Located less than 2 hours west of Shanghai, Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang Province and one of the seven ancient Chinese cities. Less known abroad but well known among Chinese people especially for the amazing West Lake, the iconic landscape, the Fei Lai Feng and the famous Pagodas. But let’s start from scratch…
We arrived very late at Hangzhou East Railway station and our hostel was located quite far from there, next to the West Lake. Most of the Chinese Railway Stations are well connected with the city centre either by metro/ bus and taxi so we easily reached the centre by metro but , unfortunately, the buses for the West Lake have their last route relatively early so we had to catch a taxi. We stepped into the hostel at midnight after a long trip that had started at Beijing few hours earlier.
Long story short…the city is gorgeous!! We loved every minute there and it turned out to be our favourite Chinese city so far! We spent 5 days in Hangzhou (and we wish we could have spent more!) but as we work on the road too, you can manage to see pretty much the same in 4 days. However, you won’t be bored even if you stay more!
Day 1: Leifeng Pagoda and surrounding area
The West Lake is quite big with plenty of things to see and do. If you rent a bike you can ride around the lake in 4 hours without any significant stop. However, the busses are very efficient and cheap (single ticket costs 2-3RMB= 30p). Pagoda is a highlight, along with the legends that come with it, and the entrance costs 40RMB. Regarding the lake, the best thing you can do is to walk (a lot!) as there are hidden gems in every corner of this water oasis. For example, we stumbled on the “Friendship Garden of Hangzhou International Sister Cities” with plants from different sides of the world.
Day 2: West Lake Cultural square and Wulin Square
The city combines nature and modern life very successfully. Once in the peaceful lake you can’t guess that the centre of the city looks like any other cosmopolitan city full of skyscrapers and neon lights! The West Lake Cultural square is an extremely beautiful contemporary square that is consisted of a business centre, plenty of shopping malls (either high-end or high-street) and leisure & entertainment places. Within the squares you can find 3 important museums of Zhejiang province. The commercial streets, that surround the two connected squares, lead to the East side of the Lake. This walk can take hours or even days, especially if you fancy shopping! The malls are connected to each other underground and seem like labyrinths!
Day 3: Tea Museum and Fei Lai Feng
The tea museum deserves a special mention so I am going to write a post about it (China is the mother of the tea after all!) but for now just take into account that a minimum of 2 hours is necessary for a decent visit!
Fei Lai Feng, the holy mountain, is located roughly 45 minutes on foot from the tea museum but a taxi costs only 10-15RMB (£1.1-£1.4). We decided to walk instead but it didn’t really worth the pain as the path is uphill and (mainly) next to the busy road. However, we crossed by mistake a traditional, non-touristic village so at the end, the route was not that bad! The mountain is a religious place where you can see many Buddhist carvings (people say over 300!!). These stone sculptures can be found all over the hills of this area and we were surprised of how the monks managed to carve these in such harsh environment more than 1000 years ago! An interesting fact is that at the beginning of the communist era, the sculptures were saved due to some clever students who covered most of the carvings with huge Mao’s posters! The entrance for the entire place is 45RMB and there are few temples inside (most of them are included in the price). The complex is very interesting but unfortunately, the mountain has turned into very touristic and it can be extremely crowdy. We were lucky enough to visit it during a quiet day so we even managed to reach the peak of the mountain (Countless stairs! Be prepared!!) completely alone! If you ever travel to this part of Hangzhou try to schedule it for the off-peak season!
Day 4: Hefang Neighbourhood, Food Market and a…Trendy Cafe
The city has to offer many activities, museums (such as the biggest Silk Museum of the World) , tea houses, trekking, few green tiny islands inside the lake (that can be reached by local pricey boats), traditional buildings and bridges, interesting nightlife next to the lake and more! How will you spend your last day? In the morning and noon we wandered around the old town and the street food market at Hefang area. We observed some local traditions and we went for Chinese wine tasting! The area looks quite small on the map but the entire walk took approximately 5 hours as the neighbourhood has lots to see, smell, eat, learn…
Later, we had one of the most delicious afternoon «modern» tea ever! We headed for a central café (that we had spotted on the second day) and… well, look at the pictures!
Did I convince you to travel there? Watch the follow video before your final decision 🙂