Just 45 minutes from Shanghai, Hangzhou is the perfect weekend getaway. If sipping freshly picked green tea, biking around a beautiful lake and walking through an ancient Buddhist temple sounds enticing, hop on the bullet train to Hangzhou.
WHAT TO DO
Explore West Lake
West Lake is Hangzhou’s showpiece, ringed in willows and dotted with artificial islands, temples and pagodas. The UNESCO World Heritage Site’s beauty makes it a hugely popular spot for tourists and locals, who take rides on pleasure boats and stroll the shaded paths along the lakefront. Walking around the water, you’ll eventually come to Guozhuang Garden. Linger in the peacefulness of the immaculately manicured grounds, a respite built in 1907 and originally owned by a silk merchant.
Drink local tea
Longjing tea, also called Dragon Well tea, is a variety of green tea grown in Hangzhou, and exported and sold worldwide. Learn about how the tea is produced at the China National Tea Museum (they also have tea ceremonies), and then either drive 10 minutes or hike 1.3 miles to explore Longjing Village, where the tea is grown. At the rear of the village, sit inside Longjing Imperial Garden, a pretty, tranquil space where you can enjoy steaming pours.
Visit a Buddhist temple
It’s believed that the monastery at Lingyin Temple was founded in the 4th century by a Buddhist monk from India. Today, locals come here to burn incense as an offering and to see the Fei Lai Feng grottos with their grand Buddha carvings, some of which date to the 10th century. Hike 20 minutes to the top of North Peak and you’ll surround yourself with trees and the sounds of the temple falling away with every step.
WHERE TO EAT
Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Jin Sha, tucked inside the Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake, serves Cantonese, Shanghainese and Hangzhounese fare. Most of the ingredients are local, with vegetables and free-range chickens coming from nearby farms. The kitchen also makes good use of longjing tea; it’s included in the preparation of local sautéed river shrimp and a chilled mango dumplings dessert.
On Hubin Road, right across from West Lake, is The Grandma’s, a restaurant specializing in Hangzhou cuisine. The menu is dictionary-thick and the prices are moderate, which is why you’ll see tables piled high with chicken roasted in green tea, pork belly with bamboo shoots, and sesame-seed-topped green tea pastries.
Next door to the aforementioned National Tea Museum is a lakeside restaurant with a most fitting name — Green Tea. The eatery serves home-style Hangzhounese food. Most tables order the green-tea-roasted chicken and pork, but if you’re tiring of tea, try sautéed river shrimp with bamboo shoots.
WHERE TO STAY
Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake
For a serene Five-Star stay, try Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake. Its 78 rooms look out onto bamboo forests, gardens and lily-strewn ponds. Though it feels pleasantly remote, it’s actually quite central; it’s right next to West Lake and just a 10-minute walk to Lingyin Temple.
Fuchun Resort Hangzhou
To really get away from the city, book a room at the Four-Star Fuchun Resort Hangzhou. The hotel is in Fuyang, a village that’s 45 minutes from Hangzhou proper. Bask in the pin-drop quiet and the views of the lake and verdant tea fields. While it’s tempting to spend the whole weekend with a good book and local tea, there are myriad activities on offer at the property, including biking, golfing and calligraphy classes.
Four-Star Amanfayun is unique among Hangzhou hotels: It’s an original part of a real village, and some of the 47 guestrooms are in stone buildings more than a century old. The hotel’s spa specializes in traditional Chinese treatments, including acupressure and bamboo massages. For something more active, hike in the hills surrounding the hotel, or take a calligraphy class in the wooden building (from the1880s) that doubles as the art gallery and library.