There is a Chinese saying that goes “Above, there is heaven; below, there is Suzhou and Hangzhou” (上有天堂, 下有苏杭). A trip to Hangzhou is the perfect blend of traditional and modern; technology and feng-shui. At just 40 minutes away from Shanghai by train, it’s easy to overlook when planning for a quick weekend getaway in China. But here are 10 good reasons to consider and confirm Hangzhou as the next stop on your travel must-visit list.
Feng Shui elements
If you dabble in feng shui or want to see it used in everyday life, look no further than in downtown Hangzhou. Hangzhou’s modern architecture is far from being any old concrete jungle. There’s meaning and purpose in the way the modern buildings of the city came along. The finance district’s architecture is literal proof of this. Following the rules of feng shui, the buildings here have the shape of the sun, moon and even of six people holding hands to channel the good energy from the river and spread it across the city!
West Lake (西湖)
West Lake is one of the main attractions in the city of Hangzhou. One thing you mustn’t miss doing is going on a boat ride through West Lake. Its surrounding hills were why it was proclaimed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2011–for its landscape. It has not only been inspiring poets, scholars, and artists since the ninth century but also influenced garden design in China, Japan, and Korea over hundreds of years. The lake is divided into five sections and three causeways which include numerous temples, pagodas, gardens, and artificial islands all best explored via boat.
West Lake Dragon Well (梅家坞)
Around half an hour’s car ride away is West Lake Dragon Well (梅家坞). If you’re a tea lover, you shouldn’t miss a trip to one of the most cherished tea plantations in China. The tea production region of Longjing is well known and recognized for its superior geographic and natural features that allow for the finest tea to grow here. Longjing tea is characterized by vibrant green color and beautifully shaped leaves, with a delicate aroma and mellow taste. While visiting the tea plantation, you’ll be able to learn about different kinds of tea, its production and even take some home!
Shop till you drop
Ever since the Song Dynasty, Hangzhou is known in China as a shopping paradise. Besides its world-class tea, other high-quality products you should definitely look for include silk and jade items, which are also locally produced and can be bought at a bargain. Make sure to look out for the authenticity seals, only given out to the stores carrying the highest quality products! For high-end tags or some retail therapy, head over to Yan’An Road (延安路), Hangzhou’s largest shopping street for the best shopping malls and department stores!
If shopping isn’t your thing and you prefer something perhaps a little historic, around 10 to 15 minutes away is Qinghefang Ancient Street (清河坊). Hangzhou is a very modern city, but it has a rich past and the best location to take a trip back in time is Qinghefang. Historically the wealthiest location in the city, this well-preserved neighborhood perfectly embodies the significant cultural character of Hangzhou and is home to many famous century-old shops. If you feel like diving deeper into history, try paying a visit to the Former Residence of Hu Xueyan (胡雪岩故居), which is a well preserved luxurious private residence built in 1872 in the late Qing Dynasty. It’s a spacious mansion with an intriguing design, melting into nature through the use of precious woods like ginkgo trees or rosewood.
Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal
If you’re still on your history kick, check out the Grand Canal which is the largest and oldest canal in the world. The ancient Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal is a man-made structure that runs across China to connect both cities. With the oldest parts of the canal dating back to the 5th century BC, it’s no wonder that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This astounding canal is almost 1,800 kilometers long and crosses through four provinces, two cities, and five rivers. Paying a visit to the Grand Canal Museum (运河博物馆) is the best way to learn all about its history through the centuries and the whole construction process.
Anchang Ancient Town (安昌古镇)
Anchang Ancient Town (安昌古镇) is a must if you have spare time in Hangzhou. While there are many water towns around Hangzhou, it looks like time stopped in Anchang. With thousands of years of history built around the river, Anchang is well preserved by its people that still live near the water and keep ancient customs alive. While here, you can visit unique shops and museums, stroll around the stone street lanes, or just grab a coffee and watch time go by.
Lingyin Temple (灵隐寺)
Lingyin Temple (灵隐寺) and its surrounding areas, also known as the Lingyin-Feilai Feng Scenic Area is a place that needs to be on your itinerary. Literally translated as “Temple of the Soul’s Retreat”, Lingyin Temple has been standing since 328 AD and it’s one of the most famous, largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in China, containing many pagodas and Buddhist grottoes. There are also religious rock carvings featured here and the most famous one is Feilai Feng (飞来峰).
Chilled out vacation
For those who are all for going slow and really taking in the sights, the locals of Hangzhou say that while visiting the ancient city of Shaoxing by boat, the bridge is like a rainbow and the water is like the sky. Shaoxing has a long history and is known as the idyllic hometown of celebrities, calligraphy, rice wine, bridges, and water. The boat is the symbol of this sublime place and the experience of floating through the tranquil waters hearing only the creaking sounds of the wooden boat and the simple life around is pure bliss.
Unwind at a jazz club
To wind down after a long day, have a jazzy night at Huanglu JZ Club (黄楼爵士俱乐部). Decked out in red velvet chairs, this fantastic jazz club has been around since 2004. Its warm ambiance allows you to relax with a drink in hand while listening to the classics, to buoyant swing, modern jazz-rock or good old bossa nova.
Huanglu JZ Club 6 Liu Ying Lu, Wu Shan Shang Quan, Shangcheng Qu, Hangzhou Shi, Zhejiang Sheng, China, +86 571 8702 8298
The best time to visit Hangzhou is in autumn. During the months of October to November, the weather is dry, cooler and the monsoon season is over. Make sure to book a hotel in the City Center near West Lake. Look for the Shangcheng and Xiacheng areas for good proximity to the lake and shopping areas. A real shopping hub and home to many international restaurants, there’s no shortage of things to enjoy and discover in Hangzhou.
How to get here
There are about four direct flights a day, operated by various airlines (Air Macau, Spring Airlines, Xiamen Airlines) from Macau with just a little over two hours of flight time. This makes Hangzhou a super convenient weekend getaway if you live in Macau.