Hangzhou West Lake
West Lake, Hangzhou (Photo credit: Li Jianjin)

Hangzhou Travel Guide

QUICK FACTS

  • Capital and largest city of Zhejiang province, with a population of 6.2 million. 
  • Located in the Yangtze River Delta, the city is known for its natural beauty and scenery.
  • With a rich culture and history of over 1000 years, it is one of the most visited cities in China.
  • Nicknames: Paradise on Earth, Home of Silk, Tea Capital, Cultural State, Town of Fish and Rice

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: Chinese Yuan Renminbi (CNY).
  • Spoken languages: primarily Mandarin (with a sizeable English speaking community).
  • Best time to visit: from September to October and from March to April (best weather).
  • Arriving via airport: a taxi ride to the city center will cost around 100 RMB. Buses from the airport to downtown Hangzhou (Wulin Men) leave every 15-25 minutes, and a single ride costs 15 RMB.

WHERE TO STAY

Most good hotels are located near the city center, around Hangzhou’s main attraction, the Xihu West Lake. You will find accommodation at all price points in the city, from international chains (e.g. Banyan Tree, Ramada Plaza) to more budget friendly options (e.g. Days Inn, Home Inn, Holiday Inn).

GETTING AROUND

  • Hangzhou is a very bike friendly city, and there are bike rental services almost all over the city (many are near hotels and along the West Lake).
  • Public buses are also available throughout the city. Try to plan your route in advance so you know which stop to get off at.
  • Taxis also appear all over Hangzhou, and fares start at 11 Yuan for the first 3 km, with an additional 3-4 Yuan per km thereafter. Taxis can be hailed at bus stops, on the side of the road, and at taxi stops. You can also book ahead by calling 0571-28811111.
  • While hailing taxis, stick to official taxis (the ones with signs on top). There are unregistered taxi services that could either charge you an exceptionally high price, or worse yet, take you to the wrong destination.
  • Tip: it’s a good idea to bring along a piece of paper with your destination address.

HANGZHOU NIGHTLIFE

  • Drinking age is 18 (not enforced), and there is no last call (some bars stay open all night).
  • Main nightlife scene: around the Huanglong Stadium (to the north of the West Lake). The area always draws a large crowd at night.
  • Hip/trendy scene: bars and restaurants on the east side of the West Lake, near the Hangzhou Academy of Art.
  • Clubbing scene: northeast edge of the West Lake, near the Hubin Park and Wyndham Hotel.
  • Bar scene: check out the stylish cafes and teahouses on Xinyifang pedestrian street. 

UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT

  • Hangzhou is most famous for its largest attraction, the West Lake (or Xihu). Visit the lake and catch the performances (singing and dancing), architecture, and the great variety of food. Boat tours are also available.
  • Right above the West Lake is the Xihu Cultural Center museum, where you can learn more about the history and stories of the West Lake.
  • Hangzhou is known all over China for its teas, and is where the treasured Longjing Green Tea is produced. Great places to check out include the China National Tea Museum and the Hangzhou Longjingshan (Longjing Mountain) Park. There, you can explore how rich Chinese teas are grown, picked, and made.
  • Other notable city attractions include: Hangzhou ZooHangzhou Underwater WorldHangzhou Botanical Garden, and the numerous tea villages in the region.

INTERESTING WALKS

  • Take a walk along the West Lake and enjoy the great scenery and entertainment all around.
  • Areas near the lake feature big parks and green spaces, enjoyed by visitors and locals alike.

LOCAL WISDOM

  • Don’t be surprised if people you meet don’t speak any English (Tianjin has less English speakers than Beijing or Shanghai). Be prepared – bring maps with English along as you travel, make use of road signs, and jot down certain names of landmarks in Mandarin. Consider bringing a pocket Chinese dictionary. If you get lost, try using the road signs to navigate – they usually have both English and Chinese labels.
  • Even though Hangzhou is one of China’s most progressive (and rapidly growing cities), you may encounter some unpleasant and obnoxious local habits. Don’t be surprised if you see people litter, smoke in public, or spit on the ground.
  • Where to find good cheap eats: almost everywhere in Hangzhou, especially in small restaurants in the West Lake area. Be careful when eating food from street vendors. They are known for using cheap/unclean ingredients, and the food could give you food poisoning and/or an upset stomach.
  • Dangerous areas: Hangzhou is relatively developed and does not have many dangerous areas. Exercise common sense and stay in bright, populated areas at night.

RECOMMENDED HANGZHOU GUIDE BOOKS

Recommended trip duration: 1-2 days


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Hangzhou Travel Guide was last modified: September 26th, 2016 by Nick
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