What are the best things to see and do in Hangzhou?

Sophie Friedman

Hangzhou makes for an idyllic day or multi-night escape from Shanghai. Here are the best things to see and do in China’s magical city:
 
1. Rent bikes. Locals can rent bikes from a slew of racks across the city by swiping their ID cards. But if you’re just visiting Hangzhou, you can go to the rental area on Hubin Lu near Pinghai Lu, where you’ll need to leave your ID (not your passport) and a RMB300 (US $47) deposit. Cycling around the lake is easy way to take in the picturesque landscapes.
 
2. Visit West Lake. In addition its tea fields, West Lake is what makes Hangzhou famous. The beautiful, serene body of water was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011. You can stroll the lake’s shady banks, cycle all the way around or take a ride in a traditional wooden boat.
 
3. Pick tea. Hangzhou is home to loads of longjing (green) tea fields. After touring the fields and hearing about the harvesting process, you can pick your own tea.
 
4. See a show. Zhang Yimou, best known for directing the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, is also the brains behind a dazzling nightly performance that takes place on West Lake called “Impression West Lake.” No need to buy tickets in advance — you can purchase them right before the show starts.
 
5. Visit China Academy of Art. China’s first comprehensive art school is a stone’s throw from West Lake. Its galleries and leafy campus are open to the public, and there’s a quaint coffee shop with outdoor seating to take a break.

  • On August 28, 2012
    Sophie Friedman answered the question: Sophie Friedman

    How do I get from Shanghai to Hangzhou?

    Getting from Shanghai to Hangzhou is a cinch if you take the 45-minute bullet train. Trains leave hourly from Shanghai’s Hongqiao Railway Station, and more frequently in the mornings and evenings. Tickets are RMB78 (US $12) and can be purchased either at the train station or in advance. Since the train station is usually crowded, and the chances of finding an English speaker are slim, Forbes Travel Guide recommends buying tickets in advance while still in Shanghai. The trains do run frequently, so it’s no problem if you miss your train (you can easily exchange your tickets). One important thing to note is that you need your passport to buy and exchange train tickets.
  • On August 28, 2012
    Sophie Friedman answered the question: Sophie Friedman

    What is the best thing to bring home from Hangzhou?

    The best things to bring home from Hangzhou are silk and longjing (green) tea. You can find silk at deep discounts at Hangzhou China Silk Town. Just know that bargaining is essential here — never pay the asking price. Tea can also be bought at hundreds of outlets across the city; but for a unique and fun experience, try picking it directly from the plantation at Longjing Village. You can do this by joining a guided tour (everything will be arranged for you) or by going at it alone. If you are on your own, expect to be approached by friendly villagers, who will invite you into their homes to try (and, yes, buy) their tea. It’s a truly local experience and one you won’t find anywhere else.
  • On August 28, 2012
    Sophie Friedman answered the question: Sophie Friedman

    What is a unique Hangzhou experience?

    Hangzhou is home to a handful of tea plantations that grow longjing (green) tea. To see how the tea is picked (and taste a few cups yourself), head to Longjing Village. The spot is idyllic, tranquil and blissfully free from most tourists. There are two ways to get here: join a tour group, which will arrange for you to pick and drink the tea as well as learn how it is made; or simply visit on your own and ask a tea picker if you can join him or her (just wait for one of the villagers to invite you into their house to try and buy some tea). The latter will definitely happen — and probably within moments of your arrival — ensuring a truly local experience.
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  • On August 28, 2012
    Sophie Friedman answered the question: Sophie Friedman

    Where is the best nightlife in Hangzhou?

    Hangzhou isn’t much of a nightlife city compared to nearby Shanghai, but there are still a handful of places to go and enjoy a drink. Maya Bar serves decent Mexican food in a low-key, laid-back environment. It’s a good place to chat (either inside or on the outdoor patio) or watch sports games on one of the TVs. At JZ Club, which has a sister outpost in Shanghai, strum your fingers and tap your toes to jazz by both foreign and local performers. For upscale tapas and alfresco drinks, reserve a table on the second floor balcony at La Pedrera, which is close to Tea Boutique Hotel. On the flip side is Eudora Station, Hangzhou expats’ go-to spot for a beer and a burger and is located next to West Lake.
  • On August 28, 2012
    Sophie Friedman answered the question: Sophie Friedman

    What is the best way to see Hangzhou in one day?

    The best way to see Hangzhou in one day is on two wheels. Visitors can rent bicycles on the corner of Hubin Lu and Pinghai Lu; you’ll need a photo ID (not your passport) and a RMB300 (US $47) deposit. Your kids can even pedal next to you — there are small bikes for kids ages 9 and up. All bikes include a lock and some have baskets, but none come with helmets. Once you’re on your bike, head to West Lake, taking in the all the greenery that surrounds the famed body of water. Stop for lunch at one of the cafés or noodle shops that dot the lakes pathways — you’ll enjoy some good people-watching along the way. Return your bikes in time for dinner at Grandma’s Kitchen, a Hangzhou cuisine restaurant adjacent to the bike rental area.
  • On August 28, 2012
    Sophie Friedman answered the question: Sophie Friedman

    Where is the best shopping in Hangzhou?

    When shopping in Hangzhou, you’ll want to pick up silk and tea — two things for which the city is known. For silk, visit Hangzhou China Silk Town, where the silk is deeply discounted but bargaining is still essential. You’ll also find silk at the nightly market held on Yan'an Lu near Lu; stalls here hawk Mao memorabilia, paper fans, jewelry, silk-screened paintings, and faux pearls and antiques. Again, be sure to bargain — never pay the asking price. Hangzhou is home to a slew of longjing (green) tea plantations, and a box or two makes a great gift. All the tea fields have gift boutiques and you’ll see plenty of tea shops as you stroll the city streets. There is a lot of fake and low-grade tea floating around — we recommend buying tea directly from a plantation.
  • On August 28, 2012
    Sophie Friedman answered the question: Sophie Friedman

    What are the best things to do with kids in Hangzhou?

    Kids will be just as enchanted with Hangzhou as adults routinely are when they visit. Here are Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for the best things to do and see with them:
     
    1. Play at Hangzhou Paradise Park. The amusement park has it all — roller coasters, a Ferris wheel, boat trips, beach volleyball, restaurants, shops and a huge water park.
     
    2. Cruise West Lake. This beautiful body of water draws tourists to Hangzhou from across China. Its shores are dotted with intricate pavilions and temples. Hire a driver to take you out on a sampan (Hangzhou’s equivalent of a gondola) and cruise the picturesque lake.
     
    3. Pick your own tea. Put your kids to work picking longjing (green) tea, which Hangzhou is famous for producing. You’ll also be able to tour a tea plantation and learn how tea gets harvested.
     
    4. See a show. Zhang Yimou’s “Impression West Lake” is a dazzling performance that takes place on West Lake, thanks to a stage built just below the surface. Even if you’ve never heard of Yimou before, you’ve likely seen his work — he is best known for doing the opening and closing ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics.
     
    5. Take a tour of Xixi National Wetland Park. This natural wetland is comprised of three causeways you can travel down via dragon boat. Check out the lotus flower reserve area, a fishing village, villas and an exhibit on dragon boats.
  • On August 28, 2012
    Sophie Friedman answered the question: Sophie Friedman

    What are the best things to see and do in Hangzhou?

    Hangzhou makes for an idyllic day or multi-night escape from Shanghai. Here are the best things to see and do in China’s magical city:
     
    1. Rent bikes. Locals can rent bikes from a slew of racks across the city by swiping their ID cards. But if you’re just visiting Hangzhou, you can go to the rental area on Hubin Lu near Pinghai Lu, where you’ll need to leave your ID (not your passport) and a RMB300 (US $47) deposit. Cycling around the lake is easy way to take in the picturesque landscapes.
     
    2. Visit West Lake. In addition its tea fields, West Lake is what makes Hangzhou famous. The beautiful, serene body of water was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011. You can stroll the lake’s shady banks, cycle all the way around or take a ride in a traditional wooden boat.
     
    3. Pick tea. Hangzhou is home to loads of longjing (green) tea fields. After touring the fields and hearing about the harvesting process, you can pick your own tea.
     
    4. See a show. Zhang Yimou, best known for directing the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, is also the brains behind a dazzling nightly performance that takes place on West Lake called “Impression West Lake.” No need to buy tickets in advance — you can purchase them right before the show starts.
     
    5. Visit China Academy of Art. China’s first comprehensive art school is a stone’s throw from West Lake. Its galleries and leafy campus are open to the public, and there’s a quaint coffee shop with outdoor seating to take a break.