Famous for its historical and beautiful sites, Hangzhou has plenty to see and do, making it one of the top reasons to visit China. With just one day in Hangzhou, you’ll need to scramble to visit all the sites.
The city has grown around West Lake and the surrounding wetlands. The lake itself holds many attractions with numerous small islands housing temples, gardens, and pavilions.
The panoramas of beautiful green hills may tempt you into long walks with willow-lined banks and misty lush hills. But you won’t have time to wander across the entire sprawling landscape.
Outside of the lake, you’ll find a combination of traditional and modern life. The sprawling metro area includes dozens of residential districts, while the core downtown area offers cultural sites and museums. This city, kept spotless by droves of street sweepers and litter collectors, is ready to charm and delight.
Not sure where to go first? Plan your visit with this complete 1-day Hangzhou itinerary…
What to do in Hangzhou in 24 hours: A complete 1-day Itinerary
As with most of our travel itineraries, this Hangzhou itinerary gives you a chance to explore cultural and historical sites while tasting the local cuisine and soaking up the atmosphere.
You’ll start your day in downtown Hangzhou. Fill up on some street food before checking out the lake and a few of its main attractions.
It’s going to be a busy day, but you’ll reach most of the sites on foot. This gives you a chance to view more of the scenery that makes Hangzhou a top choice for any itinerary—even if you’re visiting China in 10 days or less.
Located just south of the Hangzhou city centre, Hefang Street is an old-style market street with a bit of everything. It’s not as large or varied as some of the other shopping streets in major Chinese cities, but it does have lots of souvenirs.
It’s just a 15-minute walk from the nearest metro station, making it easy to visit first thing in the morning. If possible, try to reach the street early to beat some of the other tourists.
If you don’t feel like carrying souvenirs around throughout the day, you could swing back later in the evening on your way back to the hotel or airport.
For now, make sure that you find some food. You’ll come across a few open-air food stalls on the streets and alleys that branch off from Hefang. Use this chance to grab breakfast and test the local flavours.
Liulang Wenying Park
As you finish wiping the last bites of food from your fingers, follow Hefang Street westward until you reach Liulang Wenying Park. It’s one of many public parks surrounding the lake and a great entry point for exploring the scenic attractions.
The park includes long, paved trails that take you through a canopy of green willows. It’s a pleasant place to stroll around for an hour or two, especially when it’s not very busy.
Visiting this park is a complete contrast to the busy Hefang Street. When you enter the park, the first thing you’ll notice the peace and quiet.
It’s rarely crowded at the park. While you’ll likely see locals walking the trails or riding bikes, it’s not one of the most visited tourist areas.
Enjoy the tranquillity of the park as you walk south. If you change your mind and decide to stay for more than one day, you could also check out the nearby King Qian Temple.
Work your way south through the park, staying close to the lake, and you’ll eventually see the top of Leifeng Pagoda. The five-story pagoda stands above the surrounding trees, so you can’t miss out.
The tower has eight sides and was originally built in 975 AD. It’s one of the many historic attractions in Hangzhou. Unfortunately, it collapsed in 1924 and needed major reconstruction.
Thanks to the reconstruction efforts, you can now ride one of the four elevators to the top of the pagoda to take in incredible, sweeping views of the surrounding area. You can see most of the lake from the top as well as parts of the city.
You’ll also ride a short escalator that takes you from the entrance to the base of the pagoda, giving you a chance to let your legs rest from all the walking.
It’s one of the more popular sites, so expect a crowd. If it’s too busy, you may need to skip the elevator ride to the top of the tower.
After you finish exploring the pagoda and the nearby pavilion, go back to the street that you took to reach the pagoda. Across the street is Jingci Temple.
Located at the foot of Huiri Peak, Jingci Temple is a prominent Buddhist temple near the lake. Locals refer to Jingci Temple and Lingyin Temple as the jewels of the southern and northern hills.
It’s a big temple with lots of stairs. When you reach the base, you can look to your north and spot the pagoda that you just visited.
As it’s not quite as popular compared to Lingyin Temple, you may get to explore the temple without standing shoulder to shoulder with other tourists. It’s one of the quieter temples to visit, despite the importance of the location.
If you’re hungry, you can also stop at the Jingci Temple restaurant, located right behind the temple.
With just 24 hours in Hangzhou, you won’t see all the top attractions. Jingci Temple is just one of many historic temples worth visiting.
If you come back with a little more time in your schedule, make sure that you visit Lingyin Temple, a few kilometres west of the lake.
Continue walking around the lake, travelling from the temple to Huagang Park. It’s about a 25-minute walk with nice scenery. You’ll pass a few more pavilions, a church, and a small fish nursery.
Travelling through Hangzhou in one day, you’ll spend most of your time around the lake, but you need to stop at Huagang Park to check out the koi pond.
As with most of the parks and gardens in and around the lake, Huagang Park has another name. Locals also call it Viewing Fish in a Flowering Harbour. As the name suggests, you can view fish in the surrounding harbour.
The park includes numerous foot bridges and covered pavilions, but the goldfish are the main attraction. At the Red Fish Pool, you’ll find plants and flowers growing in the water. Watch the fish swim around the plants, causing the petals and branches to sway with the movement of the water.
It’s another tranquil spot in the middle of a major urban city, giving locals and tourists a chance to escape the busy streets of Hangzhou.
Three Pools Mirroring the Moon
From the park, you may see part of the land bridge that cuts through West Lake. To reach Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, you’ll need to reach the bridge and take a short boat ride to the small island.
When you reach the land bridge and wharf area, you’ll also find the small West Lake Hangzhou Store. Stop inside to grab a quick snack before hopping on the boat.
It only takes a few minutes to reach the island containing gardens, trails, and views of the surrounding lake. The “pools” are really pagodas submerged in the waters near the island.
The island also contains a few food stalls, but the prices are expensive. As mentioned, grab a snack from the convenience store before getting on the boat. Otherwise, you’ll pay a premium price for basic Hangzhou street food on the island.
Yue Fei Memorial Hall
Obviously, you’ll need to ride another boat to make your way back to the shore. This time, you’ll travel to the north shore where you’ll find the Yue Fei Memorial Hall. It’s also called the Tomb of Yue Fei, Yue Fei Mausoleum, and Yue Fei Temple.
The tomb and temple were built in honour of Yue Fei, a famous Chinese general of the Southern Song dynasty. Completed in 1221, the temple has gone through many renovations and reconstruction efforts over the years, but the tombs and tomb sculptures remain well-preserved.
When touring the mausoleum, you can learn more about the general and the history of the Song dynasty. For history buffs, this should be one of the highlights of your trip.
If you’re not interested in history, you may find the tour a bit boring. Luckily, the sites are still amazing.
Make sure that you visit the tomb. It’s more like a large, open-air stone platform. The four sculptures that stand to the sides of the tomb represent the four people that betrayed the general, leading to his demise.
Xihu or Hangzhou Impressions
By the time you leave the memorial hall, it’s going to be late in the day, so hurry across the street to the West Lake Impression Ticket Office to purchase tickets for the big show.
West Lake features prominently in this itinerary. You’ll find most of the top things to do & see in Hangzhou in and around the lake, including Hangzhou Impressions.
Impressions is a large outdoor production featuring hundreds of performers and dancers. The spectacle offers the perfect ending to your tour of Hangzhou in 24 hours.
If you’ve made good time and still have an hour or two to spare before the show begins, you can explore the residential district just north of the memorial hall and ticket office. The Lingyin Residential District includes the typical mixture of residential streets and commercial shopping strips.
Just make sure that you get back to the lake before Impressions begins.
Where to stay: The best hotels for 24 hours in Hangzhou
Given the size of the city and wide assortment of accommodations, choosing where to stay in Hangzhou can, at first, seem like a daunting task. For most travellers with a quick layover in Hangzhou, the central districts of Shangcheng and Xihu (including the area around West Lake) are a good place to start your search. Here are a few recommended hotels in Hangzhou…
- The East Hotel Hangzhou: A budget-friendly central hotel that offers modern amenities and an excellent location close to great dining and shopping options.
- JW Marriott Hotel Hangzhou: A superb hotel delivering elegantly decorated rooms and spectacular views of West Lake. The luxurious indoor pool is an absolute show-stopper.
- Park Hyatt Hangzhou: This luxury hotel is indeed one of the best in Hangzhou, charming guests with spacious well-appointed rooms with fantastic city views.
- Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake: Fully living up to the brand’s promise, this 5-star hotel is the most impressive in Hangzhou. Located on the shores of West Lake, this property boast a lovely traditional Chinese garden with stunning classic Chinese architecture spread throughout.