24 Hours in Hangzhou

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Once one of the largest cities in the world, today Hangzhou is not only an economic powerhouse but also one of China’s most popular tourist destinations. The ancient city has seduced travellers for centuries, including Marco Polo and Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta, who visited in 1345, when many Arab traders lived in this important port city. Renowned for its stunning West Lake and its tranquil gardens, Hangzhou was the imperial capital of both the Southern Song Dynasty and the invading Mongols. Modern Hangzhou is home to nearly seven million people and is one of the most important high-tech and manufacturing hubs in eastern China, but travellers are still drawn to its eclectic history, its rich culture, and the waters of ancient West Lake.


A popular activity is watching the sunrise over West Lake with a pot of local Xi Hu Long Jing tea, one of the most famous blends in China. Arrive at one of the waterside teahouses early and watch locals’ fan dancing and t’ai chi.

Start your day off with a Hangzhou breakfast. This hearty breakfast includes eight – a lucky number in Chinese culture – ingredients. The best place to find this special dish is Hefang Street in Hangzhou’s old quarter.

Walk off breakfast with a visit to the Lingyin Temple, a Buddhist shrine. Founded in ad 328 and commonly translated as the ‘Temple of the Soul’s Retreat’, it’s one of the largest in China, famed for its grottoes filled with Buddha statues.

Get a new perspective on West Lake using public bicycles. Start from Huancheng Road and head across the Broken Bridge to the Su Di Causeway onto Gushan Island. Finish at Nanshan Road.

Head to Qinghefang Historic Street, famed for its Ming- and Qing-era architecture. Here, century-old shops sell everything from Longjing tea and bolts of locally made silk through to street snacks.

The China Tea Museum is dedicated to the art and trade of China’s most historic teas. Learn the trading history of tea and its importance as a commodity. Watch traditional tea ceremonies.

Spoil yourself with dinner at Longjing Manor, the city’s most acclaimed restaurant. A daily set menu showcases local ingredients and Hangzhou’s culinary heritage.

See the Impression West Lake Show, a performance of local folklore created by Zhang Yimou that uses a stage built a few inches below the lake surface, as well as an army of lights, actors, and special effects.

Finish your day with the locals at the Wushan Lu Night Markets, home to everything from tea shops to pewter workshops. Don’t forget to haggle, as this is the place to hone your bargaining skills.

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