West Lake — the Symbol of Hangzhou

West Lake is man-made and created after the Chinese love for garden-style parks for recreation. It's in the western suburbs, the historic center of Hangzhou. West Lake is the symbol of Hangzhou, and is considered one of the most beautiful sights in China.

  • Chinese: 西湖 Xī Hú /sshee hoo/ (xi is 'west'; hu is 'lake')
  • Location: southwest of downtown Hangzhou, 180 km southwest of Shanghai
  • Area: 6.5 square kilometers (2½ square miles)
  • Highlights: The Ten Scenic Sites of West Lake, boat cruises, biking, scenic walks, Impression West Lake night show
  • Recommended visit: 1 day

West Lake was selected as one of the "12 superb sunset spots around the world" by CNN. Walking around West Lake is free, so amble around al leisure to appreciate the beautiful scenery. The best places to photograph sunset views are Broken Bridge, Su Causeway, and Yanggong Causeway.

Read more on the beautiful scenery of West Lake.

When to Go and What to See

West LakeWest Lake in Spring

Spring — Best Season

Spring (March to May) is the best season for enjoying West Lake. The green leaves and flower blossoms make the lake more beautiful. Thus March and April is the peak season for West Lake travel.

The Best Places to Enjoy Spring at West Lake:

  • Su Causeway: When spring comes, the whole causeway is blanketed by peach blossoms and weeping willow catkins, creating an especially charming scene.
  • "Viewing Fish and Lotus Fronds at Flower Pond": This classic sight is at the southern end of Su Causeway. It is one of the most famous sights of West Lake, where many people come every day to see and feed the goldfish in the lake.

Summer — Lotus Blossoms

Summer (June to August) is the season of lotus flowers. The lotuses in West Lake attract many people.

lotus blossomsLotus blossoms in Summer

The Best Place to Enjoy Summer at West Lake:

  • "Lotus in the Breeze at Crooked Courtyard" (a classic West Lake sight) refers to an area by the western shore of West Lake. Every summer, there are hundreds of types of lotus in full bloom, attracting many visitors.

Fall — Calm Lake and Clear Sky

Fall (September to November) is very cool at West Lake. The weather is less rainy, which makes it a good season to appreciate the beautiful moonlight at night. West Lake is a popular place to enjoy the Mid-Autumn Festival full moon.

The Best Place to Enjoy Fall at West Lake:

Three pools mirroring the moonThree Pools Mirroring the Moon
  • "Three Pools Mirroring the Moon" is perhaps the most famous of West Lake's classic sights. Its image is printed on the one yuan bank note. 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 three mini pagodas on the water. The light from the pagoda windows and the moon cast their reflections on the water, hence the name.

Winter — "Melting Snow on Broken Bridge"

Winter (December to February) at West Lake is very cold and wet. Snowy weather is seldom seen now, but it's a really good season to enjoy a less crowded West Lake.

Popular Ways to Travel West Lake

Biking/Walking Around West Lake

su causewayBiking on Su causeway

West Lake is considered one of the best biking routes in China. To admire the beauty of West Lake, visitors can leisurely bike or walk around it. On bike or foot you have more freedom to explore in an environmentally friendly and healthy way. You'll experience more of the people of China, and experience more of nature.

The most popular biking/walking avenues are Su Causeway and Bai Causeway. These two causeways allow you to see most of the scenery of West Lake. And no motor vehicles are allowed so they area quite safe for biking and walking.

See our West Lake Biking Guide for a suggested route around West Lake and routes to take in nearby attractions.

Enjoy a Leisurely Time on a Boat

boatingEnjoy a leisurely time on West Lake.

Take a boat cruise to visit some of West Lake's islands. There are many kinds of boats, including large painted boats, small rowing boats, and even self-rowing boats. Cruises are available day and night.

Three Pools Mirroring the Moon is the must visit place if you take a boat. Most docks have boats to this sight. The highlight of boating is to enjoy a leisurely time on the peaceful lake and see the mountains, bridges, and pagodas from across the water.

Highlights You Shouldn't Miss

Su Causeway and Bai Causeway — best in spring

lotusLotus in the Breeze at Crooked Courtyard, one of the ten scenes of West Lake

Su Causeway features in one of the best-known "Ten West Lake Sights". It is a long causeway with willows and other plants on both sides.

Viewing Fish and Lotus Fronds at Flower Pond

At the southern end of Su Causeway, it has been made into a charming park with many varieties of trees and flowers, featuring a peony garden which blooms in April, and the famous goldfish pond.

There are ten famous scenes of West Lake. Every scene has its own iconic features. Read more about other highlights of West Lake.

Impression West Lake — the night show on the lake

Impression West Lake is an outdoor live performance. Performed in the evening, with lights, music, and dancing on its West Lake stage, it tells a beautiful love story of five acts: "Encounter", "Fall in Love", "Say Goodbye", "Memory", and "Impression". The show is available from March to December.

Tickets: 250 yuan (40 USD) – 600 yuan (100 USD)

Best times: spring and fall

April to October: 7:45–8:45

March, November, December: 7:15–8:15

  • If the weather is good and demand is high, there may be a second performance from 9:45 to 10:45.
west lakeMusic fountain show

Music Fountain Show

There is a music fountain at Lakeside Third Park Dock, West Lake. The fountain area is 126 meters long, erupting into life twice in the day and four times in the early evening.

  • Begins: 10:00 am, 3:30 pm, 7:30 pm, 8:00 pm, 8:30 pm, 9:00 pm
  • Lasting: 15 minutes in daytime, 10 minutes at night

Photography Tips

One of the Best Places to Appreciate Sunset in China

west lake sunsetWest Lake Sunset

Besides the beautiful day and night scenery, the sunset of West Lake is in many China photographers' list of best dusk shoots.

Best locations to photograph sunset: Broken Bridge, Su Causeway, Sixth Park, Xiaoyinzhou Island.

Where to Shoot Panoramic Views of West Lake?

There are three ideal locations to see the full view of West Lake: Chenghuangge Pavilion, Leifeng Pagoda, Baoshi Mountain.

Chenghuange Pavilion: about 2 km southeast of West Lake. Entry is 30 yuan (5 USD) from 7:30 am to 10 pm.

Leifeng Pagoda: at the site of "Leifeng Glow over Leifeng Pagoda", south of West Lake. Entry is 40 yuan (6.5 USD) from 8 am to 8:30 pm.

Baoshi Mountain: about 2 km north of West Lake. Entry is free.

  • If you want to take beautiful photos of West Lake, we advise you to hire a guide who can give you tips about when and where to go. A knowledgeable guide can arrange different places to take photos according to the weather.

How to Get to West Lake

Hangzhou Xiaoshan Airport – West Lake: about 30 km

travel guideOur guide introduce guest about West Lake on the way.

Book private transport (recommended): We advise you to book a transfer service with a driver and travel guide. So that you don't have to worry about getting lost and can learn about West Lake on your way to the site.

Take a taxi by yourself (less recommended): If you don't want to book a transfer service or tour, you can take a taxi from the airport. It's about 1 hour's drive. Most drivers don't speak English, so you may should prepare the name of where you want to go on West Lake in Chinese.

Take airport bus (not recommended): If you want to save money and can use a Hangzhou bus map, you can take the airport bus. It's about 2 hours' drive, including the bus waiting time. First take the airport bus to Hangzhou Railway Station, and then take bus Y2 to Jingsi (净寺).

Is it possible to have a one day trip to West Lake from Shanghai?

The answer is YES! Travelling between Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Shanghai now is very convenient because of the bullet train system. You can travel from one to another in about 1 hour. 

Nearby Attractions

lingyin templeLingyin Temple

Lingyin Temple: 'Temple of the Soul's Retreat' is a quiet and sheltered sanctuary. It is one of the largest and most-visited Buddhist temples in China, and holds the largest statue of the Buddha Sakyamuni in the lotus position.

Qinghefang Pedestrian Street: The shops are mainly oriented for tourists, and they sell curios, paintings, souvenirs, craft products, and other works of art. There are also restaurants featuring foreign food for tourists, and some teahouses and shops with long histories.

Six Harmonies Pagoda: It offers a fine view of Qiantang River, famous for the world's largest tidal bores, which are extremely spectacular during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Meijiawu Tea Plantation: It is one of the Four Famous Sites for Longjing Tea (Dragon Well — "China's Top Tea"), featuring a tea farm and village with rich tea culture and tourist development. It attracts over a million tourists every year.

Tour West Lake with China Highlights

If you are planning a West Lake tour, please see our tours for inspiration. Our tours are developed through years of experience and customer feedback and are reasonably priced.

If you are not interested in the above tours, you can contact us to tailor make a West Lake tour according to your requirements. We will help you arrange the tickets to attractions, transport, accommodation, a top guide, and a cruise to save you a lot of hassle.