Listed as a World Heritage Site in 2011 by UNESCO, West Lake is the only lake heritage site in China. UNESCO describes it as “has influenced garden design in the rest of China as well as Japan and Korea over the centuries” and “reflecting an idealized fusion between humans and nature”.
Located in the west of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, covering an area of 6.39km2 with a perimeter of about 15km, West Lake is divided into five parts by three causeways, and it comprises lots of pagodas, temples, pavilions, gardens, causeways, as well as artificial islands. The scenery of West Lake has always been praised by numerous Chinese poets and artists since ancient time for the perfection combination of stunning natural scenery and human culture.
Ten Scenes of West Lake refer to ten characteristic sceneries in the West Lake scenic spot. Formed at Southern Song Dynasty (1127 – 1279), most of the ten scenes are distributed around the lake, and some of them are on the lake. Though there are other editions of Ten Scenes of West Lake in later times, the Ten Scenes of West Lake in Southern Song Dynasty is still recognized by most people.
Dawn at the Su Causeway in Spring (苏堤春晓): named after the great litterateur in Nothern Song Dynasty (960 – 1127) – Su Dongpo to commemorate the his deeds on harnessing the West Lake. As the top scenery of the ten, the nearly 3 miles causeway is planted with many willows and peach trees. Spring is the best time to visit.
Lotus Swaying in the Breeze (曲院风荷): themed on observing lotus flower in summer, the park cultivated over a hundred of lotus varieties. Little bridges with different shapes across the pool and people walk on the bridge as if they were walking among the lotus flower.
Moon over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn (平湖秋月): located at the west of Bai Causeway, facing the outer lake of West Lake, there is a broad platform stretching out of the water and forms a wide vision, it’s the best place to enjoy moon in Mid-autumn Festival.
Lingering Snow over the Broken Bridge in Winter (断桥残雪): the bridge is located in the east of Bai Causeway. Standing on the bridgehead, you can see the panoramic view of the distant mountains and the nearby water. It’s the best place to appreciate the snow scenery of West Lake.
Orioles Singing in the Willows (柳浪闻莺): this park cultivated various willows, and in the March, the orioles will start singing in the willows, thus the name. Besides that, the southeast part of the park has been developed into a public entertainment place, and many locals do morning exercise and hold night activities in here.
Fish Viewing at the Flower Pond (花港观鱼): located in the south of Su Causeway, it’s a large park covering an area of more than 20 hectares. You can appreciate different flowers in different seasons in here.
Leifeng Pagoda in the Sunset (雷峰夕照): located in the south of West Lake, it’s famous for suppressing the White Lady – the heroine of Chinese folk love story “Legend of the White Snake”. The sunset glow on the pagoda is extremely beautiful here. It will cost ¥40 to climb on the pagoda.
Two Peaks Piercing the Clouds (双峰插云): two peaks refer to the South Peak ad North Peak of the two sides of West Lake. The two peaks face each other with a distance over 10 miles. Climbing on the peaks and you can see the panoramic view of West Lake.
Evening Bell Ringing at the Nanping Hill (南屏晚钟): the evening bell refers to the bronze bell in Jingci Temple. In the ancient times, when the bronze bell rang, the sound will echoed in the valley and spreaded far away, thus it’s reputed among the local people. ¥10 ticket for entering the temple.
Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon (三潭印月): there are three islets on the lake: Huxinting, Ruangongdun and Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon (now often refer to the whole area). The whole area is in a “田” shape, thus, forms a water landscape of “islets in the lake, and lake in the islets”. The scene here has been taken as the background for1 yuan banknote. You can take boat to travel, and the boat ticket and ticket for Huxinting is ¥45.
There is no difference between the rainy days or sunny days, or spring time or winter time, West Lake always shows its beauty to the public, just in different forms.
Spring is the best time to appreciate willows and peach flower. The weather at this time is warm but not hot, very comfortable. The ground is covered with light green with colorful flowers interspersing among it. Hangzhou’s spring is very short, about 60 days, thus March and April is a tourism peak.
Must-see sites: Dawn on Su Causeway in Spring, Fishing Viewing at the Flower Pond.
Summer is rather hot in Hangzhou, however, it’s great time to see various beautiful lotus flowers at this time. For those who want to find a tranquil place to avoid the hot waves, visit the old temple or the bamboo forests around the West Lake are definitely a pleased experience.
Must-see Sites: Curved Yard and Lotus Pool in Summer, Remnant Snow on the Bridge in Winter (also good place to appreciate lotus flower).
Autumn is the season of chrysanthemum and osmanthus flowers. Order a cup of Longjing Tea, smell the fragrance of asmanthus flower and see fall foliage, seek a tranquil time at here. Besides that, autumn is the best time to enjoy the full moon, especially in the Mid-autumn Festival. A full moon hangs over the peaceful lake, great place to experience this traditional Chinese festival.
Must-see sites: Moon over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn, Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon
Winter is a bit of bleak for West Lake, however, it’s very special for those who love snow scenery. Snowy days are always the carnival days for the whole city and the locals will flush into the West Lake, just to see the gorgeous and tranquil snowy scene. Besides that, winter is also great time for appreciating plum flowers, and tourists can also climb up Nanping Hill to ring the New Year bell in Jingci Temple.
Must-see sites: Remnant Snow on the Bridge in Winter, Evening Bell Ringing at the Nanping Hill, Gushan Hill
The picturesque West Lake has many little attractions spreading around the lake. If you plan to see all of them on foot, you will need one or more days. So it’s recommended to walk for some time, and then take bus or car to visit your favorite attractions. The best way and most popular way to travel West Lake is riding a bike. It’s a green transportation and fast than walking, and you don’t need to worry about the traffic jam. Another way travel on the lake is by boat.
Where to rent: (1) Hangzhou provide bicycle renting service to the public. Tourists, no matter Chinese or foreigners, can apply a public transportation card (normally called as “Z Card”) to rent bicycle with their ID Card. There are many service points in Hangzhou, especially around West Lake. It’s very convenient for tourists can return the bike at any of the service points. The rent fee is very cheap, free in one hour, ¥1 for 1 ~ 2 hours, ¥2 for 2 ~ 3 hours, and over 3 hours, you will pay ¥3 per hour. (2) There are many private bicycle renting shop near around the West Lake, it’s more expensive than the public bike, however, it provides tandems or bicycles with three seats. Notice, basically, you can only return the bike at the same place you rent them, except you rent in some large chain shops.
As for the classic route, please check our Top 5 Recommended Biking Routes in Hangzhou.
Cruise on West Lake is another good way to experience the beautiful scenery. There are many kinds of boats, including gaily-painted pleasure-boat, motor-driven boat, rowing boat, and tourists can also choose to row or drive the boat by themselves. Rowing boat is the most popular for there are only 6 or 4 people on the boat, and the rower will introduce sceneries along the cruise. Take a cruise boat is the only way to travel the islets on West Lake, like Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon. The cruise will take about 1 to 3 hours depending on the staying time of the boatman. Most cruise docks are located along Hubin Road and Moon over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn spot, and the price for the cruise is negotiable.
As for more boat types, routes & map info, please check our Hangzhou West Lake Boats.
The battery sightseeing car is suitable for people who are short of time, and it’s the fastest and most energy-saving way to travel, and the car is equipped with a guide or the driver will introduce the sceneries along the drive. The whole journey is 13.5km and takes about 70 minutes. ¥40 for one circle, and ¥10 for one section (the whole route has divided into four sections, and each section will charge ¥10). Once you get off, your ticket will be expired, and you need to buy a new ticket when you take another sightseeing car. There is no fixed platform for the sightseeing car, so you only need to wave to the driver and buy the ticket after you get on the car. It’s very flexible, and hiking tourist can use the car to travel among the attractions.
Route: Yongjin Gate - Orioles Singing in the Willows - Changqiao Park - Leifeng Pagoda - Su Causeway - Yuefei Temple - Xiling Bridge - Moon over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn - Broken Bridge - Hubin Road - Yongjin Gate. (The whole journey is for 70 minutes.)
Time: 8：30-17：00； 8：30-21：00 (in summer)
(1). No matter what kinds of camera you use, cellphone, pocket camera or SLRs, you can always find places to use them.
(2). Focal length: 28mm – 70mm can handle about 70% scenes, while for the rest scenery, you will use 70mm – 300mm more than the ultra-wide angle lens under 24mm.
(3). Photography on the West Lake, sky, mountain and lake are always framed in a same picture. So there is a big contrast between the light and shade, for the filter, ND is more useful than polarizer.
As the old saying in Hangzhou goes:” sunny lake is not beautiful as rainy lake, rainy lake is not beautiful as night lake, while night lake is not beautiful as snowy lake.” So the snowy West Lake is the best shooting time. However, snow West Lake can be shot only in winter, while rainy lake can be shot all year round, especially in the rainy season (June and July). If you want to shoot the flowers, spring is for peach flower, summer for lotus flower, autumn for osmantus flower and winter for plum.
(1). You can shoot the southern part of Su Causeway and the three islets in the lake from the top of Leifeng Pagoda. No need of a tripod, you can put your camera on the handrails of the pagoda.
(2). On the Baoshi Hill, to the west of Baocu Pagoda, there is a giant rock and you can climb on it to shoot the Remnant Snow on the Bridge in Winter, Bai Causeway and the scenery along Hubin Road. For your safety, you’d better slide down the rock after the shooting.
Learn more about Hangzhou West Lake Photography Guide with Best Locations & Best Time.
An old Chinese say once described: “just as there is paradise in heaven, there are Suzhou and Hangzhou on earth.” As the landmark of Hangzhou, West Lake provides numerous shooting materials for shutterbugs. Except for the lake itself, there are many pavilions, hills, bridges and green plants you can shoot.
Hangzhou Railway Station is very close to West Lake, about 5km, you can take public bus, subway or taxi to get there. While Hanghzou South Railway Station is one hour drive from West Lake, and you can take subway to get there (though you need to transfer for a few times).
West Lake is about 30km west to the airport, tourists can take the shuffle bus from the airport to get to Wulin Gate (2km from West Lake), then transfer to public transportation to get there; or tourists can take a taxi or private car, the drive will take about 1 hour.
Based on the temperature, January, April, July and October is the starting time of the winter, spring, summer and autumn in Hangzhou. January is the coldest time; remember to bring enough warm clothes. It will rains a lot from April to September, so make sure you take a raincoat with you.
There are many hotels around West Lake and the price is basically from ¥150 to ¥200. Choose according to your budget and preference. Stay around West Lake Avenue is your best choice for its convenient transportation.
During the show, travelers may have the chance enjoy “Spring River in the Flower Moon Night”, “Dance of Picking Tea Leaves”, “A Tale of Chinese Romeo and Juliet”, “High Mountains and Flowing Waters”, “Ballet Swan Lake”, “Mu County and I”, “Moon Light”, “The Unforgettable Jasmine Flower” and “Ode to Joy”.
Location: No.82 Beishan Road, Xihu District, Hangzhou (the opposite of Yue Temple)
Ticket: 350 Yuan per person for ordinary ticket; 500 Yuan per person for VIP seat; 2000 Yuan/1500 Yuan/1000Yuan per person for luxury seat in section A/B/C.
Time: every night at 19:30, 21:00 (newly released and it may do some change according to the real situation.)
Get to there: Buses No.7, 52, 27, 118, Y10, 103 and more can take you to “Impression of West Lake” ticket office.
>>Check more about Top 7 Impression Shows in China
The 126-meter-long West Lake Musical Fountain takes full advantage of the vast West Lake as background that travelers can enjoy the amazing musical fountain show at the fixed time every night. Rhymed with dulcet music, the fountain is dancing over the quiet lake with willows waving in the wind.
Every night, travelers can enjoy three songs about West Lake, Chinese and Western classical music and pop music, like “The Butterfly Lovers”, “Once Every a Thousand Years”, “Impressions of the West Lake”, “Tea Picking Dance”, “Love My China”, “Good Time”, “Blue Danube”, “My Heart Will Go On”, “The Power of Love”, “Scarborough Fair”, “Welcome Symphony”, “The Magnificent Seven”, “The Prayer”, “Time to Say Goodbye”… >> Check more details about West Lake musical fountain show.
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