West Lake - the Must-See of Hangzhou

West Lake is in the southwest of Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, which is known as "the Heaven on Earth." As a large lake embraced by green hills on three sides, it has stunning landscape. It’s the landmarks of Hangzhou as well as one of the top 10 scenic spots in China. Here’re the details and popular ways of visiting West Lake.

  • Chinese: 西湖 Xi Hu /sshee hoo/
  • Location: Xihu District, Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province
  • Area: 6.5 square kilometers
  • Opening hour: 24/7
  • Admission: Free
west lake location West Lake Location

What to See in West Lake?

There are many stunning spots in West Lake, and here we list the 5 most recognizable ones.

1. Su Causeway (Chinese: 苏堤 Su Di /soo-dee/)

Su Causeway is in memory of the famous poet Su Shi of the Song Dynasty. Ranked at No.1 among the Ten Scenic Spots of West Lake, it has a charming landscape, varying from dawn to dusk, from sunny to rainy, from spring to fall. Yet the dawn of Spring is the best time to enjoy the scenery, which is the explanation why it's also called Spring Daybreak of Su Causeway.

  • Recommended time to visit: March and April.
Su Causeway Su Causeway

2. Broken Bridge (Chinese: 断桥 Duan Qiao /dwan- chyaow/)

With a high position and the wide field of vision, Melting Snow on Broken Bridge is the perfect place to appreciate the snow scenery in winter. After the winter snow, the snow on the sunny side melts, but there is still snow like silver on the shade side of the bridge. When viewed from a height, the bridge seems broken.

  • Recommended time to visit: Winter with snow melting.
Broken Bridge in Winter Broken Bridge in Winter

3. Viewing Fish at Flower Pond (Chinese: 花港观鱼 Hua Gang Guan Yu /hwah-gung- gwan-yoo/)

At the southern end of Su Causeway, this is a place for leisure activity in West Lake. It features flowers, the pond and fishes. You're allowed to see and feed the fish here. A large number of peonies grow here, making it a popular public recreational venue in Hangzhou.

  • Recommended time to visit: Summer.
Viewing Fish at Flower Pond Viewing Fish at Flower Pond

4. Leifeng Pagoda (Chinese: 雷峰塔 Lei Feng Ta /lay-fnng-tah/)

The Leifeng Pagoda was built by Emperor Wu Yue on Xizhao Mountain in West Lake in the Song Dynasty, to pray for the peace of the country and the people. The sunset glow shines on the Leifeng Pogoda, which looks like the Buddha light from the tower. With a stunning scene, the pagoda was listed in Ten Scenic Spots of West Lake and attracts a number of tourists.

  • Opening hour: 8 AM - 8:30 PM from Mar. 15 to Nov. 15; 8 AM - 5:30 PM from Nov. 16 to Mar. 14
  • Recommended time to visit: Dusk with sunset.
Leifeng Pogoda Leifeng Pogoda

5. Three Pools Mirroring the Moon (Chinese: 三潭印月 San Tan Yin Yue /san-tan-yin-yhwere/)

It is the largest island in the west lake with beautiful and quiet scenery. On the bank, the golden trees dance, willows and flowers, contrast with the architecture of the carved columns and painted buildings. On the back of the RMB 1 yuan note, the magnificent scenery of it is printed. We can see that Three Pools Mirroring the Moon also occupies an extremely important symbolic role in China's scenic spots.

  • Opening hour: 9 AM - 5 PM
  • Recommended time to visit: Spring and Autumn.
Three Pools Mirroring the Moon Three Pools Mirroring the Moon

How to Explore the West Lake?

Walking / Biking Around the Lake

To appreciate the beauty of the lake, it’s a popular way  to take a leisurely bike or walk. By bike or on foot, you’ll have more freedom to explore in an environmentally friendly and healthy way. You will experience the Chinese people more and experience nature more. The most popular cycling and walking routes are Su Causeway and Bai Causeway. These two causeways allow you to see most of the scenery on the lake. Motor vehicles are not allowed there, so it’s quite safe for cycling and walking.

Biking Along Su Causeway Biking Along Su Causeway

Taking a Cruise / Boat on the Lake

It's also a good way to take a cruise about an hour to appreciate the beauty of West Lake. There are different kinds of boats to choose from, large painted boats, small rowing boats, and even self-rowing boats. Cruises are available all day along till 9 PM. Three Pools Mirroring the Moon is a must visit place if you take a boat. The highlight of boating is to enjoy a leisurely time on the peaceful lake. Bordered on three sides by mountains, with Six Harmonies Pagoda in the background, West Lake provides perfect photo ops with its clear spring water, willow trees and elegant bridges.

Biking Along Su Causeway Boats on the lake

Circling the Lake by Battery Car

The battery car travels along the lake, running from 8:30 AM to 5 PM. You can ask to stop at any place along the way to get on or off. It is the most comfortable and effective way to get an overall impression of the lake. It's recommended for people who have difficulty walking or carry with babies.

When to Visit the West Lake?

West Lake has various beautiful scenery in different seasons. It’s advisable to visit it all year around.

Spring – Best Season

With the lovely flowers blooming and enjoyable climate, Spring (March and April) is the best time to visit the West Lake. This is the peak season for West Lake travel. How nice it is to hang out by the lake with your beloved!

Lotus Blossoms in Summer Lotus Blossoms in Summer

Summer – Lotus Blossoms

Summer is the season when the lotus flowers are in bloom. It attracts tourists from home and abroad to come to the West Lake. As a popular Chinese poem goes, The west lake in June, after all, the scenery is not the same as the other hours. The dense layers of lotus leaves spread out as if connected to the sky. In contrast to the infinite green, lotus under the sunlight is particularly bright and red.

Autumn – the Peaceful Lake

Like a mirror, the level of the lake is crystal clear. The sun shines on the water, shining glow. And the deep green lake looks like a flawless emerald from a distance. It's cool, comfortable and less rainy in the Autumn season when it's a good time to walk or cycle around the lake.

Lotus Blossoms in Summer West Lake in Autumn

Winter – the Pure and Fresh Beauty

One of the merits of visiting Hangzhou in winter is the less tourist crowd with more time and space for your own. Walk around the island and take some photos of the winter landscape of the charming island. Melting Snow on Broken Bridge is one of the highlights in Winter. The bridge is not only well-known for its snowy scenery but also for its romantic legend. Winter (December to February) at West Lake is quite cold and humid. Don't forget to wear warm clothes.

How to Get to the West Lake?

1. From Hangzhou Xiaoshan Airport: about 30 km; 1-hour Drive

2. From Hangzhou Railway Station: about 5 km; 20-min Drive

3. From Shanghai: about 180 km; 3-hour Drive

  • Book private transfers: We recommend that you book a driver and guide. This way you don't have to worry about getting lost and you can also obtain the general comprehension about the lake on the way there.
  • Take a taxi: Most of the taxi drivers don't speak English. You’d better prepare the name of the exact place you want to go to west lake in Chinese.
  • By airport bus: It takes about 2-hour drive including the waiting time. First, take the airport bus to Hangzhou Railway Station, then take Bus Y2 to JingSi (in Chinese:净寺).
  • By Metro/Bus: Not recommended. It’s not easy to take a metro or public bus for you with language barrier in other countries.
Lotus Blossoms in Summer