Hangzhou Travel Guide
Please Note: If you plan to travel around Hangzhou during the G20 Summit (September 4th and 5th 2016), please at least arrive at the airport 3 hours in advance to avoid inconvenience
Located the central eastern coast of China, Hangzhou is the capital city of Zhejiang province. It is among the 7 most ancient cities in the country and continues to pride itself on a compliment that never expires: when the great Italian explorer Marco Polo visited in the 13th century, he declared Hangzhou the "most beautiful and elegant city in the world."
The natural beauty of Hangzhou is unmatched even within China, making it one of the most popular destinations for domestic and international travelers both. The West Lake and the cultural relics that populate the area such as reflecting pools, decadent temples, and classical Chinese gardens make it the star highlight of Hangzhou.
Dating back more than 2,200 years, the city is almost as old as human civilization itself. It was the capital of the Wu and Yue states in the 10th century for 5 dynasties. It wasn’t until the Tang Dynasty that Hangzhou really flourished, coming to a peak in the Song Dynasty when it became the capital of a united China. Throughout the more recent Ming and Qing Dynasties, the city experienced rapid commercial growth and expansion.
As a tourism site, Hangzhou is most beloved for the beauties resulting from the immense West Lake. There are also numerous historical sites nearby, accompanied by the influence of silk and tea culture. Altogether, Hangzhou and the West Lake offer visitors a very complete natural and historical experience in China.
As one of the oldest cities in China, Hangzhou is the ideal place to experience history, culture, and the wonders of nature all in one place. As we’ve mentioned by now, one of the main reasons to visit Hangzhou is to admire the legendary West Lake. It has been a symbol of the city for centuries and continues to enchant visitors upon each visit, a destination of incredible natural and cultural value.
Lingyin Temple, a resplendent Buddhist temple, is a great place to soak in some history and culture. The Tomb of General Yuefei, Six Harmonies Pagoda, and Leifeng Pagoda are also among note-to-miss destinations Hangzhou has to offer.
The West Lake
The West Lake is the symbol of Hangzhou City for years, with enhancting and magnificent scenery and over 100 attractions. Among them, the most classic is the Ten Scenes at the West Lake.
The West Lake
Linyin Temple is one of the ten most famous Buddhist temples in China and has a history of over 1,600 years. Linyin Tmple contains numerous pagodas and Budddhist grottoes and features a large number of religious rock carvings, the most famous of which is the Feilai Feng.
Six Harmonies Pagoda
The Six Harmonies Pagoda is definitely a masterpiece of ancient Chinese architecture which presents the long and splendid history of China and also the arts of Chinese calligraphy and seal-cutting. There are various sorts of stone tablets and stone statues both inside and out of the pagoda, left over from the past times.
Qinghefang Pedestrian Street
Qinghefang Street is one of the oldest streets and is the best persevered ancient street in Hangzhou City. It has a long history which can trace back to Sui and Tang Dynasties. The street became prosperous in the Ming and Qing Dynasties and most buildings in the street constructed during the Ming and Qing dynasties were well preseved.
Of course, with traveling to new and exciting places, comes the taste of the real culture, literally! Whether you are looking for a formal dinning experience or a quick, local street snack, Hangzhou is sure to have exactly what you are in the mood for. Hangzhou cuisine consists of several dishes that have been passed from generation to generation for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Dishes such as the West Lake Fish, Braised Dongpo Pork, Fried Shrimps with Longjing Tea Leaves and Beggar's Chicken are an important link to the past for residents and tourists alike.
West Lake Fish
West Lake Fish in Sweet and Sour Sauce is a delectable treat for those unfamiliar with the local Hungzhou cuisine. The fresh water fish, usually a grass carp from the nearby waters, is poached and smothered with a sweet and pungent sauce, traditionally made with sugar and vinegar. A different seafood dish is also popular in the city. Fried Shrimps with local Longjing Tea Leaves is said to have originated in the Imperial Palace. The dish is fragrant with mixtures of the fresh Longjing tea leaves and shellfish. It results in a unique, very palatable combination that has been one of Hangzhou’s best dishes for hundreds of years.
Another local favorite is Dongpo Pork. The meat is pan fried to perfection, and then slowly braised in Chinese fermented wine. This juicy cut of pork is thick, usually around 2 square inches consisting of half fat and half lean mean. The ratio gives the pork its flavor and tenderness. While fried, it is not a greasy meal, but rather savory with hints of wine. Legend dictates that Su Dongpo is the creator of this meal. The story is told that he decided one afternoon to make stewed pork when out of the blue an old friend came to his house challenging him in a game of chess. Su Dongpo forgot all about the pork during the game
You might have come to Hangzhou for the views, but you just might stay for the shopping opportunities! The local markets are lively places to feel and taste the local flavor (figuratively and literally!). Hangzhou China Silk Town on Tiyuchang Road has hundreds of stalls selling varieties of products made from one of the country’s most famous exports: silk. From ties to pajamas to handcrafts to fine decorative tapestries, there is something for everyone in the silk market.
Another popular place is the night market near Wushan. It is most exciting in the nighttime with hundreds of shops and stalls offering everything you can imagine: Chairman Mao memorabilia, jewelry, toys, artisanal goods, home products, clothes, and much more. Bargaining is part of the culture in Hangzhou’s markets so don’t be afraid to put your negotiating strategies to use!
The weather in Hangzhou is typically warm or mild throughout the year. There is much sunshine and also rain. 4 seasons are enjoyed here, as well as 2 rainy seasons: one in late June until early July, and the other in August and September. Summers are hot and humid while autumns are cool and clear and is considered to be the best time to visit Hangzhou.
Getting to Hangzhou
As most major cities in China are, Hangzhou is well serviced and accessed in terms of transportation. It is just a short flight from Shanghai and also has daily flights between most major cities in the country such as Hong Kong and Beijing and even Singapore. Xiaoshan International Airport is Hangzhou’s main airport, about 27 kilometers from the center of the city.
High speed trains are among the best ways to between Hangzhou and Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, and beyond. Connections in these larger cities may be necessary. The most frequent are between Hangzhou and Shanghai; take the CRH train (train numbers starting with G) about 50 minutes.
From Suzhou, the train journey is about 1.5 hours on the high speed G / bullet train. There are 16 trains daily between the 2-1.5 cities with some arriving into Hangzhou Railway Station and the rest into Hangzhou South Railway Station.
From Shanghai, trains depart from Shanghai Hongqiao Station and Shanghai South Station. The journey to Hangzhou is about 1 hour.
From Nanjing, take a train from Nanjing South Station or simply Nanjing Station to Hangzhou or Hangzhou South Station. Depending on the category of train, the journey can be about 2.5-3 hours up to 6-7 hours.
To travel outside of Hangzhou by bus, access one of the 4 main terminals: North, East (also known as Jiubao on Shengjia Road), West, and South. There you will find vehicles to take you to almost anywhere you wish in China! Those going to Nanjing and Shanghai are most plentiful. You can also take a bus to both Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Xiaoshan International.
From Shanghai, buses depart from the north bus station (Hengfen Lu), the PuDong bus station (Bailianjing, PuDong Nan Lu), and from Xujiahui Bus Station. Most arrive at Hangzhou East bus station and the journey is about 2 1/2 hours.
From Huangshan, it is about 3 hours by bus to Hangzhou West Bus Station.