Top 10 Reasons Why Hangzhou Belongs On Your Bucket List

  • Explore West Lake
  • Get away in the wetlands
  • Tour a tea plantation
  • Visit a thousand-year-old temple
  • Climb the Leifeng Pagoda
  • Cruise down the Grand Canal
  • Surround yourself in silk
  • Make your own historical art
  • Shop for quirky souvenirs
  • Treat your taste buds
  • Two people practice Chinese swordplay next to West Lake

    The most splendid city in the world

    Explorer Marco Polo called it "the most splendid city in the world," yet until recently, many Westerners had never heard of Hangzhou. That's changing. Hangzhou has long been one of the most popular vacation spots for Chinese people. And it’s catching the eyes of increasingly international travelers. The city is only 45 minutes from Shanghai on the bullet train, and it packs tons of history, culture, art, entertainment and beauty. Here are 10 ways to experience Hangzhou, China, on a vacation like no other. 

    Photo courtesy of Hangzhou Tourism Board

  • "Impression West Lake" is performed literally on the water

    Explore West Lake

    West Lake is the heart of Hangzhou and one of China's most famous lakes. Walk around the colorful grounds, over bridges and above massive schools of koi. Take a private boat ride across the lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Return to the lake at night to see "Impression West Lake," a famous musical production performed by dancers seemingly floating across the water. (The stage is submerged a few inches below the surface.) The show was created by the director of the opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, so it's high caliber. 

    Photo courtesy of Hangzhou Tourism Board

  • Take a boat through the Xixi Wetland Park

    Get away in the wetlands

    Hangzhou is a huge city, with 8.7 million residents. But you can truly escape into nature, right in the middle of the city. The Xixi Wetland Park is one of the most surprising destinations in Hangzhou. It's 40 square miles of lush vegetation and winding waterways in what used to be a small fishing village. Today, it's a carefully-preserved natural space, home to 150 bird species. Some of the former houses are open to the public as museums and teahouses. Pro tip: Book a chartered boat ride through Xixi - you can't navigate it yourself without getting lost. 

    Photo courtesy of Hangzhou Tourism Board

  • Workers at the tea plantation

    Tour a tea plantation

    Imagine rolling hills of green tea trees, stretching as far as you can see. That's the Meijiawu Tea Plantation, where Hangzhou's famous Longjing green tea is grown. You can arrange a beautiful and educational tour of the 600-year-old farm, and learn about tea's important role in Chinese history. Wrap up the experience with an authentic tea ceremony - and you'll never drink a cup the same again. The plantation features a whopping 160 tea houses.

    Photo courtesy of Hangzhou Tourism Board

  • Limestone carvings on the way to the temple

    Visit a thousand-year-old temple

    Hangzhou is a history buff's paradise. It's home to the Lingyin Temple, one of the world's oldest Zen temples. To get to the still-active temple, you'll walk past more than 400 huge, ornate carvings on the side of the mountain. 

    Upon arrival at the temple, many visitors burn incense and say a prayer. 

    Photo courtesy of Aimee Heckel

  • The view from the top of the pagoda

    Climb the Leifeng Pagoda

    A visit to a pagoda is a China must-do, and the Leifeng Pagoda is our favorite. It's awesome for its history - it was originally built in year 975, and rebuilt in 2002 - and it also provides a spectacular 360-degree view high above Hangzhou. If you go, wear comfortable shoes and bring bottled water. The climb up all those stairs is not easy, but the view is well worth it. 


    Photo courtesy of Aimee Heckel

  • The Grand Canal, from inside a tour boat

    Cruise down the Grand Canal

    The famous Grand Canal cuts through Hangzhou, on its way to Beijing. Locals have been traveling on this waterway literally for millennia. It's the world's oldest and longest canal and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

    Visitors can book a small, private boat trip along the canal to see Hangzhou from this local vantage point. Drift under bridges and see remains of ancient buildings on the waterside. We recommend taking a guided tour - you'll get fascinating history and facts about how the canal is used today. 

    Photo courtesy of Aimee Heckel

  • A silk dress on display at the silk museum

    Surround yourself in silk

    Hangzhou is located in China's main silk production province, which means you can find some of the world's finest silks here. See silk worms in action in the Xixi wetland museums, and then head to the Wensli Silk Museum, the largest silk museum in the world.

    This museum provides a remarkably extensive display of silk throughout China's history. And at the end of the guided tour, you'll end in their silk shop, where you can buy scarves, lingerie, robes and silk accessories to take home.
    The museum's shop is more expensive than the street shops, but rightly so: their silks are superb and worth every penny.

    Photo courtesy of Aimee Heckel

  • A hand-carved stone stamp

    Make your own historical art

    One of the lesser-known gems in Hangzhou is the Xiling Seal Engraver’s Society, located inside one of the most peaceful gardens in the city. Relax below towering trees, tucked away with a book in little stone nooks. When you finish a chapter, climb the steep stairs to the main hall, where you can enroll in a class on how to engrave Chinese characters onto stone. The process is meditative and slow, and the end result is a hand-carved stone stamp that you can take home. 

    Photo courtesy of Aimee Heckel

  • Shoppers in the historic Qinghefang district

    Shop for quirky souvenirs

    There are many different places to shop, but many visitors' favorite is the Qinghefang Historical Street, which used to be the city's most successful business district. Browse shops and street kiosks for hand-carved chopsticks, parasols, fans, antique tea pots, loose-leaf tea and other quirky local merchandise. Feeling brave? Try some of the street food, like scorpions or chicken feet. 

    Photo courtesy of Aimee Heckel

  • Treat your taste buds

    Treat your taste buds

    Chinese food is not like the Chinese food Americans know.  There are four main schools of Chinese cooking. Hangzhou's is a bit sweet and, being coastal, heavy on the seafood. Hangzhou cooks also tend to prepare lots of delicious vegetables, and rice and tea are generally served alongside the food. 

    Not sure what to order? Look for a teahouse that serves "Buddha Jumps Over the Wall" soup. You'll love it.
    The Lakeside House, located right on West Lake, is one of the best places to dine in the city. The high-end food here is served up with some of the best views of the lake, too - day and night.

    Photo courtesy of Hangzhou Tourism Board


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