Why Is This Place so Great?
Marco Polo once visited Hangzhou during the Song Dynasty when it was the capital of China. In his journals, he documented that this was “without a doubt the finest and most splendid city in the world”. Travel to Hangzhou to see it with your own eyes, as this preserved city has not changed much, and is consequently one of the most visited cities by Chinese tourists.
With the city surrounded by hills of Longjing (Dragon Well) green tea bushes, visitors can easily visit plantations to taste and buy some of China’s most infamous tea from its source. The food here is also sublime! As a province in Zhejiang, it is home to one of the eight culinary traditions of China. There are hundreds of locally famous dishes such as Dong Po Rou (Braised Pork Belly), Xihu Cu Yu (Westlake Fish in Sweet and Sour Sauce), and Longjing Xia Ren (Shrimp cooked with Longjing Tea), which are unfortunately not widely cooked in other provinces of China. So try as much of it as you can while you’re visiting!
Where Should I Stay?
For Luxury Choose: Four Seasons Hangzhou at West Lake
Photo of the Hotel’s Grand Premier Room. Courtesy of the Four Seasons Hangzhou at West Lake
The Four Seasons Hangzhou at West Lake is a large hotel containing only 81 rooms, suites, and villas, made to give guests the pretense of living in a village. The hotel is located in one of the best places in all of Hangzhou – next to the West Lake, and the Four Seasons definitely utilizes it to its advantage. Guests can borrow bikes at no fee to cycle along the infamous temples, pagodas, and gardens, or splurge a little extra to have a breakfast boat ride first thing in the morning to enjoy the gorgeous views.
The hotel has tons of amenities. Equipped with an activities center, the Four Seasons provides daily cultural events such as tea tasting, Chinese knot making, and calligraphy classes for guests to participate in. Home to a luxurious spa, guests can enjoy rituals exclusive to the Hangzhou hotel like relaxing in a soothing bath infused with 60,000 dragon well tea leaves or enjoying a String Mandara Massage. There are numerous wellness options as well, including yoga, tai chi classes, a fitness center, indoor pool, and an infinity heated outdoor “pond” to swim in while being surrounded by nature.
For Lifestyle Choose: Amanfayun
Photo of the Hotel’s Village Suite. Courtesy of Amanfayun
As part of the Aman Hotel Group, Amanfayun does not disappoint in its ability to provide guests with an authentic experience of ancient Hangzhou’s culture. The resort complex was once a tea-planting village and the developers have used the village’s original stone, earth, and wood construction and restored it into the 46 rooms, suites, and villas complex that it is today. Set with dim lights and traditional Chinese furnishings, guests are transported back to ancient China.
Located approximately 35 minutes away from the city center by car, guests will experience the quiet and serene environment that Hangzhou has to offer. Instead of being woken up by the hustle and bustle of the city, guests will be woken up singing birds, babbling brooks, and even chanting monks from the seven neighboring Buddhist temples. Guests can then continue their day by breathing in the fresh air while practicing Tai Chi with a master, or join a pilates class in their fully equipped Pilates studio if they’re looking for something a little more challenging.
Wind down by utilizing Amanfayun’s spa. Located across five pavilions, the spa has a reflexology house, finishing salon, treatment house, reflexology house, and a fitness center. Amongst the regular massages and facial treatments, the spa has also created four signature therapies that are inspired by the region’s four seasons. This includes their Signature Bamboo Massage using heated bamboos from their gardens to knead bodies with aromatherapy oils.
Choose to dine healthily at the resort. It has 6 dining outlets to be explored! The Steam House offers authentic local cuisine with a focus on village-style steamed dishes, and the Vegetarian House serves cuisine inspired by the food eaten by monks, all prepared according to the strict religious regulations of the Buddhist temple.
For Boutique Choose: Chaptel Hangzhou
Photo of the Bedroom Section of the Hotel’s Rooms, Townhouses and Villas. Courtesy of Chaptel Hangzhou
As part of the Relais&Chateaux collection, this hotel was created on the remnants of the Shikumen villas, which was the typical style of living in Hangzhou back in the 1930s. Transformed into 26 Rooms, Townhouses, and villas, each guest rooms has been tastefully decorated in a vintage style with modern technology. Spring for a slightly more expensive Townhouse and enjoy multi-floor accommodation consisting of a living room, bedroom, and rooftop terrace.
What Should I Do?
Luxury: Watch the Impression West Lake Show,
(Enduring Memories of Hangzhou) by Zhang Yimou
Since its original debut, Impression West Lake has been revamped to become Enduring Memories of Hangzhou and was first performed for the G20 Summit in October 2016 and made public in May of 2017. This is a series of live-action performances that showcases Hangzhou’s legends with the use of hundreds of performers, lights, music, and nature’s beauty by using West Lake as its outdoor stage. Created by Zhang Yimou, a famous movie director and also the general director of the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, this show is a spectacle not to be missed.
Lifestyle: Hike or Bike around the Westlake and Watch the Sunset
Westlake has long been reputed for its beauty. Numerous Chinese poets have written about its allure, which led to the creation of the famous Chinese saying “There is heaven above, Suzhou and Hangzhou below”. The lake has since been named a UNESCO World Heritage site and is still winning awards for its charm to this date. CNN has recently awarded Westlake as a destination with one of the top twelve places to watch the sunset in the world.
See its beauty for yourself by taking a hike or bike ride through the causeways and bamboo paths. We’ve even outlined a route for you to take below. As a 21.5 mile course, we understand that this is incredibly ambitious for hikers, so we recommend at least walking along both the Bai and Su Causeways (by 32 Gushan Road). For bikers, the entire route will take approximately two and a half hours to complete. Enjoy!
Boutique: Shop for Silk Products
Hangzhou has been argued to be the best place in all of China to shop for silk in terms of its quality for the price. Infamous for its silk factories and embroideries, people can learn about the history of the product from the China Silk Museum in Hangzhou for free. While you can also purchase silk from the museum, the cost of the product is quite a bit more expensive than going to the markets, but you can rest assured that everything sold in the museum’s gift shop is 100% genuine silk. This being said, most of the products sold in the markets by vendors in Hangzhou are also made out of real silk, but it’s always safe to check before you purchase!
While it may be difficult to get a vendor to agree with the most accurate form of testing, the burn test method, buyers can try scrunching up the material – if the material crunches under your grip and makes a sound similar to snow boots crunching on snow, then you’ll know it’s the real deal. Another method is to take a wedding ring and slide the material through it. Genuine silk will slide right through, while synthetic fabrics will prove to have some difficulties.
We recommend visiting these two markets:
- The outdoor silk market on Xinhua Road, Xiacheng District.
- Huaibei Silk Market – an indoor market between Xinhua Road and Feiqi Road on the 5th floor.
Happy shopping, and remember to barter!
Where Should I Eat?
Luxury: 28 Hubin Road at the Hyatt Regency Hangzhou
Photo of the Restaurant. Courtesy of Hyatt Regency
Having won accolades as one of “Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants” in 2015 and “The Best Shanghai and Zhejiang Cuisine Restaurants of 2017” by Ganlan Media, 28 Hubin Road should be on your list of restaurants to dine at whilst visiting Hangzhou. Serving flavorful local cuisine, the restaurant is known for adding a special twist to its presentation. We recommend ordering the Dong Po Rou and Beggar’s Chicken here!
Lifestyle: Lanting Chinese Restaurant at The Azure Qiangtang
Photo of the Restaurant. Courtesy of The Azure Qiantang
Located on the 23rd and 24th floor of The Azure Qianting (Part of the Starwood/Marriott Luxury Collection) overlooking the Qiantang River, Lanting is able to serve vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free variations of local cuisine (some modifications may be required for the dish). While dining for vegetarians and vegans may be a little bit more straightforward at a place that is able to accommodate these requirements, we understand that eating in China can prove to be much more challenging for those who are unable to eat gluten. There are certain local dishes, such as the prawns with long jing leaves, that are naturally gluten-free (without the vinegar dip in most establishments), but as an advertised gluten-free friendly restaurant we recommend speaking to the manager about other dishes that they can create as well.
Boutique: Grandma’s Home (外婆家 Wai Po Jia)
Photo of the Restaurant’s 鱼虾跳 (Yu Xia Tiao – literal translation is Fish Shrimp Jump) Dish. Courtesy of Wai Po Jia
This local restaurant chain originally opened in 1998 and has become very popular amongst the Chinese, so popular that there are over 20 locations in Hangzhou alone. With a strictly no booking policy, there tend to be long queues wrapping around the restaurants during its opening hours. We recommend grabbing your ticket number a little while before you decide to eat. If you miss your number, they will try to accommodate your party as soon as they can. We recommend ordering the clay pot cooked tea chicken, and garlic shrimp with vermicelli. While the fish head soup is very tasty as well, we do not recommend it to those who do not like picking through bones.