West Lake Scenic Area
With bordering hills on three sides and neighboring downtown Hangzhou on one side, West Lake forms the centerpiece of not only West Lake Scenic Area, but also Hangzhou.
With a potpourri of islands, pavilions, villas, courtyards, boulevards, arched bridges, hills, parks, museums, shopping streets, boutique restaurants, monasteries, lagoons, and tea plantations, West Lake Scenic Area is bound to quench your thirst for the most authentic and amazing Chinese culture. To scratch the surface of West Lake Scenic Area, you can start from Top Ten Scenes and New Top Ten Scenes, which are fine examples combining sublime natural beauty and rich cultural connotations.
Where to Go
Top Ten Scenes of West Lake
Among them, Spring Dawn at Su Causeway (苏堤春晓), Breeze-ruffled Lotus at Quyuan Garden (曲院风荷), Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake (平湖秋月) and Lingering Snow on the Broken Bridge’s beauty (断桥残雪) can be appreciated all year round. Leifeng Pagoda in Evening Glow (雷锋夕照) and Three Pools Mirroring the Moon (三潭印月), as their names suggest, should be visited at sunset or on moonlit nights. Sights not subject to seasons and weather are Orioles Singing in the Willows (柳浪闻莺), Twin Peaks Piercing the Clouds (双峰插云) and Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping Hill (南屏晚钟).
Leifeng Pagoda in Evening Glow
All of these sites are either linked by tree-lined boulevards, causeways, or hiking-friendly trails. To get the best of West Lake’s Ten Scenes, you can walk or rent a free public bike. Comfortable sightseeing battery cars (could stop anyplace) and cruise boats will come to your rescue when energy fails you.
New Top Ten Scenes of West Lake
For those in town for more than one week, New Top Ten Scenes are places not be missed. They include Precious Stone Hill Floating in the Rosy Cloud (宝石流霞), Heavenly Wind over Wushan Hill (吴山天风), Clouds Scurrying over Jade Emperor Hill, Dreaming of Tiger Spring at Hupao Valley (虎跑梦泉), Nice Creeks Meandering through a Misty Forest, Inquiring about Tea at Dragon Well (龙井问茶), Yellow Dragon Dressed in Green (黄龙吐翠) and Lord Ruan’s Mound Submerged in Greenery (阮墩环碧).
Precious Stone Hill Floating in the Rosy Cloud
The bamboo-lined Path at Yunqi (云栖竹径), which is distinguished for rolling bamboo forests dissected by zigzagging paths and studded with pavilions, pagodas, giant trees and rare flowers, sparkles as Hangzhou’s best summer resort and hiking trail. With dense Osmanthus forests interspersed with recreational facilities, Sweet Osmanthus Rain at Manjuelong Village (满陇桂雨) is a place to be enjoyed both with friends and kids. Time the visit during autumn, so you can experience thrilling activities and fragrance-saturated air. If you cannot resist the temptation of tea, Inquiring about Tea at Dragon Well serves the most authentic, palatable and impeccably delicious and haunting green tea in China, thanks to its magical spring. For bird watching fans, the unspoiled Lord Ruan’s Mound Submerged in Greenery, one of the three islands of West Lake, is a haven for birds and urban dwellers. Fishing and night views are its draw cards. If you want to know more about silk and tea, China Silk Museum (中国丝绸博物馆 the biggest silk museum on earth) and Hangzhou National Tea Museum (杭州茶叶博物馆) combining a tea exhibition and interactive tea ceremony, will not fail you.
Two Ancient Causeways across the Lake
West Lake is spanned by Bai Causeway (白堤) and Su Causeway (苏堤), which resemble two flowing ribbons.
With weeping willow trees and dazzling peach blossoms, Bai Causeway’s beauty reaches its pinnacle during early spring. This one-kilometer long embankment was named after Bai Juyi, a renowned poet and governor of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). In days gone by, spring outings on horseback were a highlight on the calendar of local elites. The intoxicating scenery here has always been inspiring. Nowadays, people from all over the world stroll around to soak up the beauty which time fails to despoil.
A stone’s throw away from Shangri-la Hotel is the 2.8km-long Su Causeway, which spreads out on a north-south axis and is dotted with six arched bridges. The millennium-old boulevard was the result of thousands of laborers’ painstaking dredging efforts. Spring Dawn at Su Causeway, one of the Ten Scenes of West Lake, epitomizes the prime charm of this causeway. Through the rest of the year, one can still derive much pleasure by biking or hiking along this picturesque “gallery”.
North of West Lake
There are nine icons dispersed haphazardly along the northern bank of West Lake, from the most famous to the lesser-known. They are: Yue Fei’s Temple and Tomb (岳庙，岳坟),Precious Stone Hill (宝石山), Baochu Pagoda (保俶塔), Yellow Dragon Cave (黄龙洞), Zhejiang Library(浙江图书馆), Baopu Taoist Temple (抱朴道院), Ge Hill (葛岭) and Purple Cloud Cave (紫云洞). For western friends, the story of Yue Fei(岳飞), a patriotic military general living in the Southern Song Dynasty, is more appealing than the tomb and memorial hall set up in his honor. Yellow Dragon Cave, which nestles at the foot of Precious Stone Hill topped by the Baochu Pagoda, radiates with rustic flavor.
Yue Fei’s Temple
For those seeking contemplation, it is a most ideal site. With exuberant trees, it is a perfect summer resort. Filled with assorted activities including dancing, singing and Yue opera performance (越剧) all year around, it shines as a hub of activities. Not far from Yellow Dragon Cave is Zhejiang Library (浙江图书馆), the fourth largest library in China. Among its collection of 4.7 million books, the block-printed editions dating back to the Ming and Qing dynasties, and rare hand-copied books are invaluable treasures. Baopu Taoist Temple (抱朴道院) is the only one of its kind in Zhejiang province. Though paling in comparison to the touristy Lingyin Monastery, it is still a good place to sample Taoism undisturbed.
West of West Lake
To the west of West Lake, the main attractions including Lingyin Temple (灵隐寺), Peaking Flying from Afar (飞来峰), Three Temples at Tianzhu (天竺三寺), Hangzhou Botanical Garden (杭州植物园), Visiting Lingfeng for Spring Mume Blossoms (灵峰探梅) and Jade Spring (玉泉) might beckon for those wanting to savor enticing natural scenery and the allure of Buddhism.
Lingyin Temple, a 1700-year-old prestigious pilgrimage destination, offers an authentic glimpse into the mysterious divine world of Buddhism. Opposite,sits Peak Flying from Afar, where you can see over 340 life-size and vivid stone statues. Hangzhou Botanic Garden is famous for mume blossoms during winter, fluorescent colored carps all year around and chrysanthemum exhibitions held each autumn.
South of West Lake
The south bank of West Lake is strewn with a network of sights, among which, Pagoda of Six Harmonies (六和塔), Song Dynasty Town (宋城), Nine Creeks and Eighteen Gullies, Bamboo-lined Path at Yunqi, Westlake International Golf & Country Club (西湖高尔夫俱乐部) sparkle as super stars.
Pagoda of Six Harmonies
Pagoda of Six Harmonies, a statuesque and ancient pagoda, is striking in appearance and rich in history. Ascending the summit, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view of the mighty Qiantang River and the sprawling high rises gracing its southern bank. Qiantang River divides Hangzhou both physically and culturally. It is a transitional area where history meets modernity. Thanks to the formidable Qiantang, the Tidal Bore occurring during the eighth lunar month, has gained international attention. Song Dynasty Town is a giant artificial theme park. “Give me one day, I will give you one thousand years”, so exclaims this newly rising star. Entering it, you will can rub shoulders with Chinese in traditional clothes, marvel at quaint buildings, as well as enjoy Romance of Song Dynasty.
To those nature lovers, Nine Creeks and Eighteen Gullies and Bamboo-lined Path at Yunqi with its unspoiled environment and fresh air, are just heaven on earth. Encompassing 186 hectares (460 acres), Westlake International Golf and Country Club has two international-standard 18-hole golf courses, a two-way driving range, a golf clubhouse and hundreds of villas nestled under the canopy of trees. It serves as a strong testament to the exquisite lifestyle dominating Hangzhou and serves to illustrate that the lakes, teas, temples and museums are not all the story of this city.
East of West Lake
West Lake’s east bank features fewest attractions. If you have time, Phoenix Mosque (凤凰寺), Confucian Temple and Hangzhou Steles (孔庙杭州碑林) and Water City Gate Park (水城门公园) are places worthy of half a day’s exploration.
Things to Do After drinking in so much iconic sights, it is time to relax and have fun.
One Fun House
Xihu Xintiandi (西湖新天地) is a place where the past meets the present and East greets west. Shikumen, a kind of 1920-era folk residence originating from Shanghai, takes root here. Shikumen buildings here are restored into elegant cafes, restaurants, clubs, shops and cinemas. In this area, free from cars, you can enjoy both ancient culture and modern comfort.
Two Famous Restaurants
Ever wondered where to enjoy authentic local gourmet? Here are four time-honored restaurants in this scenic area.
Lou Wai Lou (楼外楼): The fame of this 160-year-old restaurant can be explained by its superb local flavor dishes and many renowned scholars and poets who help to romanticize it, such as Lu Xun, Sun Yat-sen and Pan Tianshou.
Zhi Wei Guan (知味观): It is famous for a wide selection of Hangzhou-style dishes.
Two Famous Tea Houses
He Teahouse (和茶馆): “He” means “harmony”. Entering this tea house, you will feel like you have entered a tasteful antique shop. Surrounded by antiques ranging from 100 to 3000 years old, you can experience the same refined pastime enjoyed by Chinese aristocracy millennia ago.
Qingteng Tea House (青藤茶馆): Offering amazing scenery of West Lake, it is a place to relax. The air is laidback and the food served is delicious.
Three Famous Roads
Hubing Road (湖滨路): As one of the Top Three Luxury Shopping Destinations in Hangzhou, this boulevard houses a collection of world’s top brands and is the right place to buy some tasteful and funky gifts for your sweetheart. To rest your legs, Hubin Park, the Magnificent Musical Fountain and Fengbo Pavilion are nice choices.
Nanshan Road (南山路): Once the hub shared by poets and artists, today Nanshan Road features many aged architectures, bars, art galleries, clubs and cafes. It is the best place to drink coffee and wine with some friends. It is also an arts and cultural corridor which is represented by the China Academy of Arts and Pan Tianshou Memorial Buildings.
Beishan Road (北山路): The 3000m-long Beishan Road is extremely rich in culture and history. In spirit, it fuses East and West.
Three Famous Shows
The magnificent cultural performances of Impression West Lake (印象西湖), Night of West Lake (西湖之夜), and Romance of Song Dynasty (宋城千古情) are absolute must-sees! If budget and time allow for only one show, then choose Impression West Lake.