Renowned for being one of the most scenic wonders of China, West Lake covers over 8 sq km (3 sq mi) and is situated in the center of Hangzhou.Embodying the quintessential beauty of classical Chinese landscaping, West Lake was actually a partial creation of an 8th century Hangzhou governor, who had the estuary of the Qiantang River dredged and landscaped. Over the years, more officials developed the lake, eventually creating a haven of green pagoda-topped hills, willow-lined shores and lotuses swaying in the breeze under the slow procession of creaky wooden boats patrolling the water. Throughout the centuries the lake has been a famed tourist destination and an inspiration for countless artists, poets and Chinese garden designers, and little has changed today at this 2011 UNESCO World Heritage List inductee.Surrounded by mountains on three sides and divided by three causeways (Sū Dī,苏堤; Bái Dī,白堤; and Yánggōng Dī,杨公堤), this freshwater lake is home to an array of gardens, artificial islands and pagodas, making it both a natural beauty spot and a historic relic. Since most of Hangzhou’s scenic spots and historical sites are located on or near the shore, the best way to get around is by bike, boat or on foot. Walking around the entire lake would easily eat up a day and you still wouldn’t have time to enjoy all of the many marvelous sights along the way. However, a leisurely stroll along any one of the causeways will lead you to a number of noteworthy spots. Alternatively, for ¥40 there is a special buggy cart that can whizz you around the lake, and the driver will act as a guide, commenting (in Mandarin) on the best bits and key points of interest. Another way to enjoy the lake is by hiring a tour boat, which can be found at piers all around the lake. Seeing the lake by boat is considered by many to be a necessary adventure while in Hangzhou.Listed below are West Lake’s best-known scenic spots. Please see the map for exact locations.
Su Causeway was named after the Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo, who was the most famous governor and cultural figure of Hangzhou. Consisting of embankments, weeping willows, and plum trees linked by six stone-arch bridges, this causeway is the longest of the three and makes for a pleasant walk along the lakes’ western edge.
To witness hundreds of lotus flowers sprouting up from the lake during the summer is like watching a painting come alive at the stroke of a brush. If you come in the summer, this remarkable scene is not to be missed.
Located at the west point of Bai Causeway and at the foot of Solitary Hill (Gū Shān; 孤山), this spot is considered to be the best place for a full view of West Lake’s scenery and is especially renowned for its moonlit scenery in autumn.
At the end of the Bai Causeway stands Duan Bridge (Duàn Qiáo; 断桥), which is famous for its wintertime panoramas, especially after snowfall when the bridge becomes partly hidden.
On a foggy day, the two tips of the South Peak and North Peak at West Lake rise above the clouds, providing a great natural spectacle.
This large park located on the northeast bank of West Lake is home to a variety of plants and flowers. It comes alive in spring when orioles take to singing in the willows that line the park.
Designed in a typical southern-style garden with flowers, pavilions and goldfish-filled pools, the shimmering harbor here stands out against a backdrop of trees and grass.
If you have a ¥1 note on hand, pull it out and compare it to the picture above. This famous spot is one of the best places to admire the full moon on a mid-autumn eve, a scene that is made even more exquisite by the candles placed inside the three mini stone pagodas that bob offshore. The small windows of the pagodas are covered in paper and are said to mimic the moon as they are lit up and reflected by the water.
Located at the foot of Nanping Hill (Nánpíng Shān; 南屏山) on the south bank of West Lake, Jingci Temple is known for its bells, which ring every day at 16:00. The temple was built more than 1,000 years ago, and today it’s one of the most prominent Buddhist temples in the city.
Built in 1552, this is the oldest pavilion in Hangzhou. A Qing emperor inscribed the words chóng’èr (虫二; endless love) on the 300-year-old stone arch found here.
This memorial is actually the final resting place for five kings of the Wuyue Kingdom. Find it south of the lake off of Nanshan Road.