West Lake - Hangzhou
West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2011, is the top attraction in Hangzhou. There are beautiful pagodas, ancient temples, and artificial islands within the lake. You can spend half a day or a full day strolling around the lake to experience the lovely landscape, explore its many cultural sites, and learn about its history and legends.
In this guide, we have listed some useful information about Hangzhou, including its highlights and some travel ideas.
Hangzhou West Lake
West Lake Facts
- Chinese: 西湖, Pinyin, Xī Hú
- Location: West part of Hangzhou downtown
- Entrance fee: Free
- Area: 6 sq km (2½ sq mi)
- Time needed: 3–6 hours
- Highlights: Ten scenic sites of West Lake, boat ride, biking, walking, Enduring Memories of Hangzhou night show
- Opening hours: all day and night for most areas, though some parts do close (Leifeng Pagoda: 08:00 a.m. to 08:30 p.m. from March 15 to November 15; 08:00 a.m. to 05:30 p.m. from November 16 to March 14. Three Pools Mirroring the Moon: 08:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m.)
West Lake is surrounded by hills on three sides, with the urban area to the east and the Qiantang River to the south. The basic layout of the lake can be defined as “One Hill, Two Pagodas, Three Islands, Three Causeways, and Five Sub-Lakes.”
Night View of Leifeng Pagoda
Solitary Hill, also known as Gushan Island, is the largest natural island in West Lake. Two pagodas face each other across the lake — Leifeng Pagoda located on the south bank of the lake and Baochu Pagoda in the north. There are three artificial islets in the lake — the Mid-lake Pavilion, the Ruangong Islet, and the Lesser Paradise Island.
West Lake is divided by Bai Causeway (白堤, Báidī), Su Causeway (苏堤, Sūdī), Yanggong Causeway (杨公堤, Yánggongdī) into five sub-lakes. The five sub-lakes are North Inner Lake, Outer West Lake, Yue Lake, West Inner Lake, and Little South Lake.
Traditionally, there are ten best scenic spots in Hangzhou. Read on to find out more about them.
The Top 10 Scenic Sites of West Lake
Each site in West Lake has its own beauty and charm. The most famous sites on the lake, according to sources dating from the Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279), are referred to as the “Ten Scenic Sites of West Lake”.
1. Spring Dawn at Su Causeway
Su Causeway was constructed by the famous Northern Song Dynasty poet, Su Dongpo. To commemorate him, people later named this causeway 'Su Causeway'; The causeway is bedecked with peach trees and weeping willows. In springtime, the weeping willows turn green, and the peach blossoms will be in full bloom. As the top attraction among the 10 famous sites, Su Causeway is the perfect place to experience the beauty and serenity of West Lake.
2. Lotus in the Breeze at Crooked Courtyard
Lotus on West Lake
This particular site earns its name from the abundance of lotus plants growing along the shore in summer, in a place known as Crooked Courtyard. It was once the location of a winery.
The sweet "perfume" of this place was produced by the combination of the scents of lotus flowers and wine. To this was added the scent of the cool breeze from the lake, which made it particularly intoxicating. Though the winery is gone, the cool evening breeze from the lake still blows, and lotus plants still thrive along the shores of Crooked Courtyard, which has since been converted into a public park.
3. Autumn Moon over the Peaceful Lake
At the western extremity of Bai Causeway is a small, lakeside park. It is the ideal spot to spend some leisure time in autumn evenings. You can appreciate the moon’s reflection on the surface of the lake, which varies from being a perfectly flat mirror of the evening sky on calm evenings to a choppy, broken surface that twinkles endlessly on windy days.
4. Melting Snow on the Broken Bridge
This site is the most romantic of the top ten scenic sites. It is where two lovers, Xu Xian and Bai Suzhen, who was a white snake, met and fell in love.
In winter, when the snow begins to melt after sunrise, it melts on one side of the bridge first as the other side is in the shade. This gives the bridge a split image. Viewed from a distance, it appears as though the bridge stops midway since the snowy side blends in perfectly with the surrounding landscape. tea-plantation-experience
5. Viewing Fish and Lotus Fronds at the Flower Pond
The Flower Pond Park is located at the southern end of Su Causeway. In the heart of Flower Pond Park lies the Red Fish Pond, where one can relax while watching the goldfish swim aimlessly about among the lotus fronds, punctuated by the shrill chirping of birds that skitter about from tree to tree along the shore.
The green lotus fronds contrast harmoniously with the bright red lotus flowers and the red and orange goldfish that swim in the blue-green water below. This, in contrast with the blue-and-white skies, makes for a lovely summer day in Hangzhou.
6. Listening to Orioles Singing in the Willows
During the Song Dynasty, an imperial garden, featuring weeping willow trees, was built on this site. The garden has since been turned into a public park that is replete with pavilions, bridges, and lawns. And of course, the orioles still visit the willows, where they sing as beautifully as when the emperor came here to listen to their song.
7. Three Pools Mirroring the Moon
Three Miniature Pagodas on West Lake
This site is located on the southern shore of Lesser Paradise Island. Three miniature pagodas about 2 m (6 ft) tall rise above the surface of the water. Each pagoda, which is over 800 years old, has five round holes. From a distance or at night, the pagodas seem to be floating on the lake’s surface.
During the Mid-Autumn Festival, when the pagodas are lit from within, it looks like there are a dozen moons reflected on the lake. It is a spectacular and tranquil sight. Also, this site is printed on CN¥1 note.
8. Twin Peaks Piercing the Clouds
Visitors to West Lake are so fascinated by the lake itself that they often fail to notice the surroundings. At the site called Twin Peaks Piercing the Clouds, lift your gaze from the lake's surface and behold the view on the other side of the lake — two mountain peaks at the northern rim of the lake.
On days with low-lying clouds, twin peaks appear to pierce through the clouds, and hence the name. The viewpoint on the land is Hongchun Bridge on Lingyin Road.
9. Sunset Glow over Leifeng Pagoda
Sunset Glow Over Leifeng Pagoda
This is the classic West Lake sunset view. Located on the south bank of the West Lake, the most important part of the site is the famous Leifeng Pagoda, the oldest colorful bronze pagoda in China. At dusk, you will be mesmerized by the colorful evening glow of the pagoda that is reflected in the lake.
10. Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping Hill
This site, like most of the other sites at West Lake, is best enjoyed in specific conditions. As the name suggests, Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping Hill is to be enjoyed at dusk, when the sun slowly sets, its softened rays casting multi-colored reflections on the surface of the lake.
The huge bronze bell in Jinci Temple, at the foot of Nanping Hill, peals at dusk, and its intense sound echoes across the lake.
Aside from the top ten scenes, some other wonderful sites nearby include the Yue Fei Temple, the tomb and memorial hall of Yue Fei, Lingyin Temple, a Buddhist monastery, and the tea plantations where you can taste the authentic Longjing tea.
Things to Do at West Lake
1. West Lake Night Show
Night Show of Enduring Memories of Hangzhou
If you have one night in Hangzhou, don't forget to attend the popular Enduring Memories of the Hangzhou evening show.
Created by the renowned Chinese director Zhang Yimou, it’s a unique outdoor performance that combines lights, choreography, music, and hundreds of actors. The show includes elements of both Chinese and Western culture.
The show was performed for G20 in October 2016 and was opened for public viewing in 2017.
- Tickets: CN¥360 (US$52) to CN¥680 (US$100)
- Opening hours: 7:45 p.m.–8:45 p.m. / 9:15 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. (A second show is often conducted in case of high demand.)
2. Touring around West Lake
- You can take a leisurely walk around the lake. The most popular walking route is along the Su Causeway and Bai Causeway, where you can enjoy most of the scenic spots. It is a good way to explore all the attractions around the lake, especially in spring and autumn.
- One of the most popular ways to explore West Lake is to take a boat trip. There are plenty of boats in the wharves along the lake. You can choose your ride from among the large, painted boats, small rowing boats, leisure boats, and self-rowing boats. Of course, if you would like to see the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, taking a boat ride is a must.
- You can opt to bike around West Lake as well. It's convenient to rent a bike and return it to one of the designated spots near the lake. Please note that you are not allowed to ride a bicycle on Su Causeway and Bai Causeway.
- The most convenient and efficient way to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the lake is by taking a battery car. These cars stop at many points along the way for travelers to get on and off, including at Leifeng Pagoda, Su Causeway, Broken Bridge, and other sites.
3. The Best Photography Spots on West Lake
The most scenic sites of West Lake are Chenghuang Pavilion, Baoshi Mountain, and Leifeng Pagoda. For sunset, Broken Bridge, Su Causeway, Yanggong Causeway, and Xiaoyinzhou Island (the Lesser Paradise Island) are the best spots.
4. Music Fountain of West Lake
There is a Music Fountain in the Third Park to the east of West Lake. The park holds two shows every day, lasting for one hour each. The shows are free for visitors, and the timings are 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Best Time to Visit West Lake
The scenic spots at West Lake are most beautiful in different weather and seasonal conditions. The best time to visit is during spring, but it is still suitable for visiting year-round.
- Spring is the best time to visit West Lake when the peach and plum blossoms are in full bloom, and the weeping willows are lush green. March to April is the peak season. The most beautiful spring view can be seen at Su Causeway.
- The lotus flowers in the summer are a favorite among travelers. It's the best time to see lotuses and enjoy the breeze at Crooked Courtyard.
- Fall is quite pleasant to walk or bike around the lake. With minimal rainfall, it is the best season to enjoy watching the autumn moon over the peaceful lake and Three Pools Mirroring the Moon during the Mid-Autumn Festival.
- Winter is cold and West Lake sees fewer visitors in this season. Be sure to visit the Broken Bridge when it snows.
A Corner of West Lake
How to Reach West Lake
- By metro: Take Line 1 to Longxiangqiao station and walk westward or northward around 400 m (1,300 ft) to the West Lake core scenic spot.
- By bus: Take Bus No. K4 and Y2 to Su Causeway station; Bus No. 28 and No. 15 to Yuquan station (Hangzhou Botanical Garden); or Bus No. 27 and No. 7 to Yuefen station (Yue Fei Temple).
Visiting West Lake with China Travel
If you are planning a tour of West Lake, it's suggested you combine it with other famous sights in nearby areas. See our most popular Hangzhou tour for inspiration.
Contact us and we will tailor-make a unique West Lake tour for you.