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10 Scenes of Hangzhou West Lake in China, the Poet City

  • causeway
  • westlake
  • citygodpavilion
  • qinghefang

Getaway Category: Culture & HeritageGetaway Tags: Asia, China, and Hangzhou

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  • Hangzhou, particularly Hangzhou West Lake is one of China’s crown jewels. Its natural beauty is among the most irresistible, which have inspired countless poets, writers and artists over the centuries, including the great Marco Polo who declared Hangzhou as the finest city in the world he had ever seen.

    Once the capital city of China during the Wuyue Kingdom and Southern Song Dynasty, today’s Hangzhou is a modernized city yet with a touch of serenity around the West Lake and its surrounding countryside.

    Indeed, it had been crowned a UNESCO World Heritage Site as an exemplary case for an attraction which had successfully found the golden balance in harmoniously enhancing natural landscapes with beautiful man-made structures.

    Over the centuries, a classic list comprising of 10 Scenes of West Lakes was put together to compile the most breathtaking sights of Hangzhou into one place, akin to the Western World’s 7 Wonders of the World.

    The 10 Scenes of Hangzhou West Lake are highly seasonal and time-sensitive, so it is nearly impossible to catch all of them within one visit. However, in this itinerary, we put our best effort so that you get to visit 9 out of the 10 Scenes of Hangzhou West Lake within 2 days (we even suggest an alternative routing to fit in the tenth). 

    Day 0 in Hangzhou West Lake, China 

    You will likely arrive in Hangzhou after 9pm, so head to your accommodation and take a good night’s sleep. The exciting journey will start tomorrow!

    Day 1 in Hangzhou West Lake, China

    8.30am: Spring Dawn at Su Causeway (苏堤)

    Start your day with a peaceful morning walk or bike along the Su Causeway, which often tops the list of 10 Scenes of Hangzhou West Lake.

    Su Causeway is especially a delight during springtime. As you stroll through the long bridge over the lake, observe the many shades of nature with peach blossoms and weeping willow catkins accompanying you in each and every footstep.

    Start your walk from the far north of the Su Causeway, where you will encounter a natural pool of lotuses, which is another of the classic 10 Scenes of Hangzhou West Lakes. It has been given a poetic name of Lotus in the Breeze at Crooked Courtyard (曲院风荷). The lotuses are usually in full bloom during summer.

    10am: Leifeng Pagoda (雷峰)

    Also known as the City of Pagodas, you definitely should not leave Hangzhou without visiting its most famous pagoda. Standing five stories tall with a striking bright red colour, Leifeng was constructed in 975 at the order of King Qian Chu. Leifeng is the third of the classic 10 Scenes which you’ll see today.

    11am: Viewing Fish at Flower Pond (花港观鱼)

    Tick the fourth of your 10 Scenes checklist with this man-made pond full of peony flowers, lush green trees, gold and red fish. The Flower Pond has a very beautiful garden worth an hour’s stroll. During summer, you will also see lotuses blooming in this pond.

    12am: Lunch at ZhiWeiGuan

    Near the pond is a famous restaurant called ZhiWeiGuan serving traditional Hangzhou dishes and dating all the way back to 1913! You can find all sorts of classic Zhejiang dishes here, including Dong Po Pork, West Lake Vinegar Fish, Dragon Well Tea Shrimp, Beggar’s Chicken, West Lake’s Water Shield Soup, Zhiweiguan’s Steamed Buns, Cat’s Ear Noodles and Dingsheng Cakes.

    No.10-12 Yanggongti, Xihu District, Hangzhou, China

    2pm: Three Pools Mirroring the Moon (三潭印月)

    After the lunch, head to the shore near the fish pond, where you can take a boat ride to a man-made island right at the centre of the lake known as Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, the fifth of the 10 Scenes and arguably the most well-known because it is featured in the RMB 1 bank note!

    Take your requisite tourist shot holding the RMB 1 note, if you will, but don’t forget to explore the man-made island in its entirety too! There are plenty of beautiful pavilions, ponds and gardens awaiting you.

    4pm: Autumn Moon over Calm Lake (平湖秋月)

    Once you are done exploring the man-made island, take a boat toward Autumn Moon Over Calm Lake area, which is the sixth of the 10 Scenes. This is a beautiful area with plenty of pavilions, gardens, flowers and teahouses.
    During Mid-Autumn night when the moon is full and bright, you should absolutely consider returning to this spot again after the Impression West Lake Show (since it’s within a close distance!). If you are visiting outside the full moon time, then simply stroll around leisurely admiring the beauty of the lake from the teahouse and proceed to walk along the equally scenic Bai Causeway (白堤).

    This is also along the area where you can observe “Melting Snow on Broken Bridge” (断残雪) from the distance, the seventh of the 10 Scenes. If you are visiting during winter, you should absolutely take the time to get to the bridge and observe it within close vicinity.

    5.30pm: Dinner at Louwailou

    Lou Wai Lou, which translates to a “building outside a building” is arguably Hangzhou’s most famous restaurant, with a history of more than 150 years. Their most famous dishes are the West Lake Vinegar Fish and Dong Po Pork, but you can also find all the quintessential Hangzhou culinary dishes here!

    30 Gushan Rd, Xihu Qu, Hangzhou Shi, Zhejiang Sheng, China, 310000

    7.15pm: Impression West Lake Show (印象西湖)

    This unique outdoor performance brims with spectacles of light, music, dance and theatrics based on the stories of Hangzhou legends. Supported with state-of-the-art sound system and stunning choreography, this show is directed by Mr Zhang Yimou who was also in charge of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

    A truly dream-like and spectacular experience, this is a performance which you should absolutely not miss! It is recommended to buy the tickets online beforehand because this show is very popular and will most likely be sold out if you try to buy it on the spot in the evening.

    The show is about an hour. Timing may differ depending on the season and how early the night falls, but it usually starts around 7.15-7.45am. Depending on the times of the year, sometimes they will also hold a second run at 9.15pm.

    It is important to note that the road towards Impression West Lake gets super crowded in late afternoon and especially leading up to the show time, so make sure you factor this into your travelling time if you’re going by car or taxi!

    82 Beishan Road, opposite to Yuefei Temple and Shangri-la Hotel, Hangzhou

    Day 2 in Hangzhou West Lake, China

    9.30am: Listening to Orioles Singing in the Willows (柳浪闻莺)

    Start your day with a morning walk or jog along the imperial garden of Orioles Singing in the Willows (the 8th of the 10 Scenes). This is one of the most picturesque spots in all of Hangzhou West Lake, with weeping willow trees complementing the sight of mountains surrounding the lake on all three sides and Leifeng pagoda in the distance.

    If you’re lucky, you can observe the Twin Peaks Piercing the Clouds (双峰插云) in the distance right at the opposite side of the lake, making it the ninth of the 10 Scenes which you experience in this itinerary. And the last, the tenth, “Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping Mountain” (南屏晚钟) can only be enjoyed under a very specific situation at dusk and it is difficult to squeeze within a short getaway.

    11am: City God Pavilion (城隍阁)

    Perched at the top of Wushan Hill is Chenghuang Pavilion, or known by its English name as City God Pavilion. This beautiful landmark is the perfect spot to snap a bird eye’s view of Hangzhou. It is also poetically named as Heavenly Wind over Wushan Mountain (吴山天), as part of the Chinese government’s effort to create the “New Ten Views of the West Lake“.

    1pm: Qinghefang Ancient Street (河坊街)

    Next, take a cab to Qinghefang, which is the most well-preserved part of the city that looks like it has been frozen back in time to the 1127-1279 AD (or the Southern Song Dynasty period).

    Qinghefang is littered with shops, restaurants and street food eateries so this is the perfect time to take a lunch break and do some last-day merchandise shopping. You can also watch street performances here.

    3.30pm: Hu Xueyan’s Former Residence (胡雪岩故居)

    Built in 1872, this former residence allows you take a peek into the art of landscaping in traditional Chinese garden and architecture dating back to the 1870s.

    Hu Xueyan was a famous businessman who had made great a contribution to the local communities and success had brought him plenty of wealth, with this residence being considered as the most luxurious home among the merchants during the Qing Dynasty period.

    Take an afternoon walk around the residence to admire the exquisite architectural design and the many jagged rocks which shape the garden.

    5pm: No. 1 Park (一公园)

    No. 1 Park is a top spot where most people take their requisite postcard shot of Hangzhou sunset against the an iconic red pavilion. Take a gentle stroll around this park to take in the beauty and wait until the dusk to admire the magic in its full glory.

    Alternatively, if you do not mind missing the postcard shot, you can head to Nanping Mountain instead and complete the tenth of your 10 Scenes of West Lake!

    6.30pm: Music Fountain

    Head to the Music Fountain, which offers shows at 6pm, 6.30pm, 7pm and 7.30pm. The fountain show takes about 15 minutes.

    7pm: Dinner at Hubin 28 Restaurant

    Dinner by the lakeside can hardly get any better than the ones served at the award-winning Hubin 28 Restaurant by Hyatt Regency Hangzhou, which serves some of the finest classic Hangzhou dishes with an impressive selection of over 2,500 wines. In fact, this is the only restaurant in all of Hangzhou with a wine cellar!

    28 Hu Bin Road, Hangzhou, China, 310006

    10.50pm: Flight back home

    After dinner, find a cab to bring you back to the airport. Journey time will take 1 hour or more, if there is traffic. Make sure you arrive 2 hours before your international flight home.

    If you’re traveling China extensively then remember to read our guide to Xian. Here is our culinary tour of Hangzhou which is a great addition to your trip!

    Places to stay in Hangzhou West Lake, China


    For a bargain price of SGD25-64 and just a 5-minute walk to the lake, Lotus International Youth Hostel is an excellent deal. It is located on the western side of the lake, which is farther away from the city centre and ideal for a relaxing “super-budget” retreat far from the noise.

    Find prices and the latest availability on Hotelscombined or Agoda.

    Mid Range

    Ranging around SGD142-248, Lake View Hotel is a nice 4-star property located just a stone throw away from the Lakeside Park and a quick walk to the famous musical fountain area. It’s also located within close vicinity to the city centres, for those who prefer to keep comfort close!

    Find prices and the latest availability on Hotelscombined.

    High End

    Starting from around SGD705-1,297, Four Seasons Hangzhou is beautifully set on a lakeside village amid lush greenery. While it’s a quick walk to the lake, it’s also a comfortable distance away from the hustle and bustle, providing much-needed peace during your escape to Hangzhou.

    Find prices and the latest availability on Hotelscombined or Agoda.

    Getting to Hangzhou West Lake, China

    Scoot flies 4.30-9.35pm from Singapore to Hangzhou and return 10.50pm-3.45am. Flights are available daily except on Thursday.

    Getting around Hangzhou West Lake, China

    The Hangzhou West Lake area is not exactly small, but its beauty befits a good day’s walk.

    To explore slightly further, Hangzhou has an extensive bus network with a detailed schedule here. Bus fares can be paid in cash or using a bus card, which may cost RMB15 for a one-day card (for max. 8 times) or RMB25 for a two-day card use (for max. 16 times).

    Taxis are also easily found in the city centre and surrounding the main tourist attractions.

    It is important to note that most people in Hangzhou do not really speak English, even among the younger generation. In order to ease your journey, it is best to print out the name of the places which you’d like to go in both English and Chinese.

    Other important notes on Hangzhou West Lake

    Time difference

    There is no time difference between Hangzhou and Singapore.

    Best months to visit

    Hangzhou is a unique place where every season gives you its own unique attractions.

    Naturally, spring time (March-May) and autumn (September-November) is the most pleasant temperature-wise, especially if you would like to observe the beautiful peach blossoms in spring or smell the sweet osmanthus scent as the leaves change colours in autumn.

    But that doesn’t mean the other seasons are not worth considering. Summer (June-August) is a popular time for those who want to watch the lotus and ripening of the plums. While winter (December-February) is the most magical time to witness the “Melting Snow on Broken Bridge”, one of West Lake’s ten most famous sights.

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