The 5-minute Hangzhou guide

The 5-minute Hangzhou guide

What to see, where to stay, what to eat and where to experience tea culture in China’s “happiest city”

hangzhouThree Ponds Mirroring the Moon (三潭映月) on the West Lake is famously framed by distant mountains.

Located about 45 minutes southwest of Shanghai by train, Hangzhou is one of the most attractive cities in China.

With a 4,700-year history, the capital of Zhejiang Province is a metropolis of about 8 million residents. The city is built around the world-renowned West Lake (西湖) and the Qiantang River (钱塘江).

The city is the southernmost of China’s eight ancient capitals.

This pocketbook guide has all the essentials you need for fun in Hangzhou.

Hangzhou accommodations

Hangzhou accommodationThe luxurious Dragon Hotel is neighboring both West Lake and Gen Hill.

When traveling to Hangzhou during Chinese national holidays or on weekends, it's wise to book hotels well in advance.

Dragon Hotel (杭州黄龙饭店)

The newly renovated Dragon Hotel is located in Huanglong, the city’s high-end central business district. It is within easy walking distance of West Lake and Gen Hill (宝石山), a popular hiking and sightseeing spot highlighted by the picturesque Baochu Pagoda.

The luxurious hotel has an extravagant 88-meter-long buffet and houses one of Hangzhou’s best Italian restaurants, Veranda.

120 Shuguang Lu, near Huanglong Lu 曙光路120号, 近黄龙路, + 86 571 8799 8833, Rates from RMB 1,380, www.dragon-hotel.com

Landison Longjing Resort (雷迪森龙井庄园)

Opened in 2009, Landison Longjing is the city’s only tea-inspired tourist resort, ideal for culture vultures seeking deluxe accommodations combined with a traditional Chinese tea-culture experience.

Close to China’s Tea Museum and 15 minutes from West Lake by car, in spring Landison provides guests with a free tea-picking opportunity -- led by experienced tea masters -- in its private garden.

A peaceful, rural escape, the boutique resort has 51 Asian-style guest rooms.

It hosts different workshops every day throughout the week, from tea ceremony to cooking class -- all free for hotel guests.

86 Lijilongshan, Longjing Lu, near Meiling Lu 龙井路里鸡笼山86号, 近梅灵路, + 86 571 8691 6666, Rates from RMB 1,035, www.longjingresort.com 

China’s Tea Museum, 88 Longjing Lu, near Meiling Lu 龙井路88号, 近梅灵路, + 86 571 8796 4221, October 8-April 30, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; May 1-October 7, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., www.teamuseum.cn

Hangzhou International Youth Hostel (杭州明堂国际青年旅社)

A one-minute walk to West Lake and roughly 10 minutes to the modern shopping street of Yan’an Nan Lu, as well as Wushan Square (吴山广场), the locale of a popular night bazaar, Hangzhou International Youth Hostel is a solid choice for anyone with tight schedules and tighter budgets.

The hostel is near Nanshan Lu, one of the most touristy and Westernized areas in Hangzhou.

Those who venture into the small nearby streets will find a plethora of “mom-and-pop” eateries serving authentic Hangzhou dishes.

101 Nanshan Lu, near Orioles Singing in the Willows Park 南山路101号, 柳浪闻莺旁, + 86 571 8791 8948, Rates from RMB 60, www.yhachina.com

Hangzhou restaurants

Hangzhou foodHangzhou's Hangbang cai is a cuisine known for its light taste and creativity.

Traditional Hangzhou cuisine, aka Hangbang cuisine, is characterized by a light taste and mix of freshwater fish and fresh vegetables.

Most Hangzhou restaurants are wallet-friendly, with price tags catering to the general public.

In addition to Hangbang cuisine, spicy Sichuan food (quite different from the local cuisine) is especially popular.

Green Tea (绿茶) and Grandma’s Kitchen (外婆家)

By serving affordable, quality and creative Hangbang cuisine, both of these restaurants have earned large followings in Hangzhou.

Green Tea is a resort-style eatery, with one of the branches located inside the Longjing scenic area, home of its namesake tea.

Grandma’s Kitchen is a value-for-money experience. Skillfully prepared dishes and friendly service make for long lines at every Grandma’s Kitchen location.

Grandma’s Kitchen (外婆家), multiple locations, 6-1 Macheng Lu, near Wulin Xiang 马塍路6-1号, 近武林巷, + 86 571 8805 1987, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m.

Green Tea (绿茶), 83 Longjing Lu, opposite to the back door of Zhejiang Hotel 龙井路83号 (浙江宾馆后门对面), + 86 571 8703 0016, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., www.lv-cha.com.cn

Mei Jia Wu (梅家坞)

Fancy some real farmhouse cooking? This village located on the quieter side of West Lake is your top choice.

Mei Jia Wu is a tea culture-themed village located in the heart of the Longjing production area.

The village boasts 160 teahouses. Several outdoor restaurants emphasize hearty farm-style dining.

Mei Jia Wu (梅家坞), Meiling Nan Lu, Xihu District 西湖区梅灵南路. Take bus no. Y4 (游4路) from Yuewang Lu to Mei Jia Wu.

Huanglong seafood night bazaar (黄龙海鲜排挡)

Beneath Huanglong Stadium, this indoor night bazaar is a favorite hangout for locals looking to get their seafood fix.

What you'll get here is a down-to-earth dining experience in pure Hangzhou-style.

Stalls serve various seafood dishes, including lobster, crab and clams. Diners can choose their meals from tanks filled with everything from jumping fish to slithering eels. Chefs cook meals immediately to request.

If you don’t know what dish to start with, try boiled shrimp (白煮虾) -- a preferred local way to savor the tenderness of freshly caught seafood.

Huanglong seafood night bazaar, No. 1 Huanglong Lu, inside Huanglong Stadium 黄龙路1号, 黄龙体育中心内, 5 p.m.-2 a.m.

Hangzhou sightseeing

hangzhou -- sightseeingSummer lotus on West Lake has inspired countless poets throughout Chinese history.

Hangzhou is home to picturesque and expansive lakefronts as well as ages-old winding alleys, giving travelers a taste of authentic residential lifestyle.

A number of parks overlooking West Lake and hills further afield are ideal for hiking.

West Lake

A walk around West Lake is the essential activity for all Hangzhou visitors.

The lake is divided into three parts by Bai Causeway and Su Causeway. The stretch between the two causeways has the most famed scenery and attractions

Broken Bridge (断桥), where legendary Chinese couple Xu Xian and Bai Niangzi met for the first time, is connected to the northern tip of the Bai Causeway. It is one of the most photographed attractions in Hangzhou.

Solitary Hill (孤山)

Make sure you tour Gu Shan, aka Solitary Hill, through Xiling Bridge (西泠桥) on Beishan Road (北山路).

Northwest of the West Lake, this tiny piece of land looks like a small island and is home to a good number of attractions for first-time visitors, including Zhejiang Museum and Zhongshan Park.

The museum has a 100,000-strong collection of cultural relics (pottery, jade, silk, calligraphy).

Yunqi bamboo-lined path (云栖竹径)

This is an ancient Buddhist pathway, which offers a spectacular view of centuries-old bamboo, and is generally free of tourist groups and the bustle that marks many other local sites.

Meiwu Lu, Yunxiwu, Wuyun Shan 五云山云栖坞梅坞路, 7 a.m.-5 p.m., + 86 21 0571 8732 2052

Fenghuang Mountain (凤凰山)

The neighborhood at the foot of Fenghuang Mountain (Fenghuang Shan) was the center of South Song Dynasty's imperial palace around 800 years ago. It is the only imperial palace built on a hillside in the annals of Chinese history.

Overlooked by most Hangzhou guidebooks, the 178-meter "mountain" is a peaceful Xanadu devoid of tourists and urbanization.

Fenghuang Mountain is located southeast of Hangzhou. To get there, take bus no. K102 from the West Long-distance Bus Station.

Hangzhou shopping

Hangzhou -- shoppingHangzhou's shopping streets and night markets have everything from fake antiques to designer purses.

Hangzhou is renowned as a place to buy fine brocade, umbrellas, folding fans and high-quality silk at cheap prices.

Hefang Jie (河坊街)

In the southern section of Hangzhou, the ancient-looking shopping street is a major draw in Hangzhou. At Drum Tower (鼓楼) it joins Zhongshan Lu, another large shopping street.

An entire afternoon can be spent ducking into numerous stalls to pick up gifts for everyone on your list. The most popular Hangzhou snacks -- such as duck heads and “dragon mustache candy” (龙须糖) -- are widely available at street stands.

Street entertainers enthrall crowds with Chinese yo-yo tricks and other small shows.

Crowds get larger and more lively at night.

Hefang Jie (河坊街), near Wushan Square

Nan Song Yu Jie (南宋御街)

Dubbed “Southern Song Imperial Street,” this newly launched pedestrian shopping street is situated on one of Hangzhou’s historic thoroughfares.

Renovated in an architectural style associated with the South Song Dynasty (Hangzhou was the capital) Nan Song Yu Jie is becoming a must-see attraction, with crowds coming to check out its distinctive architecture, shopping opportunities and numerous Chinese and Western restaurants.

Also on Zhongshan Lu near Nan Song Yu Jie, the lakefront area of Hubin Lu (湖滨路) is the spot to go for luxury brand shopping in Hangzhou.

Nan Song Yu Jie, on Zhongshan Lu, between Huancheng Bei Lu and Drum Tower

Wushan night market (吴山夜市)

This thrilling night market is the place to hone bargaining skills.

Packed with stalls, the daily bazaar sells everything from fake antiques and designer purses, to underwear to lousy replicas of the little red book, “Chairman Mao's Quotations.”

Easily the most buzzing night market in Hangzhou, Wushan’s fashion offerings are hugely popular with locals.

Wushan Night Market (吴山夜市), near Renhe Lu and Huixing Lu, 仁和路惠兴路附近, 7 p.m.-late

Si Ji Qing clothes and fabric market (四季青服装面料市场)

This always-busy, 50,000-square-meter indoor bazaar is a nationally famous wholesale market for clothes and fabrics.

It's an ideal place to find inexpensive clothing, as well as tailoring services.

31-59 Hanghai Lu, near Qingtai Overpass 航海路31-59号, 近清泰立交, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., + 85 0571 8609 5188

China Silk Market (中国丝绸城)

This accessible outdoor pedestrian market sells everything you can think of in silk, from colorful Tang-style garments to qipao, ties, hankies, shawls and table runners.

266 Xinhua Lu, near Jiankang Lu 新华路266号, 近健康路, + 86 571 8519 9810, www.silktown.com.cn, hours vary

Hangzhou cultural exploration

Hangzhou -- cultureHangzhou is home to one of China's most important Zen monasteries: Lingyin Temple (灵隐寺).

Numerous Chinese philosophers, politicians and literati have come to Hangzhou to live -- and to die.

Although monuments and former residences of influential Chinese and Western personalities are everywhere to be seen, the beauty of Hangzhou culture is reflected in a cluster of museums and galleries near West Lake.

Hangzhou is also home to several time-honored traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) workshops, such as Huqing Yutang (胡庆余堂) and Zhang Tong Tai (张同泰), where visitors can purchase top-notch TMC medicines.

Huqing Yutang (胡庆余堂), 95 Dajing Xiang, near Anrong Xiang 大井巷95号, 近安荣巷, + 86 571 8781 5209, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., www.hqyt.com

Zhang Tong Tai (张同泰), 99 Zhongshan Bei Lu, near Xianlinqiao Zhi Jie 中山北路99号, 仙林桥直街, + 86 571 8707 0097, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Zhejiang Museum (浙江省博物馆)

Hidden away on Gushan Lu (孤山路), this is the best place to get a full view of the history of Hangzhou and Zhejiang Province.

The museum holds more than 100,000 relics related to the province, from Hemudu site remains (6,000 B.C.) to paintings and calligraphy by Zhejiang-born artists.

The building itself is a showcase of traditional local architecture, featuring gray roof tiles, long corridors and dramatic eaves.

The culture institution is surrounded by a number of other West Lake attractions, such as Lou Wai Lou restaurant and Solitary Hill.

25 Gushan Lu, opposite Zhejiang Art Gallery 孤山路25号, 浙江美术馆对面, free admission, + 86 571 8798 0281, Monday: noon-5 p.m.; Tuesday-Sunday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., www.zhejiangmuseum.com

Lingyin Temple (灵隐寺)

Hangzhou is a Zen city. On Lingyin Mountain, west of West Lake, Lingyin Temple (Temple of Soul's Retreat) is one of the most important Zen monasteries in China.

Legend says the temple was built by a monk from India 1,600 years ago. Renovated in 2000, the current compound houses China's largest sitting Sakyamuni Budda statue, which is more than 19 meters tall.

Unless you like bumping shoulders with tour groups, schedule visits early on weekday mornings.

Next to Feilai Peak northwest of West Lake, 西湖西北部的飞来峰旁, + 86 571 8796 8665, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., RMB 45 to enter Feilai Peak, RMB 30 to enter Lingyin Temple, www.zhejiangmuseum.com

Hangzhou Buddhist College (杭州佛学院)

Hangzhou Buddhist College is one of the most prestigious institutions for Buddhist education in China.

Thanks to a reputation for academic excellence, and relatively low interference from tourists, local, national and international Buddhist symposiums and ceremonies are often held here.

Together with Fajing Temple (法净禅寺), the college offers a rare opportunity for travelers to gain insight into the daily routine of Buddhist disciples.

Hangzhou Buddhist College (杭州佛学院), 112 Tianzhu Lu, inside Fajing Temple 天竺路112号, 法净禅寺内, + 86 571 8797 8350, www.hzfxy.net

Jing-Hang Grand Canal (京杭运河)

Dug around 2,500 years ago, the 1,794-kilometer canal is the world's longest canal and may soon be recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The best way to experience the charm of this ancient water passage is by cruising. Head to the Wu Lin Men dock and choose from several different canal cruise routes.

208 Huancheng Bei Lu, near Wulin Square 环城北路208号, 近武林广场, + 86 571 8519 0851, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Hours vary for summer cruises, call for more information.

Hangzhou tea culture

hangzhou -- seeingYou can make yourself a cup of tea from scratch at Hangzhou's tea plantation resorts.

With its abundant lakeside areas and hills, Hangzhou's tea culture is second to none in China.

Hangzhou is most associated with Longjing, a long-established green tea grown in plantations on lakeside hills. The tea is noted for exceptionally green color and intoxicating fragrance.

Almost all tea plantations in Hangzhou have become popular destinations for locals as well as travelers.

During weekends and on public holidays, Longjing Village and Mei Jia Wu are packed with tea-lovers and leisure seekers.

China Tea Museum (中国茶叶博物馆)

China's only tea museum chronicles the detailed history of China’s tea culture, from its origins to the early-day classic tea literature and the development of tea ceremonies.

The exhibition halls are surrounded by ponds and gardens.

88 Longjing Lu, Shuangfeng Village, Longjing Village 龙井乡双峰村龙井路88号, + 86 571 8797 0012, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Longjing Village (龙井村)

This picturesque, rural getaway is ideal for tea-lovers looking to spend a day with a pot of quality Longjing tea while sharpening their knowledge of China's national drink.

Bus no. 27 connects Hangzhou downtown to Longjing Village.

He Cha Guan (和茶馆)

With its ancient Chinese decor, this high-end teahouse is one of the oldest and finest of its kind in Hangzhou.

In addition to potted tea and tea sets -- Chinese tea paired with fusion-style desserts from cakes made with Chinese dates to red bean puddings -- the teahouse/restaurant promotes an all-you-can-eat tea meal, which mixes leafy tea with all kinds of ingredients in a feast from appetizer to main course.

He Teahouse (和茶馆), multiple locations, 77 Huimin Lu, near Yan'an Lu 杭州市惠民路77号, 近延安路, + 86 571 8782 9711, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; 42 Qiushi Lu, near Xueyuan Lu 求是路42号, 近学院路, + 86 571 8796 0589, 8 a.m.-8 p.m., www.finetea.cn

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