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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|How are you?||Ni hao ma?|
|Fine, thanks||Hen hao, xie xie|
|Excuse-me! (to get attention)||Qing wen!|
|Thank you||Xie xie|
|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?|
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Xixi National Wetland Park
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)
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
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
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
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.
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.
West Lake, Longjing Tea Culture Village, China National Tea Museum, Impression West Lake performance.
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.
Lingyin Si, Amanfayun resort, Xixi National Wetlands, Hike to Baochu Pagoda.