Welcome to Hangzhou!
A city first described by Marco Polo as the finest and most luxurious city in the whole world. Hangzhou is a city you don’t want to exclude out of your travel plans to China. What makes this city so unique is that it develops at lightning speed, it has still managed to retain its slow-paced leisurely lifestyle. The beauty in Hangzhou is undeniable, so much so that even Chinese locals from other regions come here for a vacation.
The tourists arriving daily in Hangzhou Airport know of the well known spots, but a worldwide local knows that these are only the tip of the iceberg of why Hangzhou is known as “Heaven on Earth.”
With its stunning natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, you can be clueless about where to begin exploring this charming city. But this guide will show you Hangzhou’s most exquisite spots and how to make the most out of your visit.
Worldwide Local Tip: The best way to get around Hangzhou is on a bicycle. Like in other cities in China, there are public bicycle rental services available, but you have to have an IC card or Z card. You can get them at any of the 50 service centers spread around the city, for 300 Yuan ($44 USD). Pick up an Hangzhou map and explore on your own terms!
Where to Begin
The layout of Hangzhou is very distinctive, with the city center on the east side and the mountains, hills, and a lake to the west. There is too much to see for you to stay parked in your Hangzhou hotel. You’ll want to start by visiting the West Lake, Hangzhou’s most iconic sight. As you google Hangzhou’s West Lake and its surrounding luxuriant hillsides, you’ll come to understand why it’s been a great inspiration for artists, poets, architects and philosophers throughout Chinese history.
Worldwide Local Tip: The beauty of West Lake is undeniably a must-see but if you are looking for a less crowded and equally scenic lake, head over to Xianghu Lake. There are many paths around this beautiful lake, and it is the best place to see the lotus flowers blooming in late June and early July. The dead lotuses make for an equally fascinating sight if you happen to visit in winter. The Hangzhou weather is temperate, so whenever you visit, you are sure to have an incredible experience.
Pour Up a Brew--of Tea!
A hike up the surrounding hills will leave you feeling like you’ve been teleported to a faraway land, while you are still in the middle of the city. It’s here that the city’s famous Longjing (Dragon Well) tea is cultivated, on spectacular terraces going as far as the eye can see. Start by visiting one of the two branches of the China National Tea Museum. Here you can try different teas and learn about the art, cultivation, processing, and the various tea ceremonies. The best time to visit Longjing village is late March and early April when leaves are ready to be picked and roasted.
Worldwide Local Tip: One of the top places to experience the region’s tea culture is Longjing Imperial Garden, located at the rear of the village. It is off the beaten path, but that in no way diminishes the sheer beauty and tranquility of the place. The compound houses a classic Hangzhou garden where you can sip tea and dine.
Get a Bird’s-Eye View
Visiting a Business District doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing to do, but that is because other Business Districts aren’t built like the one in Hangzhou. Home to some of the most impressive skyscrapers in the city, the most noteworthy being the Golden Sun building, which from above looks exactly like the sun! While in this area, you can also walk or cycle across the tallest pedestrian bridge in the city, Gongchen Qiao Bridge.
Eat Like an Hangzhou Local
Unlike dishes from northern China, which are heavy in sauces and spices, Hangzhou cuisine is mild but still flavorful with a focus on fresh ingredients. A visit to Hangzhou is incomplete without trying its signature dish, Longjing shrimp. A combination of the city’s famous green tea and freshwater shrimp from local rivers. Fish in vinegar gravy, braised Dongpo Pork (Pork that is half fat and half lean braised by the mixture of water and alcohol) and Beggars’ Chicken are some of the other favorite dishes you should try while in Hangzhou.
Sampling various street foods is a great way to pass the time in Hangzhou, with some of the must-try streets snacks including; Stinky Tofu, Sticky Glutinous Rice Balls, grilled eggplants, spicy river snails and soft shell crab kebab
Worldwide Local Tip: When buying street food, always look for a place with long lines. The more popular the snack, the safer and cleaner the standards.
Have an Amazing Time in Hangzhou!
Hangzhou’s beauty is not only to be read about in books but also to be seen and experienced. Doing so as a worldwide local will guarantee you an unforgettable experience.