Hangzhou Travel Guide
" Everything you need to know before traveling to Hangzhou"
Hangzhou is like the Chinese answer to the expression “Land of Opportunities” with its recent developments and prosperity. If calling it a land of opportunities is an exaggeration for this city, calling it a city of science and billionaires is not. It has some of the best and most prestigious universities in all of China. Thus it is considered one of the world’s top cities in scientific research. The name of this city is repeatedly seen in the lists of top achievements for the country and sometimes worldwide.
Hangzhou is also a historic and influential city in China. This city’s roots and its rich culture go back for more than a few centuries. Some traces of its history can be traced to Before Common Era. The prime times of a city such as this date back to the Song Dynasty’s times. It even became the Southern Song Dynasty’s capital in the 12th century. History, art, and culture are integrated with traditions and can be seen in the numerous attractions that still remain in modern-day Hangzhou. Even more, the food of this part of the country is one of the best and tastiest.
Find out just how important a city this place was, and what an amazing one it has become today. Tour the fantastic West Lake and try the food as you hear about the folklore of China as well as several of its legends, and pay close attention to the course of its history. If you are lucky, you will enjoy it all in a place known as the largest city in the world, more than once.
Local Name 杭州 (ɦɑ̃.tse/ Hangchow, Hang Tsei, Hang-chou)
Population (2019) 10,360,000
Time Zone UTC+8 (China Standard)
Area Code 571
Why Visiting Hangzhou?
Rich, modern, yet with a historical and cultural aspect. It has always been one of the most charming cities in China. There are many things to see and do, along with stories to hear.
The number one World Heritage Site of the city is the West Lake since it is the most beautiful part of town, and it holds its rich history. It can be one of the most picturesque areas in China, that is to say, if you pick the right time to go exploring it. The area around West Lake is also one of the top places to go cycling. Besides, the History of China is very rich and vast. Visitors can see Chinese pieces of history in the museums of this country. The museums and historic places here will also give a lesson on the traditional methods of medication in the past eras.
One of the cultural hubs of China is easily the city of Hangzhou. The best of their culture that can be enjoyable for anyone is their handicrafts and objects displayed in museums. As you explore all of these fascinating objects and shop for some of them, discovering the story or legend behind them is also very much recommended.
Temples and palaces are also some of the great things this part of China can offer. West Lake, the Grand Canal, and Lingyin Temple are only a few to mention among all the sites. There are even some old areas with more traditional people to discover.
One of the most delicious cuisines to try is in Hangzhou. Their street food is trendy; their healthy food is exceptional, and their dishes like the Dongpo Pork are enough reason for planning a food tour in China. As you try the cuisine, you will soon discover that tea is also another element of their culture. Green Tea and Gunpowder Tea, and other types of tea play a crucial role in the Chinese people’s food.
All of the environment inside and around this city is amazing. The Botanical Gardens are a popular spot to visit, but make sure to see as much of the environment as you can. A great thing about a trip to this part of the country is the easy access for people who want to go cycling and walk around. If traveling and exploration is the idea, Hangzhou is the place to go with a bike.
What to See in Hangzhou
- Longjing Tea Village
- Meijiawu Tea Plantation
- Mogan Mountain
- Mount Putuo
- National Tea Museum
- Peak Flown From Afar
- Qiantang River
- Qinghefang Ancient Street
- Running Tiger Spring
- Six Harmonies Pagoda
- Solitary Hill
- Song Dynasty Town
- Southern Song Dynasty Kiln Museum
- Thousand Islets Lake
- Tiantai Mountain
- Tomb of General Yue Fei
- Traditional Chinese Medicine Museum
- Twin Peaks Piercing the Clouds
- Viewing Fish at Flower Harbor
- West Lake
- Wu Shan Road Night Markets
- Wuzhen Water Town
- Wuzhen Water Town
- Xinshi Ancient Town
- Xitang Water Town
- Xitang Water Town
- Xixi National Wetland Park
- Zhejiang Provincial Museum
- Zhi Wei Guan
Best Time to Visit Hangzhou
No matter when you travel to this beautiful place! It is always beautiful and enjoyable. You just have to consider your preference in the temperature or the prices that rise and fall in each month and season. If you are looking for excellent and moderate weather with relatively reasonable prices, the best time to travel falls around September.
Spring (March - May)
- Temperature: 6°C (42.8°F) – 26°C (78.8°F)
- Features: Spring is the most beautiful season in China. Temperature can become unpredictable but expect an average of 20°C during spring and a lot of rain.
- Recommendation: Get ready to see a lot of rain and humidity as well as some fog after the rain. If checking the forecast is not possible, always have an umbrella in this season.
What to wear?
Sleeved shirts are enough for the beginning of Spring, and as it gets warmer, you will only need a sweater during the rainy days.
Summer (June - August)
- Temperature: 21°C (69.8°F) – 33°C (91.4°F)
- Features: Summer is the peak season despite being a bit hot and very humid. The rains continue and sometimes too frequent.
- Recommendation: Think of umbrellas as an extension of your arm during the Summers of Hangzhou. Bring bottled water to fight the heat and have no other worries.
What to wear?
Any kind of warm and comfortable Summer clothing is suitable. What you need is protection against the rain and heat of the sun.
Autumn (September - November)
- Temperature: : 9°C (48.2°F) – 28°C (82.4°F)
- Features: It is still peak season with lower rain and cooler air. The sky is mostly clear, but then you will have to wear warm clothes. Best time of the year to go exploring.
- Recommendation: It is still like a paradise in Hangzhou but a bit colder. During this time of the year, rain is reduced, and the temperature gets low. Everything is still enjoyable but as you go near winter, plan for indoor activities and visits.
What to wear?
You can say goodbye to umbrellas, but you will need warmer sweaters and thicker coats. Autumn usually lasts until early December, but expect it to get cold before that time.
Winter (December - February)
- Temperature: 1°C (33.8°F) – 11°C (51.8°F)
- Features: Cold, snowy, and beautiful. The coldest time of the year with the least humidity and lowest amount of rainfall.
- Recommendation: Although it is the least popular time of the year, it is still pretty and very romantic near West Lake and some other attractions. Indoor activities are recommended.
What to wear?
Winter clothes, winter boots, and gloves. The thicker, the better. If you tolerate the cold more than the average person, a coat or wool sweater may be enough.
How Long To Stay?
You can stay for 2-3 days and visit the highlights and try the best of Hangzhou. If you want to explore all of the things like the countryside as well as their regional cuisine, you can extend your stay for a few more days. Most of the visits do not take more than a few hours unless you plan to admire them more and do some exploring.
Things to do in Hangzhou
Hangzhou is known as China’s Capital Tea. Owing to its culture and history, this beautiful city rich in heavenly attractions is a prominent tourist destination in China. Beyond the ancient architecture and heritage, it houses many stunning structures worth visiting. Here’s a list of must-visit places in one of the Seven Ancient Capitals of China.
The West Lake is on the top of the must-see places in Hangzhou. This stunning lake is surrounded by many temples, pagoda, gardens, and man-made islands. It makes no difference whether it’s rainy, cloudy, snowy, or sunny; West Lake always bestows the best scenic beauty. The lake is famous for its heaven-like “Xihu Shi Jing” (Ten Scenic Spots in the West Lake).
Master Hui Li was a Western Indian monk who built the Lingyin Temple in 326 AD. Lingyin Temple, as one of the oldest and largest Chinese Buddhist temples, is an eye-catching destination hosting several holly halls, including the Mahavira Hall, the Yaowang Hall, and the Heavenly Kings Hall, and attracting many travelers worldwide. Soak in the grand architecture and magnificence of this sacred temple.
Fei Lai Feng
A folktale said that the mountain traveled through the air and landed on its existing location; it was called Fei Lai, meaning “flying.” Fei Lai Feng is a limestone mountain of 168 m height situated in the Buddhist Lingyin Temple’s vicinity. It houses 345 handcrafted stone Buddha statues dated back to the ancient dynasties of the Song, the Yuan, and the Five Dynasties.
Leifeng Pagoda was built over the Ten Kingdoms and Five Dynasties period. The old-fashioned 5-floor tower with eight sides is famous for its Chinese folktale of The White Snake’s Legend. It tells a story of a snake demon named Bai Suzhen and Xu Xian, a scholar. A Buddhist monk finally imprisoned Bai in Leifeng Pagoda forever.
Xixi Wetland Park
A total area of 11.5 square km, Xixi Wetland Park, consists of six main watercourses, natural plants, wild animals, and gorgeous scenery. The Xixi water attic, the anchorage thatching, the hazy fisher village, the autumn snow temple are only some of the spectacular scenic spots in the Xixi Wetland Park, offering you a refreshing experience. Soothe your eyes and snap the most picturesque shots.
Songcheng Park is the largest Song Dynasty theme park in China, hosting about six million travelers per year. The Romantic Show of Songcheng is a spectacular show that has been performed in the garden over 17,000. Whether interested in Chinese history, custom, and culture, put the Songcheng Park on top of your things-to-do list in Hangzhou.
Walk around Hefang Street
Hefang Street is an ancient walking shopping street filled with local vendors, teahouses, and shops. You can shop from some of the famous Chinese brands in Hefang Street. Go for a stroll around the street and feel the life of ancient Hangzhou people by your heart.
Former Residence of Hu Xueyan
Hu Xueyan, the famous merchant, built this splendid house complex surrounded by spectacular ponds and gardens within the Qing Dynasty. The residence is a cultural blend of Sino-Western hosting many priceless antiques, expensive wooden furniture, and rare paintings. The interior’s fabulous beauty, intricate window frames, luxurious furniture, and delicate carvings on the doors will leave you speechless.
Qing He Fang Old Street
Qing He Fang Old Street is the best place to feel Old Hangzhou’s life and to shop, eat, and sightseeing. Meander around the well-preserved buildings and buy souvenirs from exciting stores.
- Hu Qing Yu Tang (China’s 2nd largest medical hall)
- General Yue Fei’s tomb
- Wu Shan Road Night Markets
- Hyatt 22
- Zhi Wei Guan
- Wuzhen Water Town
- Xitang Water Town
Where to Stay in Hangzhou
Hangzhou is relatively large and has lots of green areas as well as modern sections. The area near the West Lake and Xixi Wetland Area are mostly suitable for people looking for outdoor activities and visiting the environment, such as the parks.
If the goal is visiting the city, trying the food, the nightlife, and a bit of shopping, the city center (near Wulin Square) is the best option for places to stay. Having no issues with money or budget, you can easily find the most luxurious hotels and places to stay in Shangcheng a little due south of the city center.
Staying in the Wushan Square Area is another good option, giving access to the West Lake area and Hefang Street, which is one of the older parts of the city.
How to Get to Hangzhou
You can get a train to Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, or fly there via the Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport (IATA: HGH, ICAO: ZSHC) in the Xiaoshan District. If already in China, Hangzhou’s fastest routes are from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong. You can stay for 2-3 days and visit the highlights and try the best of Hangzhou. If you want to explore all of the things like the countryside and their regional cuisine, you can extend your stay for a few more days. Most of the visits do not take more than a few hours unless you plan to admire them more and do some exploring.
There is only one passenger airport in Hangzhou.
Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport
The Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport is one of China’s important territorial airports. This airport has 35 flights to international destinations and 86 domestic ones. More than that, this home of 55 airlines is one of the most beautiful airports you can see with its numerous gardens.
Terminals: The airport has three main terminals:
- Terminal 1/ Terminal B (domestic flights)
- Terminal 2/ Terminal A (international flights)
- Terminal 3/ Terminal B (domestic flights)
- Air Hong Kong (HX)
- Air Macau (NX)
- AirAsia (D7)
- All Nippon Airways (NH)
- Asiana Airlines (OZ)
- Dragon Air (KA)
- Ethiopian Airlines (ET)
- Eva Air (BR)
- HK Express (HO)
- Jetstar Airways
- KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KL)
- Korean Air (KE)
- Mandarin Airlines (AE)
- Philippine Airlines (PAL)
- Transasia Airways (GE)
- Uni Air (B7)
There are five main bus stations in Hangzhou that get buses to and from this city to other parts of the country. These buses are not the fastest way of getting around the country, especially getting to Hangzhou. If you are not in a hurry, buses are reasonably priced and have good quality. These five stations are:
- Passenger Transport Central Station (Jiubao Town, Jianggan District)
- South Bus Station (Qiu Tao Lu, Shangcheng District)
- West Bus Station (357, Tian Mu Shan Lu)
- North Bus Station (758, Mo Gan Shan Lu)
- Hangzhou East Railway Highway Bus Station (G Floor, north side on East Square of East Railway Station)
Besides these five major stations, there is also the “Hangzhou Tourist Center,” offering tourist buses. This particular station only offers rides to popular tourist destinations. This center is located in the Huanglong Sports Centre and offers very limited destinations, but their available destinations are the highlights of China.
There are two kinds of rail travel in Hangzhou, the bullet train and the normal train. The fastest of these trains is the bullet train from Shanghai that will get you to your destination in less than an hour. There are four train stations in the province, two of which offer high-speed trains. These stations are Qiandaohu Railway Station, Hangzhou Railway Station, East Railway Station, and South Railway Station. They offer regular transports unless they are under maintenance. To avoid problems, make sure to book your ticket online and ahead of time.
Get Around In Hangzhou
Hangzhou Metro System
The metro system of Hangzhou is partially active. The active part includes lines 1, 2, 4, 5, and 16 that currently offer regular services. There are also lines 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 that are still under development.
|Operating Metro Lines||Routes|
|Line 1||Xiasha Jiangbin – Xianghu (passes the East Railway Station, Main Railway Station, and the South Bus Station)|
|Line 2||Chaoyang – Liangzhu|
|Line 4||Puyan – Pengbu|
|Line 5||Guniangqiao – Jinxing (passes the South Railway Station, Hangzhou Railway Station, and the Grand Canal)|
|Line 16||Jiuzhou Street – Lüting Road|
|Under construction lines||Routes|
|Line 3||Tianmushan Road – Wulin Square (it might expand further. It will pass the West Bus Station)|
|Line 6||Shuangpu – Goujunong|
|Line 7||Qianjiang Century CBD – Jiangdong Industry Zone (it will pass Xiaoshan International Airport)|
|Line 8||Jiangdong Industry Zone – Xiasha District|
|Line 9||Tangxi Zutuan – Longxiangqiao|
|Line 10||Huanglong Stadium – Yuhang District|
You can use Hangzhou’s public buses from 05:00 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. except for the suburban lines. The suburban lines stop operating in the evening, from about 05:00 p.m. or later. The night lines may also stop working an hour early, but this does not happen regularly. All the areas are accessible via public buses, and they only charge 1-3 CNY, but to make it even easier, you can opt for the tourist buses that will take passengers to tour the highlights. These tour buses are not easy to find, and they offer limited services, but if you find one, they can help a lot.
About 10,000 taxis are running in the city with official signs on them. These taxies will charge CNY11 for the first 3km and CNY2.5 per kilometer for less than 10-kilometer distances. As soon as the car moves over 10 kilometers, it will charge CNY3.75 per kilometer. To keep the charges to a minimum, try to ask your hotel to hail you a cab or use the buses.
As early as 06:00 a.m. until 08:00 p.m., there are about 1,000 public bicycle stalls and rental spots. The drawback is that having a Transportation Smart Card T or Z is necessary for renting bikes.
Because of the Grand Canal, Qiantang River, and the West Lake, water-transports are available, operating between Hangzhou and Beijing. The Water Bus Company operates on the Grand Canal and the Qiantang River, and the West Lake Pleasure Boat Company has boats on the West Lake.
Flight to Hangzhou (HGH)
Hangzhou Food & Drink
Hangzhou Cuisine dates back to the South Song Dynasty, and it is part of the Hang Bang Cai Cuisine of the Zhejiang Cuisine branch. What you just read means that you will get a lot of great and tasty dishes with incredible fragrances. That is if you are not familiar with the different cuisines of China. As you walk in the streets, you will also discover numerous delightful snacks as well as teas and drinks that will make you fall in love. While in this part of the country, make the sampling of food a priority. Especially in this province, Chinese food is one of the most delicious on the planet.
Sweet and Sour West Lake Fish (西湖醋鱼)
The number one food choice for traveling to Hangzhou is their famous and popular dish of Sweet and Sour West Lake Fish. The sweet and sour sauce, or gravy, along with the fish from the West Lake, gives a delightful taste as well as a tender and great texture. And like many other things in China, this food is also the stuff of legends with a backstory! But besides the story behind it, it also requires a specific way of preparing the fish for a meal to get its famous texture.
The flavor is unique, and the Sweet and Sour West Lake Fish is also very healthy. If nothing else, it is very energetic and the number one thing to eat in this part of China.
Fried Shrimps with Longjing Tea (龙井虾仁)
Fried Shrimps with Longjing Tea is a traditional and very healthy food to try in Hangzhou. The people of this city use this mix as something exotic, aromatic, and quite delicious. It is a light dish with a greasy appearance that actually makes little use of oils. The Fried Shrimps with Longjing Tea tastes fantastic when made with fresh ingredients. The colors and appearance of the dish are enough to make your mouth water, but wait until you have given them a try. This traditional dish is a must-try of this city, more than once if possible.
Stewed Bamboo Shoots (糟烩鞭笋)
Stewed Bamboo Shoots of Hangzhou is another fragrant food that is also very healthy and refreshing. The main ingredient for this food is bamboo shots and a few other things that depend on your taste. Stewed Bamboo Shoots is a vegetarian dish with a savory flavor, and it is much richer and heavier than it may look like. Whenever you wanted to eat something easy to prepare, healthy, and traditional, go for the Stewed Bamboo Shoots.
Dongpo Pork (东坡肉)
Dongpo Pork is a braised pork dish, which is inspired by the artist Su Dongpo. This food is by far one of the most delicious things you can eat while in Hangzhou and perhaps all of China. The process of making the Dongpo Pork is long and includes two phases of cooking. The pieces of pork are chopped, cleaned, and then put in a pot. Instead of unhealthy oils, some of the pork fat, as well as a bit of water and a lot of wine, are added to the mix. Slow cooking this mix is enough, but more braising and steaming of the ingredients is also seen in many places to make it even tastier.
Dongpo Pork has a lovely texture, and it will just melt in your mouth. As it releases the flavors and the mix of wine and other ingredients, you will realize just how great the food is. It looks greasy, but it is, in fact, not that oily. Healthy, tasty, and fragrant, be sure to have some Dongpo Pork.
Beggar’s Chicken (叫花鸡)
You may already know that the Beggar’s Chicken has nothing to do with it being simple, cheap, or not good. The name “Beggar” has a story to tell. Legends and tales say that Beggar’s Chicken was invented by a beggar who was dying. The original version may have been much simpler, but the contemporary Beggar’s Chicken of Hangzhou is a whole chicken that is marinated or stuffed or just plain, wrapped in lotus leaves. When the Chicken and the wrapping are ready, they are then covered in a unique mud.
The Chicken and its mud cover are then placed over an open fire.
Some cook this food for 2-6 hours no matter what. Others will wait until the mud gets dry and then cracked open. The result will be a rich flavor and a smell with a crispy exterior and a soft and tender inside.
Sister Song Fish Broth (宋嫂鱼羹)
Sister Song Fish Broth or Aunt Song Fish Broth is an Hangzhou dish of the Song Dynasty that looks and tastes fantastic. It is a very traditional food that has remained popular for centuries. The color, its creamy texture, and taste, as well as the healthy ingredients, are probably the reason that people still love the Sister Song Fish Broth.
Tofu with Eight Delicious (八宝豆腐)
Tofu with Eight Delicious is one of the richest and most nutritious dishes you can find in China. The main ingredient is obviously tofu, with egg white, lotus seeds, lilies, sea cucumber, chicken, ham, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms being the “Eight Delicious” of the dish. Of course, there is also the seasoning and more vegetables in the food, making it something indescribable with words! There is only one thing to say about Tofu with Eight Delicious: Do not miss this dish!
West Lake Lotus Root Powder (西湖藕粉)
West Lake Lotus Root Powder is a very famous snack because of its rich nutrition and taste. It is a very healthy thing to try that is still a trendy snack and medicine in Hangzhou.
The name Gunpowder Tea is only something given to a type of green tea because of the tiny black balls in the tea. Gunpowder Tea is found in many places; one is Hangzhou, where you can still see the traditional hand-rolled tea leaves with an earthier taste. The color is a bit green-golden, and its unique taste can become the perfect pair with many local and traditional dishes of China.
Shopping in Hangzhou
The best shopping districts in Hangzhou
Hefang Street, to the east of the West Lake and near Wushan Square, is the number one choice for buying souvenirs. The street is full of all kinds of shops, bars, and restaurants with a unique vibe. Edibles and handicrafts can all be found in Hefang Street, making it the top place for your shopping needs.
If clothing is the desired goal, the place to look for clothes and fabrics is the Wulin Road that stretches for 1.5 kilometers. Wulin Road is full of women’s clothing and accessories, and since it is filled with female customers, it is famous as a female fashion street. It does not mean men cannot find Wulin Road useful; it only has fewer shops for men.
Wushan Night Market
You are not a morning person? You do not mind a little bargaining? Then the Wushan Night Market is just the place for you. The best outdoor place for shopping during the nights is the Wushan Night Market at the Junction of Renhe Road and Huixing Road. Anything you want is available at the stalls and shops of the Wushan Night Market with a different vibe and need for bargaining.
Wang Xing Ji Fan Store
Wang Xing Ji Fan Store is an old and traditional fan shop on 62 Renhe Road. It is a great place to buy something cultural and artistic in Hangzhou.
What to buy in Hangzhou
Silk in China has always been one of the significant products and exports. One of the silks in the country that comes with excellent quality and in the form of fabrics and garments is the Hangzhou Silk. The variety of silk products is limitless, so explore the markets until you find exactly the color and clothing you are looking for.
Xihu Silk Umbrellas
Xihu Silk Umbrellas are among Hangzhou’s more traditional souvenirs made with silk and bamboo. They have beautiful designs of plants and birds painted on them. Besides, Xihu Silk Umbrellas are delicate items that serve as excellent gifts to bring home.
Wang Xing Ji Fans
Wang Xing Ji Fan store is one of the oldest and most reputable shops in the city, selling the Wang Xing Ji Fans becoming more popular with each passing day. They are very exotic functioning fans that can be used or put in the decorations as part of a memorable trip to China.
Longjing Tea (Dragon Well Tea)
Longjing Tea or Dragon Well Tea is only one of the numerous kinds of tea that grows in the Longjing mountains. This type of green tea has a unique aroma and refreshing taste, making it stand tall above all other kinds of green tea. It will cost a lot because of the quality, and it is even something that diplomats give to foreign guests as a great gift.
Another ancient thing about Hangzhou is its Embroidery, which comes in two forms; court embroidery and folk embroidery. The court embroideries would produce the finest products for the royalty, and folk embroiders would make simple items such as bedsheets for the simpler folks. Whichever kind of Hangzhou Embroidery you find can make an ideal souvenir.
Tianzhu Chopsticks are traditional eating utensils with different materials and paintings. A significant part of China is its regional cuisine and its food culture. More than that, their eating method uses chopsticks that interest many travelers. If you want to enjoy that experience to the fullest, using the Tianzhu Chopsticks is a great idea. These Tianzhu Chopsticks are also one of the famous souvenirs of Hangzhou.
Hangzhou Travel Tips
Plan for the Weather
Although this place is an all-year-round destination, it is known to have difficulties with rain. Unpredictable weather is seen a lot in Hangzhou, but it is always necessary to check the forecast before traveling during your preferable season.
Safety is not a Problem
Hangzhou is one of China’s safest places, with only minor criminal activity such as pickpocketing. However, you need to be careful about your belongings and keep a lookout for scammers or people who overcharge for their services.
Bargain in Traditional Shops
The older parts of the city, as well as the traditional shops, require a bit of bargaining when you go shopping. It is not a problem, but you will almost always get better prices.
Hangzhou is not as large and busy as Beijing, but if you are not fond of walking or cycling around the city, use public transports like the metro. In some areas, the developments are not finished yet, but using public transports can get you anywhere you like.
Don’t drink tap Water
Just like most of China, tap water is not safe in Hangzhou.