West Lake, or Xi Hu, is what brings the countless tourists to Hangzhou and with good reason: it’s beautiful. The best way to explore the lake is by bicycle or on foot. For ¥55, you can take a hop-on, hop-off boat ride that makes various stops around the lake. The north shore is quieter and less touristy, especially Gu Shan, Bai Causeway and Quyuan Fenghe Garden, all accessible from Beishan Lu.
First built in AD326, Lingyin Temple is one of the oldest and most important Buddhist temples in China. The Great Hall displays a magnificent 24-meter high wooden statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha covered in gold leaf. Monks still regularly perform chants and rituals here, while the public comes to light incense sticks and pray. Entry: ¥45 for the grounds, ¥30 for the temple. Hours: 7am-6pm daily.
This mountaintop oasis boasts picturesque panoramas of the city below. Chinese grannies and grandpas love to spend their days here doing Tai Chi. You’ll find the occasional tea house and also a Taoist temple, too.
Find it: 71 Shuguang Lu 曙光路71号
LONGJING TEA VILLAGE
Spring is a special time in Hangzhou, when the air is filled with the sweet perfume of Longjing (aka Dragonwell) tea. Ladies in straw hats pick tea while men roast the leaves in pans. During the off season you can still come here to buy tea and have a farm-style meal in one of the many restaurants in the village.
Find it: Longjingcun Lu (near Longjing Lu)
Go Chasing Waterfalls
Not many know about this spot with waterfalls and turquoise colored pools just 5km west of West Lake. Nine Creeks is a 6km stretch of forest and mountains that can be hiked in about one hour. The top end starts from Longjing Village and the south end from Qiantang River. April to October is when water flow is most abundant and thus the best time to go.
Find it: Longjing Village
Some people will come here to see the pagoda where the mythical “White Snake Lady” was imprisoned, but the best reason to come is the panoramic view of West Lake and the modern city skyline above. Escalators and elevators will carry you effortlessly to the top. Admission is ¥40.
Find it: 15 Nanshan Lu
Every spring, this park located south of West Lake comes alive with meandering swathes of tulips, daffodils and cherry blossom trees in full bloom. The well-tended gardens are intermingled with small ponds making the scene even more beautiful. There’s also a waterfall area in the back.
Find it: 5-1 Nanshan Lu
A historic pedestrian street where you can find souvenirs, street food and traditional handicrafts like paper-cutouts, candy sculptures and dough
figurines. Most of the buildings on this street were built during the Ming or Qing dynasties and are lovingly preserved.
Find it: Hefang Jie
Hangzhou Botanical Gardens
These sprawling gardens cover 245 hectares and include towering bamboo groves, magnolia trees, a bonsai garden and rose garden. Although spring is the prime time to visit with 5,000 plum trees in bloom, the botanical gardens are beautiful year round, especially in winter if there’s rare snowfall. Admission: ¥10
Find it: 1 Taoyuanling
China National Tea Museum
While you’re at the Longjing tea fields, you can visit this museum to learn all about the cultivation, processing and drinking of tea. The displays in English and Chinese are informative and easy to understand. The museum grounds include exquisite gardens and their own tea plantation. Admission is free.
Find it: 88 Longjing Lu