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First Day In Hangzhou, China

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by Melanie Reinert

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Introduction

Welcome to Hangzhou, China- a city known for its rich history, breathtaking natural landscapes, and vibrant culture. Nestled in the eastern part of the country, Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang Province and a popular tourist destination for both domestic and international travelers. With a history dating back over 2,200 years, this ancient city offers a unique blend of tradition and modernity, making it a must-visit location for those seeking an unforgettable experience.

 

As you step foot in Hangzhou, you will be greeted by a city that seamlessly combines modern architecture with picturesque scenery. From the iconic West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to the tea plantations that produce the world-famous Longjing tea, Hangzhou offers a myriad of attractions that will leave you in awe.

 

This vibrant city is not only renowned for its natural beauty but also for its historical and cultural significance. Hangzhou was once the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty, which influenced the city’s architectural style and artistic heritage. Wandering through the streets of Hangzhou, you will encounter ancient temples, stone bridges, and traditional courtyards that reflect its storied past.

 

Hangzhou is not just a feast for the eyes; it is also known for its mouthwatering cuisine. The city’s culinary scene is famous for its use of fresh ingredients and delicate flavors. Whether you’re craving the famous Hangzhou-style braised pork belly or savoring a bowl of fragrant West Lake fish soup, Hangzhou will satisfy every food lover’s palate.

 

In addition to its natural beauty and delicious food, Hangzhou is also a bustling metropolis that offers a vibrant nightlife. The city is dotted with trendy bars, live music venues, and colorful night markets, providing ample opportunities to enjoy an exciting evening out.

 

Join me on an adventure as we delve into the enchanting city of Hangzhou. From sightseeing to indulging in local delicacies, this comprehensive guide will ensure that you make the most of your visit and create unforgettable memories in one of China’s most captivating cities.

 

Arriving in Hangzhou

As you disembark from the plane at Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport, the anticipation of exploring this vibrant city begins to build. The airport is well-connected to major domestic and international destinations, making it easy for travelers to reach Hangzhou. From the airport, you have several options to get to the city center. Public transportation, such as buses and taxis, are readily available, providing convenient and efficient transfers.

 

Once you arrive in the city, you will quickly notice the modern infrastructure and well-maintained roads. Hangzhou’s transportation system is well-developed, offering various modes of transportation to get around. The city’s extensive network of buses, subway lines, and taxis makes it easy for visitors to navigate and explore the different areas.

 

When it comes to accommodation, Hangzhou offers a wide range of options to suit every budget and preference. From luxury hotels with stunning views of West Lake to budget-friendly guesthouses in the bustling city center, you’ll find a place that meets your needs. Consider staying near West Lake to enjoy the serene beauty it offers or opt for accommodations in Xiaoshan District for a more modern and commercial atmosphere.

 

After settling into your accommodation, take a moment to immerse yourself in the local atmosphere. Hangzhou is known for its warm and hospitable people, and you’ll likely encounter friendly locals eager to help you navigate the city. Don’t hesitate to ask for directions or recommendations – the locals are more than willing to assist.

 

As you begin your adventure in Hangzhou, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of the city’s layout and key landmarks. West Lake, located in the heart of Hangzhou, is the city’s most renowned attraction. Its tranquil waters, surrounded by lush greenery and ancient temples, provide a captivating setting for relaxation and exploration. Take a leisurely stroll along the lake’s promenade or rent a bicycle to fully immerse yourself in its beauty.

 

In addition to West Lake, Hangzhou boasts a range of other attractions that showcase the city’s history and culture. From the iconic Six Harmonies Pagoda to the Lingyin Temple, one of Buddhism’s most significant temples, there is no shortage of awe-inspiring sights to visit.

 

Your journey in Hangzhou begins as you step foot in this breathtaking city. Prepare to be enchanted by its beauty, captivated by its culture, and amazed by its rich history. Get ready to explore Hangzhou and make unforgettable memories as you dive into all that this Chinese gem has to offer.

 

Exploring West Lake

One of the most iconic and picturesque destinations in Hangzhou is West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has captivated visitors for centuries. Known for its serene beauty and poetic landscapes, West Lake offers a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city.

 

Stretching over an area of 6.5 square kilometers, West Lake is surrounded by lush green hills, ancient pagodas, and vibrant gardens. The lake itself is divided into several sections, each with its unique charm and attractions. Whether you choose to explore on foot, by bike, or by boat, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views at every turn.

 

Start your exploration of West Lake by visiting the famous Three Pools Mirroring the Moon. These three small pagodas seem to float on the water’s surface, creating a mesmerizing reflection that resembles a moonlit night. The pagodas are best admired from the Su Causeway, a picturesque walkway that cuts through the lake and offers stunning views.

 

Another must-visit spot is the Leifeng Pagoda. Originally built in the 10th century, this pagoda has become an iconic symbol of Hangzhou. Climb to the top for panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding city, or take a boat tour to admire the pagoda from the water.

 

No visit to West Lake would be complete without a visit to the famous Broken Bridge. Legend has it that the bridge was originally a continuous bridge, but it was destroyed during a battle. Today, the bridge is separated into two parts, creating a picturesque scene that attracts photographers and romantics alike.

 

For a unique perspective of West Lake, consider taking a boat ride. Whether you choose a traditional rowing boat or a larger cruise ship, cruising along the lake’s smooth waters allows you to fully appreciate its beauty. You can also opt for a romantic evening boat ride to witness the lake’s enchanting transformation under the moonlight.

 

As you explore West Lake, be sure to take the time to immerse yourself in the surrounding nature. The lake is home to beautiful gardens and parks, such as the Flower Harbor and the Quyuan Garden, where you can relax and enjoy the peaceful ambiance. During springtime, the cherry blossoms and peony flowers bloom, painting the landscape with vibrant colors.

 

Whether you choose to visit during sunrise, sunset, or throughout the day, West Lake will captivate you with its beauty and serenity. Take your time to appreciate the poetic landscapes, indulge in peaceful moments, and create lasting memories in this enchanting corner of Hangzhou.

 

Visiting Lingyin Temple

Nestled at the foot of Lingyin Mountain, just a short distance from West Lake, is the magnificent Lingyin Temple. As one of the oldest and most significant Buddhist temples in China, a visit to Lingyin Temple offers a glimpse into the country’s spiritual and cultural heritage.

 

As you approach the temple, you will be greeted by the grand entrance gate adorned with intricate carvings and colorful paintings. Stepping through the gate, you’ll find yourself in a serene world of ancient architecture, fragrant incense, and the sound of chanting monks.

 

Lingyin Temple, also known as the Temple of Soul’s Retreat, dates back over 1,700 years. The temple complex is composed of several halls, pavilions, and courtyards, each with its unique religious significance. The main hall, known as the Hall of the Heavenly Kings, houses statues of the four Heavenly Kings, who are believed to protect the Buddhist teachings.

 

One of the highlights of visiting Lingyin Temple is the Thousand Buddha Hall. As you step inside, you’ll be surrounded by walls adorned with thousands of golden Buddha statues, creating a truly awe-inspiring sight. Take your time to soak in the reverence and tranquility of this sacred space.

 

As you explore the temple grounds, you’ll come across the Hall of the Medicine Buddha, where worshippers pray for health and well-being. The Guanyin Hall is another notable area, dedicated to the bodhisattva of compassion. Inside, you’ll find a golden statue of Guanyin surrounded by intricate carvings and offerings from devotees.

 

After exploring the main temple area, don’t miss the opportunity to hike up to the Feilai Peak, located behind Lingyin Temple. This scenic spot offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and a chance to see ancient Buddhist carvings and statues embedded in the rock face.

 

Throughout your visit to Lingyin Temple, you’ll experience a deep sense of tranquility and spirituality. The air is filled with the fragrance of incense, and the peaceful atmosphere allows for introspection and reflection. Take a moment to sit in one of the temple’s courtyards, observe the rituals, and soak in the profound spiritual energy that permeates the area.

 

Visiting Lingyin Temple is not just an opportunity to witness grand architecture and religious artifacts – it’s a chance to gain a deeper understanding of Buddhism’s role in Chinese culture and history. Whether you are a spiritual seeker or simply appreciative of the beauty and tranquility of sacred sites, Lingyin Temple is a must-visit destination in Hangzhou.

 

Strolling through Hefang Street

Hefang Street is a vibrant and bustling pedestrian street located in the heart of Hangzhou’s historic district. Stepping onto Hefang Street is like stepping back in time, as it showcases the city’s rich cultural heritage and traditional charm.

 

As you stroll along Hefang Street, you will be surrounded by traditional architecture, quaint tea houses, and a delightful array of shops and vendors. This lively street offers a variety of attractions, making it a favorite destination for both locals and tourists alike.

 

One of the main highlights of Hefang Street is the unique shops and stalls selling traditional Chinese handicrafts. This is the place to browse for unique souvenirs, such as delicate silk products, intricate paper-cuttings, and beautiful embroidered works. You’ll also find shops specializing in calligraphy supplies, where you can pick up brushes, ink, and paper to try your hand at this ancient art form.

 

As you meander through the street, the tantalizing aroma of local snacks will tantalize your taste buds. Hefang Street is known for its delectable street food, offering a wide variety of treats to satisfy every craving. From savory snacks like stinky tofu and spicy noodles to sweet delights such as fried dough twists and sugar-coated fruit sticks, you’re in for a culinary adventure.

 

Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the century-old Hu Qing Yu Tang Pharmacy, located on Hefang Street. This historic herbal pharmacy has been serving locals with traditional Chinese medicine for generations. Explore the shop and discover a wide range of herbs, remedies, and health products that showcase the ancient knowledge and healing traditions of Chinese medicine.

 

While exploring Hefang Street, take a moment to immerse yourself in the local culture and witness traditional performances. You may come across street musicians playing traditional instruments or colorful folk dances being performed. These performances add to the vibrant atmosphere and offer a glimpse into the city’s artistic heritage.

 

As the evening sets in, Hefang Street transforms into a lively night market. Throughout the year, the street comes alive with vibrant lights, live performances, and even more food stalls. It’s the perfect place to experience the energetic nightlife of Hangzhou and indulge in late-night shopping and snacking.

 

Strolling through Hefang Street is like stepping into a living museum, where history, culture, and commerce intertwine. It’s a chance to immerse yourself in the traditions of Hangzhou and experience the vibrant energy of this bustling street. So, take your time, explore the hidden corners, and embrace the charm of Hefang Street.

 

Tasting Hangzhou Cuisine

Hangzhou is not only a city of breathtaking landscapes and rich history, but it is also a culinary paradise. Known for its delicate flavors and fresh ingredients, Hangzhou cuisine is a true gastronomic delight that will tantalize your taste buds.

 

One of the must-try dishes in Hangzhou is the famous West Lake fish in vinegar gravy. This dish features tender and succulent fish fillets served in a subtly sweet and tangy vinegar sauce. The fish is often complemented with bamboo shoots and mushrooms, creating a harmonious combination of flavors that showcases the skillful culinary techniques of Hangzhou chefs.

 

If you’re a fan of pork, make sure to sample the Hangzhou-style braised pork belly, also known as Dongpo pork. Named after the renowned poet and gastronome Su Dongpo, this dish features thick slices of tender pork belly braised in a flavorful mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and spices. The slow-cooking process results in melt-in-your-mouth meat with a rich and savory taste.

 

An iconic street food snack in Hangzhou is the beggar’s chicken. This unique dish involves wrapping a marinated whole chicken in lotus leaves and then encasing it in a layer of clay before roasting it over a charcoal fire. The clay seals in the moisture, creating incredibly tender and flavorful chicken that is a true delicacy.

 

For those with a sweet tooth, Hangzhou offers a delightful dessert known as the lotus root powder sweet soup. Made from lotus root starch, rock sugar, and various toppings such as red beans or glutinous rice balls, this dessert is a refreshing and satisfying way to end a meal.

 

No culinary journey in Hangzhou is complete without sampling the city’s famous Longjing tea. Known as the “Dragon Well” tea, Longjing tea is renowned for its high quality and unique flavor. Take part in a traditional tea ceremony, where you can appreciate the art of tea preparation and savor the delicate taste of this prized green tea.

 

While exploring the city, be sure to visit the vibrant Hangzhou night markets, such as Wushan Night Market or Qinghefang Ancient Street. These bustling markets offer a wide array of street food and snacks, ranging from savory pancakes and dumplings to sweet treats like sugar-coated haws and tangyuan (glutinous rice balls).

 

Hangzhou boasts a culinary scene that caters to all preferences and budgets. From upscale restaurants specializing in Hangzhou cuisine to humble street food stalls, you’ll find an endless variety of mouthwatering dishes to satisfy your cravings.

 

Prepare to embark on a culinary adventure in Hangzhou, where the flavors of the city will leave a lasting impression on your palate. Enjoy the delicate and intricate flavors of Hangzhou cuisine, and savor the unique culinary experiences that this amazing city has to offer.

 

Discovering Longjing Tea Plantations

No visit to Hangzhou is complete without exploring the renowned Longjing tea plantations. Located in the picturesque hills surrounding West Lake, these tea gardens showcase the artistry and craftsmanship behind one of China’s most famous teas – Longjing tea.

 

Longjing tea, also known as Dragon Well tea, is revered for its exquisite flavor, unique aroma, and numerous health benefits. The tea is meticulously cultivated and hand-picked to ensure that every leaf retains its optimum quality. The Longjing tea plantations offer a glimpse into the traditional methods and intricate process involved in producing this prized beverage.

 

As you leisurely wander through the tea fields, you’ll be immersed in a serene and peaceful environment. The hills are enveloped with vibrant shades of green, and the air is filled with the refreshing scent of tea leaves. It’s a truly enchanting experience that allows you to connect with nature and appreciate the artistry of tea cultivation.

 

Many tea plantations offer guided tours where you can learn about the entire tea production process. From the careful plucking of the tea leaves to the delicate craftsmanship of tea roasting and shaping, you’ll witness the dedication and expertise that goes into creating Longjing tea.

 

During the harvest season, which typically takes place in spring and early summer, you may even have the opportunity to try your hand at picking tea leaves alongside local farmers. It’s a unique and immersive experience that will deepen your appreciation for this beloved beverage.

 

After exploring the tea plantations, make sure to indulge in a traditional Longjing tea tasting. The tea houses and teahouses located near the plantations offer a serene setting to savor this world-famous tea. Allow the tea master to guide you through a traditional tea ceremony, where you’ll witness the precise brewing techniques and learn about the subtle nuances of different tea varieties.

 

As you sip on a cup of Longjing tea, you’ll experience its distinctive and refreshing taste. The tea has a delicate flavor with hints of sweetness and chestnut undertones. It’s no wonder that Longjing tea is considered one of the finest green teas in the world.

 

Whether you’re a tea connoisseur or simply curious about Chinese tea culture, a visit to the Longjing tea plantations is a must. Immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of the tea gardens, learn about the time-honored traditions of tea production, and savor the exquisite flavors of Longjing tea. It’s an experience that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the art and craftsmanship that goes into creating this beloved beverage.

 

Shopping at Wulin Square

For a shopping experience that encapsulates the vibrancy and modernity of Hangzhou, look no further than Wulin Square. Situated in the heart of the city, Wulin Square is a bustling commercial hub that offers a plethora of shopping options, from luxury boutiques to local markets.

 

Wulin Square is a shopper’s paradise, with its sprawling malls and department stores offering a wide range of brands and products. Here, you’ll find international fashion labels, designer boutiques, and flagship stores of well-known Chinese brands. Whether you’re looking for the latest fashion trends, luxury accessories, or high-tech gadgets, Wulin Square has it all.

 

In addition to the upscale malls, Wulin Square is also home to a number of specialty stores and niche markets. Explore the various lanes and side streets to discover hidden gem boutiques, antique shops, and art galleries. Here, you can find unique items such as traditional Chinese handicrafts, exquisite ceramics, and contemporary artwork.

 

If you’re interested in local products and bargains, make sure to visit the bustling night markets that come alive in the evening. These markets offer a glimpse into the local shopping scene, with vendors selling everything from clothing and accessories to street food and souvenirs. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere, haggle for the best prices, and indulge in delicious snacks along the way.

 

Don’t forget to explore the underground shopping malls that are also part of Wulin Square. These vast complexes are filled with shops of all kinds, ranging from fashionable clothing stores to specialty shops selling cosmetics, electronics, and home décor. It’s a true shopper’s paradise, with something to cater to every taste and preference.

 

When you need a break from shopping, Wulin Square is also home to a variety of dining options. From local street food stalls serving up mouthwatering delicacies to upscale restaurants offering international cuisine, you can satisfy your appetite with a diverse range of flavors.

 

Wulin Square is not just a destination for shopping; it’s a dynamic and lively part of Hangzhou’s urban fabric. As you wander through its bustling streets, you’ll encounter locals and tourists alike, all aiming to find the latest trends or uncover hidden treasures.

 

So, whether you’re a fashion enthusiast, an art lover, or simply a curious shopper, make sure to spend some time exploring Wulin Square. Immerse yourself in the shopping frenzy, discover unique finds, and experience the vibrant pulse of Hangzhou’s commercial scene.

 

Enjoying Nightlife in Hangzhou

When the sun goes down, Hangzhou comes alive with a vibrant and eclectic nightlife scene that caters to all tastes and preferences. Whether you’re in the mood for a quiet evening by the lakeside or a lively night out with friends, Hangzhou offers a variety of options to enjoy after dark.

 

One of the best ways to experience the nightlife in Hangzhou is by visiting the bars and lounges scattered throughout the city. From trendy rooftop bars with panoramic views of West Lake to cozy speakeasies tucked away in hidden alleyways, there is a spot for every mood. Unwind with a craft cocktail, sample unique local beers, or sip on a glass of fine wine as you enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.

 

For music enthusiasts, Hangzhou boasts a thriving live music scene. Catch a performance by local bands or renowned artists at one of the city’s live music venues, where you can enjoy a mix of genres from rock and jazz to traditional Chinese music. Immerse yourself in the energy of the crowd, dance to the rhythm, and discover new sounds.

 

If you’re a fan of the performing arts, you’ll be delighted by the selection of theaters and cultural performances in Hangzhou. From traditional Chinese opera to modern dance performances, there is always something happening on the city’s stages. Check the schedules of the Hangzhou Grand Theatre or the Zhejiang Song and Dance Theatre for a chance to experience the beauty of Chinese performing arts.

 

For a more laid-back evening, take a leisurely stroll along the banks of West Lake. The lake comes alive at night with beautifully illuminated bridges, pagodas, and boats reflecting on the water’s surface. Enjoy the serene ambiance, listen to the gentle lapping of the waves, and savor the tranquility as you take in the enchanting nighttime views.

 

Hangzhou is also known for its night markets, which offer a lively and bustling atmosphere. Explore the food stalls, browse the shops, and immerse yourself in the vibrant street scenes. Sample local street food delicacies like stinky tofu and skewered meats, and bargain for unique souvenirs and trinkets. The night markets are a perfect blend of shopping and entertainment, providing a glimpse into the local culture.

 

Lastly, if you’re seeking an adrenaline rush, consider visiting one of Hangzhou’s entertainment complexes. From bowling alleys and karaoke lounges to billiards halls and virtual reality gaming centers, there are plenty of options to keep you entertained until the late hours.

 

No matter what your nightlife preferences may be, Hangzhou has something to offer every night owl. So, embrace the vibrant atmosphere, indulge in the diverse experiences, and create unforgettable memories as you enjoy the nightlife in this captivating city.

 

Conclusion

Hangzhou, with its rich history, breathtaking scenery, and vibrant culture, offers a truly unforgettable experience for travelers. From the enchanting beauty of West Lake to the spiritual tranquility of Lingyin Temple, the city captivates visitors with its blend of tradition and modernity.

 

The diverse culinary scene of Hangzhou is a highlight in itself, with mouthwatering dishes like West Lake fish in vinegar gravy and Dongpo pork that showcase the city’s gastronomic prowess. And no visit to Hangzhou is complete without indulging in a traditional tea ceremony and savoring a cup of Longjing tea at the serene tea plantations.

 

Exploring Hefang Street offers a glimpse into Hangzhou’s historical charm, with its traditional architecture, specialty shops, and vibrant street food scene. And for those seeking a modern shopping experience, Wulin Square provides endless opportunities to indulge in retail therapy.

 

When the sun sets, Hangzhou’s nightlife comes alive, offering a variety of experiences to suit every taste. From trendy bars and live music venues to serene lakeside walks and bustling night markets, the city provides plenty of options to enjoy after dark.

 

Hangzhou truly offers a captivating blend of ancient heritage and modern vibrancy. The city’s inviting atmosphere, warm hospitality, and wealth of attractions make it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking an immersive cultural experience.

 

So, whether you’re exploring the iconic West Lake, savoring mouthwatering Hangzhou cuisine, immersing yourself in the city’s vibrant nightlife, or simply enjoying the little delights found within the city, Hangzhou will leave a lasting impression and unforgettable memories.

 

Embark on your journey to Hangzhou, and let this captivating city weave its spell as you explore its wonders, flavors, and traditions. It’s a destination that will spark your imagination, awaken your senses, and leave you longing to return again.