Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang Province and is recognized as one of the most beautiful cities in China. It is an important tourist resort, with visitors attracted by its stunning natural beauty. The famous West Lake area has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, with a history dating back to the 1100s, the city has a rich cultural heritage.
West Lake is Hangzhou's most famous tourist attraction, its beauty celebrated by artists and poets alike.
The city has many beautiful temples and pagodas to explore and the views from Baochu Pagoda in particular are breathtaking.
Hangzhou's green spaces are famous and the garden at Guo's Villa is reputed to be the finest in the region.
Hiking in the mountains around Hangzhou offers spectacular scenery on some superb trails which are easily accessible from the city center.
An afternoon at a tea house in Manjueling Village is a unique Hangzhou experience.
Located not far west of the city center, the Lingyin Temple is more ancient than almost anything else in Hangzhou. Affiliated to the Chan Buddhist sect, Lingyin was founded in 328 AD, and expanded to a 10th century peak when it housed 3,000 monks. These days, it's a much smaller affair, but the historical grandeur remains, not least in the serene Hall of the Heavenly Kings, with its ceiling murals of dragons and other beasts. The Hall of the Great Hero is similarly grand, perhaps more so, with its immense golden Buddha and lineup of holy saints.
Right next to Lingyin, there's another haul of Buddhist treasure waiting for tourists to discover. This time, it's the Fei Lai Feng grottoes (located on "flying" mountain). There are 345 statues here in all, and it lays fair claim to being one of the birthplaces of Chinese Buddhism. As the story tells it, Fei Lai mountain flew from India to plant the seeds of Buddhist enlightenment, and ever since, devotees have carved impressive statues into the limestone cliffs.
In itself, Wulinmen is an unassuming quay near Wulin Square in central Hangzhou, but it's where it can take you that's magical. 2,000 years ago, Hangzhou became the end point for the Grand Canal - an incredible waterway linking the north and south of China, over a distance of 1,200 miles. In Hangzhou, you can take cruises along the canal to see this engineering marvel, passing under elegant stone bridges, and reliving the lifestyle of the traders who knitted China together so long ago. History rarely feels so alive.
Hangzhou's biggest amusement park appears quirky on the face of it, being dedicated to reconstructing a Song dynasty (950-1200) city. But it's actually quite a show. You can attend lavish recreations of Song-era romances, featuring acrobats and dance troupes, see traditional ceremonies taking place in reconstructed streets, and even enter a couple of "haunted houses" along the way. Then there's "mysterious street", which provides a range of illusions for visitors to negotiate. It all adds up to an offbeat mixture of history and fun.
Also known as "West Lake", the UNESCO-protected Xihu is exquisitely beautiful and full of attractions. Surrounded by mountains and dotted with islands, the lake is also home to a couple of breath-taking architectural highlights: the pagodas of Leifeng and Baochu. Leifeng dates back to 975 AD, when it was built to commemorate an imperial birth (although it was carefully rebuilt in 2002), while needle-like Baochu is even older, having gone up in 963. After admiring the pagodas, try to get over to Yuehu on the lake's west side, where every evening you can catch vivid performances of traditional Chinese theater.
Hangzhou's summer can be hot and very humid. Spring is a beautiful season to see the blossoms in the parks.
Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport has regular services across China and Southeast Asia. The 20-mile trip west into the city center will cost ¥90 by taxi or ¥20 by shuttle bus.
Hangzhou has good rail services from other Chinese cities such as Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The fare from Shanghai is ¥78.
Hangzhou sits at the center of an excellent highway network, with the G60 running northeast to Shanghai and the G25 running north to Nanjing.
The city has four bus stations, serving connections from north, south, east and west. Trains from Shanghai, for example, arrive at the north bus station and fares cost ¥58.
Hangzhou International Youth Hostel on Nanshan Road is close to the lake and has dorm room accommodation from ¥40. Double rooms are ¥200. The Wyndham Grand Plaza Royale West Lake Hangzhou Hotel on Fengqi Road offers international style luxury with rooms from ¥1,200.
Shangcheng District – is at the city's urban core and is close to the West Lake area.
Binjiang District – is a modern and fast-developing area across the Qiantang River from West Lake.
Xihu District – is next to West Lake and many other city attractions. It has some of the best hotels in the city.
Hangzhou has a good bus service, with local buses costing from ¥2 and dedicated tourist buses serving the main attractions from ¥3 (These bus numbers start with a 'Y').
Taxis are plentiful and drivers usually use the proper metered fare. The initial cost is ¥11 and then you will pay ¥4 per mile.
Remember you'll need a Chinese driving licence to drive in China. Car rental is around ¥190 per day, or you can rent a car with a driver.
Yan'an Road is best for fashion, while Wensan Road is the place for electronics. There is a nightly market at Pinghai Road that sells just about anything.
A quart of milk in Hangzhou will cost around ¥15.60 and a dozen eggs is ¥9.95.
Grandma's Kitchen has restaurants across the city serving good local food from ¥20. Lou Wai Lou sits on an island off Beishan Road and is renowned as perhaps the best restaurant in the city; try the West Lake sweet and sour fish or Beggar's chicken. Dinner costs around ¥120 per person.