West Lake: A Cultural Gem of Hangzhou
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
- 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 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
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.
- Spring Dawn at Su Causeway(苏堤春晓): The Su Causeway is a renowned spot in West Lake, especially mesmerizing in the misty morning of spring.
- Lotus Wind at the Crooked Courtyard(曲院风荷): In the summer, the sight of lotus leaves and blossoms dancing in the wind leaves a profound impression.
- Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake(平湖秋月): An excellent location to appreciate the moon on a clear autumn night. The calm lake under the bright moonlight presents a quiet and poetic scene.
- Melting Snow on the Broken Bridge(断桥残雪): As winter snow begins to melt, the snowy scene on the Broken Bridge displays distinct beauty.
- Viewing Fish at Flower Pond(花港观鱼): A great spot to view schools of fish surrounded by a plethora of blooming flowers.
- Listening to Orioles Singing in the Willows(柳浪闻莺 ): In spring, the singing of birds among the willows brings a refreshing and lively aura of the season.
- Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon(三潭印月): At specific times, such as the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, three small pagodas reflect the moon, creating a fascinating scene of moon reflections.A great spot to view schools of fish surrounded by a plethora of blooming flowers.
- Twin Peaks Piercing the Clouds(双峰插云): This scene characterizes two mountain peaks appearing above a "sea of clouds".
- Leifeng Pagoda in the Sunset(雷峰夕照): At sunset, the residual glow shines on Leifeng Pagoda, creating a beautiful scenic view.
- Evening Bell at Nanping Hill(南屏晚钟): At dusk, the sound of bells from Nanping Hill resonates, generating a peaceful and solemn atmosphere.
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.
- Tickets: CN¥360 (approximately US$52) to CN¥680 (approximately US$95)
- 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.
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.
- 1-Day West Lake Walking Tour
- 2-Day Essence of Hangzhou Tour
- 3-Day Suzhou and Hangzhou Tour from Shanghai