town the reputation of “Land of Fish and Rice, Capital of Silk.”

Wuzhen’s West Scenic Area consists of 12 small islands connected by over 70 small bridges, creating an authentic water town scenery. With its millennia-old cultural heritage and excellent closed scenic area management, Xizha combines natural landscapes and cultural buildings perfectly. Despite its commercialization, it remains unique and diverse.

The East Scenic Area of Wuzhen features intact water town scenery and a strong local atmosphere, with characteristic workshops and traditional shops. The streets are built along the river, connected by bridges, forming an integrated water town.

Compared to the West Scenic Area, the East Scenic Area is smaller but more vibrant.

Unlike the developed West and East Scenic Areas, the South and North Scenic Areas of Wuzhen remain undeveloped. In the quaint narrow alleys, there are old houses and shops with wooden doors, mostly inhabited by locals. The old houses, streets, and bridges in the town still maintain their original appearance, making it an excellent destination for photography enthusiasts.

The South and North Scenic Areas are usually not included in tourist group itineraries, with almost no commercial atmosphere. The prices of goods are relatively cheaper here than in the East and West Scenic Areas. The area’s pristine beauty is worth experiencing. Many residents along the streets have also opened small shops selling local souvenirs.

🎫Admission ticket: Dongzha: CNY 110; Xizha: CNY120; CNY 190 for a combo ticket
⏰Opening hours: Dongzha: 07:00 – 18:00; Xizha: 09:00 – 22:00
🚗How to get there: Take a bus from Hangzhou Passenger Transport Central Station. Buses leave every 25 minutes from 7:00 to 18:20, costing CNY 31.

👉 Book Wuzhen Water Town Tour With Riverside Lunch on Viator

Located in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province, Xitang Water Town is one of the six ancient towns in the area, despite being one of the youngest in terms of establishment. It is, however, the largest among them. Even today, Xitang preserves intact ancient buildings from the Ming and Qing dynasties, with many narrow lanes flanked by old residences.

Xitang is renowned for its numerous bridges, lanes, and ceilinged corridors, reflecting its rich cultural heritage and simple folk customs. Along the river, there are various shops selling silk fabrics, snacks, restaurants, inns, and more.

Shipi Lane is the most distinctive open-air corridor in Xitang, with a narrow strip of sky above, earning it the nickname “A Thread of Sky.”

The ceilinged corridors are a unique local market landscape, resembling roofed streets that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional, providing shelter from wind and rain.

Xitang is most enchanting at night, with both sides of the river adorned with red lanterns. It’s a must to take a boat ride at night to fully experience the charm of Xitang’s night scenery. Along the shore, inns, taverns, and shops buzz with activity, showcasing the town’s prosperity. You can also see many girls in Hanfu (traditional Chinese clothing) carrying lanterns, strolling through the corridors.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 95
⏰Opening hours: Mon. – Thu.: 7:30 – 17:00; Fri. – Sun.: 7:30 – 21:30
🚗How to get there: Take a bus from Hangzhou Passenger Transport Central Station. Buses leave every 20-50 minutes from 7:45 to 18:15, costing CNY 45.

Hangzhou is renowned for its rich culinary heritage, offering a variety of delicious dishes that reflect the flavors of Zhejiang cuisine. Here are some must-try foods in Hangzhou:

Sweet and Sour West Lake Fish (西湖醋鱼)

Sweet and Sour West Lake Fish is a renowned dish with a long history, dating back to the Song Dynasty. It is typically made using grass carp, cooked to perfection, and then topped with a tangy and sweet vinegar sauce. The fish is tender, with a unique crab-like flavor, and is both fresh and sweetly sour.

Fried Shrimps with Longjing Tea (龙井虾仁)

Fried Shrimps with Longjing Tea is a quintessential Hangzhou dish, never losing its appeal. This delicacy combines the tender buds of West Lake Longjing tea, a local specialty, with fresh shrimp. The result is a dish that marries the tea’s fragrance with the shrimp’s tenderness, offering a truly satisfying taste experience.

Dongpo Pork (东坡肉)

Dongpo Pork is a traditional Hangzhou dish, distinct from the more commonly known braised pork. While braised pork is simply stewed, Dongpo Pork is both stewed and steamed, requiring more time and a slower cooking process. The pork emerges with a golden-red, glossy skin, rich yet not greasy, melting softly in the mouth with a delightful gelatinous texture, making it a culinary masterpiece.

Beggars’ Chicken (叫花童子鸡)

Beggars’ Chicken is a unique dish where a prepared chicken is wrapped in mud and lotus leaves, then baked with Shaoxing wine-infused mud. The result is a golden, fragrant chicken with tender, succulent meat. The aroma of the lotus leaves blends with the chicken, creating a distinctive and delicious flavor.

Spiced Soy-Sauce Duck (酱鸭)

Hangzhou locals enjoy Spiced Soy-Sauce Duck, typically made from mature ducks. After a complex marination process, the duck is cooked in a mixture of soy sauce and water until the skin turns reddish-brown. The duck is then dried in the sun for 2-3 days. The result is a duck that is richly flavored, with a reddish-brown color, aromatic and oily, salty yet fresh, and full of lingering taste.

Noodles with Preserved Vegetables (片儿川面)

Noodles with Preserved Vegetables, or Pian’er Chuan, is a traditional Hangzhou dish and a popular Han Chinese snack. The noodle topping consists mainly of pickled mustard greens, bamboo shoots, and thin slices of pork. The broth is rich and flavorful, and the noodles are chewy and smooth. Pian’er Chuan is an affordable and beloved everyday snack among Hangzhou residents.

Pan-fried Scallion Wrap (葱包桧)

Pan-fried Scallion Wrap is made by wrapping scallions, Chinese crullers (youtiao), and sweet bean paste in a spring pancake, then grilling it until the exterior is golden and crispy. The inside is filled with the rich aroma of scallions and the sweet-salty combination of bean paste and crullers.

Hangzhou Steamed Bun (杭州小笼包)

Hangzhou’s steamed buns are famous for their thin skin, ample filling, and flavorful broth. The skin is as thin as paper, allowing a glimpse of the filling inside. With a gentle bite, the broth bursts out, blending the savory meat filling and rich broth in a mouthful of delight.

Victory Cake (定胜糕)

Victory Cake is a small, cute pastry with a soft and sweet texture, often filled with red bean paste or sesame filling. Not only is it delicious, but it also symbolizes good fortune and imminent victory, making it an essential treat during celebrations in Hangzhou.

🛫 How Do I Travel to Hangzhou

By Plane

Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport (HGH) is situated approximately 27 kilometers from Hangzhou’s city center. It serves as a crucial hub, offering flights from over 230 airlines that connect Hangzhou to about 100 domestic cities and around 40 international cities.

Traveling from the airport to the city center is convenient, with airport buses and taxis being the main transportation options.

Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport provides a variety of airport bus routes, not only to Hangzhou’s city center but also to neighboring cities like Shaoxing, Suzhou, Yiwu, Jinhua, and Yuyao. The journey to the Hangzhou city center typically takes about an hour, and the airport bus waiting area is located at Gate 14 of the Arrivals Hall.

By Train

Hangzhou boasts three primary passenger railway stations: Hangzhou Railway Station, Hangzhou East Railway Station, and Yuhang Railway Station. Among these, Hangzhou Railway Station and Hangzhou East Railway Station are the most commonly used.

Hangzhou Railway Station, situated in downtown Hangzhou near West Lake, is particularly favored by travelers.

Hangzhou East Railway Station, one of Asia’s largest railway junctions, serves as a pivotal hub for bullet trains connecting major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Chengdu, Changsha, Chongqing, Guilin, and Nanjing.

🚖 How to Get Around Hangzhou

Metro

Hangzhou currently has several subway lines in operation: Metro Line 1, Metro Line 2, Metro Line 4, Metro Line 5, Metro Line 6, Metro Line 7, Metro Line 8, Metro Line 9, Metro Line 10, and Metro Line 16. The starting fare is CNY 2 and the maximum fare is CNY 8.

You can take Line 1 to Xiaoshan Airport, Hangzhou East Railway Station, Hangzhou Railway Station, West Lake, Wulin Square, etc. Take Line 2 to Wulinmen, West Lake, Qianjiang City, etc. Take Line 7 to Xiaoshan Airport, and Line 5 to Hefang Street, etc.

Bus

Bus fares range from CNY 1 to 4, with buses starting with “K” costing CNY 2 and those starting with “B” being rapid buses with fares of CNY 3-4.

The sightseeing buses in Hangzhou, starting with “Y,” are tourist lines, including routes Y2-Y9, covering all the attractions around West Lake, which is very convenient. Among them, buses Y2 and Y9 also provide on-board guides to introduce the attractions along the way.

There are also two circular routes around West Lake: 51 and 52. If you want to circle West Lake, these routes are a good choice. For visiting the attractions around West Lake, you can also choose the double-decker sightseeing bus around West Lake.

Taxi

Hangzhou has both regular taxis (blue) and electric taxis (yellow). The starting fare for both is CNY 11 for the first 3 kilometers, and then CNY 2.5 per kilometer for distances between 3 and 10 kilometers.

Bicycle

Bike-sharing is very convenient in Hangzhou, with numerous service points covering the entire city, including major attractions around West Lake. Riding a bike around West Lake is a great experience.

Water Bus

The waterway transportation in Hangzhou mainly consists of the Grand Canal and the Qiantang River Canal. These routes are usually only open in the summer or during the peak tourist season.

☀️ Best Time to Visit Hangzhou

The best time to visit Hangzhou is during spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November). During these seasons, the weather is mild and pleasant, making it ideal for sightseeing and outdoor activities. Here’s a breakdown of the benefits of visiting during these periods:

Spring (March to May)

  • Weather: Mild and comfortable, with temperatures ranging from 10°C to 25°C (50°F to 77°F).
  • Scenery: Flowers, especially cherry blossoms and peach blossoms, are in full bloom, creating picturesque landscapes.
  • Activities: Ideal for visiting West Lake, tea plantations, and other natural attractions.

Autumn (September to November)

  • Weather: Cool and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F).
  • Scenery: Clear skies and vibrant autumn foliage enhance the beauty of Hangzhou’s parks and gardens.
  • Activities: Perfect for exploring historical sites, enjoying boat rides on West Lake, and hiking in the surrounding hills.

Additional Tips

Summer (June to August): While summer is a popular time for tourists, it can be hot and humid with temperatures often exceeding 30°C (86°F). However, it’s a good time for enjoying lotus flowers in West Lake.

Winter (December to February): Winters are cold and damp with temperatures ranging from 1°C to 8°C (34°F to 46°F). It’s the least crowded time but still offers beautiful, tranquil scenery.

🏨 Where to Stay in Hangzhou

Hangzhou offers a wide range of accommodation options catering to various preferences and budgets. Based on the location, I think Hangzhou can be divided into four main areas: the West Lake Scenic Area, Xixi Wetland, Hangzhou Xintiandi, and Qianjiang New City. However, for first-time visitors, I recommend focusing on staying in the West Lake Scenic Area.

For your first visit to Hangzhou, you might want to stay along Hubin Road. This area is close to West Lake and the city center, with convenient transportation including Fengqi Road and Longxiangqiao metro stations on Line 1. There are many dining options and a vibrant night market.

  • Pros: Dense commercial area with numerous shops, providing great convenience for dining and entertainment.
  • Cons: Crowded, long waits at restaurants during peak times.

Grand Hyatt Hangzhou: Just across the street from West Lake, this hotel is a favorite for many visitors. The newly renovated rooms include unique options like courtyard rooms with small terraces and rooms with West Lake views. The Grand Club offers breakfast and dinner, as well as a 400-square-meter rooftop garden with unobstructed views of West Lake.

Relais & Chateaux Chaptel Hangzhou: Located just behind the Grand Hyatt, this hotel is about 200 meters from West Lake. All rooms are in classic Shikumen-style buildings, which are historically protected but feature modern amenities. Recommended are the townhouse villas by West Lake, which have three floors and 110-120 square meters, offering good value.

Midtown Shangri-La Hangzhou: Directly connected to the Kerry Centre shopping mall from the second floor of the hotel, it is an excellent location for shopping and dining. Due to its prime location, it tends to be pricey, but deluxe rooms are often only CNY 100 more than standard rooms.

Wyndham Grand Plaza Royale Hangzhou: Located at one corner of West Lake, each room has a balcony with a view, and some rooms offer lake views. The best views are from the tenth-floor rooftop terrace.

The Nanshan Road area, was historically a residential area for high-ranking officials and aristocrats. It is rich in history and cultural significance, featuring historical sites, famous cultural figures, and old residences from the Republic of China era.

  • Pros: Numerous classic attractions, a blend of leisure, modernity, and art. Key sites like Leifeng Pagoda, Orioles Singing in the Willows, Su Causeway, Viewing Fish at Flower Pond, and Three Pools Mirroring the Moon are located here.
  • Cons: Crowded with tourists.

Grand Hotel: A hidden gem on the shores of West Lake offering prime lake views. The hotel covers 18,000 square meters, has its own pier, and provides all guests with a complimentary one-hour boat tour of West Lake. Many rooms offer lake views and it is close to a metro station.

Sofitel Hangzhou West Lake: The best views are from the hotel’s rooftop garden, offering sights of Leifeng Pagoda, Lingering Snow on the Broken Bridge in Winter, and Three Pools Mirroring the Moon. The afternoon tea is also a highlight. The hotel is relatively affordable.

Hangzhou West Lake Liuyingli Hotel: Boasting 400 meters of prime West Lake shoreline, the hotel is directly across from Three Pools Mirroring the Moon and adjacent to Orioles Singing in the Willows. It has a private pier for lake tours. The rooms are modern, the views are excellent, and the breakfast is highly rated.

Zhejiang Xizi Hotel · Wangzhuang · West Lake Famous Garden: Known as Hangzhou’s state guesthouse, it offers an unbeatable location with 1,560 meters of lake shoreline and a private pier. The cheapest rooms can sometimes be found for under CNY 1,000. Buildings 3 and 5 are recommended for their newer facilities.

The Yang Gong Causeway connects several scenic spots, including Winery Yard and Lotus Pool in Summer, Maojiabu Village, Yuhu Bay, and Viewing Fish at Flower Pond. Although transportation is not very convenient, the environment is top-notch, making it feel like you’re exploring a hidden gem within the West Lake scenic area.

  • Pros: Favored by locals, serene environment, and stunning scenery.
  • Cons: Limited entertainment options, requiring a peaceful mindset to appreciate. Transportation is also less convenient.

West Lake State Guesthouse: Located in the heart of West Lake, this state guesthouse is a renowned attraction in itself. Spanning 360,000 square meters, it includes a significant portion of the lakefront, with over 2,000 meters of shoreline. Room prices vary greatly; it’s best to choose buildings 7 or 8, which have been renovated in recent years, or the newly updated building 2, though it is more expensive.

Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake: One of Hangzhou’s top luxury hotels, featuring Jiangnan garden architecture. Basic rooms start at 63 square meters. The hotel features the Jin Sha restaurant, recognized with three Black Pearl diamonds in Hangzhou. The Four Seasons provides excellent service and has a private pier for lake tours.

Relais & Chateaux Seven Villas Hangzhou: This hotel boasts three Black Pearl restaurants, a rarity in China. It comprises seven villas with nine rooms, all housed in historic buildings from the Republic of China era. The rooms are elegantly decorated, combining modern comfort with traditional charm.

Beishan Street is home to century-old hotels, which are rare even in China. These buildings blend Chinese and Western architectural styles, making them significant examples of modern architecture in Hangzhou.

  • Pros: The northern area is rich in cultural and historical attractions, including the Zhejiang Provincial Museum, Xiling Seal Art Society, Solitary Hill, and Bai Causeway. The scenery in autumn is especially beautiful.
  • Cons: There are fewer entertainment options, requiring a certain appreciation for literature and art.

Hangzhou Shangri-La Hotel: This legendary Shangri-La hotel is just across the street from West Lake. Room sizes range from 36 square meters to 193 square meters, offering views of the scenic mountains, beautiful gardens, or West Lake itself.

Hangzhou The New Hotel: Opened in 1913, this hotel is one of Zhejiang’s century-old modern hotels. It has a rich history, having hosted numerous dignitaries and celebrities. Recently, the rooms and restaurants were renovated, and the prices have increased accordingly. The hotel also displays many historical artifacts from the past century.

Qiushui Villa: This hotel has only 12 suites, each uniquely themed around a significant historical figure associated with either Qiushui Villa or The New Hotel. It is considered one of the top luxury hotels in China, with prices in the five-figure range (CNY). The hotel offers exceptional service, state-of-the-art facilities, a beautiful environment, and high privacy.

In conclusion, Hangzhou presents a multitude of experiences for every type of traveler. Delight in the tranquil beauty of West Lake, wander through the verdant Xixi National Wetland Park, and explore the historic Lingyin Temple. Taste the exquisite local cuisine, and meander through ancient water towns and peaceful tea plantations.

Don’t miss the opportunity to visit this extraordinary city and see why it is one of China’s most cherished destinations.

China Travel Planning Guide&FAQ

🎫Do I need a visa for China?

Yes. Most visitors to China will need a visa to enter the country. The type of visa you need will depend on the purpose and duration of your trip, as well as your nationality. If you are a resident of the US, you must apply for a Chinese visa at the Consular Office in the country. On the other hand, inhabitants of countries like Japan, Canada, and the UK can request a visa through the Chinese Visa Application Service Center.

🤔Why is it necessary to install a VPN in China?

In China, the government has strict regulations on internet access, leading to the blocking of popular websites and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube. To access these sites, a VPN is suggested as a means of bypassing the restrictions. It is important to choose a reputable VPN provider and use caution while doing so. ExpressVPN has been historically deemed the most reliable VPN for this purpose, despite being heavily targeted by China’s censors. Nevertheless, it is still a widely preferred option owing to its ease of installation and user-friendliness.

📲Is it necessary to have a Chinese SIM card while in China?

Yes. It is crucial to acknowledge that accessing the internet in China may pose limitations due to certain websites being prohibited or filtered. To ensure uninterrupted connectivity while staying in China, purchasing a local SIM card is advisable. For optimum results, acquiring SIM cards from either China Unicom or China Mobile is recommended. While China Mobile has the most comprehensive coverage in China and is a market leader, China Unicom is more compatible with foreign phones, enabling 3G and 4G services. Or you can purchase a SIM card online.

🔮Should I buy China travel insurance?

Yes. Although China is generally a safe country for travel, it is still possible to encounter accidents or other unexpected occurrences. Therefore, obtaining travel insurance can provide a sense of security and financial protection. In my research, I have found that World Nomads is a reputable travel insurance provider that covers a wide range of activities and is recommended for the average traveler. Nevertheless, I advise you to compare insurance quotes from various providers before making a decision.

🚙Can you rent a car in China?

Unfeasible. Obtaining a Chinese driver’s license to rent a car and self-drive may seem like an option, but it is not a practical choice for most foreigners. Therefore, many prefer to opt for a driver or public transportation when navigating China, as it proves to be more convenient.

✈️What’s the best site to purchase flight tickets for China?

I suggest using Trip for affordable flights to China. As a China-based company, they often offer lower prices compared to foreign companies. Additionally, they offer English-speaking phone support in case of any issues.

🏡What is the best way to book hotels in China?

Not only does Trip offer a wider range of flight options, but it also provides a greater selection of hotels to choose from. Moreover, Agoda is a reliable resource for hotels throughout Asia.

🎒What do I pack for China?

Travel adapter and converter: China uses a different electrical system than many other countries, so it’s important to bring a travel adapter and converter if you plan to use electronic devices such as phones, cameras, and laptops.  
Sunscreen: The UV index in China can be high, particularly during the summer months, and prolonged exposure to the sun without protection can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer.
Deodorant: It should be noted that finding deodorant in China may not be a simple task.

📚Can a guidebook for traveling to China be useful?

Yes. If you’re planning to travel to China for the first time, a travel guidebook can be a valuable resource, and Lonely Planet is one of the most reputable guides available globally. Its comprehensive itineraries and recommendations take into account your personal preferences and can save you both time and money. The insider tips are also extremely helpful in navigating China’s unique cultural landscape like a local.

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