Visiting the West Lake in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China

The West Lake in Hangzhou China is an excellent place to relax

Visiting the West Lake in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China

Hangzhou in the Zhejiang Province is a Chinese city which attempts to mix the past with the present, at least that’s the impression I got from my visit. Hangzhou has a decent influx of foreigners due to the University, its proximity to Shanghai and its touristic appeals. Hangzhou ranks a lot higher with me than typical Chinese tourist hubs like Beijing or Shanghai and is definitely worth checking out – for one main reason – a lake.

Boats on the west lake Hangzhou China

In awe of the misty background, the tranquil lake and the Chinese man on the boat. The West Lake at Hangzhou is almost vintage China as you imagined it!

Yes, visiting the West Lake in Hangzhou is this city’s big tourist magnet and it’s easy to see why. The Lake covers a vast area in the city and on the walk around it, you see the past mixing with the present. China mixing with Costa Rica, Ireland and the USA all in unusual measures. Here’s a quick guide to visiting the West Lake in Hangzhou.

how to visit the west lake in Hangzhou China

A boat floats elegantly along the misty West Lake in Hangzhou, China

How to get to the West Lake in Hangzhou

To state the obvious here, I’d suggest staying by the Lake in a hostel. We stayed in Hangzhou Mingtown YHA Hostel and that was perfect. There are a lot of other guesthouses and hostels in Hangzhou. If you’re heading on a weekend, book it in advance as it gets busy. Chinese internal tourists love this place. Trust me – stay by the Lake – unless you are here to see the city instead of the Lake! But the Lake is the main thing to see…

Mingtown YHA Hostel Hangzhou China

Outside the Mingtown Hostel in Hanzhou, we stayed very close to the West Lake.

If you’re not staying by the Lake, Hangzhou taxis are relatively cheap – we paid 12 RMB for a 15 minute taxi. But the best option is the bus – 2MB is all it cost to get from central Hangzhou to the hostel. You’ll need to understand a decent level of Chinese to be taking the bus, or at least have photocopies of the place you are staying at, written in Chinese to show the drivers and locals. Yes, I did say Hangzhou is modern, but the level of local people speaking English is still very low, this is real travel in China remember.

getting to the West Lake Hangzhou

Local buses in Hangzhou are cheap but knowledge of Chinese would be advantageous! Taxis aren’t that dear and you could walk but carry a map!

How to see the West Lake in Hangzhou

Transport wise there are a few options – cart and boat being the two main ones. But seriously you won’t be here again, so walk it. Take the time to do the full circle walk around the lake and you will the rewards. You viewpoint fluctuates on every bend and you get to see everything the West Lake has to offer.

Walking round the lake in Hangzhou China with Jonny Blair

The best way to visit the West Lake in Hangzhou is to WALK your way round it. It’s not hard to spot a culture hungry travelling Northern Irishman in amongst the Chinese…

Things to see and do at the West Lake in Hangzhou

The West Lake itself is something to see or do!!! It’s a massive lake and as I mentioned it’s the main touristy thing in Hangzhou. It’s a world heritage site and if you’re passing through or pushed for time, then seeing the lake alone will suffice. I had a bit longer to play with so I immersed myself in this splendid city and took in the full circle of the lake, I picked out these 5 things for you to see and do when walking round the West Lake:

World Heritage Mondial at the west lake in Hangzhou

At the World Heritage marker for the West Lake in Hangzhou, China.

1. Solitary Hill/Gushan Island – this is an island on the West Lake containing a peak known as Solitary Hill and a few buildings – the walk there is across Jindai/Baidi Bridge. Great views and peaceful gardens.

Gushan Island on the lake Hangzhou China

Walking along the Baidi Bridge to Gushan Island and Solitary Hill on the West Lake in Hangzhou, China.

2. Zhejiang Museum – this is a FREE museum on Solitary Hill, Gushan Island. A mix of Chinese art, pottery and crafts make for an decent 45 minutes or so.

Museum on Gushan Island Hangzhou - art and culture

The Zhejiang Provincial Museum is pretty big and is situated on Gushan Island on your walk round the West Lake at Hangzhou.

3. Yue Fei’s Tomb and Temple – this guy was a Chinese Army dude with a heroic and torn past surrounding him. Read his story, see his tomb and head to the temple named after him. I didn’t pay the 25 RMB entrance into the temple (as I’ve seen tons of temples before), so I hung around at the front and took some photos.

Yue Fei temple Hangzhou China near the West Lake

The temple of Yue Fei is in the north west part of your walk round the West Lake in Hangzhou.

4. Su Di Bridge/Su Causeway – a very very long bridge/causeway that takes you from the north to the south of the West Lake, taking in mega surroundings as well as featuring a fish viewing area and some lotus leaves. Scenic and top class for the avid photographer. In fact, immense…this is how you dreamed China to look like…

Su Causeway Bridge at the West Lake Hangzhou China

The long Su Di bridge across the West Lake – you can just admire and gaze at the magical and mystical backgrounds. Like you’ve just been in a film set…

5. Leifeng Pagoda – to be honest this is the largest Pagoda I have ever seen. It’s almost too elaborate, even having an escalator to take you up to the base. This gives even the older and disabled Chinese folk the opportunity to see it but adds a slightly odd commercial aspect to it. The Pagoda offers excellent views of the city, as well as shining its lights at night.

Leifeng Pagoda West Lake Hangzhou China at night

Admiring the night view in front of the Leifeng Pagoda.

For the privilege of getting to the top you will have to pay 40 RMB. I’d say it’s up to you whether you feel it’s worth it or not. The walk around the lake is inspiring enough!

Leifeng Pagoda Hangzhou in the lake

The Leifeng Pagoda stands out in the mist – a great spot to head to for a view over the entire West Lake in Hangzhou, China

There will be more to come on Hangzhou for sure, but I thought I’d encapsulate the entire West Lake into one easy post to help you out. It’s a world heritage site and I’d recommend visiting it. Of course there are LOADS of other things to see and do in Hangzhou itself, not to mention its hilly suburbs. I didn’t even mention boat trips on the Lake!

Some unusual world heritage sites.

Here are just a few of my videos from visiting the West Lake in Hangzhou, China:

Visiting the West Lake in Hangzhou, China Part 1:

Visiting the West Lake in Hangzhou, China Part 4:

Inside the Provincial Museum in Hangzhou, China:

Leifeng Pagoda at night in Hangzhou, China:

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