With three days in Hangzhou, there’s plenty of time to experience the highlights, from the scenic sites of West Lake to historic temples and museums, and from tea villages to nearby water towns. Here are a few ways to experience the best of Hangzhou in three days.
Day 1: West Lake and Lingyin Temple
Spend your first day exploring the scenic sights of West Lake. Wake up early to watch dawn rise over the Su Causeway, one of the classic “Ten Scenes of West Lake.” Enjoy a boat cruise and make stops at Solitary Hill and Huagang (Flower Harbor) Park Wharf to explore Flower Harbor Park and Red Carp Pond. Stop by Leifeng Pagoda for panoramic views over West Lake. Then head to Lingyin Temple, a famous Buddhist temple known for the hundreds of Buddhist statues carved into the hills and inside caves.
If the timing works, try and catch the sunset from the eastern shore of West Lake, looking towards Leifeng Pagoda, another one of the classic Ten Scenes. Otherwise, end your first night with a performance of Impressions West Lake, directed by acclaimed director, Zhang Yimou. The musical performance uses West Lake as a stage.
Day 2: Museums, Tea Culture, and the Grand Canal
Spend part of your morning at the museum. Depending on your interest, check out the China National Silk Museum or the Museum of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Next, stop to smell the flowers at either Hangzhou Botanical Garden or Guo’s Villa and Garden.
Head to a nearby tea village, either Meijiawu or Longjing (Dragon Well), for the afternoon. Enjoy a traditional tea ceremony and learn about tea culture and tea, especially Longjing tea, considered one of the finest in the world. Tea aficionados should also make a stop at the National Tea Museum. End the day on a sunset cruise on the Beijing – Hangzhou Grand Canal, the oldest and longest man-made waterway in the world, and admire the traditional waterfront buildings along the way.
Day 3: Six Harmonies Pagoda and a Water Town
Spend your morning exploring the Six Harmonies Pagoda. This 6-sided, 7-story pagoda is a masterpiece of ancient Chinese architecture, and it offers great views over the Qiantang River and its tidal bore. Then head over to Qinghefang Ancient Street to shop for souvenirs and a quick snack.
Finally, visit a nearby water town, such as Wuzhen, Xitang, or Shaoxing. Depending on the option chosen, take a boat cruise through the town where you might see a fabric workshop, a winery, museums, or check out ancient bridges, pavilions, and gardens. Stay for sunset and dinner in the water town, or head back to Hangzhou where you can shop at a night market, go bar hopping, or enjoy a final night cruise around West Lake.