Why Visit West Lake
Listed as a World Heritage Site in 2011 by UNESCO (China's World Heritage Site Lists), 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 6.39 s.q.km. with a perimeter of about 15 km, 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
Ten Scenes of West Lake refer to ten characteristic sceneries in the West Lake scenic spot. Formed at Southern Song Dynasty (A.D. 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 Northern Song Dynasty (A.D. 960 – 1127) – Su Dongpo to commemorate 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. (30-50 minutes by foot)
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. Lotus flowers bloom in July and August and is most beautiful during late July. (1.5 hour around by food)
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. (walking on Bai Causeway needs about 1 hour)
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. (about 20 minutes)
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. (about 1 hour)
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. Flowers and fishes there give the most stunning colors of the park and pleasant for a simple walk. (40-60 minutes)
Leifeng Pagoda in the Sunset (雷峰夕照): located in the south of West Lake, Leifeng Pagoda is 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. The best place to admire the scene is Xiying Pagoda outside of Changqiao Park. (about 1 hour)
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. The peak summits appear above the clouds in spring and autumn, which looks like a fairyland from a distance. 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 at the foot of Nanping Hill. In the ancient times, when the bronze bell rang, the sound will echoed in the valley and spread 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 a boat to travel, and the boat ticket and ticket for Huxinting is ¥45. (1-1.5 hours)
Recommended West Lake Tour Packages
How to Travel West Lake
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 a 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 faster than walking, and you don’t need to worry about the traffic jam. Also, you can take a boat to admire the sightseeing from the lake and enjoy different fun.
Where to Bike: apart from Su Causeway (Nanshan Road to Kuahongqiao Dock) and Bai Causeway (Beishan Raod to Mingjianlou), other regions around West Lake are allowed for biking.
When to Bike: You can enjoy biking around West Lake most time of a day and months of a year. Morning and dinner hours are recommended with less crowded. However, walking hours after dinner and tourist peak season especially during National Day, Labor’s Day, etc. are better to avoid.
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 the 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.
Check more about Top 5 Recommended Biking Routes in Hangzhou
West Lake Cruise & Boat
Cruise on West Lake is another good way to experience the beautiful scenery. There are many kinds of boats, including gaily-painted motored 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 motored 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.
Check more about Hangzhou West Lake Boats Types, Tickets, Time & Tips
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 13.5 km 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)
Walking to enjoy the sceneries of West Lake needs time and energy. So you can choose some sections for sightseeing.
Route 1 (West and north parts of West Lake): Su Causeway - Gushan Hill - Bai Causeway - Broken Bridge (4.5 kilometers; 2-3 hours with sightseeing)
Route 2 (South and east parts of West Lake): Fish Viewing at the Flower Pond - Su Causeway - Leifeng Pagoda - Changqiao Park - Orioles Singing in the Willows - West Lake Museum (3 kilometers; 1.5 -2 hours with sightseeing)
Recommended West Lake Tour Packages:
How to Get to West Lake
West Lake is rightly situated in the downtown of Hangzhou City. There are many convenient public means of transportation taking you to West Lake including subway, public bus, taxi, private car, etc. But, since West Lake is Large, you need to know which specific spots you want to visit in advance. The nearest metro station is Longxiangqiao Station (Metro Line 1) that is 5 minutes’ walking to Hubin Road, and Dingan Road Station (Metro Line 1) 15 minutes’ walking to Nanshan Road and Yongjin Park.
Private Transfer Service from China Discovery
If you want to get rid of hustle of public transportation and troublesome navigation, you can book a private tour package which covers sightseeing, dining and transfer from us. Our local tour guide and driver will escort you to West Lake with speed and convenience, and take care of all the details. You just need to focus on sightseeing.
From Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport
West Lake is about 27 km west to Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport, which usually needs about 1 hour to go by car.
By Airport Shuttle Bus
Tourists can take the shuttle bus from the airport to get to Wulin Gate for about 2 hours (2 km from West Lake), and then take a taxi there for about 8-15 minutes;
You can take Hangzhou Metro Line 7 from the airport to Jianshe Third Road Station, transfer to Metro Line 2 to Fengqi Road Station and then walk about 15 minutes there. Such a way needs about 1.5 hours.
From Hangzhou East Railway Stations
Hangzhou East Railway Station most used for Hangzhou high speed trains is about 6.5 km from West Lake, which usually takes about 0.5 hour by car. Besides, you can take Hangzhou Metro Line 1 from the train station to Fengqi Road Station or Longxiangqiao Station and walk there, which needs totally about 30-40 minutes.
From Hangzhou Railway Stations
Hangzhou Railway Station is the closest train station to West Lake and only about 2.3 km away, and it usually needs 15 minutes to go by car. Visitors can take Hangzhou Metro Line 1 to Dingan Road Station or Longxiangqiao Station and walk 5-15 minutes there. The entire transfer needs about 10-20 minutes.
Best Time & Season to Visit West Lake
No matter in rainy days or sunny days, or spring time or winter time, West Lake always shows its beauty to the public, just in different forms. You can visit West Lake all around the year, however, to avoid too many crowds, you are highly recommended not go during peak tourist periods around Labor’s Day Holiday or National Day Holiday.
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 a 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 osmanthus 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, a 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 a 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
Check more about Hangzhou Weather & Seasons
Recommended West Lake Tour Packages
Lingyin Temple with a long history of about 1700 years is the oldest and most famous temple in Hangzhou City. With reputed Buddhist temple clusters hidden in luxurious forest, it is particularly popular to soak in the Buddhist culture of the city. Besides, Feilai Peak beside there is usually traveled together to marvel at the uncountable Buddhist carvings dating back to 10th century. Check more about Lingyin Temple
Longjing Tea Plantation
The authentic plantation of the famous Longjing Tea which reputed as No.1 among the Top 10 Famous Tea in China is located about West Lake, where you can walk in the large spread and layers of emerald green Longjing Tea trees and know more culture, history and art of Longjing Tea. Longjing Village and Meijiawu Village are most popular to go. Check more about Longjing Tea Plantation
Check more about Attractions in Hangzhou
West Lake Photography Tips
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.
(1). No matter what kind 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.
Best Shooting Time:
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 osmanthus flower and winter for plum.
Where to Shoot the Panoramic View
(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.
Check more about Hangzhou West Lake Photography Guide with Best Locations & Best Time.
Useful West Lake Traveling Tips:
1. Weather notice
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 rain 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. Hubin Road and around offers more luxury accommodations.
Check more about Recommended Hangzhou Accommodation
3. Enduring Memories of Hangzhou - New Version Impression West Lake
Impression West Lake is the classic proud live performance by Yimou Zhang who was the director of the opening ceremony of 28th Beijing Olympic Games, and Enduring Memories of Hangzhou is the new version of that great art which was prepared for G20 Summit in Hangzhou in 2016. Such performance is really popular for travelers to Hangzhou. During the show, travelers may have the chance to 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. It usually suspends performance in winter from December to the next February or March.)
Get to there: Public buses, taxi and private car can take you to “Impression of West Lake” ticket office. It is about 15 minutes from Wulin Gate by car.
Check more about Top 7 Impression Shows in China
Notice: as Hangzhou enters the cold winter, the Impression West Lake show would not be available from December 15, 2020 to the middle of March 2021. We would update the detailed reopening date once we get the official notice.
4. West Lake Musical Fountain
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 about West Lake musical fountain show.
Time: every night at 19:00, 20:00 and each performance lasts for about 15 minutes
Location: at the lakeside near Third Park of West Lake
How to Plan a Hangzhou Tour
Things to Do in Hangzhou: West Lake, Lingyin Temple, Longjing tea Plantation, Hefang Street, Xixi National Wetland Park, China National Tea Museum, China National Silk Museum…
How to Get to Hangzhou: International flights from Singapore (5 hrs.), Seoul (6.5 hrs.), etc., domestic flights from Guangzhou (2 hrs.), Beijing (2 hrs.), etc., or high speed trains from Shanghai (1~2 hrs.), Suzhou (1.5~3 hrs.), Huangshan (1.5~2 hrs.), etc.
Best Time to Visit Hangzhou: all year around
Usually, visitors spend 2 days around to enjoy a classic Hangzhou tour to visit the West Lake Scenic Area, including the amazing West Lake, Lingyin Temple, Longjing Tea Plantations, etc. If you want an in-depth Hangzhou tour, you can also pay another half day or so to visit Xixi National Wetland Park, one day around to Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, or one day or so to Thousand Islands Lake, etc. Check all Hangzhou Tours >>
Also, you can spend 1 day to take a side trip to the nearby water towns like Wuzhen and Xitang in Jiaxing, 2~3 days to Putuoshan - one of the four sacred Buddhist Mountains in China, or 1 day to the popular Nanxun Old Town in Huzhou. Check more about Zhejiang Tours >>
Besides, compared with just travelling Hangzhou, most of the visitors prefer to travel the metropolis Shanghai, Suzhou Gardens and Hangzhou Lakes in One Go! Such an amazing tour will take 5~6 days.
Some visitors also ride a high speed train to Huangshan to visit the world-famous Yellow Mountain. A Hangzhou Huangshan tour needs about 5 days around.
Have your preferences? Please feel free to tell us your likes and let our professional travel consultants customize a personal tour for you!
Get Inspired by Real Travel Stories of Our Customers
Since 2012, we China Discovery have helped numerous customers to visit Hangzhou and surroundings. With our fully-inclusive private tour packages, all of our customers enjoyed their trips to the West Lake, Lingyin Temple, etc. Some of them kindly shared their precious photos and stories about their Hangzhou journey, just get inspired now.
"Impression Show is a must see when visiting Hangzhou…" - shared by Nguyen (Read her entire travel story: The Pursuit of Natural Beauty with the Beloved one - 14 Days Beautiful China Exploring Tour)
"This last night in Hangzhou led us to explore a different side of West Lake, vastly changing our erstwhile bland impression of the famed tourist site…" - shared by CS from Singapore (Read her entire travel story: Delightful Journey to Poetic Jiangnan Area)
Besides the wonderful travel stories, many customers who visited Hangzhou with China Discovery also send us their first-hand feedbacks about their trip, feel free to read the Hangzhou Reviews and learn what they say about their experience. If you want to start your Hangzhou tour now, don't hesitate to contact us.
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