About West Lake, Hangzhou

West Lake is a 3,322-hectare (6.4km2) body of water in the city of Hangzhou in China’s Zhejiang Province. The lake is one of China’s most famous landmarks and has been an important cultural location for centuries.

The name West Lake was first popularised by the poet and Emperor of Hangzhou Bai Juyi (who is buried at the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang). The name is derived from the lake’s position west of the city.

The Lake’s settings, surrounded by pine-forested mountains, have made it an important inspiration for the design of parks and gardens across China, Korea and Japan.

West Lake is separated by two long causeways and is home to many paths, trails, pavilions, temples, islands and gardens.

The 10 Scenes of West Lake, Hangzhou

1 Yuan Note, West Lake
Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon on the ¥1 Yuan Note, West Lake

Traditionally, there have been ten main scenic spots on and around West Lake and these are:

  • Dawn on the Su Causeway in Spring
  • Curved Yard and Lotus Pool in Summer
  • Moon over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn
  • Remnant Snow on the Bridge in Winter
  • Leifeng Pagoda in the Sunset
  • Two Peaks Piercing the Clouds
  • Orioles Singing in the Willows
  • Fish Viewing at the Flower Pond
  • Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon
  • Evening Bell Ringing at the Nanping Hill

Things to do at West Lake, Hangzhou

Hiking around West Lake Hangzhou

West Lake Hangzhou
West Lake Hangzhou

It is possible to walk the entire 15km circumference of the lake as there are connecting paths all the way around. It is also possible to walk a shorter rout by taking the two causeways making it an 8 to 10km hike.

It can take anything from between two to eight hours to hike depending on how fast you go, how many times you stop and if you explore other connecting paths.

Unfortunately, much of the route is not open to bicycles as cycling would be a perfect way to see the lake.

West Lake Cruises

Boats on West Lake
Boats on West Lake

There are many boats that ply the lake from small rowing boats to larger vessels and all can take tourists to different points on the lake.

One of the more popular routes is from the centre of Hangzhou to the “island within a lake, and lake within an island” also known as Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon (as featured on the ¥1 yuan banknote).

Some of the larger boats include restaurants where you can dine on Hangzhou specialities while cruising beneath the mountain scenery.

Leifeng Pagoda

Leifeng Pagoda
Leifeng Pagoda

The five-storey Leifeng Pagoda was originally erected in 975AD but collapsed in 1924. It was rebuilt in 2002, but you can still see the remnants of the original pagoda in a large display directly underneath the new one.

It is possible to climb (or take an escalator & elevator) to the 5th floor of the pagoda for magnificent views across the lake, city and mountains.

  • Entrance to Leifeng Pagoda costs ¥40.
  • Opening hours: 08:00 to 20:00

Wushan Mountain

Views from Wushan Mountain
Views from Wushan Mountain

Starting close to the pedestrian area around Hefang Street and Wushan Square, Wushan Mountain Park is a peaceful escape from the busier tourist sites around West Lake. Here you will be able to witness birds and wildlife like the red squirrel whilst walking the shaded paths above the lake.

Wushan Peak is not high by any standards, but culminates at the City of God Pavilion which offers impressive lakeside views with far fewer people than at the nearby Leifeng Pagoda (see below).

  • Entrance to the park is free.

City of God Pavilion (Chenghuangge)

City of God Pavilion
City of God Pavilion

The city of God Pagoda, known as Chenghuangge to the locals, is a huge pavilion that sits on the peak of Wushan Mountain. The temple-like structure sticks out prominently from the hills surrounding the lake and offers perfect views of the surrounding area!

The six storey pavilion has an ethnographic museum on the first two floors and cafes on the third and fourth floors.

  • Entrance to the pavilion and surrounding gardens and temple is ¥30.

How to Get to West Lake

West Lake is easily walkable from central Hangzhou and the promenade starts at the bottom of Pinghai street. The closest metro is Longxiangqiao on line 1 (red).

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 Shanghai

Shanghai to Hangzhou takes from just 46 minutes by high-speed train and tickets cost from ¥73.

From Beijing

Beijing to Hanzhou takes around 5.5 hours and tickets start at ¥560 for a second-class seat.

Beijing to Hangzhou Train

Shanghai to Hangzhou Train

Nearby Attractions

Longjing Tea Terraces

Discover the home of China’s famous Dragon Well Tea in this picturesque village surrounded by tea terraces clinging to the mountain sides.

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.