About Hangzhou

In this article we will discover 11 exciting things to do in Hangzhou in 2021!

Hangzhou is a green and pleasant city in China’s Zhejiang Province 150km from Shanghai. The city is famed for its West Lake which laps at the shores of the central business district.

Hangzhou is also famous for the Dragon Well green tea grown behind West Lake at Longjing village. Here you can find row after terraced row of tea bushes clinging to the surrounding mountains.

The city is surrounded by mountains and undulating hills, usually shrouded in a thin layer of mist reminiscent of Chinese watercolours. The bustling metropolis is home to world-class shopping, restaurants and more.

There is a large pedestrian area filled with cafes, craft shops and street food which leads up to nearby Wushan Mountain which offers panoramic views of the city.

Where is Hangzhou?

Hangzhou Map
Hangzhou Map

Hangzhou lies 149 kilometres southwest of Shanghai in China’s Zhejiang Province in the Qiantang River delta.

Top things to do in Hangzhou

1. West Lake Scenery

West Lake is the jewel in Hangzhou’s crown and is steeped in history dating back to the times of the emperors. The lake was popularised by the poet and Emperor of Hangzhou Bai Juyi (772 to 846).

There are myriad paths that wind around the lake as well as two long causeways that split the lake into four sections. Su Causeway stretches for 2.8 kilometres from north to south and the Bai Causeway stretches east to west for 1.2 kilometres.

The lakeshore is dotted with pavilions, temples, cafes, gardens and more making it one of the most pleasant places to visit in Hangzhou.

Read more: Guide to West Lake

2. Walk Around West Lake

It is possible to circumnavigate the entire lake on foot, either via the causeways or around the edge of the lake. If you take the causeways, you can walk it in two to three hours. Unfortunately, bicycles are not permitted, which is a shame as it would make for a perfect bike ride!

If you wish to walk the entire 15km around the lake then you should allow the best part of a day, especially if you wish to stop for lunch and take plenty of photographs. Gently strolling beneath the wooded hills around West Lake is definitely one of the top things to do in Hangzhou!

Read more: Guide to West Lake

3. Take a boat trip on West Lake

There are large passenger boats which ply the lake between various points. One of the most popular routes is from the promenade in the centre of town close to Liuyang Road Lesser Yingzhou Island to see the famous Three Pools “Mirroring the Moon” as seen on the ¥1 Yuan banknote.

The ride costs ¥55 ($8.60) for a return trip.

You will also find smaller, rowing vessels which you can charter for ¥150 ($23.55) per hour per person and explore anywhere on the lake that you desire, or you can pay ¥30 ($4.70) per hour to row yourself.

Boats are operational between 08:00 and 16:00.

Read more: Guide to West Lake

4. Three Pools Mirroring the Moon

This famous scenic-spot on West Lake’s Lesser Yingzhou Island is famous as the view from the ¥1 Yuan note.

The man-made island was crafted in 1607 as “an island within a lake, and a lake within an island” and is stunningly landscaped with beautiful gardens and pavilions surrounding the smaller lakes on the island. For sure one of the top things to do in Hangzhou!

The island can only be reached by boat which costs ¥55 return.

5. Leifeng Pagoda

Leifeng Pagoda was first constructed in 977AD, but has since been rebuilt in 2002. The remains of the original can still be seen underneath the new structure.

The pagoda sits on Sunset Hill to the southwest of the lake and offers incredible views across the city, West Lake and nearby mountains.

As well as having stairs that ascend the five storey pagoda there is also an escalator and elevator for those who are less able but still wish to see the views.

Entrance: ¥40

Opening hours:

Mar to Apr: 08:00 to 19:00
May to Oct: 08:00 to 20:00
Nov to Mar: 08:00 to 17:30

6. The Drum Tower

The drum tower is the south gate of the ancient imperial city of Hangzhou. During the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644AD) one bell and nine drums were placed on the tower to mark the passing of the hours from morning to evening (just like the bell and drum towers in Beijing and Xian).

Entrance to the tower is free and affords great views to the pedestrian streets below.

7. Hangzhou Pedestrian Streets

The area between the Drum Tower and Hefang Street is a pleasant pedestrian area with many cafes and craft shops. A small stream trickles alongside Da Ton Xiang Street and the wall are covered in different art and sculptures.

The street come alive after sunset with stalls selling local speciality street food. Check out the wax museum to see some famous faces!

8. Wushan Mountain

Wushan Mountain is a forested parkland area just south of the city centre and east of West Lake. Here you will find cool, shaded paths, perfect for escaping the summer heat of Hangzhou.

The parkland is criss-crossed by walking trails with pavilions and tempes, including the impressive City of God Pavilion at the top of the peak.

Although a mountain in name, Wushan doesn’t rise more than a few hundred metres, but still high enough to offer impressive views across the city and lake.

Although the path up the mountain starts right next to the pedestrian area, this wonderful park rarely gets busy as tourists prefer to stick to the well-worn sites such as Leifeng Pagoda and the causeways.

Given the lack of heavy foot-traffic, you are sure to see some wildlife such as the red squirrels that jump from tree to tree!

Entrance fee: free

Opening hours: 07:30 to 22:00

Time needed to visit: two to three hours

9. City of God Pavilion

The top of Wushan is dominated by the large red City of God Pavilion (Chenghuangge) which can be seen from the lake. The first two floors are dedicated to an interesting ethnographic museum with displays charting the history of Hangzhou and West Lake.

The third and fourth floors are home to cafes serving tea, cold drinks and other snacks. The perfect place to enjoy some refreshment after hiking up the hill! Needless to say, the views are picture-perfect!

Entrance fee: ¥30
Opening hours: 07:30 to 22:00
Time needed to visit: one to two hours

10. The Grand Canal

The 1,764km (1,200 mile) long grand canal remains one of the greatest manmade waterways ever constructed. The UNESCO listed canal runs from Hangzhou all the way to Beijing in the north and connects 58 different historic sites.

Parts of the canal date back over 2,000 years, though it was connected together during the Sui Dynasty (581 to 618AD)

11. Longjing Tea Plantation (Meijiawu Tea Plantation)

Behind the hills directly east of the lake is the small village of Longjing which is famed as the home of Dragon Well Tea, which has been grown here for over 600 years, thanks to the low solar radiation and wetter than average weather.

Read more: Guide to Longjing Tea Terraces

How to get to Hangzhou

From Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport

There is a shuttle bus from Gate 14 of the Arrivals Hall. Tickets cost ¥20 and journey time is around an hour.

From the rest of China

From Shanghai there are trains every few minutes and the journey takes under an hour. Tickets cost from ¥73.

From Beijing there are multiple bullet and sleeper trains per day taking between five and 20 hours. See our Beijing to Hangzhou train guide for full timetable and fares.

Places to stay in Hangzhou


Merchant Marco Hotel

Serviced Apartment

Hangzhou Yousu Holiday Apartment

Steve Rohan

About this author: Steve Rohan has lived in China for six years. He has lived in the frozen city of Harbin, ancient capital of Luoyang and tropical paradise that is Sanya.

After teaching English for a number of years, he now blogs full time for this site and adventure travel blog thetripgoeson.com.