You’ve probably heard of Beijing and Shanghai, but if you haven’t heard of Hangzhou then you’re seriously missing out! Hangzhou was one of China’s historical capital cities and is now the richest small city in the country. Here are our top 5 China travel tips for Hangzhou that make it a must-see city while you’re travelling around China.
Visit West Lake
West Lake is known as one of the most beautiful sights in China and was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011. The man-made lake and its surrounding temples, pagodas, bridges and gardens were built with a fusion of nature and humanity in mind. The lake is most well-known for the ‘Ten Scenes of West Lake’, all of which offer a completely unique experience. The best way to explore is to walk or cycle around the lake’s perimeter or take a boat ride across the water. You could easily spend half a day taking relaxing as you take in the lake’s beauty.
Travel tip #1: The best time of day to visit is in the late afternoon, so you can explore during the daytime and also catch the gorgeous sunset hues reflecting in the lake.
Hefang Street is the most famous and well-preserved street in the Old Town district of Hangzhou. Although originally called Taiping Street, the avenue dates all the way back to when the city became the capital of the South Song Dynasty in 1131. You can still find century-old Chinese medicine shops, ancient tea houses and shops lining the cobblestone streets. A leisurely walk around will definitely build up an appetite, so treat your taste buds to some delicious street food at the far end of the street.
Travel tip #2: Take a walk down Hefang Street during the day to see all the ancient architecture in daylight but come back again for round two in the evening to see the beautiful red lanterns that line the street.
Learn about the history of tea
China is the birthplace of tea, so a visit to the only tea museum in the mainland speaks for itself. The Dragon Well (Longjing) tea is the most famous green tea in China and originates in Hangzhou. At the China National Tea Museum, you can wander through five exhibition halls and learn about the origin and history of tea in China, dating back thousands of years! Watch a traditional tea ceremony to learn the true art of making tea, or have your own hands-on tea experience in the tea plantations surrounding the museum.
Travel tip #3: If you want to join the professional harvesters and pluck the tea leaves from the trees in the fields, be sure to visit during the spring, when the leaves are freshest!
Hangzhou’s Old Town and city centre sits to the east of West Lake, but to the West, you can find gorgeous rollings mountains! A visit to Hangzhou offers both the bustling city experience and allows you to explore China’s natural wonders. Jiuyao Mountain boasts the highest peak around West Lake at198 metres high. It’s one of the top places to watch the sunset over the lake and the city in the distance, and the hike is only a few hours.
Travel tip #4: Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and be sure to layer up, it can get a bit chilly up there, especially if you’ll be climbing back down after sunset.
Climb the Six Harmonies Pagoda
The Liuhe Pagoda (Six Harmonies Pagoda) is one of three renowned pagodas in Hangzhou. As the tallest one, standing at almost 60m, the pagoda offers panoramic views of the mountains behind it and the city skyline across the river. The pagoda is also a top destination for tourists wanting to witness the Qiantang River Tide, a tidal wave that spans across the with of the Qiantang River. If you’re not a fan of heights, the pagoda is surrounded by beautiful Chinese gardens for you to explore!
Travel tip #5: To watch the Qiantang River Tide, make sure you visit during September, as this is the best time of year to catch it!