West Lake (Xi Hu) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a top attraction in the heart of old Hangzhou. With mountains on three sides and plenty of charming gardens, bridges, pagodas, temples, and islands, it’s easy to see why this scenic man-made lake has inspired so many poets and painters through the ages.
The 2.5-square-mile (6.5-square-kilometer) West Lake is filled with sights to see, including the Ten Scenes of West Lake, a series of vistas around the water. First compiled during the Southern Song Dynasty, the Ten Scenes gained popularity under Emperor Kangxi during the Qing Dynasty, and include Viewing Fish at Flower Harbour and Moon Reflected on Three Ponds.
To see much of the lake in a short amount of time, rent bicycles, catch an electric cart, or take a leisurely boat cruise around the water. Allot several hours and consider combining a visit to West Lake with a tour of nearby attractions, such as Lingyin Temple and Qinghefang Ancient Street. Full-day tours, including day tours from Shanghai to West Lake, typically also include a visit to a nearby tea plantation. Choose a multi-day tour to gain in-depth insight into Hangzhou and its surrounding areas.
Things to Know Before You Go
- West Lake is a must-see for nature lovers and photographers.
- Wear comfortable shoes, if you plan on walking, especially across long causeways like the Su Causeway, which is 1.7 miles (2.8 kilometers) long.
- West Lake is free to visit, but some of its attractions, including Leifeng Pagoda, Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, and the Tomb of General Yue Fei, require an admission fee.
How to Get There
West Lake is in the historic center of Hangzhou, about 19 miles (30 kilometers) from the airport. Visitors from Hangzhou can easily reach it using various transportation. Travelers by train from other cities should get off at Hangzhou Train Station, the closest station to West Lake. From Shanghai, you can take a bullet train and drive a car. Or, book a tour with round-trip transport.
When to Get There
West Lake is a popular destination year-round. Spring is one of the busiest times to visit, when bountiful peach and plum blossoms are in full bloom, while summer visitors often come for the lotus flowers. Fall weather is pleasant, with less rain than usual, and winter is cold and wet with fewer visitors. The rainy season runs from April to September.
Where to Find the Most Photogenic Spots on West Lake
The best panoramic views of West Lake can be found at the Chenghuang Pavilion, the top of Leifeng Pagoda, and Baoshi Mountain. For sunset views, head to Broken Bridge, Su Causeway, Yanggong Causeway, or Xiaoyinzhou Island.