Hangzhou has so much to offer, with West Lake alone requiring a whole day from sunrise to sunset, for at least one day in each of the four seasons, to fully capture its beauty. If that is not possible, follow our 24 hour itinerary below, to capture the essence of the magical city and experience a slice of the West Lake.
Start your day early with a run or cycle around West Lake, the air will be fresh and walkways won’t be as crowded as they will be later on. You’ll most likely run past one or two Tai Chi and Kungfu experts as well as the infamous troupes of dancing ladies that can be found throughout China. Afterwards, hail a taxi to AmanFayun, an ultra luxurious resort built within a former village, next to Lingyin temple. If you arrive just before 8am, you’ll encounter saffron clad monks on their way back to their monastery after morning prayers at the temple. At the resort, you can eat the best Chinese breakfast in town at Steamhouse. Their handmade steamed dumplings and noodles are crafted to perfection and use the freshest ingredients. Coffee and tea can be enjoyed with breakfast. Eat outside and listen to the birds and babbling brook nearby. Afterwards, enter the temple area through AmanFayun’s gate and explore the grottoes filled with Buddhas etched in the limestone. Be the first in queue to purchase your ticket to explore the famous Lingyin temple, one of the oldest and most affluent in all of China.
Head over to Hefang Street for some souvenir shopping and street food sampling. Visit Huqingyutang pharmacy to learn all about traditional Chinese medicine; you can also taste some herbal tea and purchase a prescription in this ancient pharmacy. Be sure to stop at Jueshe-art for a private tea ceremony and discover all the different types of tea grown in China. You can also request a calligraphy session from a master, and listen to a Gu-qin performance. Your last stop before lunch will be China Art Museum nearby, with its stunning architecture and extensive collection of regional Chinese art and relics.
To fully experience the famous tea fields and tea culture head over to Longjing Village and reserve your al fresco lunch at Longjing manor. Enjoy authentic Hangzhou cuisine in a stunning setting, surrounded by tea fields and a fragrant Chinese garden, complete with koi ponds and rockeries. All ingredients are locally sourced and the farm to table produce caters to the local pallet and wallets. Though a little expensive, this is by far the most exclusive way to enjoy the tea fields and sample local cuisine. Many proprietors come to spend the day and order dozens of dishes to pick on for hours. You can get away with ordering a few familiar dishes such as Hong shao rou, which is braised pork and broccoli with garlic. Order some tea and enjoy the lush scenery or take a stroll through the manicured tea fields.
Head south of West Lake to climb Leifeng Pagoda, an octagonal 5 story structure dating back to 975AD. It is one of the sites Marco Polo marvelled at when he visited Hangzhou during the Song Dynasty and christened it “The most magnificent city in the world.” Make your way back to the lake in time to catch one of the last boat or ferry rides before sunset. You can find schedules and cruise options here. If you are unable to catch a boat, instead stroll down Su causeway, named after the famous poet and gourmand Su Dongpo. Watch the sky change into gorgeous hues of pinks, reds and oranges as the sun goes down. You may even spot one or two couples having their wedding photos taken against the lake’s picturesque background.
Make sure you have purchased your ticket in advance for acclaimed director Zhang Yimou’s “Hangzhou Impressions”. The fantastic music and dance production is staged on the lake itself, with hundreds of performers involved. This entertaining experience will mark an end to your day of exploration, shopping and adventures in food, all centered around West Lake. If you are still buzzing and not ready for bed, head over to JZ club, across from the lake, to top off your evening with some live jazz, whiskey, wine and lively company of the well-heeled local Hangzhounese.