West Lake, Hangzhou, China
West Lake, Hangzhou, China.

Hangzhou can be found near the southeastern coast of the Chinese mainland on the southern branch of the Yangtze River Delta on the west end of the Hangzhou Bay.  With a huge land area covering over 16,000 square meters, Hangzhou is the sixth biggest metropolitan circle in the world and has a population of almost 9 million permanent residents.  The city is the capital of the Zhejiang province and as such is a hub for politics, culture and tourism.  Historically, Hangzhou was an epicenter of trade, culture, and also the location where the biggest man-made waterway, the Grand Canal, turns north towards Beijing.  Marco Polo described the metropolis as being “the most magnificent and dignified city in the world”.  Today, Hangzhou retains its illustrious status and as it is easily accessible from Shanghai (a mere few hours by train) it regularly attracts huge amounts of both Chinese and Western tourists.

Hangzhou has a wide variety of desirable locations to visit and is a popular travel destination throughout the year.  One of the most widely recognized land marks in the city is the West Lake.  The lake is 5 sq kilometers and can be found in the center of the city.  Many hotels, restaurants and cafes can be found on the pleasant boulevards surrounding the lake.  Hangzhou’s most famous spot to eat is the restaurant Lou Wai Lou, and can be found on the northern banks of the West Lake.  Visitors should try one of Hangzhou’s renowned local dish Beggar’s chicken which is a whole chicken cooked inside a clay shell.  Apart from eating on the Lake’s shores water shows, relaxing at one of the many lakeside pavilions and boat rides to one of the West Lake’s islands are all popular activities during fine weather.  The Grand Canal is another fascinating facet of Hangzhou’s culture with boat rides being an excellent way to experience the canals scenery and traditional water towns.  A mere 5km from the West Lake can be found the Xixi Wetland National Park a unique urban area that combines Hangzhou’s distinctive farming culture and nature.  The site is also easy to reach as there is a free bus service from the West Lake to the Wetland Park.

As well as these relaxing and unique natural sites Hangzhou also has an active and exciting nightlife.  Clubs and bars are popular throughout the city however Nan Shan road is one of the popular places for visitors and locals to get together over a few drinks.  The city’s clubbing scene is vibrant with clubs like G-Plus, Club Max and LA Disco being some of the most popular places to go and dance through the night.  One of China’s best art universities The China Academy of Art is situated in Hangzhou and puts on exhibitions regularly.  The city is also full of small independent galleries making Hangzhou a good place to educate oneself on the China’s emerging art scene.

Hangzhou is a highly recommended place to visit in China; as the saying goes, Shang you tiantang, xia you suhang – “above there is heaven, below on earth there is Suzhou and Hangzhou.”

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