Hangzhou, or Paradise on Earth

“There is a Paradise in Heaven. On Earth, there is Suzhou and Hangzhou” (Chaoying, poet of the Yuan Dynasty, 1279-1368).
We definitely agree with this beautiful sentence! Hangzhou was one of the cities we visited during our trip around the world, and we were gladly surprised! We spent three days in this lovely city. Hangzhou is located in southeastern China, and it’s the capital of the Zhejiang province.
Compared to Beijing, Hangzhou is relatively smaller, which we appreciated, though in China you’ll find people everywhere!
We found Hangzhou to be a nice city, with its traditional-style city center and the charming walking streets. There is a lot of crafts and artisanship from the local people, like silver and jewelry, precious stones, typical cuisine… However, what’s probably the most interesting in the area are the tea plantations – some of the best teas in China are grown here – and the national museum of Silk. Shall we start?

Where to sleep in Hangzhou ?

We chose the Wushanyi International Youth Hostel, which is conveniently located near the historical part of the city. We stayed three nights in a shared room. At the beginning, I (Anaïs) didn’t feel at ease, as I had never shared my room with people I didn’t know. But everything worked out in the end. Each person had a comfortable bed, with a socket and a light, as well as a big locker to store our stuff. The only negative point is that guests may arrive at any time during the day, so when someone checks in at 1am it’s kind of difficult not to wake up!

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Want to know the things we saw and did during our stay in Hangzhou? Keep reading!
Unfortunately, our stay was a little washed out by a nearby typhoon which approached southern China, and the days were kind of gray and wet, but fear not! Rainy weather only adds to the charm of Hangzhou!

The West Lake

The lake is actually part of the city, a tourist attraction by itself which is located between the mountains and the city – this is part of its allure! The lake is maybe one of the most important parts of the city. We walked around West Lake a couple of times, and we found it very pleasant. Whenever we finished our day’s visits, we would go for a little walk next to the waterfront. You’ll find some peaceful spots, away from the crowds. For us, the days were rainy and foggy, which gave the lake a mysterious atmosphere. If you feel like going for a boat tour, you’ll be able to do so on a private boat (180 RMB~24€) or on a big boat with (many) other tourists (55RMB~7€). We didn’t do it because of the low visibility.

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Old town: Hefang road

Hefang Road is probably one of the most crowded areas in the city. With all its traditional streets, shops and much more, we enjoyed wandering around this “old Chinese quarter”. Located between Xihu lake and Zhonghefhong road, the area has a street full of local craftsmanship, souvenir shops and restaurants.

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Hu Qing Yu Tang old pharmacy

While having a walk around the old town, we stumbled upon this ancient pharmacy from the 19th century. They follow the rules of traditional Chinese medicine and it still works! Nowadays it also serves as a museum. You’ll be able to see the employees preparing old remedies with ingredients they’d only know the secrets of. You’ll also see odd plants and things we weren’t even able to identify! The pharmacy has been able to keep all its charm and tradition. We recommend you go have a look (free entrance!).

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Bronze museum

On Hefang road we found this art museum where everything was made of bronze. We wouldn’t be able to tell you the Chinese name, but the entrance is located near the big happy Buddha at the end of Hefang road. The museum is actually interesting because not many people go there, and the pieces of art are impressive! Entrance is also free.

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National Museum of Silk

The Hangzhou National Museum of Silk was the first museum about silk in China, and also the biggest the world! You should really consider visiting it if you’re staying in Hangzhou, plus it’s totally free! You’ll easily spend three hours visiting the place, which retells 5,000 years of history and explains the world of silk making (where it comes from, how to grow it, how to work with it, the famous Silk Route, the expansion of silk around the world…). The building is modern and nice to discover. We went from hall to hall through different gardens. There’s a lot of info to be read, plus recreations, objects and things you can touch and experience! Just a little tip: consider bringing something to drink and eat with you, there’s nothing but gardens and forest around the museum!

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The Leifeng pagoda

The Leifeng pagoda is a great pagoda overlooking West Lake. You’ll surely see it’s silhouette if you go for a walk around the lake. It was built on 975 (then rebuilt). It’s famous in China because it appeared on an important book that tells the legend of the white snake. The pagoda itself is very beautiful and, by the way, it’s even more impressive when lit up at night.

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The Chinese Museum of Tea

Is it possible to come to China and not visit the Museum of Tea? Specially me (Anaïs), a great lover of this drink! We decided to spend a whole day at the museum. It’s very big and divided into two separate sections. The Museum of Tea tells the history of tea, its making process, the different varieties of tea, the different ways of drinking it around the world…
We really loved the Museum of Tea! We started off visiting the older branch, where we were offered a lovely tea ceremony – we tasted some green, dark, jasmine and semi-fermented teas. Then we took the 27 bus to go up the hill and visit the second branch (Longjing branch). This part was much more wild in terms of nature, but also more recently built. It’s also surrounded by tea plantations. We believe it’s THE place to see in Hangzhou, don’t miss it!

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These are the activities we did in Hangzhou. There’s probably much more to do in the area, but we chose to do the things we found interesting. We loved the city so much that we’d be glad to come back – with blue skies next time!

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