West Lake: A Cultural Gem of Hangzhou

Written by ivana Updated Nov. 23, 2023

The West Lake, located in the heart of Hangzhou, is a place of beauty and historical significance. This captivating spectacle isn't solely a gift from nature, but a masterpiece that has been meticulously sculpted and preserved over the course of centuries.

The tale of West Lake begins in 822 CE with the construction of the Bai Causeway by Bai Juyi, moves on to 1074 CE with the erection of the Su Causeway by Su Dongpo, and then to 1503 CE with the establishment of the Yang Causeway by Yang Mengying. Each of these historical figures has poured their wisdom and labor into the lake, creating a timelessly enchanting beauty that withstands the test of time.

Even more impressively, West Lake was incorporated into the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2011. This not only represents international recognition of the historical and cultural value of West Lake but also acknowledges the efforts of the Hangzhou people to preserve the beauty of this area.

West Lake Facts

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

Moganshan Travel Guide

The lake's charm was recognized as early as the Southern Song Dynasty with the "Ten Scenes of West Lake". These include Spring Dawn at Su Causeway, Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake, Melting Snow on the Broken Bridge, Lotus Wind at the Crooked Courtyard, Leifeng Pagoda in the Sunset, Evening Bell at Nanping Hill, Viewing Fish at Flower Pond, Listening to Orioles Singing in the Willows, Twin Peaks Piercing the Clouds, and Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon. Each of these scenes paints a distinct yet harmonious picture of the West Lake.

Things to Do at West Lake

1. West Lake Night Show

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,a 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.

Night Show of Enduring Memories of Hangzhou

2. Touring around West Lake

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.

Best Time to Visit 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.

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