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12 Reasons Why You Should Visit Hangzhou

Picture of Cathrene Tarukwasha
Updated: 29 June 2017
Marco Polo said of Hangzhou when he visited this Song Dynasty capital in the late 13th century: “it is without a doubt the finest and most splendid city in the world.” Today; it is not hard to imagine what made him fall in love with Hangzhou—because it still exists. The people, the temples, the food, the street life and above all the lake are all as charming, peaceful and beautiful as they were centuries ago, and continue to inspire poetry and romantic legends. Here are our top 12 reasons why you should not miss this city in China.

West Lake

Without a doubt, West Lake is the top attraction visitors flock to when in Hangzhou. An ideal place for people watching, here you can experience how Chinese people spend their downtime. In 2011 it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

West Lake
West Lake | © Markovic Nebojsa
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Longjing Tea (Dragon Well Tea)

Longjing Tea is much sought after type of green tea due to its distinct taste, which is derived from its terroir and unique pan frying drying process which preserves its freshness. It is only grown on the slopes of Longjing Village and nourished with mineral rich water from an artificial lake, the fabled Dragon Well.

Longjin Tea | © Markovi Nebojsa

West Lake Impressions

This is an open air spectacle of music, dance and lighting effects performed nightly against the natural backdrop of the West Lake and surrounding silhouette of mountains. Produced by award winning director Zhang Yimou, the show involves hundreds of performers and includes music from renowned Japanese composer Kitaro. This unique performance is especially adapted for Hangzhou.

West Lake by night I
West Lake by night I | © J Aaron Farr/Flickr

Museums

Hangzhou is home to close to a hundred museums dedicated to every aspect of Chinese culture imaginable, from tea to medicine to traditional Chinese cuisine. Two to look out for are the Chinese Silk Museum or the China Tea Museum.

Chinese Silk Museum, 73-1 Yuhuangshan Rd, Xihu Qu, Hangzhou Shi, Zhejiang Sheng, China, +86 571 8703 5150

China Tea Museum, 88 Longjing Rd, Xihu Qu, Hangzhou Shi, Zhejiang Sheng, China, +86 571 8796 4221

Silk embroidery
Silk embroidery | ©Mel Gr/ Flickr

Dongpo Pork

This rich dish of slow-cooked braised pork is named after popular Song dynasty poet Su Shi (nicknamed Su Tungpo) who is credited with having invented it. This dish, though popular worldwide, is originally from Hangzhou, therefore where better to sample it?

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Lingyin temple

One of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in the world, Lingyin is recognized as the center for Chan Buddhism. Built on a hillside, the temple grounds have dozens of grottoes housing hand-etched Buddha statues both outside and within. It is one of the few Buddhist relics that survived the Cultural Revolution.

Qing Hefang Street

This lively promenade dates back to the Song dynasty and is packed with boutique stalls selling all kinds of souvenirs from tea to high quality silk scarves. You can buy snacks, pose for a picture in front of the big Buddha or enjoy tea in a traditional tea house. There is also a centuries old pharmacy called Huqingyutang, which is a must-visit.

Qing Hefang Street

Smiling Buddha
Smiling Buddha | ©Markovic Nebojsa
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Former residence of Xueyan Hu

This traditional villa is well preserved and displays the finest architecture from the Qing dynasty, complete with furniture, pagodas, koi ponds and landscaped gardens.

18 Yuanbao St, Shangcheng Qu, Hangzhou Shi, Zhejiang Sheng, China, 310002, +86 571 8606 4752

Liuhe Pavilion

With six sides, 13 storeys and standing nearly 60 meters high, this pavilion-style tower has a spiral case that leads to the top deck where you enjoy 360 degree views of the city and Qiantang river.

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Hangzhou Botanical Gardens

Boasting over 5,000 plum trees and its own bamboo forest, the botanical gardens are a magical escape from the city. Here you will find everything from medicinal plants to fragrant blossoming trees, all in a picturesque Oriental garden setting.

China, Zhejiang Sheng, Hangzhou Shi, Xihu Qu, 桃源岭1号 邮政编码: 310000, +86 571 8796 1908

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Huqingyu pharmacy

This centuries old pharmacy is still in operation today as both a museum and dispensary. Besides the stunning architecture, the pharmacy offers an excellent introduction to the world of Chinese medicine.

China, Zhejiang Sheng, Hangzhou Shi, Shangcheng Qu, Cheng Zhan ShangQuan, 江城路747 邮政编码: 310002, +86 571 8778 5148

Pharmacy prescriptions | © Markovic Nebojsa

Street Food

With hundreds of delicacies to choose from (though some can be quite bizarre to those more used to Western food), Hangzhou is the ideal location in which to sample street food.

Dumplings
Dumplings | ©Markovic Nebojsa