The most famous attraction in Hangzhou is West Lake (Xi Hu /sshee hoo/). West Lake is man-made and created after the Chinese love for garden style parks for recreation.
Hangzhou's West Lake Scenic Area, in the southwest of the city, covers 60 square kilometers (23 square miles), of which West Lake itself occupies 5.6 square kilometers (2.2 square miles).
It was originally the center of the city, but now the Qiantang River is becoming the central feature as the south bank is developed in similar fashion to Shanghai’s Pudong District. West Lake is a place of tranquility where urbanity becomes a silhouette on the northeast horizon and mountains near and far surround it on the other three sides. The occasional pagoda and Chinese-style arched bridge add atmosphere to the tree-lined walkways, verdant islands and hills.
To admire the beauty of West Lake, visitors can leisurely bike around the lake, walk around the lake or take a short cruise on the lake. Contact us to customize a Hangzhou tour. West Lake is considered as one of the best biking routes in China. See West Lake biking guide.
Travelers can take a boat cruise to visit some of its islands. There are many kinds of boats including large painted boats, small rowing boats and even self-rowing boats. See our West Lake Cruises.
The lake has a diameter of about 3 kilometers (2 miles) and a circumference of 15 kilometers (9 miles). There are three causeways or bridges across the lake and three man-made islands named San Tang Yin Yue (Three Pools Mirroring the Moon), Huxin Ting (Mid-Lake Pavilion) and Ruan Dunhuanbi (Ruan’s Mound, after the Governor of Zhejiang in 1800, Ruan Yuan).
1. Spring Dawn at Su Causeway
Spring Dawn at Su Causeway tops the list of the ten best known sights in Hangzhou. The causeway was built during the Northern Song Dynasty by Su Dongpo (1037-1101), a great scholar and famous poet, and was named after him. Stretching 2.8 kilometers (1.7 miles), it includes six bridges and is heavily sheltered by green vegetation. When spring comes, the whole causeway is blanketed by peach blossoms and weeping willows, creating an especially charming scene.
2. Lotus in the Breeze at Crooked Courtyard
This particular scene has earned its name from the fact that it had an abundance of lotus plants growing along its shores, which was known as Crooked Courtyard. It was also the location of a winery. The "perfume" produced by the combination of the scent of lotus flowers and wine, to which was added the scent of the cool breeze from the lake, was said to be positively intoxicating. Though the winery is no more, the cool evening breeze from the lake still blows and the lotus plants still thrive along the shores of Crooked Courtyard, which has been converted into a public park.
3. Autumn Moon over Calm Lake
This scene is seen from the western end of Bai Causeway. The teahouse with its cement terrace bounded on three sides by water, became one of the traditional places to view West Lake, especially on Mid-Autumn night when the moon is full and bright, so it was named as "Autumn Moon on Calm Lake". This scenic spot covers an area of 6000 square meters (7176 square yards). Various garden plants and flowers intermingle with pavilions and platforms.
4. Melting Snow on Broken Bridge
The most romantic, in origin, of the ten scenic sites is surely the one called Melting Snow on Broken Bridge. According to legend, Broken Bridge, which is not really broken, but is a traditional arched stone bridge, is the site where two lovers, Xu Xian and a beautiful maiden, who is actually a white snake, met and fell madly in love. In early spring, when the snow begins to melt, it melts on one side of the bridge first, due the fact that the other side is in shade, which gives the bridge a split image. Viewed from a distance, it looks as if one half of the bridge has been ripped off, since the snowy side blends perfectly in with the surrounding landscape (hence the bridge's name)
5. Listening to Orioles Singing in the Willows
During the Southern Song Dynasty, an imperial garden, featuring especially weeping willow trees - which is almost always the perfect complement to a seascape - was built on this site. The imperial garden has since become a public park, replete with pavilions, bridges and lawns, and of course the orioles still visit the willows, where they sing as beautifully as when the emperor came here to listen to their song.
6. Viewing Fish and Lotus Fronds at Flower Pond
This spot is located at the southern end of Su Causeway. A clean stream flows from Huajia Hill to join West Lake here, and many flowers grow where the fresh water flows in, so it called "Flowery Harbor". This area now has been made into a 22 hectare (54 acre) park with many varieties of trees and flowers, featuring a peony garden which blooms in April and a goldfish pond which is the famous site for viewing fish.
7.Sunset Glow over Leifeng Pagoda
The stone arched bridge is at the eastern end of the Bai Causeway. The legendary tale of Lady White Snake took place here. After a snowfall, the snow on the sunny side melts first, while snow on the shaded side still lingers. Looking from afar, the bridge appears to be broken, thus the name.
8. Twin Peaks Piercing the Clouds
Most visitors to West Lake are so fascinated by the lake itself that they often don't notice the surroundings. At the site called Twin Peaks Piercing the Clouds, visitors are advised to also lift their gaze from the lake's surface and behold the view on the other side of the lake, where one is rewarded by the sight of two mountain peaks, separated by the short distance of about five kilometers, at the northern rim of the lake. On certain days with low-lying clouds, or on other days when a low-lying fog is present, it is as if these twin peaks pierce through the clouds, the fog, etc., hence the site's name.
9. Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping Mountain
This site, like most of the other sites at West Lake, is to be enjoyed to its fullest under certain specific conditions; Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping Mountain, as the name suggests, is to be enjoyed at dusk, when the sun slowly sets, its softened rays casting their multi-colored reflections on the surface of the lake. At this hour the huge bell of Jingxi Temple peals, its clear, forceful sound reverberating across the lake, as if amplified in the still evening air, calling for humility and reminding Buddhists of their age-old religious heritage - and indeed, reminding anyone who experiences this beautiful setting of his or her ultimate smallness within the larger scope of things.
10. Three Pools Mirroring the Moon
Three miniature stone pagodas, which act like beacons, built over 800 years ago and 2 meters in height, are the centerpiece of the scenic spot called "Three Pools Mirroring the Moon". To the west of Three Pools Mirroring the Moon Island stand rounded hollow stone pagodas with five round holes like windows around the top and bottom levels. On the night of the Mid-Autumn festival, when the moon shines full and bright in the sky, a candle is lit inside each of the pagodas. The light from the holes and the moon cast their reflections on the water, hence the name.
West Lake is located in the western area, which is the historic center of Hangzhou City. It is surrounded by hills on three sides and covers 6.5 square kilometers (1,626 acres). West Lake is the symbol of Hangzhou, and is considered one of the most beautiful sights in China. The image of Santangyingyue (Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon), one of the classic views of West Lake, has been printed on the back of 1-Yuan Chinese banknotes.
The cruise is available during the day and at night, and many kinds of boats are available.
This is the most comfortable boat. Traditional Chinese music plays on the boat and the cruise goes around Huxinting area (湖心亭). Docks where visitors board the boat: Hubin San Gong Yuan Wharf (湖滨三公园码头), Children Palace Wharf (少年宫码头)
Price: 45 yuan/person
Dock to board the boat: Qianwangci Wharf (钱王祠码头), Chidren’s Palace Wharf少年宫码头, Zhongshan Park Wharf (中山公园码头), Yuefei Temple Wharf (岳王庙码头), Huagang Park Wharf (花港公园码头). This kind of boat also takes you around Huxinting Island.
Price: 45 yuan/person
This boat takes you to Yanggong Causeway (杨公堤).
Dock to board: Zhongshan Park Dock
Price: 30 yuan/person
When visiting West Lake, the best way to escape the crowds is to take a rowing boat. You can hire a boat rowed by someone to tour West Lake. This boat lets you row around Yuangongdun (阮公墩), Huxingting Island (湖心亭) and Yanggong Causeway(杨公堤). Each boat can hold six people. The boat has roofing and a small table in the middle is used to serve tea. The minimum hiring time is one hour.
Price: 80 yuan/hour, including a ticket to Huxing Island. You also need to buy tickets to Three Pools Mirroring the Moon (20 yuan) and Yuangongdun (阮公墩) (15 yuan) if you want to see these sights.
Note: These boats are not recommended as they are privately owned. Travelers have frequently reported being ripped of by the boat rower.
Storage Battery Boat
There are two kinds of storage battery boats. One can hold four people and the other holds six people. The boat can take you to Xiaoyinzhou Island (小瀛洲) and Huxingting Island (湖心亭)
Wharf to the board: Bai Causeway Wharf (白堤码头), close to Broken Bridge (断桥).
Price: 35 yuan/hour for normal boat
45 yuan/hour for luxurious boat
Tickets to the two islands are included with the boat ticket.
Operating hours: 7:30 to 16:30 in the spring and summer; and 8:00 to 16:00 in the winter.
You may go to the attraction and buy the cruise ticket yourself, however, we recommend you to have it arranged by a travel agency to save you a lot of hassle. China Highlights can help our customer to arrange a tour to visit West Lake and other highlights in Hangzhou. See our tours to visit the lake.
There are two kinds of boats: a six-seater boat and a four-seater boat. The starting price for the six-seater boat is 20 yuan for the first two hours and an additional 10 yuan for every hour after that. The starting price for four-seater boat is 15 yuan for the first half hour and 15 yuan for every half hour after that. You can row the boat to Three Pools Mirroring the Moon (三潭映月)，Huxingting Island (湖心亭), Yuangongdun (阮公墩) and Yanggong Causeway (杨公堤). Tickets to these islands are exclusive, and one person needs to remain at the boat to take care it if your group plans to travel in these islands.
Wharfs on West Lake
Lakeside Park 1 Wharf/Hubin Yi Gong Yuan Wharf (湖滨一公园码头)： Located at the crossing of Jiefang Road and Nanshan Road. This wharf is open to both group and individual travelers.
Lakeside Park 2 Wharf/Hubin Er Gong Yuan Wharf (湖滨二公园码头)： Located at the crossing of Hubing Road and Renhe Road. There are rowing boats for hire.
Lakeside Park 3 Wharf (湖滨三公园码头): Located at the crossing of Hubing Road and Pinghai Road. Available is a small painted boat.
Riverside Rowing Boat Wharf (湖滨自划船码头): Located on Hubing Road, opposite from Huaqiao Restaurant. There are rowing boats for hire.
Bai Causeway Wharf: 白堤电瓶船码头): Located at the side of Beili Lake on the east section of Bai Causeway. It is used by small battery storage boats.
Zhongshan Park Wharf (中山公园码头): Located at the south foot of Gushan (Solitary Hill, 孤山).
Yuehu Wharf (岳湖码头): Located at the north side of Yuehu Park, south of Yuefei Temple.
Su Causeway Wharf (苏堤码头): Located at the south section of Su Causeway in front of the east gate of Viewing Fish and Lotus Fronds at Flower Pond. There are small yachts that head to Xiaoyingzhou Wharf.
North Wharf of Xiaoyinzhou(小瀛洲北码头): Located beside a pavilion on the north side of Xiaoyingzhou. A variety of boats stop at this wharf.
East Wharf of Xiaoyinzhou (小瀛洲东码头): Located on the east side of Xiaoyingzhou, offers a variety of boats.
Southwest Wharf of Xiaoyingzhou (小瀛洲西南码头): Located on the south side of Xiaoyinzhou. Offers boats returning to Su Causeway Wharf.
North Wharf of Huxingting Island: Offers boats to Zhongshan Park Wharf (中山公园码头) and Yuangongdun Wharf (阮公墩码头).
South Wharf of Huxinting Island: Offers boats to the North Wharf of Xiaoyinzhou(小瀛洲北码头).
Yuangongdun Wharf (阮公墩码头): Offers boats to Zhongshan Park Wharf (中山公园码头) and the North Wharf of Huxingting Island(湖心亭北码头).