There’s a reason why the city of Hangzhou is one of China’s most-visited and most prosperous cities. It’s a gorgeous and exciting mix of fascinating history, stellar and unique food, stunning sites, and much more. Together, they make this 2,200-year-old Asian city along the Qiantiang River a true treasure trove for travelers looking for places to visit in Hangzhou, China.

Hangzhou boasts a long and interesting history that is sure to entice history buffs from around the world. It was one of the Seven Ancient Capitals of China and was also a capital of the Southern Song Dynasty. Famed explorer Marco Polo even passed through the city in the 13th century. He referred to it as “the finest and most splendid city in the world,” a description many believe is still apt today. These are the 5 places you must visit in Hangzhou, China.

West Lake

When you visit Hangzhou, you must visit the city’s most prominent attraction, West Lake. This freshwater lake is divided into five sections by three causeways. It’s roughly two miles long and just under two miles wide, and covers 1,580 acres. Throughout history, artists and Chinese garden designers have been inspired by the lake’s natural beauty. In 2011, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The lake is absolutely breathtaking. Along its shores, you’ll find magnificent temples and gardens and beautiful pagodas with gorgeous, vegetation-covered mountains as their backdrop. While you’re there, I recommend taking a ferry boat to Fairy Islet, which is home to another lake and offers unforgettable views of the natural landscape. Add in the gardens and bridges, and you have a mind-blowingly beautiful site that is absolutely one of the best places to visit in Hangzhou, China.

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Chenghuang Pavilion

If you happen to look up at any point during your exploration of Hangzhou, your eyes will likely be drawn to a beautiful, eye-catching building atop a hill in the middle of the city. This is Chenghuang Pavilion, which stands at the top of Wushan Hill. To get there, you’ll have to walk a path up the hill that will take you past intriguing sites such as Dongyue Temple and Medicine God Pavilion.

At the end of the path is Chenghuang Pavilion, also known as City God Pavilion. While I was there, I learned that the pavilion is more associated with Chinese folk religion than Buddhism or Taoism. It’s a quiet and serene location that is high enough to offer incredible views of both the city and West Lake. There’s seating up there, so you can relax with some snacks or a cup of tea as you admire the view. It’s easily one of my favorite places to visit in Hangzhou, China!

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Lingyin Temple

Hangzhou has seen an unfathomable amount of history in its time. There are many places around the city to investigate it further, but my favorite is Lingyin Temple. This Buddhist house of worship was founded by an Indian monk named Huili in 328 AD. The temple, whose name translates to Temple of the Soul’s Retreat, is best known for its wondrous rock carvings.

When you visit Lingyin Temple, I highly recommend taking the time to explore its grounds. There, you’ll find a whopping 470 Buddhas, which were painstakingly carved into its many rocks and caves. The earliest of these carvings was created in 951 AD! One of the most prominent on-site carvings is a massive laughing Buddha, which also happens to be the largest Maitreya Buddha, or “laughing Buddha” in all of China!

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Green Tea Restaurant

If you’re a foodie visiting Hangzhou, there are many great options. You can try lots of exotic fare at Grandma’s Home near West Lake, but if you’re looking for my favorite meal in Hangzhou, you have to visit Green Tea Restaurant. Not only is the food exceptional, but the restaurant also looks out over a gorgeous pond, creating a top-notch dining experience.

As you’d expect, the restaurant’s green tea is unreal—some of the best I’ve ever had in my life! Enjoy some alongside their fatty but tender pork, which they cook with sake! The caramelized exterior and buttery, juicy interior is the stuff dreams are made of! I also suggest the spicy cabbage and sweet and sour fish soup with ginger, mushrooms, and bamboo. But the main event is their pork belly, which was fatty and flavorful and doused in a sauce that was good enough to drink!

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Hefang Street

To further explore Hangzhou’s history, I recommend checking out the pedestrian-friendly Hefang Street, which is roughly 800 years old. The street is a fantastic spot to try Chinese street food and local spirits, including baijiu. Baijiu is a strong but flavorful spirit that contains more than 20% alcohol. I recommend the peach flavor, but the rose flavor is also really tasty!

Elsewhere along the street, you’ll be able to try lots of skewered treats, including pork, fish balls, chicken with wild mushrooms, wontons, and black mushrooms. They’re mouthwateringly good, but don’t fill up on them, as you can also try delicious beef skewers, durian cakes, mochis, Szechwan beef and pork jerky, and spicy tofu steaks with chilies, chives, and radishes. Every food I tried cost less than $2 USD, so it’s a great place to fill up for cheap. It’s why it’s one of my favorite places to visit in Hangzhou, China!

Conclusion

Whenever I visit China, I always find myself swept away by its history. Whether I’m walking the Great Wall or exploring the Forbidden City, there’s something about this country’s history that never fails to capture my heart. Hangzhou is very much the same. Between West Lake, Lingyin Temple, and all of the other incredible sites scattered around the city, Hangzhou is a true gem. It is a traveler’s dream, and a city I hope you’ll take the time to explore for yourself someday. Book a trip to Hangzhou today to see why it has enticed visitors for centuries!

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