What to do in Hangzhou?
Hangzhou , located 200km southwest of Shanghai, is one of the largest cities in southern China . It is also one of the 10 most touristic cities, even if you do not see many Western tourists. Well known for its silk and tea “Longjing” , which grows on the edge of West Lake , it is also the capital of Zhejiang Province , and the ideal starting point to go to Mount Yellow (Huangshan ). Here is the list of things to do, see and visit in Hangzhou!
Visiting Hangzhou: the essentials
1. West Lake
The West Lake has made the city famous for centuries (Marco Polo also speaks of Hangzhou as one of the largest and most beautiful cities in the world) and is THE must visit if you go through Hangzhou during your trip to China . As the lake is big, the best way to optimize your visit is to rent bikes, so you can go around while having time to visit the attractions around.
Here is the 13 km route map around the West Lake, which allows you to pass close to the most popular views. Plan a big half day to have time to do everything quietly!
Note: If you would like to have an even more comprehensive overview of the Lake, with the views of Su Causeway , Guo’s Garden , Yanggong Dike , and Viewing Fish at Flower Pond , I recommend you do not cross the lake straight to the lake. west, but rather to take the following alternative route:
2. Pagoda of the 6 Harmonies
The Pagoda 6 Harmonies , also called Liuhe Pagoda is located on top of a small hill, on the banks of the Qiantang River. Because of its strategic position, it was used at the time as a beacon to guide the boats sailing on the river.
During the visit, the path leading to it is dotted with miniature pagoda reproductions and it is possible to enter the pagoda of 6 harmonies to enjoy a panoramic view of the river. One of the peculiarities of this 60m high pagoda is that from the outside, it seems to have 13 floors, whereas it only has 7!
3. Former residence of Hu Xueyan
If you enjoy Chinese architecture, this is the place of interest not to be missed in Hangzhou. The former residence of Hu Xueyan , built by the first Chinese billionaire in the nineteenth century is one of the most beautiful homes in the region. In addition to the house, the complex includes numerous pavilions, buildings, bridges and gardens , as well as a miniature replica of West Lake!
4. Hefang street
It is THE tourist street of Hangzhou . On the menu: souvenir shops, restaurants, street food stands and local sweets. If the crowds do not scare you, a one hour visit to visit the place is nice! Unfortunately, with the tourist development, the shops of this street tend to be standardized. By cons, do not hesitate to get lost in the streets perpendicular, much less congested and more authentic!
5. Lingyin Temple and Fei Lai Feng
Located northwest of Hangzhou, Lingyin Temple is one of the largest and richest Buddhist temple in China. At its peak, at the time of the 5 kingdoms, it welcomed no less than 3000 monks and counted 18 pavilions, 72 halls and more than 1300 dormitories!
The temple is located in a valley at the foot of Fei Lai Feng Peak . You will also find a statue of more than 20m high representing Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, sitting on a lotus flower.
In addition to the temple, you can visit the Fei Lai Feng caves , small cavities for the most part that house the sculptures of more than 360 Buddhas, made from the rock. The peaceful atmosphere that reigns in this large park is ideal to rejuvenate the tumult of the city!
6. Museum of Silk
The Hangzhou National Silk Museum is the largest in the world. At the will of the 8 exhibition halls, you will learn more about 5000 years of history of silk , as well as its production process. Many pieces, for some millennia, are also presented!
Another important point: this museum is free!
7. National Tea Museum
A tribute to the favorite drink of the Chinese, the Hangzhou National Tea Museum traces the history of this drink and these different types: black tea, green white, dark or red. In addition to the cultural aspect, it is also possible to attend a tea ceremony, taste it and of course, buy it!
The museum is located in the middle of a plantation of tea trees, you can also walk there and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding nature.
This museum is also free!
8. Shengli Food Street
This street, on the banks of the Shengli River from which it takes its name, is renowned for the quality and diversity of its food . Indeed, in addition to the specialties of the region of Hangzhou , you will find the typical food of virtually all other provinces of China! The most difficult thing is to decide!
Small tip : the atmosphere created by the Chinese lanterns, makes the visit of Shengli street at night very nice!
9. Hangzhou Botanical Garden
The Hangzhou Botanical Garden is located at the foot of Jade Spring Hill, northwest of West Lake. Very well laid out, with multiple kiosks, pavilions, ponds and green sculptures, it is also the perfect place to see the cherry and plum blossoms!
10. Huangshan (Huang Mountains)
As I told you in the introduction, Hangzhou is the ideal starting point if you want to visit Huangshan during this tour in China . Located about 5 hours by bus from the city, these UNESCO World Heritage listed mountains are one of the most touristic attractions of China. The bus takes you to Tangkou , a small village at the foot of the mountains and starting point of the visit.
As the visit lasts a long time, it is not possible to travel from Hangzhou and visit Huangshan the same day . That leaves you half a day to rest, or to visit the village of Hongcun of which I speak below.
Once the ticket for Huangshan bought, you will board the bus that will take you to the cable car: towards the top of the mountain! The panoramas are beautiful, and hundreds or even thousands of steps hanging on the side of the mountain that you will cross during the day will put your calves to the test. In order to prepare your itinerary, ask your hotel for advice, they will propose a route adapted to your physical condition.
11. Hongcun Village
The Hongcun Village , a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its representative architecture of Anhui Province,is a must-see for all history lovers in China. It may be that this village does not seem totally unknown to you: it was indeed one of the filming locations of the film “Tiger and Dragon”!
12. Mount Jiuhua
Mount Jiuhua, one of the four sacred mountains of Chinese Buddhism, is part of a mountain range of 99 peaks located in Anhui Province. At its peak, the site had 360 temples and 5000 monks! A little less crowded than nearby Mount Huangshan, it is the ideal destination for nature and hiking enthusiasts.
Do not miss the following points of interest:
- Guoqing Temple : Located on Mount Tiantai, the largest (but not the highest) of Jiuhua, this huge temple has 14 halls and more than 600 rooms on 23000m²
- Huacheng Temple : With a history of more than 1500 years and several reconstructions, this temple also located on Mount Tiantai is the oldest and most important of Mount Jiuhua.
- Daxiong Baodian Temple: The temple itself is not the most impressive, but it is the highest one at the top of my Tiantai. Because of its location, it is also the most photogenic!
- Jiuhashan Village: It is in this village located in the valley at the foot of the Jiuhua Mountain that you can spend the night if you have planned a trip over several days.
Since both are in the same direction from Hangzhou , it’s a good idea to do 2 days in Huangshan + Hongcun and 2 more in Jiuhua.
Where to sleep in Hangzhou
- Westlake Youth Hostel Manjuelong Branch : Hostel located in the West Lake area. Very well furnished, bed in dormitory with integrated bathroom from 7 €, breakfast at 4 €. Free WIFI. Quiet garden with barbecue.
- Holiday Inn Express Hangzhou Huanglong : Conveniently located in Xihu District, very well placed for visiting West Lake. Huge modern and bright room from 60 € per night, including breakfast. Free WIFI.
- The East Hotel Hangzhou : Luxury hotel 5 minutes walk from Wulin Square and 10 minutes drive from West Lake. Room with refined and comfortable design from 96 € per night, breakfast included. Wifi and free parking.
Where to sleep in Huangshan
When you go to Huangshan , the village where the ticket office is called Tangkou is where you go to sleep!
- Huangshan Linxi First Tower Inn : This small hotel is one of my best experiences in China. It is very clean, well placed, and the owners who speak a little english are super friendly and always ready to help you. In addition the prices are very reasonable! Night in a double room from 19 euros.
- Sinotrans Huangshan Jianguo Hotel : A good choice if you are looking for a more upmarket property (4 *), always with a very good value for money. Overnight stay in a double room from 45 euros.
Are you planning to visit Hangzhou on your next trip to China?