Things to do in Hangzhou China

I almost hesitate to write this post because I don’t want to let the secret out. Though my passport is full of China visas from living in nearby Hong Kong, I can’t say that I’ve ever been to a more beautiful part of the mainland than Hangzhou in the spring.

I will go into significantly more detail in the coming weeks about this gorgeous spot, but here are ten things you may not know about Hangzhou.

1. It’s An Hour By Train From Shanghai

Chinese G or bullet trains are new, clean and an incredibly smooth ride. Hop on one to Hangzhou from Beijing, Shanghai and other major cities.

There are two stations—Hangzhou City and Hangzhou East—to choose based on which part of town you need to be in. On the flip side, Hangzhou is an easy 2.5-hour flight on Dragonair from Hong Kong. Note that those who don’t need a visa to enter Hong Kong may need a visa to enter mainland China.

2. Marco Polo Loved It

Yes, over 800 years ago Marco Polo declared Hangzhou as, “The finest and most splendid city in the world.” After being there in the spring, I tend to agree.

3. West Lake Is A UNESCO World Heritage Site

With its well-maintained spectacular setting comprised of immaculate vegetation, pagodas, temples and more, it’s no surprise that Hangzhou’s West Lake (pictured in the top photo) has inspired poets since the 9th century.

4. It’s The Tea Capital Of China

Hangzhou long jing or dragon well tea fields

By @lajollamom on Instagram

Dragon well or longjing tea is grown in Hangzhou and considered the finest and most expensive tea in China. I can vouch for the latter as I nearly blew my entire customs allowance on longjing tea (it’s that good)! The taste of this green tea is rather mild and pleasant.It’s the sort of tea you can drink constantly. I’m sipping some as I type this.

We were lucky enough to participate in the April harvest by picking tea leaves alongside workers in the fields (thank goodness the leaves go through a sifting process). It was an experience I’ll never forget.

5. China’s Grand Canal Ends In Hangzhou

The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, is the longest canal or artificial river in the world. It’s connected northern and southern China for over 1400 years and is still in operation today, however, some parts are too dry for ships to pass through.

6. There Are Four Seasons

four seaons hotel hangzhou

By @lajollamom on Instagram

 (Yes, we stayed in the fabulous Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou but that’s now what I’m talking about… yet. It’s pictured above.)

It snows in Hangzhou in the winter, blooms in spring, gets hot in the summer, and enjoys a fragrant and dry fall. Some argue that the best time to visit is between April and October, though the lake and surroundings are still beautiful when covered in snow.

7. Hangzhou Is Famous For Silk

You’ll see silk clothing and trinkets everywhere in Hangzhou for a reason. Silk fabric was developed in China and according to archeological findings, as far back as the period of the Liangzhu Culture (3400-2250 BC), the ancestors of the Hangzhou people were already engaged in a series of silk making activities from raising silkworms to making primitive tools for silk weaving.

Hangzhou is considered the capital of silk as silk from here is incredibly soft, luxurious and decorative. The techniques were a closely guarded secret for thousands of years for a good reason. It’s also an incredibly labor-intensive process!

8. There’s A Public Bicycle System

Grab a transportation smart card (the Z card is designed for tourists) and have access to over 1000 bicycles around the city. You’ll see the red bikes that are up for grabs stationed around town. Riding a bike isn’t a chore in Hangzhou, especially around scenic West Lake. However, some luxury hotels have free loaner bicycles.

9. People From Shanghai And Beyond Take Wedding Pictures Here

West Lake is truly beautiful enough to pack up all of your wedding gear, arrive in Hangzhou, have hair and makeup done and then take pictures for the day. If traffic cooperates, the drive from Shanghai is 2.5 hours. In April with the flowers in bloom, there were brides on what seemed like every green space.

My driver couldn’t believe it when I told him in the US, we take pictured and get married on the same day. Not so in China.

10. Rain or Shine, A Show Takes Place On The Lake (Literally)

Impressions West Lake, designed by the same person responsible for the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, is staged at night on the water. There must be a stage a few inches below the surface. The colored lighting around the perimeter of the lake during the show is what makes it. I’ve never seen anything like it. More details to come.

Have you visited Hangzhou?

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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  1. So pretty. Loved following the pics while you were traveling. I would love to see the tea fields (and taste the tea!).

    1. We lucked out with the tea thing. I didn’t realize April was premium tea picking season and we happened to be there. My daughter thought going out into the fields was super cool!

  2. So pretty there! I feel sad that we missed Shanghai and areas around it when we lived in China, but maybe we’ll return one day and do a grand tour of the country. I would have loved to see Chinese tea plantations as there weren’t any around Beijing (as far as I know)!

    1. I don’t think there are any around Beijing, either. I think Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou over 10-14 days would be a great trip. I like Shanghai and find it less intimidating to navigate than Beijing. We lucked out with the pollution and weather, too.

  3. I have said something jokingly, Katie, but there is some truth to it. It’s about number 6. Sometimes I ‘m not that exotic or risky with travels in places that I’m not sure what my accommodations may be like and I’ve said, “Oh, I can go there now because there is a Four Seasons.” Love it I love the tea photo, too.

  4. I know nothing about Hangzhou, China, so this was all news to me! And to be honest I don’t know so much about China to start with… The public bicycle system sounds amazing, and anywhere with four seasons gets a big thumbs up from me. 🙂 China is on my list, of MANY places to visit…

  5. It’s a pity we missed out on this gorgeous city when we were last in Shanghai! Will have to make another trip to Shanghai again soon with a day or two in Hangzhou!

  6. It's a pity we missed out on this gorgeous city when we were last in Shanghai! Will have to make another trip to Shanghai again soon with a day or two in Hangzhou!

  7. Beautiful imagery!

    I nearly took a job in Hangzhou this year but had to turn it down. Now I’m looking at your list and feeling I missed an opportunity to visit an enchanting part of the world.

    I hope another opportunity comes my way!