Planning a trip to Hangzhou, the famous Silicon Valley of China? This is the birthplace of the giant e-commerce company, Alibaba. It is also a city that is known for its beauty with lakes and hills.
Located at the Zhejiang province, Hangzhou is one of the country’s most famous tourist destinations and many travelers come here to find the taste of Eastern China’s rich heritage and culture.
There are two cities in China that have the name “heaven on earth”. One was Suzhou, near to Shanghai, and another is Hangzhou. This is because Hangzhou is surrounded by beautiful West Lake, many ancient temples, bridges, and pagodas. Despite it being a big city, but its geography made the city a beautiful mixture of modern and nature.
When Marco Polo visited Hangzhou decades ago, he described Hangzhou as the most beautiful city in the world. Hangzhou is also known for its Dragon Well tea (longjing tea) and silk production.
So, if you’re making a visit to Hangzhou, there are certainly some attractions you don’t want to miss out. Here are the 15 must-visit places in Hangzhou:
1. West Lake
West Lake is the focus of Hangzhou. It is a beautiful lake located within the city of Hangzhou. Surrounded by the lake are beautiful hills and historic buildings like ancient shrines and temples.
West Lake is huge, nearly 6 kilometers square and is divided into 5 sections:
- The Outer Lake (Wai Hu),
- The North Inner Lake (Beili Hu),
- The West Inner Lake (Xili Hu),
- The South Lake (Xiaonan Hu), and
- Lake Yue (Yue Hu).
So, what do you do at West Lake? Take a stroll along the Su Causeway (Suti) that was built in 1089. Taking a walk at the Su Causeway is a famous thing to do because it connects the north and south banks of the lake. For your information, the causeway itself is about 3 KM long.
There are many smaller attractions within West Lake itself. There are the Broken Bridge (Duanqiao), Pavilion of the Autumn Moon (Pinghu Qiuyue), Pavilion of the Cranes, (Isle of Hill of Solitude (Gushan), Bay of Flowers (Huagang), and many more.
One word of suggestion: try to visit Hangzhou in Summer when the flowers are blooming along the Su Causeway. It will be one of the most beautiful scenes you will ever experience.
And if you visit in the winter, after heavy snow, the entire place will be covered in white and the Broken Bridge (Duanqiao) section will be the most beautiful.
2. Leifeng Pagoda
There are a number of pagodas in the city of Hangzhou, and Leifeng Pagoda is considered the most famous.
Located at the south of the West Lake, it was constructed in 975AD and was made famous because the pagoda was featured in a Chinese folktale, The Legend of the White Snake. The story was told that a white snake demon called Bai Suzhen was imprisoned by a Buddhist monk in Leifeng Pagoda.
The fairy tale is famous and has brought fame to the pagoda, making it one of the top attractions in Hangzhou.
Leifeng Pagoda has been renovated and the relics of the ancient tower are kept on the 2 basement storeys. The first storey showcases stunning wall sculpture of the story of The Legend of the White Snake. And on the second floor, you can find the story of how the pagoda was constructed.
When you get to the top level of the tower, you can see the entire Hangzhou city and West Lake. There are two places where you can get a bird’s eye view of the entire city, one is Leifeng Pagoda and another is Baochu Pagoda located to the north of West Lake.
3. Yue Fei Temple (Yuewang Temple)
The Temple of Yue Fei, who was once a general, was built in memory of this great hero. Yue Fei was a famous ancient hero in the Chinese community.
And this is not just a temple, it is also the tomb of General Yue Fei. This national hero joined the army and has won numerous wars against the Jin Dynasty. However, he was falsely accused and was imprisoned and killed.
If you’re someone who is into Chinese history, this place is a must-visit in Hangzhou. Inside the temple, you can learn the story of General Yue Fei in detail. You can find his original handwriting, the showcase of his life story, and poems written to commend the general.
Plus, the general’s grave together with his son were located right in the middle of the temple. Not only that, you can find metal sculptures of sinners who kills General Yeu Fei in kneeling position. Interesting.
4. Meijiawu Tea Village
The Meijiawu Tea Plantation is about 10 KM away from downtown Hangzhou, which can also be known as the Meijiawu Tea Cultural Village.
With over 600 years of history, Meijiawu is famous for its Dragon Well tea (Longjing tea). If you ever visit this place in spring, make sure you take part in picking the tea leaves and experience making the new tea.
I personally love Longjing tea a lot and it makes a perfect souvenir for friends and family.
The entire village here is surrounded by the tea trees and hills. And you can also visit the Tea House and Exhibition Hall that were specifically built for international visitors.
By the way, there is a great place to enjoy Longjing tea here in the Ligeng Pavilion, a Ming-Qing style building. It is a tea house and also a restaurant where you can enjoy your tea and get some food if you’re hungry.
5. Lingyin Temple and Feilai Feng
There is no way you can miss out this temple because it is a famous temple for the locals. The Lingying Temple is one of the top 10 famous temples in China.
The temple is also located next between Peak Flown From Afar (Feilai Feng) and North Peak. Legend said that an Indian monk came to this place and was inspired by the spiritual nature of this scenery here. So, he named this temple the Temple of the Soul’s Retreat.
There is also a cave just outside of the temple. You can explore the cave and if you are the more athletic type, you can also hike the Feilai Feng. It takes just about 15 to 20 minutes to get to the peak.
6. Qinghefang Ancient Street
Around the vicinity of West Lake, you can take a stroll and shop at the famous Qinghefang Ancient Street, which is a section of Hefang Street.
The street is well-preserved and served as a miniature of Hangzhou’s long history. You can experience the historical and cultural character here.
Like many other walking-streets in China, Qinghefang has plenty to offers, from local cuisine to teahouses. You can also find much selection of Longjing tea here.
You can easily spend a few hours here walking and enjoying the Ming and Qing style buildings. There are many locals as well as tourists here to hunt for food and shopping.
7. Six Harmonies Pagoda (Liuhe Pagoda)
There are 3 very famous pagodas in Hangzhou, Leifeng Pagoda, Baochu Pagoda, and the Liuhe Pagoda, which is named as Six Harmonies Pagoda.
This Liuhe Pagoda is facing the Qiantang River, making it a great place to view the magnificent Qiantang River Tide.
The tower has an octagonal shape and is about 60 M height. From the outside, you will notice that it has 13 storeys, but when you’re inside, there are only seven floors.
The Qiantang River Tide is one of the most magnificent experiences of nature. During the Mid-Autumn Festival (around September), people from around the country will gather at Liuhe Pagoda to catch the stunning view of the big tide from the Qiantang River.
Another interesting attraction in Liuhe Pagoda is the Ancient China Pagodas Garden. There are about 100 miniatures of renowned pagodas across the country in a ratio of 1:10 can be found here.
8. Baochu Pagoda (Precious Stone Hill)
Located to the north of West Lake, the Baochu Pagoda, which sometimes known as Baoshu or the Previous Stone Pagoda is a mirror to Leifeng Pagoda to the south.
Unlike most ancient Chinese Pagoda, Baochu Pagoda is thin and slim. The tower is about 45 meters high and consists of 7 storeys.
If you want to go up the pagoda, you will have to hike Precious Stone Hill, which can also be known as Precious Stone Hill Floating in Rosy Clouds.
The hill is so-named because of its colorful stones and the beautiful thin Baochu Pagoda. The hill is igneous rocks that brims purple and brown color under the sun. When the sky is clear and the sunshine is strong, you can see a stunning view of Baochu Pagoda from afar.
9. Wuzhen Ancient Water Town
Wuzhen Water Town is huge. It is about 80 KM away from Hangzhou. You can easily spend an entire day here because it is a little further from Hangzhou and it can be a huge attraction in itself.
Basically, Wuzhen is a small town with over 6,000 years of history. It called an ancient water town because it preserves the old Chinese architecture with buildings around the water canals.
If you have time, you can stay a night here inside the scenic area. If you stay overnight here, you will get to experience staying inside an ancient village like you’ve traveled back thousands of years ago. A very interesting experience indeed.
Like I said, Wuzhen Water Town is huge. It is divided into 4 sections, Dongzha (East), Xizha (West), Beizha (North), and Nanzha (South). And because the north and south are less developed, most tourists prefer to visit just the Dongzha and Xizha.
Depending on which part you visit, either the Dongzha or the Xizha, there are shops, restaurants, museums, and many other interesting folk activities, and attractions to catch here.
There are many things to do and worth checking out in Wuzhen. For instance, you can taste their local delicacies such as the Qing Tuan and Gusao Cake.
Apart from that, you can also put on the blue printed dress and walk on along the thousand years old street while holding an oiled paper umbrella. It will be an unforgettable experience and perfect for photo shooting.
10. Xitang Water Town
If Wuzhen is to your liking, you should also visit Xitang Water Town. It is another water town located not too far away from Wuzhen. While Wuzhen is more famous and internationally know, Xitang is more to the local.
Located at Jiaxing City, this small town has blue water sparkling and the reflections of the houses on the water are just amazing.
In the early morning when the water is quiet and the sun is rising, you can see reflections on the river like a fairy tale picturesque.
There are many lanes and alleys here in Xitang, long and short, wide and narrow. The narrowest lane is about 80cm wide which allow just about one person to pass through.
There is also a main, long-walking street by the water canal. During weekends and public holidays, the walking street will be packed. You can find many things to buy here, foods in particular.
11. Tiger Spring (Hupao Spring)
The Running Tiger Spring is about 5KM away from downtown Hangzhou. This spring is famous for its unique fountain. The locals praised the spring water after using the water there to brew a tasting cup of Longjing tea.
The spring water there tastes pure, sweet, and cold. Running Tiger Spring formed due to underground water seeping through cracks of quartz stone and is not contaminated by any acidic material.
One of the most interesting phenomena you can find with the spring water is that you can pour the spring water into a cup until full and even rises above the bowl edge without overflowing for about 3mm. You can clearly see the water surface higher than the cup without overflowing the cup. Interesting, isn’t it?
And because this place is quite famous even among the locals, the government has developed the place into Tiger Running Spring Forest and there is also a Li Shutong Memorial erected there.
12. Yellow Dragon Cave Park
There are 2 Yellow Dragon Caves or Huanglong Cave in China. One is in Zhangjiajie, and another is in Hangzhou.
If you visit this place, you can also discover the historic Huguo Renwang Temple here. This place is like a quiet, peaceful, and religious place for Taoism.
Walking along the hilly road, you can see the historical site of Yellow Dragon Cave, a park based on the Song Dynasty theme, and a garden with bamboo groves, tea houses, many cultural performances.
You can see performers, waiters and waitresses, and people who work there dressed in the Song Dynasty era. It makes you feel like you’ve walked into a town of hundreds of years ago.
13. Xixi Wetland Park
Xixi National Wetland Park is huge and it is located just nearby to West Lake. It is wetland in China that is within the city, combining urban life, culture, and also serves as an ecological natural wetland.
The park is grouped into 3 main causeways and 10 sights. The 3 causeways are: Causeway Fu, Causeway Lu, and Causeway Shou, where the 3 words, Fu, Lu, and Shou in Chinese mean fortune, prosperity, and longevity.
If you visit Xixi Wetland, make sure you plan your route and get a map from the tourist center. There are many routes you can follow and the recommended ones are the land route (about 8km) and river route (you need to take a boat).
If you’re someone who loves nature, you can spend your entire day here. The land route takes about 4 hours. Hence, make sure you bring enough water and snacks.
14. Thousand-Island Lake (Qiandao Hu)
Qiandao Hu is huge. It is a lake reservoir covering an area of 580 square kilometers. You can Thousand-Island Lake, the only downside is that it is located 160km away from Hangzhou.
Thousand-Island Lake is an artificial lake formed due to the construction of Xin’an River hydroelectric station in 1959. There are 1,078 islands, big and small, in this place. And that is why it is called Thousand-Island Lake.
There are over a thousand islands here, so which islands should you stop by? Here are some suggestions:
Meifeng Island – This is the island with the highest peak in the entire Qiandao Hu. Famous for its criss-crossing harbor and ecological environment.
Monkey Island – As the name suggests, this island is famous with monkeys. There are hundreds of monkeys here. However, visitors are advised to be careful and not to provoke the monkeys.
Santan Island – This island is about 80 hectares and consists of cottage legacy, entertainment, and specialty restaurants.
There are other islands such as Lock Island, Bird Island, Qishi Island (Strange Stone Island), Yule Island, and more.
If you ever plan your visit to Qiandao Hu, make sure you take a tour. It will be a little bit difficult to travel on your own here.
15. Song Dynasty Park (Songcheng Park)
Being the largest theme park in Hangzhou, the Song Dynasty Park or some call it town, features the cultural characteristics of the Song Dynasty.
Basically, this theme park is divided into 3 sections – Performing Songcheng, High-tech Songcheng, and Cultural Songcheng.
There is a show called Romance of the Song Dynasty, which is a must-watch panoramic show with dancing and acrobatics. More than 50 million people have watched the show and it is considered one of the world’s top 3 famous shows, together with the O Show in Las Vegas and the Moulin Rouge in Paris.
Besides the main show event, there are also other attractions within the town such as the Haunted House, Mysterious Street, Folk Activities like Temple Fair, Torch Festival, and much more.
If you visit Song Dynasty Park, it will take you at least an entire day. So, make sure you plan your trip before you go.