A Guide to Hangzhou's West Lake

Relax in one of West Lakes pagodas I
Relax in one of West Lake's pagodas I | © xiquinhosilva/Flickr
Cathrene Tarukwasha

Over centuries and dynasties, the people of China have maintained a quest to find and curate a harmony between human nature, natural surroundings and the unknown spiritual afterlife. To fully understand this harmony is to visit West Lake in Hangzhou – immortalized in poetry dating back to the Qin dynasty, this UNESCO-listed spot is also upheld as an example of a classical garden throughout Asia. Read on for more about this fascinating attraction in Hangzhou.


Protected by a cascade of mountains and hills on three sides topped with pagodas, terraced tea fields and gentle rolling hills nestled with temples, West Lake is akin to a mythical paradise. The freshwater lake has not only served as a scenic background to romantic folklore and a homage to Buddhist thought, it has also provided a refuge and a source of inspiration for poetry and poets, as well as being a blueprint for classical gardens found today across Japan, Korea and throughout China. In 2011 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site, introducing it to the world as a must-see place to visit in China.

West Lake bridge I

The formation of West Lake

How to enjoy West Lake

The best way to fully appreciate the beauty and expanse of the lake is by taking a gondola, or simply by strolling or riding a bike around its circumference along stone-paved pathways. The lake is perfect for strolling lovers and tea sipping retirees, and serves as a sanctuary for flora and fauna. It is also a preferred spot for newlyweds – it’s not uncommon to witness a dozen couples trailed by photography crews around the edges of the lake vying for a picture-perfect pose.

Taking a gondola across West Lake I

When to visit

The lake is a year-round attraction, and is stunning whether covered in a white sheet of snow in winter, or bursting with fragrant life during the warmer peach and plum blossom seasons. Since 2007 it has been host to ‘West Lake Impressions‘, a permanent theatrical installation from film maker Zhang Yimou, featuring music, dance and lighting that tells of Hangzhou folklore. The production is shown nightly to sold out crowds and is a perfect way to view the lake at night.

West Lake by night I
landscape with balloons floating in the air


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