Described by Marco Polo as “the finest and most splendid city in the world” Hangzhou is a city rich in stunning natural scenery and culture. The capital of the Zhejiang Province is situated on China’s east coast, to the south of the Yangtze river. The 2,500-year-old city is one of the Seven Ancient Capital Cities, and is one of China’s most popular tourist locations. As well as a buzzing city vibe and streets packed with tourists, you will discover lush green hills, tranquil temples and ancient pagodas. It will not take you long on your trip to Hangzhou to discover why it is known as “Heaven on Earth” – thousands of years of culture layer upon one another to create an other-worldly charm that is impossible to resist.
Direct flights to Hangzhou will bring you to Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport (HGH). The airport is 17 miles from downtown Hangzhou, however travellers can also get direct flights to Shanghai, 105 miles away. The bullet train to Hangzhou takes about an hour.
The best time to visit Hangzhou is between spring (March – May) and autumn (September to November), when you will see the West Lake blossom into life. Temperatures in spring can be variable, with regular showers, but it is worth it to see the city awake from its winter slumber and bloom into a riot of foliage and colour. In the summer, the West Lake is filled with thousands of lotus flowers, which is truly magical to behold, while during autumn is warm and dry and the air is filled with the scent of the delicate white flower of the lush green plant, osmanthus. If you are looking for cheap flights to Hangzhou, plan your trip outside of UK school holidays and avoid Chinese holidays, including Labour Day, which is May 1-7 and National day (October 1 – 7).
West Lake is central to Hangzhou’s heritage and is responsible for the city’s reputation as China’s most beautiful garden city. Named a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2011, West Lake measures 2 miles long and 1.7 miles wide, and is surrounded on three sides by vast, lush mountains. It has been the subject of romantic poems for thousands of years, and no wonder: the Lake exudes a verdant tranquillity that can’t fail to evoke romantic images of years gone by. Just as the West Lake changes with the seasons, so it alters throughout the day: a visit early in the morning will be rewarded by an enchanting serenity and you will feel as though you are the only people in the world beholding the beautiful sight before you. During the day, you can walk or cycle around the lake, take in the range of beautiful scenes, and take a boat trip across the lake. Come evening, the late is illuminated, reflecting the hubbub of the surrounding city as you find yourself in a fairy-like wonderland. The Lake is packed with unique scener
Within Hangzhou’s water towns you will get an instant insight into the city’s heritage. Teeming with charming scenery and typical architecture, Wuzhen Water Town is also laden with a host of bars, shops and traditional-style accommodation. The 1,300-year-old water town is one of the Ancient Towns of Yangtze and is an exquisite example of the architectural style of the late Qing Dynasty – the perfect place to while away the hours, shopping, eating and soaking up the ambience. Hangzhou has plenty of temples to choose from, but the Lingyin is its most famous. One of the most visited temples in China, the Lingyin Temple is home to the largest statue of Buddha Sakyamuni (the founder of Buddhism) in the lotus position. Built in 328 AD, the temple is visited by thousands of pilgrims and tourists a day, each of whom come to pay their respects to the jocular Laughing Buddha, and the magnificent 19 metre statue of Buddha Sakyamuni sitting upon a 10-metre lotus flower. The sheer scale and tranquil beauty of the templ
Tea is central to China’s heritage and the Hangzhou Longjing Tea Plantation gives you a wonderful insight into the ancient industry. Meaning “Dragon Well”, Longjing tea is renowned for its unique taste and is one of the most famous green teas in China. Here you can visit the tea terraces, learn more about the importance of tea in Chinese culture, witness traditional picking methods and, of course, taste freshly picked tea in the place where it was grown. Hangzhou cuisine is known for its fresh crispness and delicate flavouring and is recognised as one of China’s eight major genres of food. The traditional West Lake fish served with sweet and sour sauce is a must-try: find a good water-front restaurant and enjoy this delicacy, fresh from the lake, served in a delicate blend of sugar and vinegar. As one may expect, noodle bars and street stalls offer you myriad choices when it comes to snacking. If you are looking for traditional flavours, don’t be afraid to go off the beaten track; ask at your hotel or jus