Hangzhou, located 180 km (112 miles) southwest of Shanghai was described by Marco Polo in the 15th century as “the city of heaven, the most magnificent in the world”. There are many cities in the world that can be described as magnificent, but Hangzhou, the largest city of Zhejiang province, really is one of China’s most beautiful and prosperous cities and is one of the only seven ancient capitals of China.
It is Hangzhou’s famous West Lake that reflects this magnificence, a glistening expanse of water which in 2011 was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not only renowned for the spectacular West Lake, Hangzhou is also famous for its abundance of breath-taking sceneries as well as a number of historic relics.
A city rich in both heritage and culture, visiting any one of Hangzhou’s noteworthy attractions will be an unforgettable experience for all.
Top 1: West Lake（西湖）
Located west of Hangzhou and covering an area of 6.5 sq km, the West Lake, approximately three metres deep, is renowned for being one of the scenic wonders of China.
Green hills, willow trees and lotus swaying in the breeze all surround this shimmering masterpiece and each captures the hearts and minds of the locals and millions of tourists that visit each year.
The lake has been and continues to be an inspiration for many artists and poets and it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011 and has been described as "over time having influenced garden design across China as well as Japan and Korea."
Surrounded by mountains on three sides and divided by three causeways (su di, bai di and yangong di), this freshwater lake is home to an array of gardens, artificial islands, temples and pagodas and with more than 100 scenic spots it is both a beauty spot and a historical relic.
Top 2: Thousand Island Lake（千岛湖）
Located in western Chun’an County, Zhejiang Province, Qiandao or Thousand Island Lake was created after the completion of the Xin’anjiang hydroelectric station in 1959 and where you will find buried underneath, Hecheng Town and Shicheng Town, two ancient underwater towns not yet open to the public. With over 1000 islands scattered about, this man-made lake covers an area of 573 sq km and has an average depth of 34 metres. With its emerald coloured waters and verdant landscape, the Thousand Island Lake is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Hangzhou.
You cannot come to Thousand Island Lake without taking a boat trip around the islands. Out of the 1,078 islands there are only so many for visiting but once aboard you will hop from one scenic island to another and in doing so will discover a world of history and nature. It has been said that Nongfu spring water comes from these clear waters so if this source is correct then visiting the One Thousand Island Lake will certainly make you thirsty for more.
Admission: 150 yuan (US$23.55)/person (summer); 120 yuan (US$18.84)/person (winter)
Top 3: Lingyin Temple（灵隐寺）
One of the ten most famous Buddhist temples of China, Lingyin Temple or the Temple of the Soul's Retreat, is the oldest Buddhist monastery in Hangzhou. It was founded in 328 AD during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (316-420) by an Indian monk name Hui Li and has a history spanning over 1,700 years.
Sheltered by forested hills on three sides, the temple is a quiet and secluded sanctuary when it is not flooded with tourists. It is also one of China's largest and most visited Buddhist temples and holds the largest statue of the Buddha Sakyamuni sitting on a lotus throne.
Once upon a time under the Kingdom of Yue during the Five Dynasties Period (907-960) and when the temple was thriving, there were more than 70 halls, 18 pavilions and 1,300 rooms being inhabited by more than 3000 monks.
Today it is still an active working temple and after some renovation throughout the years, the temple now houses five halls but still retains some of its magnificence through giant statues of heavenly kings, Arhats, intricately painted ceilings and woods boasting many ancient trees.
Admission: 30 yuan (US$4.7)/person
Top 4: Qiantang River（钱塘江）
Qiantang River is the largest river in Zhejiang Province, running a total length of 688 kilometers (428 miles), it plays an important role in the water-transportation between the East and West.
The extraordinary surging tide of the Qiantang River is a natural phenomenon which apparently only the tide of the River Amazon can rival. It is a spectacle said to be created by the gravitational pull of the stars and planets and like the wave the numbers of spectators are rising.
The tidal bore or wave as it is locally known takes place on the 18th day of the eighth lunar month (also around Mid-Autumn Day). At that time the water can rise up to 9 meters (30 feet) and travel at up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) per hour. Every year millions of spectators flock to the river’s edge and go above and beyond to witness this magnificent wave.
Top 5: Qinghefang Ancient Street（清河坊）
Qinghefang Ancient Street, located in central Hangzhou, has been since ancient times the place to go for shopping and dining. It is one of the oldest streets in the city that still prides itself on its original structure and architecture, reflecting Hangzhou’s renowned ancient heritage.
In the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) Qinghefang was regarded as the centre of politics, culture and commerce in Hangzhou and boasted a number of shops, restaurants and teahouses. Today it is still a prosperous commercial area, an ancient street, thriving with many famous century-old shops and restaurants.
Step back in time and experience a wealth of Hangzhou’s history and culture by visiting any one of its ancient shops and restaurants such as Wangxingji Fan Store, Zhangxiaoquan Scissors, Wanlong Ham Stack, Huqingyutang Pharmacy, Baohetang Pharmacy, Zhuangyuan Noodle Restaurant and Wangruixing Restaurant.
Top 6: Songcheng Scenic Area（宋城景区）
Located southwest of Hangzhou's West Lake, the Songcheng Scenic Area is a theme park highlighting the culture of Song Dynasty (960-1279). Itis the most popular theme park in China and attracts more than 6 million visitors annually.
Inside the park visitors can witness and enjoy a number of song and dance performances as well as engage in a variety of traditional folk tales and games. There are also a number of food stands where you can whet your appetite while experiencing the true taste of the Song Dynasty.
It is during festival times that the Songcheng theme park really comes alive. A cultural experience transporting you back to ancient times.
Admission: 280 yuan (US$45.77)/ person (shows included)
Top 7: Xixi National Wetland Park（西溪湿地）
Xixi National Wetland Park is located only five kilometers (3 miles) from the West Lake in Hangzhou. It is the first and only national wetland park to combine urban life with farming and culture and boasts a history ofmore than 1,800 years.
Famous for an overflow of magnificent views and with more than 100 attractions, Xixi Wetlands covers a total area of 1,150 hectares and is crisscrossed with six principal watercourses dedicated to ponds, lakes and swamps.
Top 8: Six Harmonies Pagoda（六和塔）
Sitting 60 metres high (196 feet) on Yuelun Hill south of the famous West Lake stands this charming octagonal pagoda, one of China’s ancient architectural masterpieces. Six Harmonies Pagoda or Liuhe Temple as it is also known was first built in 970 AD during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) and reconstructed in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279).
Known in ancient times to calm the tidal waters of the Qiantang River and a place in which to view the notorious tidal wave, today, the Six Harmonies Pagoda, with its ornately decorated ceilings, is after years of renovation the same platform, seven stories high, that gives you the most spectacular views of Hangzhou and its famous Qiantang River.
Admission: 20 yuan (US$3.27)/ person (add another 10 yuan to go all the way up)
Top 9: Longmen Ancient Town（龙门古镇）
Longmen Ancient Town, named after the neighbouring Longmen Mountain, is located on the south bank of the Fuchun River and is 52 kilometers (32.31 miles) south of Hangzhou’s city center. It is a town famous for its architecture of the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911) and was said to be during the third century the hometown of Sun Quan, the emperor of the Three Kingdoms state (220-280). Among the town's 7,000 residents over 90 percent are surnamed Sun and are said to be the descendants of Sun Quan.
Admission: 80 yuan (US$13.08)/ person
Top 10: Zhexi Grand Canyon（浙西大峡谷）
Zhexi Grand Canyon is located in Lin’an City and is administered by Hangzhou. Sitting at the border of Zhejiang and Anhui provinces it has a grand waterway with a total length of more than 80 kilometers (50 miles).
The canyon has three main scenic sections. The first section called "Longjing Canyon" features an exotic peak, a graceful waterfall and steep rocks which stretch across some 18 kilometers. The second section called "Shangxi Canyon" extends over 26 kilometers (16.16 miles) and features a very steep topography but is most reputed for its exotic collection of mountain stones. The third section called "Zhemen Canyon" runs for 30 kilometers (18.64 miles) and is famous for its layers of mountainous waterfalls. The canyon is flowing in beauty and charm and the perfect place in which to spend any holiday.
Admission: 130 yuan (US$21.25)/ person