“Hangzhou is without a doubt the finest and most splendid city in the world” – Marco Polo
We wonder what Hangzhou was like in the late 13th century… While we personally don’t agree that Hangzhou is the finest city in the world today, the capital of the Zhejiang province has proved to be a city worth visiting. After all, Hangzhou is the Silk Capital of China, Tea Capital of China and also the Silicon Valley of China with the world’s biggest bike sharing system!
Must-see attraction: West Lake
Must-eat local specialty: Dong Po Pork
Best period to visit: March or April
Unique souvenirs to buy: Silk, Longjing tea
Just an hour bullet train ride away from Shanghai, Hangzhou is an idyllic day trip destination. P.s. Do book your tickets online in advance (more information about this at the end of this post). It is best to visit Hangzhou during March or April – for this is when you can catch the Cherry Blossoms! However, please do not expect a view as spectacular as the one in Japan.
This is a tried-and-tested 2D1N Hangzhou walking itinerary that worked perfectly well for us. Each featured place is within walking distance to the next featured attraction/eatery.
The total ‘damage’ (including lodging + return bullet train tickets + two-way taxi fare from the railway station to our Airbnb) was only approximately S$115 per pax! Who said travelling was expensive?! No, we didn’t starve ourselves and were in fact, very stuffed from all the good food.
Grandma’s Home (外婆家) – Savour Local Hangzhou Dishes
Grandma’s Home (外婆家) is a successful restaurant chain, which specialises in Hangzhou cuisine. There are currently 80+ Grandma’s Home outlets across China, but the outlet at West Lake is by far the most popular. Long queues are an everyday occurrence (especially during mealtimes), but you might be able to score a table quickly if you were to visit at odd timings.
We had lunch at Grandma’s Home (外婆家) after 3pm & didn’t have to wait for a table at all. Prices are very affordable and it’s best to order a few dishes to share. We ordered about 8 dishes and a few beverages and our total bill amounted to only RMB219 (only S$11 per pax for a feast)! Our personal favourite would be the Steamed Shrimp with Garlic and Cellophane Noodles (RMB35).
The Dong Po Pork (RMB45) – a Hangzhou delicacy named after Chinese poet Su Dongpo – is certainly worth a try. But do be warned that the health conscious might be put off by how fatty and salty the meat tastes. A thick cut of pork belly (mind you, more than 50% of the tender meat actually consists of wobbly fat!) is pan-fried and then red cooked with bamboo and salted fish.
Tip: Order the Steamed Shrimp with Garlic and Cellophane Noodles and Dong Po Pork
Address: 3 Hubin Rd, HuBin ShangQuan, Shangcheng Qu, Hangzhou Shi, China, 310000
West Lake – The river is massive, so do plan ahead on what to see
No trip to Hangzhou is complete until you have visited the iconic West Lake.
The West Lake is huge and home to dozens of attractions. Visitors can either cycle or stroll along the river. We ended up walking and started our leisure walk from Jixianting (集贤亭) – located across the road from Grandma’s Home.
Our short 1.7-km walk had us visiting these various photo spots (they are all pinned in a Google map at the end of this post) in chronological order: Jixianting (集贤亭), Xihu Tiandi (西湖天地), Yongjin Bridge (涌金桥), Gongdefang (功德坊) and Orioles Singing in the Willows (柳浪闻莺). We visited in early April and managed to see Cherry Blossoms at a few of these stop points. Oh we also dropped by Xihu Tiandi (西湖天地) for a coffee break.
Tip: Start your walk from Jixianting (集贤亭) & end it at Orioles Singing in the Willows (柳浪闻莺).
Xiexie Cafe – Stunning Glass Café In Xihu Tiandi
We chanced upon Xiexie Cafe when we were exploring Xihu Tiandi (西湖天地). It turns out that this gorgeous glasshouse is Xiexie Cafe’s third outlet and the other two Xiexie Cafes are just as beautiful (see here and here).
Xiexie Cafe is designed by Japanese firm kooo architects and we love every aspect of this creative inviting space; we couldn’t take our eyes off its floor-to-ceiling glass windows interlaced with wooden panels.
While the coffee was mediocre and pricey (we didn’t try any food there), the cafe’s architecture itself makes the trip worthwhile. Do also check out the surrounding European-inspired bars and restaurants!
Address: 10C-1, Xihu Tiandi, 147 Nanshan Rd
Wushan Tianfeng – Watch The Locals Dance at the foot of Wushan
We embarked on a short walk from Oriole Singing in the Willows (柳浪闻莺) to Qinghefang Ancient Street and were unexpectedly greeted by a local community of Chinese dancers along Hefang Street. Judging from the dance’s synchronisation, it seems like the ladies practice here regularly.
While we aren’t sure if the dance ‘party’ takes place at the foot of the hill on a daily basis, what we do know is that a restored majestic-looking temple called City God Pavilion (城隍阁) aka Cheng Huang Pagoda is perched atop. We didn’t hike up, but the view of the pagoda from below was mesmerising.
Tip: This place is only a 10-minute walk away from Oriole Singing in the Willows, West Lake.
Qing He Fang Ancient Street – One of Hangzhou’s Oldest Streets
As its name implies, Qinghefang Ancient Street is one of Hangzhou’s oldest street; the adjoining buildings were constructed during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Unlike our advice for West Lake, we say go to Qinghefang Ancient Street with an open mind and just let your senses guide you! The sheer number of shops located in this protected district will keep you busy all night.
Qinghefang Ancient Street is without a doubt touristy, but we loved every single part of it. The pedestrian street is lined with endless eateries and boutique retails. Help yourselves to free samples of the famous Longjing Tea, bring home handcrafted biscuits, purchase cheap Cashmere scarves, shop for postcards and treat yourselves to endless yummy street food.
There’s always a surprise discovery located at every nook and cranny, so go on and explore!
Tip: Roam around Qinghefang Ancient Street and try as many snacks you can for dinner.
Perfect Coffee – Quick coffee run before returning to Shanghai
We stumbled upon Perfect Coffee the following morning along Central Zhong Shan Road and wow, what a pleasant surprise!
Do head upstairs and check out the specialty coffee shop’s decors. We felt like we just trespassed a private library that nobody knows about. The cafe’s ambience + free wifi is great for chilling and working. Shoutout to digital nomads: this could be your new hideout!
Back to the coffee – it wasn’t perfect and was very expensive. Well, it seems like coffee in China – especially in ‘hipster-looking cafes’ – are ALL ridiculously costly anyway… So if you were wondering, a mocha and a cappuccino from Perfect Coffee will set you back RMB38 and RMB32 respectively (that’s about S$7.70 and S$6.50). Yep, crazy huh.
Tip: The cafe offers complimentary wifi
Address: No. 174 Zhong Shan Zhong Lu, Shangcheng Qu, Hangzhou Shi, Zhejiang Sheng, China
Airbnb Accommodation – Cosy Loft with a 100-inch projector
This two-storey Airbnb apartment’s location was ideal. It was within walking distance to both Qinghefang Ancient Street and West Lake, hence allowing us to walk from attraction to attraction. How convenient!
The place was so comfy, the girls almost refused to leave the place upon checking in. The living room has a pretty sick 100-inch curtain projector (check out the unit’s official listing here) and the loft has two double beds located upstairs. There was definitely more than enough space for the four of us.
The downsides? The relatively tiny toilet. Do also note that the host communicates in mandarin, so those who are not proficient in Chinese might face some communication issues. P.s. We only paid a total of S$141/night (inclusive of cleaning and service fees). That’s significantly cheaper than staying at any hotels for 4 pax in the same location!
Tip: New to Airbnb? Sign up via this link and get S$50 off your first Airbnb booking!
Address: 149 Xi Hu Da Dao, Cheng Zhan ShangQuan, Shangcheng Qu, China, 310000
How to Get to Hangzhou from Shanghai – Bullet Train
Do purchase your tickets in advance via Ctrip and head to the selected railway station early (either Shanghai Station or Shanghai Hongqiao Station – yes, these 2 stations are DIFFERENT). Ticket prices, journey duration and departure timings are displayed online.
Caution: You might risk having to stand throughout the trip if you buy your tickets too late or worse, miss your desired ride.
Despite travelling domestically, you will still need a valid identification card. Bring along your booking reference and head to the railway ticket office to collect your tickets.
Note that foreigners are not allowed to pick up tickets from the automated machine and the queues at the ticket office are AWFULLY LONG (and it wasn’t even a weekend or public holiday)!
You + your luggage would also have to go through security checkpoints. Hence, it’s best to get there 2 hours in advance (to minimise the likelihood of missing the train), so that you can get through security, pick up the tickets, buy some snacks and board the bullet train in peace. The train stations are HUGE and it can get really confusing when almost everything is in mandarin.
Tip: Foreigners should keep an eye on the time as almost all announcements are in mandarin.
China is massive. It is such a shame that foreigners tend to describe Chinese cities as “all the same” due to the lack of understanding. From culture, food, language, transportation to weather, each city in China is inherently different. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to check out more places – but do leave a comment if you have any favourite spots to share :)
Below is a map of all the places in Hangzhou that we have featured:
You can also download the free itinerary in pdf document and word document. Feel free to tweak it to your own preferences.
Disclaimer: We embarked on this 2D1N trip to Hangzhou in mid April 2017 & are not liable for any inaccuracies. Do email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you spot any outdated information.