Hangzhou is, quite possibly, the most picturesque city in China. Like something straight out of a Chinese oil painting, it’s famed for its breathtakingly beautiful West Lake which sits serenely beneath mist-shrouded mountains, away from the urban jungle of downtown Hangzhou.
Ancient Chinese pagodas, causeways and arched stone bridges are shadowed by a canopy of willows which are especially impressive in the springtime, when blossom floods the embankments with delicate pastel shades. Beyond the wonderful lake, Hangzhou’s charms extend to the compelling city’s serene temples, mouth watering street food, eclectic shopping and unique culture.
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Utterly spotless and completely mesmerising, Hangzhou’s dreamy West Lake is totally unrivalled in its serenity, and has inspired artists, poets and emperors alike for centuries. Discover the watercolour of willow-lined banks, mist-covered hills and intricately-designed pagodas, as you explore the lake by bicycle, gondola-style boat or aboard the impressive dragon shaped tour boat - offering fascinating excursions. Absorb the flawless scenery from pretty walk-ways and perfectly placed benches in parks and gardens, or visit one of the lake’s enchanting islands; Gushan Island, the largest, houses the Zhejiang Provincial Museum and Zhongshan Park.
A hub of ancient Chinese and Buddhist culture, Hangzhou is bursting at the seams with sensational temples and pretty pagodas. The most famous Buddhist temple in the city –destroyed and rebuilt a staggering 16 times – Lingyin Temple, includes the remarkable Hall of the Four Heavenly Kings, housing four vast guardian statues and a cabinet containing Milefo, the future Buddha. Explore the serene Jingci Temple, still monastically active and boasting a number of striking Buddhist effigies, or climb the tight stairs of the 60m-high octagonal Six Harmonies Pagoda - passing sculptures, bells, shrines and inscriptions.
The humble cup of tea is a true symbol of Chinese heritage and a necessary part of any trip to Hangzhou. Take a scenic trip up into West Lake’s hills, escaping the bustle of the city, and discover the lush green and utterly tranquil Dragon Well Tea Village and its enchanting plantations. During spring, watch local workers – dressed in straw hats – as they pick the precious tea leaves, leaving them in baskets to dry beneath the sun. Afterwards, sit back and relax in a traditional teahouse - no visit would be complete without a taste of the delicious, distinctive tea.
You will be spoilt for choice when dining in Hangzhou, a city boasting countless foodie streets and unpretentious yet exquisite restaurants. Embrace China’s love-affair with food as you wander down Zhongshan South Road Food Street, lined with casual eateries and stalls selling a mouth watering selection of local street food – from fresh seafood to famous Beggar’s Chicken. Alongside this laid-back fare, Hangzhou offers world-class fine dining; Jin Sha restaurant at the Four Seasons Hangzhou at West Lake – voted among the “2015 Best 50 Restaurants in China” by Food & Wine Magazine – serves gourmet Shanghainese, Cantonese and classical local cuisine.
Enjoy wonderfully unique shopping in Hangzhou – home to numerous late-night shopping centres and adjoining restaurants, bars and coffee shops. Make a trip to Tiyuchang Road – Hangzhou China Silk Road – and walk the peaceful, leafy boulevard adorned in paper lanterns and a mirage of silk in every colour imaginable. The exquisite 100% pure silk is, quite simply, sublime and you won’t find any of this quality at these prices anywhere in the west. Meanwhile, the bustling Qinghefang Old Street is dotted with curio stalls - perfect for souvenirs - and leads on to Southern Song Imperial Street, packed with shops and cafes.
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