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Travel Channel: The ‘Heavenly’ Hangzhou

Have you heard of Zhejiang province’s Hangzhou City? Personally, I wasn’t aware of ‘Hangzhou’ so it was naturally not in my choices when it comes to places that I want to visit in China. I only learned about Hangzhou when my father decided that we would be going to Hangzhou with my grandparents during the summer. The idea of traveling to a place I didn’t even know existed made me a bit skeptical as to what Hangzhou has to offer and why it would be better than traveling to other major cities in China such as Shanghai or Beijing.

The twinkling lights and busy streets of Shanghai as well as the wondrous tourist attractions of Beijing are beautiful but Hangzhou has made me utterly speechless. In case you haven’t heard of Hangzhou, it is an ancient city and capital of China during the Southern Song dynasty. As it is the previous capital, it is also known as one of the Seven Ancient Capitals of China which makes it an important tourist destination for China’s history and culture. Hangzhou is also described as a beautiful city with numerous “heavenly” attractions. They even have a saying that goes, 上有天堂, 下有苏杭。(Up above is paradise, down below are Suzhou and Hangzhou.)

Hangzhou had claimed its ‘heavenly’ reputation with its two World Heritage Sites West Lake and the Grand Canal. West Lake is the symbol of Hangzhou which is regarded as one of the most beautiful sights in China. It was first recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site back in 2011. It is a perfect combination of temples, pagodas, pavilions, gardens, and ornamental trees, and artificial islands. The Grand Canal is the longest canal / artificial river in the world at a length of more than 2,000 kilometers that runs from Beijing in the north to Hangzhou in the south! It was recognized by UNESCO in 2014 and was added to the World Heritage List! If you do happen to travel to Hangzhou, make sure to ride the boat along the canal to experience a quick run-through of the country’s beautiful history!

If you love teas and silk, then Hangzhou should probably be your next destination. Hangzhou is the birthplace of Dragon Well (Longjing) tea, which is the most famous green tea in China and ranked as first among China’s top 10 teas. You can even join a 1-Day Dragon Well Tea Culture Tour. As for silk, Hangzhou is also the historic center of China’s silk production and is regarded as the “Silk City.” Hangzhou silk is guaranteed soft and luxurious which makes one definitely feel like royalty!

Now we know the history of Hangzhou, here are 12 places to visit in this Travel Channel’s The ‘Heavenly’ Hangzhou!

1) West Lake

Photo Courtesy to The China Guide

West Lake is Hangzhou’s most popular tourist attraction. Visiting the West Lake will always show its beauty no matter the weather or time of the day. So walk, bike, or boat around the West Lake to relax in China’s classic gardens. The picturesque view of West Lake is so iconic that it’s even printed on the one yuan note! It is even announced on CNN as one of the 12 Superb Sunset Spots Around The World. The best part is that we don’t need to pay an entrance fee to see this beautiful heritage site! Tip: The best views for photos in the West Lake are in its Broken Bridge, Su Causeway, and Yanggong Causeway.

Two of the three famous live shows in Hangzhou are actually performed at the West Lake area: Impression West Lake and West Lake Night.

Impression West Lake: This live show is an open-air night show at the beautiful West Lake, with music, lights, and dance. It tells a beautiful story of two lovers.

West Lake Night: This live show is performed at Dongpo Theater, on the northwest side of West Lake. People say that this is a sensational performance that they have never seen or heard before.

2) Grand Canal

Photo Courtesy to China Daily

China has two main river systems: the Yellow River and the Yangtze River. The Grand Canal connects the two Rivers systems. Locals were telling us that of all the provinces and cities in China, Hangzhou was the favorite place of emperors from different dynasties because of its unique beauty and tranquility. For them to be able to go to Hangzhou, emperors in different dynasties would ride their ship along the Grand Canal and wear civilian clothes together with their soldiers in order to blend in with the commoners. Today, you can even ride a boat along the Grand Canal to see the Emperor’s ship parked there!

Photo of an emperor’s ship parked in the Grand Canal

3) Song Dynasty Town Theme Park

Photo Courtesy to Travel China Guide

Song Dynasty Town is the largest theme park in Hangzhou featuring the cultural characteristics of the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 AD), and also the first theme park built in Zhejiang. With Wuyun Mountain in the north and West Lake to its northeast, Song Dynasty Town is on the northern bank of the Qiantang River. Here you can watch one of the three famous live shows in Hangzhou which is The Romance of the Song Dynasty. It is a large panoramic show, based on the historical stories and ancient myths of Hangzhou city, with dancing and acrobatics. The show has been performed over 17,000 times, and more than 50,000,000 people have enjoyed it. It is praised by overseas media as one of the world’s three most famous shows, together with the O Show in Las Vegas and the Moulin Rouge in Paris. Locals say that if you went to Hangzhou and missed this show, then it would be as if you have not been to Hangzhou at all. This is because they believe that the show is not a mere performance but is a symbol of the city that represents their culture and history. 

4) Nanxun Water Town

Photo Courtesy to Trip Advisor

Nanxun Water Town is said to be the most original and picturesque water town that is filled with a tranquil ambiance. Walking alongside in this place, you will feel like you are walking through China’s past.

5) Hu Xue Yan’s Former Residence

Photo Courtesy to Visit Our China

Hu Xueyan was one of the richest and most famous businessmen in the late Qing Dynasty. The residence started its construction in the year 1872 and was completed in the year 1875. The residence occupies an area of 5,815 square meters and it is said to have cost a large sum of money. This represents not only the wealth and success of Hu Xueyan, but also it is an outstanding representative example of a traditional Chinese garden-style house.

6) Eight Diagram Field

Photo Courtesy to Alexis Jetsets

The Eight Diagram Field is split into 8 ‘plots’ is the site of the palaces of emperors during the Southern Song Dynasty, when Hangzhou was the capital of China. The field has a symmetrical octagonal shape with a mixture of trees on different plots which from above forms a ‘Yin and Yang’ in the middle.

7) Lingyin Temple

Photo Courtesy to China Tour Advisors

Lingyin Temple is one of the largest temples I’ve ever been to. It is a temple in the forest, with a history of about 1,800 years. As it is one of the largest and most famous Buddhist temples in China, Lingyin contains a large collection of Buddhist treasures and relics which were significant in the development of Buddhism in the region. Despite being a large temple, each detail in its structures are intricately designed and the walk up to the temple is paved with different carvings that would make you forget all about the modern city.

8) Qinghefang Old Street

Photo Courtesy to China Tour Advisors

Qinghefang Old Street (清河坊) is a good place to experience the life of Old Hangzhou, because it is the epitome of historic Hangzhou. It is a great place for shopping, eating, and sightseeing. You can even see well-preserved old buildings, explore interesting stores, and buy some souvenirs.

9) Xixi Wetlands

Photo Courtesy to Easy Tour China

Xixi National Wetland Park is known as the largest national wetland park in China, located at the west part of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, a total of 1,150 hectares. The park houses six main watercourses, among which are scattered various ponds, lakes and swamps. The wetlands used to be home to fishermen but as the city grew, most of the fishermen moved out while some stayed behind to show off this amazing place to tourists and locals. You can even ride a fishing boat and try to fish for your lunch!

10) Chenghuang Pavilion

Photo Courtesy to shallwe0317 on Instagram

This is not just a stunning piece of Chinese architecture but also holds one of the best views of the city and of West Lake!

11) Hangzhou’s Business District

Photo Courtesy to Hand Luggage Only

You might be wondering why a business district is included in the list. This is because Hangzhou’s Business District is different from the others! This place houses the beautiful Golden Sun building. In fact, from a bird’s eye view, the building next to it looks like the moon therefore locals call it “the sun and the moon.”

12) Gongchen Qiao Bridge

Photo Courtesy to Hand Luggage Only

With rivers running through the whole city, there are numerous old popular bridges in the city but the most popular bridge is the Gongchen Qiao Bridge since this is the tallest pedestrian bridge. Don’t forget to visit the Straight Street which is right next to the bridge! This is where you will see one of the most traditional looking areas in the city. This is the place for you if you wish to feel the old school China. It’s also a great spot to have a drink or a meal to eat!

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