Picture Perfect

Picturesque Hangzhou boasts ancient relics and world-class accommodations

By: By Mark Edward Harris

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Hangzhou is serviced by the Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport, with direct international flights between Japan, Thailand, Korea and Singapore. Regional routes include Hong Kong and Macau, and numerous domestic destinations are accessible.

For North American visitors, the most direct route to Hangzhou is to fly into Shanghai’s Pudong airport with direct bus service from the airport to the city. There is also train service from Shanghai (travel time is approximately two hours), as well as day and overnight tours to Hangzhou that can be booked through Shanghai’s major hotels. There are many trains going to or passing through Hangzhou from Shanghai.


Shangri-La Hangzhou
78 Beishan Road
310007 Hangzhou, China

Hyatt Regency Hangzhou
28 Hu Bin Road
310006 Hangzhou, China

Sofitel Hangzhou Westlake
333 West Lake Avenue
310002 Hangzhou, China



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Scroll down for info on where to stay in Hangzhou and how to get there

Hangzhou is home to West Lake (Xi Hu), one of the most beautiful places in China. As an old saying goes “In heaven there is paradise, on earth, Hangzhou.” The city of 7 million is one of China’s most popular domestic tourist destinations yet is often overlooked by foreign visitors. This is unfortunate, especially given its proximity to the often visited and heralded Shanghai, located just 100 miles or so to the northeast.

Hangzhou was once the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty. // (c) Mark Edward Harris
Hangzhou was once the capital
of the Southern Song Dynasty.
(c) Mark Edward Harris

There have been notable exceptions, however, and those foreigners who have experienced Hangzhou and its environs have not been disappointed. Marco Polo visited in the late 13th century and wrote that the city was “beyond dispute, the finest and the noblest in the world.” Perhaps, because of his home in Venice, he was especially drawn to the beautifully carved stone bridges.

The beauty of Hangzhou does not end at the shores of West Lake. In a narrow valley, northwest of the lake, is Lingyin Temple, one of the 10 most famous Buddhist temples in China and a leading center for research on Chinese Buddhist culture. The peaceful natural surroundings encourage a feeling of serenity and contemplation.

The main temple that can be seen today is a result of a restoration that began in 1974 following the Cultural Revolution. The buildings and pagodas of the sprawling Lingyin Temple complex date from the Southern Song, Ming and Tang dynasties. A lunch break can be taken at the Ling Yin Vegetarian Restaurant, which offers a large variety of tasty Chinese vegetarian dishes.

Throughout the city of Hangzhou, there are several specialty museums including the Chinese National Silk Museum and the Tea Museum. For history buffs, the Hangzhou History Museum is a must see.

Hangzhou was the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty from the early 12th century until the Mongolian invasion under Kublai Khan of 1276. These unwelcome visitors captured the city three years before the final collapse of the empire. The capital of the new Yuan Dynasty was established in Khanbaliq (Beijing) yet Hangzhou remained an important port until the middle of the Ming Dynasty when its harbor silted up.

Mongolian invaders aside, the city welcomes visitors, and has built or refurbished many world-class accommodation options — most with spa facilities and business centers.

The Sofitel Hangzhou Westlake, with 200 modern rooms, many with views of the lake, opened in 2003 and is located on the corner of Westlake Avenue and Nanshan Road, a short walk to the lake. The hotel is surrounded by restaurants, a shopping center and a number of nightlife spots.

Opened in 2004, the Hyatt Regency Hangzhou has 390 luxury guestrooms including 34 garden rooms. The hotel, which fronts West Lake, is part of a prestigious development comprised of a residential complex and a department store.

The Shangri-La Hotel, Hangzhou, located on the north shore of West Lake, overlooks Solitary Hill Island and the historic Xiling Bridge. The hotel has 382 architecturally distinctive guestrooms and suites all equipped with broadband Internet access. Its health club and recreational services are considered the region’s finest.

These hotels offer rental bike opportunities to their clientele. Whether one pedals, paddles or strolls around West Lake, the breathless scenery will make it obvious why Hangzhou deserves its rightful spot as an international travel destination.