Hangzhou West lake is to China, what New York’s Central park is to the USA. The most iconic park of the country. West lake is a huge fresh water park in the heart of Hangzhou city center (East China). The park inspired poets and authors of many generations and influenced garden designing in Japan and Korea.
West lake is very well-known all over China and is often regarded as the most beautiful and loveliest park in China, and it is UNESCO world heritage site since 2011. (UNESCO link here). The lake divides in 3 causeways, and is not only an absolute must when visiting Hangzhou, but also a good side trip when visiting Shanghai.
Hangzhou west lake UNESCO world heritage site
Hangzhou west Lake UNESCO site since 2011.
Arriving to the Park
I only had 1 day to visit Hangzhou, sadly this is a bit too short. But I knew from the beginning that West lake is the place to go in Hangzhou, even for just 1 day. Because, hands down, the most well-known and interesting attraction of Hangzhou is West Lake. Ask any Chinese what to do in Hangzhou and they will tell you right away to visit West lake.
Cool, so the lake-park was very easy to find, just on the middle on Hangzhou. This city is actually very lovely, and is a popular choice among expats. So all it was left to do was to enjoy a walking day out :).
Entering the park and walking the causeways is free, but some scenic areas need you to buy a ticket:
- Lingyin Temple 30 RMB.
- Mausoleum of General Yue Fei 25 RMB.
- Klippe 35 RMB.
- Six Harmonies Pagoda 20 RMB.
- Tiger Running Spring 15 RMB.
- Guo’s Villa 10 RMB.
- Three pools mirroring the moon 20 RMB.
- Jade Emperor Hill 10 RMB.
There are also optional boat service’s and a minivan going around the lake. The park is huge so this two services are very handy. I would note that the park can be visited free without spending a single dime. But visiting the attractions above, and taking the rides will make for a much more interesting and swift trip.
The park is unusually well cared of. I believe because the park being a UNESCO site and everything. The park counts with public toilets and everything was very clean.
This park has such a huge size is easy to find quiet alleys and spots.
WHY VISIT HANGZHOU’S WEST LAKE?
West Lake (Xihu/西湖 in Chinese) is very pleasant to the eye. Chinese people pay close attention on how to build parks and gardens. Aiming for harmony and composition. West Lake is no exception. There is a lot of thought put on this park, is subdivided in Causeways and 10 different scenes. So this is not just a bunch of trees and a random lake. Each scene has its own flavor and offer something different.
Summer is peak season, so there was a lot of people around.
The bridges are of incredible beauty. Just be careful not to fall to the water. The lake seems deep.
So much greenery in the West Lake. The good this is that color and the mood changes with the stations.
The park has over a 1000 years of history, therefore some trees and roads are really old. Many other parts are new or have been rebuilt over the years.
More greens. Good thing about the West lake in Hangzhou is that Autumn and spring offer different color tonalities. Not to mention the amazing winter snow.
The perfect way of visiting West Lake
I think the best approach would be to arrive early and go ahead to take a boat ride early and directly to visit the islands first:
- Mid-lake pavilion.
- Three pools mirroring the moon.
- Lord Ruan’s mound.
Secondly I would return to the land (mind that the boats stop around 5 or 6 pm) to visit the causeways. The causeways are beautiful and huge, so is advised to allow enough time to visit them. When I visited this park I didn’t have enough time to visit everything in just a single day, so I opted to not rush my visit and just enjoy what I had time to see, without rushing around like crazy.
Some other people might feel they want to visit everything in just a day, and I understand that, so for this the small minivan that goes around the park will play a crucial role.
Hangzhou West lake pier
Hangzhou west park (Xihu).
Hows the weather like in Hangzhou
I took all these photographs on Summer, so yeah, summer is still a good season to visit West Lake. The problem will be that the heat is scorching hot, averaging 30ºC on summer, with peaks of 35ºC or more. The feeling on summer in Hangzhou is the same i get in Thailand or Hong Kong, this is a very humid and warm breeze. Making it not so pleasant to walk around on this weather.
Conversely Spring and Autumn have a more soft weather, making it ideal to visit. On Winter temperatures might drop under 0ºC, and it snows!, which is great, West lake with snow looks great. Check the Hangzhou weather here.
Hangzhou is the most famous park in China. And Chinese people love parks so that’s saying a lot.
The best park in China, they said, I think is deserved.
Photography opportunities are endless here, I also saw some guys trying to capture the sunset. Although today the sky didn’t collaborate. Pretty grey sky.
What-s Hangzhou like
Hangzhou surprised me as a very clean and modern city. Perhaps not on the level of the big brother Shanghai. The good thing of Hangzhou is that it isn’t as expensive as Shanghai.
Taking a boat is another perk of this park. Just don’t arrive late as I did, or you could miss it :P.
Leifeng pagoda.The park is big enough to bring sunset and sunrise photography opportunities.
A quiet pond, perfect for do some portraying.
Leifeng pagoda was originally a five-story building built-in 975 AD. However it collapsed at 1924 and was reconstructed on 2002. It’s truly magnificent as it is located on top of a hill and it can be seen from many parts of West Lake.
This spot might have it all. The pagoda, the sunset, the bridge, the greens, the endless water, the far away mountains. The photo is nothing special but I think this is truly a magnificent spot for photography. Just on the south-east causeway.
I particularly like this place.
Boating is a must in here.
Problem of boating is the heat. Summer heat in Hangzhou is really punishing.
Hangzhou west park (Xihu)
2 or 1 days when visiting West lake?
1 day should be enough to visit most. But it would take a whole day to do so. Problem being on summer with the high temperatures often peaking over 35ºC this would be painstaking. Also it would feel too rushed.
2 days would allow for a much more relaxed visit. Allowing to discover the many details this park has. More than 2 days would already be feel like too much in my opinion, and this province has other attractions to discover.
The size of the park is probably almost too big to be covered in one day, specially difficult on summer with temperatures exceeding 30ºC.
Lots of greens. A perfect day-out.
More to do in Hangzhou
Hangzhou is well-known as a beautiful city in China. Other attractions include:
- Lingyin temple. A Buddhist temple, west of West lake.
- Xixi wetland park. Plenty of greenery.
- Longjing tea fields. A good half day trip to discover the tea culture this province has.
The most famous park in China. And one of the biggest also.
Boating is possible to the middle island. But boats will stop at around 5 pm.
Pagoda at Hangzhou west lake.
One of the many bridges.
WHERE TO STAY IN HANGZHOU?
I recommend staying in the most central part of Hangzhou where West Lake is located, on the west part of the Lake. This is the are to stay, because there is a subway line available, and some malls and an ancient food street just nearby.
Moreover there is a concentration on hotels in this part of the city. Comprising both cheap hotels and more upscale hotels, i can recommend this hotels:
Hangzhou Bokai West Lake Hotel *** 30$
I wanted a cheap but good hotel in Hangzhou located as close as possible to the subway. And this wasn’t so bad. I was able to walk to the subway in like 5 minutes. And to reach the West Lake itself in like 10 minutes walk. More over a nearby mall have a Grandmother’s restaurant so I was able to eat delicious lunch for very cheap.
The hotel itself is great value for money, room is pretty decent and spacious but the furniture was a bit run down (acceptably so), all in all expected. I left satisfied.
More hotel choices that i recommend
Hangzhou Sofitel Westlake Hotel ***** 110$
Victoria Regal Hotel Zhejiang **** 60$
Hotel Ibis Hangzhou Song Dynasty *** 25$
All of these hotels are located in a good area. Not too far from subway and not far from the West lake.
MORE TO DO OUTSIDE HANGZHOU?
- Huangshan mountains. UNESCO Site, absolutely stunning.
- Wuzhen water town, well worth a visit.
- Suzhou classical gardens, also a UNESCO site.
- Shanghai city. Doesn’t need introduction i guess. Great shopping, eating and visiting the Bund night is a must.
Every Chinese city have one or many parks in which locals gather to thrive and spend time. Well, Hangzhou West Lake is the greatest Chinese park. In both beauty, size, culture and features. I had high expectations for this visit and this historical Lake park didn’t disappoint at all.
I had a great time visit the West Lake. It survived the hype and I will look forward to visit again.
PS: Need read more about West lake?. I found this China daily article a good reading material. ( Opens as a pop-up).