West Lake - Hangzhou

Written by Ruru Zhou Updated Aug. 31, 2021

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 Hangzhou West Lake

West Lake Facts

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 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 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

Broken Bridge 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

Goldfish Goldfish

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 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 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 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.

2. Touring around West Lake

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.

A Corner of West Lake A Corner of West Lake

How to Reach West Lake

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.

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