Hangzhou might not immediately come to mind as a top place to visit in China. However once one stops by, it is entirely worth the trip. Located just a couple hours by bus or around an hour by train from Shanghai, it has a specific appeal, lively character and fascinating spots to discover.
Hangzhou is a large city that is spread out over a wide wetland and River delta region making it flat, beautiful and vast. Transportation of all sorts, public, taxis and private is highly developed and affordable. There is a great infrastructure of splurge, mid ranged and basic hotels around the city. Like many places in China the big name hotels are more affordable and more impressive in service and splendor than their western counterparts. This includes places like JW Marriott, Four Seasons, Sheraton and Banyan Tree just to name a few.
The crown jewel of the city is most certainly West Lake. If there’s one thing not to miss here it is the lake. It is huge and has a seemingly mystical character. Pathways are innumerable that surround its shores, bridges cross to its islands and its banks are full of gardens, pagodas, inlets, restaurants and temples. Here one will see thousands of people out walking and taking in the sights. It is a mix of locals, a few foreigners and domestic tourists. The lake has lots of boat ride opportunities, guided walks and perhaps just meandering its shores and exploring all the gardens, statues structures and people watching will be enough to keep one occupied for hours. For special views be sure and catch a stroll along the Su and Bai causeways.
This is another top attraction not to miss. It is best seen silhouetted in the sunset. This monumental structure sits at the Southeastern shore of the lake and it is a five-story tower in an octagon shape. The tower had about a thousand years of existence before it collapsed and it was recently rebuilt in 2002. It represents a collection of art, history and religious ideals, which have been centered on the legends of the lake and its inhabitants for centuries. In fact, Hangzhou is a city which has millennia of history and was most notably the capital of the Southern Song dynasty. Many museums and monuments to this wonderful past can be see along tranquil Beishan Road.
Shopping and Markets:
Hangzhou is often dubbed the original home of silk and green tea for its prominent displays in both markets. This time honored excellence is best seen today at the lively Hefang Street Market. This pedestrian area is a charming stroll past hundreds of vendors toting all sorts of souvenirs, teas, arts, crafts silks, ceramics and handcrafted goods. Many locals call it snack street for its innumerable tea houses and places to sit and grab a bite to eat. The street has all kinds of markets from food to goods and one of the best places to behold is the Wushan night market section. Be ready for large crowds and bit of work to move about especially on weekends.