The picturesque city of Hangzhou, located 118 km. south of Shanghai, makes for a lovely day or overnight trip for tourists staying in Shanghai. It offers a relaxing break from your time in the bustling metropolis. Catch the express train from the main Shanghai train station and it is approximately a 2.5-hour train ride to the city. Hangzhou has been a well-known place for reflection and escape for centuries. Historically it was an imperial retreat for Chinese Emperors and their families.
West Lake is one of Hangzhou’s most famous sites and over the years poets, revolutionary Chinese heroes and even Marco Polo have praised its still waters. West Lake appears like a traditional Chinese Garden on a large scale. The lake is divided by causeways and has several man-made islands scattered throughout. Around the lake there are bike and paddleboat rentals. Bear in mind that if you are visiting in the summer it will be hot and humid. Be sure to keep yourself hydrated.
Hangzhou is known for producing some of the highest quality green tea in all of China and there are several tea villages in the West Lake district. It is a short taxi ride from West Lake to the tea fields where you can walk amongst the plants or if you are lucky catch a farmer or two drying the tealeaves. If it is a weekend you are also likely to see a few wedding parties posing for pictures. Travel tip in order to catch another taxi back you will need to return to the main road.
Jingci, Lingyin, and Yue-Wang are all Buddhist temples located in and around Hangzhou. Lingyin is one of the largest Buddhist temples in China. You could spend several hours there wandering through the many pagodas and Buddhist grottoes. There are also impressive reliefs carved into the cliffs and caves. In the darker caves the carvings are only visible by the light of the camera flash. The most famous carving is the Feilai Feng or “the peak that flew hither.” All of the temple sites contain giant wooden carvings of the different forms of Buddha.
Hangzhou is also famous for beautiful silks and satins. The biggest silk wholesale and retail market in China, Hangzhou Silk City, is located here. Silk City has more than 600 silk vendors selling a wide variety of products from clothing to scarves and ties.
Qinghefang Street in the historic district is a must see for anyone with an interest in history. The street is lined with well-preserved buildings from the Southern Song Dynasty as well as the Ming and Qing dynasties.
The modern commercial center of Hangzhou is located along the Yanan Road. Zhejiang Provincial Great Hall of the People, Hangzhou Culture Center, Victory Theatre, and the International Mansion are all places of interest.
Insider tip- when you are ready to catch the train back to Shanghai after a long day of site seeing enter through the first class entrance. The other main entrance at peak times can be a mob scene.