Hangzhou

Rich in history dating back to Neolithic times, Hangzhou enchants with romantic landscapes like hilltop temples, tea terraces and more. 

For centuries, Hangzhou has been one of China’s most cherished destinations. Civilization in this area dates back to Neolithic times and China’s imperial capital moved here during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279). Its position at the southern terminus of the Grand Canal (connecting it with Beijing) and role as a global centre for silk production and trade have added to its wealth and importance. Throughout history, painters, poets, scholars and royalty have sought inspiration and rejuvenation beside the willow-fringed waters of Hangzhou’s iconic West Lake.

Even today, wandering through parts of Hangzhou, the capital of affluent Zhejiang Province, feels enchantingly like entering a Chinese watercolour painting. Explore the romantic landscapes of the Unesco World Heritage-listed West Lake, visit ancient hilltop temples and pagodas, sip fresh green tea in the misty Longjing (Dragon Well) tea terraces and dine on local dishes like Dongpo pork and Beggar’s chicken. You’ll soon discover why the city has its own Chinese proverb: 'In heaven there is paradise, on earth there is Suzhou and Hangzhou.

 

When to go

Spring (mid-March to May) and autumn (September to early November) are the best times to visit, when the temperatures are mild and the natural landscapes are most colourful. Summer (July-August) is very hot and humid, and winter (December-March) can dip below freezing. Visits in April coincide with the annual tea harvest.

Visa requirements

Singaporean citizens can visit China for a period of 15 days without a visa, while most other nationalities require a visa in advance. Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months and that you have a return or onward ticket.

Money

China's currency is the yuan (Y), also known as renminbi, or colloquially as kuai. International credit cards and bank cards (Cirrus, Plus, Visa, MasterCard, American Express) can be used to withdraw local currency from ATMs, which are found throughout the city.

Transport

Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport is located 30km (19 miles) from the city centre. Shuttle buses (Y20) to the city centre run every 15 minutes. A taxi from downtown to the airport costs Y100-130. Metro line 1 currently links Hangzhou East Railway Station, Hangzhou Railway Station and several key tourist sites. It can be difficult to hail a taxi at peak times - consider hiring a driver, or commute like a local and hop on one of the free red public bicycles parked at kiosks around the city.

Health and safety tips

Hangzhou is a relatively safe city, but petty crimes such as pickpocketing do occur in crowded areas like train stations, markets and busy streets. There is very little violent crime against foreigners, but tourists should be aware of scams that generally begin with a request from the scammer to practise their English or visit a student art exhibition. Avoid unlicensed cab drivers or motorcycle taxis. Should you need medical assistance, the International Service Clinic of Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital (5/F, Tower 3, 3 East Qingchun Road, tel: (86) 571 8600 6118) provides international standard services and caters to foreigners.

Emergency details

The nearest Singapore Consulate is in Shanghai at 89 Wanshan Road (tel: (86) 21 6278 5566).
 

Dial 110 in an emergency.

Basic greetings
English Mandarin
Hello Ni hao
How are you? Ni hao ma?
Fine, thanks Hen hao, xie xie
Goodbye Zai jian
Excuse-me! (to get attention) Qing wen!
Thank you Xie xie
Yes Shi de
No Bu shi
OK Hao de
What's your name? Ni jiao shen me ming zi?
My name is… Wo jiao…
Nice to meet you Jian dao ni hen gao xing
Are you on Facebook/Twitter? Nin zai shi yong Facebook/Twitter ma?
Where’s an internet café? Wang ba zai na li?
Where can I get a taxi? Wo ke yi zai na li zhao dao chu zu che?
Where is the bus/train station? Qi che zhan/huo che zhan zai na li?
A one-way/return ticket to… Yi zhang dao…de dan cheng/shuang cheng piao
Do you have a room for one/two? You yi/liang ren de fang jian ma?
When's check out? Ji dian tui fang?
Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar? Ni neng tui jian yi jia hao can guan/jiu ba ma?
A table for two, please Qing gei wo liang ge ren de zhuo zi
A menu, please Qing gei wo cai dan
The bill, please Qing gei wo zhang dan
Where's the toilet? Xi shou jian zai na li?
Help! Jiu ming!

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Xixi National Wetland Park

518 Tianmushan Road

The Xixi National Wetland Park covers 11 sq km (4 sq miles) of marshy wilderness. Designated China’s first national wetland park in 2005, it offers cruises through the winding waterways that are home to 90 species of migratory bird. You can alight at various stops en route to wander along nature trails lined with mulberry, hibiscus and persimmon trees, go freshwater fishing, and explore the low-lying farming villages, nunneries and noblemen’s residences.

Lingyin Si (Temple of the Soul's Retreat)

1 Fayun Lane, Lingyin Road

In the west of the town is the beautifully situated Lingyin Si (Temple of the Soul’s Retreat). The 800-year-old Buddhist temple is one of southern China’s largest and features four grand halls, including the 12-metre (39ft) -high Hall of the 500 Arhats, which displays 500 life-sized seated saints. The rock walls of the surrounding mountains have been carved with around 400 ancient Buddhist sculptures and inscriptions. The most popular figure is the Song Dynasty fat-bellied Buddha at the foot of the mountain; touching him is believed to bring good luck.

Impression West Lake

Yuehu Lake Scenic Area, 82 Beishan Road

Film director Zhang Yimou’s dazzling music, dance and laser pageant, Impression West Lake, is performed nightly, right on the lake’s surface. More than a hundred performers bring to life the tragic local Legend of White Snake set against a backdrop of pagoda-studded mountains and arched bridges. A 1,800-seat amphitheatre and wooden boat are set up on the bank – snag a seat in the centre of the amphitheatre for the best views.

Liangzhu Culture Museum

1 Meilizhou Road, Liangzhu Town, Yuhang

A 45-minute bus ride northwest of the city centre will bring you to the Liangzhu Culture Museum in Liangzhu New Town. It showcases 5,000-year-old Liangzhu relics in a visually arresting contemporary museum designed by David Chipperfield. There is a reason for this world-class museum being located in the grim suburbs of Hangzhou – it sits right over the prehistoric archaeological site where the Liangzhu culture originated and the relics were found.

Longjing Tea Village

Longjing Road

To the southwest of West Lake, atop a steeply winding road, is Longjing Tea Village where Hangzhou’s most famous export, Longjing (Dragon Well) tea, has traditionally been produced. In this picturesque, if somewhat touristy, village you can pick your own leaves from the terraced fields and watch local farmers dry the harvest in huge roadside woks.

Shop

China Silk City

253 Xinhua Road

Hangzhou has been the centre of silk production and trade since the Ming dynasty, and Silk City is China’s biggest silk wholesale and retail market. There are more than 600 stores and tailors ready to whip up your silken purchases into clothes and other items. Be prepared to haggle for the best prices.

Budget $$

Hefang Street

Hefang Street, between Wushan Square and Zhonghe Road

A tad touristy but lots of fun nonetheless, Hefang Street at the foot of Wu Hill has been Hangzhou’s main shopping street for eight centuries. Its two-storey wooden trading houses are still home to several century-old local businesses, interspersed with traditional folk artists and street food sellers hawking their wares from mobile carts. Traditional souvenirs to look out for include hand-etched Zhang Xiao Quan scissors and delicate Wang Xing Ji fans.

Budget $$

Hubin Road

Hubin Road, east side of West Lake, between Qingchun Road and Jiefang Road

Hubin Road, running along the southeastern edge of West Lake, is a lively promenade lined with luxury brand boutiques like Gucci, DKNY, Armani and Hermès, along with restaurants, hotels, cafés and karaoke parlours. There’s even a cool choreographed light-and-water show on the lakefront across from the Hyatt Regency hotel that splashes to life every 30 minutes from 6–8pm on weekdays and 6–8.30pm on weekends.

Budget $$$

Oshadai

Unit 9D, 147 Nanshan Road

Cute, independent boutique Oshadai presents the creations of French-Chinese designer Dai Di. Inspired by the simple, wholesome designs of her childhood in China, Dai’s collection of chic bags, jackets, homewares and folksy accessories use lush handwoven fabrics in soft colours with a touch of French finesse. The boutique is located within Xihutiandi, a leafy lifestyle enclave beside West Lake.

Budget $$

Dine

Angelo's New York – Italian Restaurant & Bar

No.6, Lane 2, Baoshi Hill, Baochu Road

Angelo’s New York is a great dining option if you fancy a change from the delicious local cuisine. A favourite of the Italian expat community, the sleek, contemporary trattoria near West Lake features an extensive array of thin-crust pizzas, pastas and other Italian favourites, complemented by a comprehensive wine list and homemade desserts.

Budget $$

Grandma's Kitchen

2/F, 3 Hubin Road

Grandma’s Kitchen is a city institution serving affordable Hangzhou classics in flamboyantly decorated dining rooms. There are 30 branches located across the city, but the most popular is the Hubin Road outpost, just across the street from West Lake. The extensive menu, with handy point-to-order pictures, includes favourites such as roasted Longjing tea chicken and sweet sautéed cauliflower.

Budget $

Green Tea Restaurant

83 Longjing Road

Green Tea Restaurant is another local Hangzhou favourite that is inexpensive, stylish and always bustling. The Longjing Road branch is charmingly located over a koi pond and surrounded by a verdant Longjing tea plantation; dine alfresco if the weather is fine. The menu mixes local and pan-Chinese classics. Be sure to try the signature rice pot soup served in an old stone pot and the boiling spicy fish or frog. Reservations recommended.

Budget $

Longjing Manor

399 Longjing Road

Set in a tea valley near Longjing Village, Longjing Manor provides one of Hangzhou’s most memorable dining experiences. The unique restaurant serves a seasonal, organic prix fixe Chinese menu in eight private dining pavilions – each with sublime views of the classical gardens, and terraces with comfy rattan chairs. The latter offers a relaxing place to sip locally grown tea after lunch or dinner.

Budget $$$

Stay

Amanfayun

22 Fayun Nong, Xihujiedao

Amanfayun occupies an entire Tang dynasty tea village set along a pilgrim pathway that is still used by monks to reach the five surrounding temples. Aman’s 42 luxurious farmhouse villas, bathhouse spa and collection of village-style eateries and teahouses feature thatched ceilings and a minimalist-chic design.

Budget $$$

Four Seasons Hangzhou

5 Lingyin Road

Four Seasons Hangzhou sits on the bank of West Lake – in fact its outdoor infinity pool overflows right into the lake. The 78-room hotel is designed like a traditional garden residence, with ornate garden corridors linking the main hotel to the spa and dining pavilions. Spacious, soft-gold rooms open out to views of rockeries, ponds and gardens. Don’t miss the stunning black-and-red spa, offering lush treatments such as Longjing tea baths and scrubs.

Budget $$$

Oakwood Residence Hangzhou

28 Jiaogong Road

A good-value option in Hangzhou’s business district is Oakwood Residence Hangzhou. Two towers offer comfortably spacious serviced apartments complete with well-equipped kitchens and laundry facilities. If you don’t feel like using your kitchen, there are several chain cafés and a Starbucks just downstairs, and it’s a short taxi ride to the restaurants and bars of Shuguang Road.

Budget $$

Pod Inn

5 Waidongshan Lane, Shuguang Road

A popular option for backpackers and budget travellers, Pod Inns offer basic but clean and well-managed rooms from as little as RMB99 a night, including free Wi-fi. There are currently three locations in Hangzhou. The Shuguang Road hotel is conveniently placed by the restaurants and nightspots of Bar Street, while the West Lake hotel is within walking distance of Baochu Pagoda and West Lake.

Budget $

Chinese New Year

January/February

Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar. It’s a family-oriented occasion and many businesses close during the week-long festival. The 15th day of the New Year marks the Lantern Festival, when lanterns are lit around Wulin Square, Hefang Road and West Lake.


Dragon Well Tea Festival

April/May

The spring tea harvest is a good time to visit Longjing Village. The process of picking the leaves, hand-drying them in large woks and tasting the new crop is treated with a similar reverence to the Beaujolais Nouveau wine season in France.


Hangzhou Golden Autumn International Tourism Festival

September/October

Autumn is a magical time to visit Hangzhou and this month-long celebration encompasses the lunar Mid-Autumn Festival, traditional temple fairs, a food festival and the West Lake International Fireworks Show in mid-October.


Qiantang River Tidal Bore

18th day of the 8th lunar month in September

The Qiantang River Tidal Bore that roars its way upriver from Hangzhou Bay is the world’s largest reverse tidal surge, reaching up to nine metres high and travelling up to 40kph. It occurs daily, but reaches its dramatic peak on this date.


West Lake Lotus Festival

July/August

An annual appreciation of the magnificent lotus flowers that bloom on West Lake. Visitors pluck lotus flowers and pods, visit the lotus exhibition and enjoy folk drama performances.


West Lake Osmanthus Festival

September/October

The city flower of Hangzhou blooms during September, scenting the lakeside and parks. Visitors gather at Man Long Gui Yu Park, Man Jue and Hangzhou Arboretum to enjoy the heady fragrance, and eat and drink delicacies made with sweet osmanthus.


Culture

Hangzhou has a wealth of culture and history to explore. Begin at its most famous site, the Unesco World Heritage-listed West Lake (Xi Hu), which covers 6.5 sq km (2.5 sq miles) and is set against a backdrop of pagoda-studded mountains. It’s best explored by bicycle, stopping off at fairytale-sounding sites like Orioles Singing in the Willows, Leifeng Pagoda and Lingering Snow on the Broken Bridge. For lunch, refuel on hearty Hangzhou fare such as Dongpo pork and Longjing shrimps at Grandmother’s Kitchen, or the more upmarket 28 Hubin Road restaurant at Hyatt Regency Hangzhou, both on glitzy Hubin Road.

 

Take a taxi from here to Longjing Tea Culture Village, a short drive to the southwest of West Lake. This picturesque, if somewhat touristy, village is regarded as the birthplace of Hangzhou’s most famous export, Longjing (Dragon Well) tea. You can pick your own leaves from the terraced fields and sip fresh green tea infusions in the farmers’ homes, made with water from the dragon’s well. Another short taxi ride will take you to the base of Longjing Hill where you’ll find the China National Tea Museum. Set within the tea fields, you can learn more about tea history and participate in a traditional tea ceremony.

 

Head back to West Lake for the evening performance of Impression West Lake. Film director Zhang Yimou’s 70-minute music, dance and laser spectacular brings to life the tragic local Legend of White Snake. A cast of more than 100 perform, making it a magical way to end your Hangzhou day.

Places to visit:
West Lake, Longjing Tea Culture Village, China National Tea Museum, Impression West Lake performance.

Adventure

Begin your adventure at Lingyin Si, or Temple of the Soul’s Retreat. The 800-year-old Buddhist temple is one of southern China’s largest and features four grand halls, including the 12-metre (39ft) -high Hall of the 500 Arhats, which displays 500 life-sized seated saints. The labyrinth of hillside caves and grottoes surrounding the temple are decorated with 400 Buddhist rock sculptures dating back to the 10th century. For a chic lunch, follow the monks’ pilgrim pathway from Lingyin Si into the luxurious Amanfayun resort nearby, which occupies a former Tang-dynasty tea village. A collection of village-style eateries and teahouses are open to hungry visitors.

 

Continuing west, take a taxi to the Xixi National Wetlands. Covering 11 sq km (4 sq miles) of winding waterways and marshlands, the swampy area was first cultivated in the Han dynasty and is home to around 90 bird species. Scenes from Feng Xiaogang’s 2008 film Fei Cheng Wu Rao were shot here, and thousands of visitors visit annually to tour the bucolic landscapes by paddleboat.

 

Head back toward the northern end of West Lake for a sunset hike to Yellow Dragon Cave and on to the peak of Precious Stone Hill to visit the iconic seven-storied Baochu Pagoda. The gentle climb through lush forest is easily accessed from Shuguang Road and Huanglong Road, and hikers are rewarded with photogenic panoramas across West Lake. Return to Shuguang Road, also known as Bar Street, and toast your day’s adventures at one of the local bars; Maya is always a lively bet.

Places to visit:
Lingyin Si, Amanfayun resort, Xixi National Wetlands, Hike to Baochu Pagoda.