24 Hours in Hangzhou
Written by Nick Walton
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.
One of the more unique ways to get around Hangzhou is with the ferries, which ply the Grand Canal. The journey takes 30 minutes, with regular services between 7.30am and 6pm, with stops at the Wulin Gate, the Xinyifang Grand Canal Cultural Plaza, and the Gongchen Bridge.
Taxis are a convenient way to avoid the crowds of buses and to navigate the city centre. All taxis must use meters with the flag fall at RMB11. As few taxi drivers speak English, it’s a good idea to have your destination printed in Chinese in advance.
Buses are a great way to navigate the city quickly and affordably. All schedules and announcements are in Chinese, but there are several guide apps, which can help explain routes and timings, including Google Maps. Buses with a Y prefix are tourist buses and will take you to designated tourist attractions.
Hangzhou is relatively bicycle friendly, with many roads featuring designated bicycle lanes. A public-bike system similar to those in Europe is a convenient and cost-effective way to explore the city’s old town and extensive parklands.