Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Hangzhou
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.
Lingyin Temple is one of the oldest and most famous Buddhist temples in China and a top attraction in Hangzhou. Situated at the foot of Lingyin Mountain and surrounded by forest, Lingyin Temple is known for its tranquil setting, spiritual atmosphere, and numerous pagodas, grottoes, and Buddhist relics.
Located on the southern bank of scenic West Lake, the 5-story, 8-sided Leifeng Pagoda offers stunning panoramic views over West Lake, and features spectacular statues and carvings on different levels. One of the top attractions in Hangzhou, “Leifeng Pagoda at Sunset” is also one of the classic Ten Scenes of West Lake.
The architecture, infrastructure, and way of life in Wuzhen, one of the six famous ancient water towns south of the Yangtze River, hasn’t changed much over the centuries. Traditional houses, shops, and markets built along canals crossed by ancient bridges make the atmospheric town feel like a living history museum.
Fei Lai Feng (Flying Peak) – literally translated as ‘Peak Flown from Afar’ – is a unique, 200-meter tall limestone peak located next to the Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province.
At the site, ancient tree roots rise above the ground, their branches twisting and winding up the peak. Due to erosion, there are a large number of caves within the mountain, and some of these feature intricately carved Buddha statues that were created during the Song and Yuan dynasties.
The largest Buddha statue here is the Maitreya Buddha, with its exposed belly and beaming smile; this is one of the best-preserved statues of its kind, displaying the artistry of carving in the Song Dynasty. In Longhong Cave, there is a seated statue of Avalokitesvara, while in Shexu Cave, a beam of sunlight pours in through the rock tunnels above – a famous scene known as 'the gleam of the sky'.
Meijiawu Tea Village, just west of West Lake, is a top producer of Longjing (Dragon Well) tea, considered one of the finest teas in China and the world. Surrounded by mountains, valleys, and streams, Meijiawu Tea Village is a picturesque locale where visitors can learn all about the heritage, production, and benefits of Longjing tea.
A 7-story tower that looks deceivingly taller, the Six Harmonies Pagoda (Liuhe Pagoda) was constructed in 970 to ward off evil spirits believed to be responsible for the Qiantang River’s tidal bore. The pagoda is a masterpiece of ancient Chinese architecture and an enduring symbol of the city of Hangzhou.
Learn all about the history and development of tea in China, tea culture, tea ceremonies, tea wares, and different types of tea at the National Tea Museum (Zhongguo Chaye Bowuguan). Nestled within the hills of idyllic Longjing (Dragon Well) Village, the National Tea Museum is the only national museum in China focused entirely on tea.
Qinghefang Ancient Street, the best-preserved historical street in Hangzhou, stretches 1,575 feet (480 meters). East of West Lake, it’s a great place to shop, dine, and appreciate classical architecture. A number of buildings are from the Ming (1380–1644) and Qing (1644–1912) dynasties, and some of the shops date back hundreds of years.
Nine-century-old Zhouzhuang Water Town, the oldest water township in China and one of the most famous, comprises a network of scenic canals, 14 stone bridges, and well-preserved buildings from the Ming and Qing dynasties. The late Chinese painter Chen Yifei immortalized the village in his paintings.
More Things to Do in Hangzhou
Red Carp Pond, or “Viewing Fish at Flower Harbor,” is one of the classic “Ten Scenes of West Lake” in Hangzhou. Formerly the garden of a Southern Song dynasty official, the stunning pond and flower views have been inspiring artists for more than 800 years and continue to draw visitors of all ages today.
Located south of Hangzhou’s West Lake, the UNESCO World Heritage–listed China National Silk Museum (NSM) is the largest museum in the world devoted to silk. In addition to an extensive collection of silk garments, textiles, and relics, the museum covers 5,000 years of silk development, history, and culture across eight galleries.
One of Hangzhou’s most noteworthy landmarks, the Qiantang River Bridge is both an architectural and a historical highlight. The first modern steel bridge to be designed and constructed by Chinese engineers, the landmark has stood for upwards of 80 years. Today, the double-decker bridge serves pedestrians, trains, and vehicles.
The Grand Canal is the longest and oldest man-made waterway in the world, once covering 1,115 miles (1,794 kilometers) from Beijing to Hangzhou. Dating from the fifth century BC, this engineering marvel is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some sections are still in use today.
The Museum of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Hu Qing Yu Tang)—located off Hangzhou’s historic Qinghefang Ancient Street—is a part of Hu Qing Yu Tang, a still functioning pharmacy from the Qing dynasty. Learn about traditional Chinese medicine while appreciating the historic architecture of the 29,000-square-foot (2,700-square-meter) complex.
At the northwest corner of West Lake and at the foot of Jade Spring Hill, Hangzhou Botanical Garden’s 568 acres (230 hectares) offer a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of Hangzhou. In addition to its extensive collection of flowers, plants, and trees, visitors can also enjoy a number of ponds, pavilions, and promenades.
At the northwest corner of West Lake lies Solitary Hill (Gu Shan), the largest and only natural island in West Lake, covering an area of almost 50 acres (20 hectares) and rising to a height of 125 feet (38 meters). Beautifully landscaped and full of scenic and historical spots, Solitary Hill is a great place to appreciate both nature and history.