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Hangzhou: heavenly city

Hangzhou:

Heaven on earth

‘Paradise’ is how Marco Polo described Hangzhou in the 14th century. A symbol of love, this captivating city in southeast China has been exalted by poets and travellers for centuries. Plan a trip and admire the hills covered in lush tea plantations, picturesque pagodas and blossoming lotus flowers on the beautiful West Lake.

Soak up the romance of Hangzhou
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City of Love

“Paradise above, Hangzhou below,” is a Chinese expression. This metropolis on West Lake has been the setting of various legendary Chinese love stories and is a popular destination for couples. Those who aren’t already in love will certainly fall in love with Hangzhou: the spectacular scenery with fog-clad hills, perfectly manicured gardens and peaceful Buddhist monasteries will make your heart skip a beat.

Destination: Hangzhou, China
KLM flight: at least 5 flights a day
Population: 6,400,000
Location: 180 km southwest of Shanghai

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West Lake

West Lake is the undisputed heart of Hangzhou. Enchanting gardens, pavilions, pagodas and temples create a magnificent landscape along the lake shore that keeps gardeners throughout China, Japan and Korea inspired. It also earned West Lake a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2011.

The lake is at its most magical early in the morning, when fog covers the hills and groups of Tai Chi devotees gather along the shore. Allow five hours to enjoy a leisurely walk around the lake, or kick into higher gear and grab a bike. In spring, the elevated paths around the lake are framed by a canopy of peach and cherry blossoms. For the ultimate romantic outing head out on the water: book a candlelight dinner cruise or rent a rowboat and dock at one of the islets.

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Fragrant lotus flowers

Even on a dreary day you can find lovely spots for a relaxing stroll, such as the Qu-Yuan Gardens on the northern shore of West Lake. Around 200 different species of lotus flowers grow in the various ponds and on the islands, making this the largest lotus garden in China. The pavilions, ornamental trees and covered walkways exude peace and quiet. In spring, the blossoming lotus flowers release their delightfully sweet fragrance.

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Harmonious tower

The traditional, layered Liuhe Pagoda looks out over the Qiantang River and was originally built as a lighthouse. The river has the strongest tidal wave in the world – these freshwater waves can reach a height of nine metres! The pagoda’s design combines heaven, earth and the four wind directions in an attempt to calm the raging tides.

The current tower was built in 1165 and is worth the climb. The spiral staircase in the pagoda is adorned with sculptures of lotus flowers, peacocks, lions and phoenixes. On each floor a peaceful Buddha awaits. The real reward for your climb is the spectacular view of the vast Qiantang River against the backdrop of majestic mountains.

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Dinner along the Grand Canal

For a romantic end to the day, take a walk along the Grand Canal to the northeast of West Lake. Stretching from Hangzhou to Beijing, this historic canal was built 2,500 years ago. On Sheng-Li Street you will find numerous authentic waterfront restaurants. Sample grilled seafood, spicy sectarian dishes or Hangzhou’s lighter local cuisine.

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Dragon tea from the hills

Fields of green tea, as far as the eye can see. The hills west of Hangzhou are home to the queen of green tea: Longjing. Also known as Dragon Well, this variety of tea is picked by hand and then immediately lightly roasted.

Learn more about the local tea culture by visiting the tea gardens around the village of Longjing. This idyllic setting is perfect for a walk. And if you ask politely, you may even be allowed to pick some tea yourself. Don’t miss the opportunity to attend an official tea ceremony: take a seat on the elegant wooden stools and savour the delicious and delicate aromas.

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Laughing Buddha

The Lingyin monastery complex is tucked away in a narrow valley northwest of Hangzhou. The first temple of this complex was built in 323. This serene setting with its babbling brook, majestic pagodas and ancient trees is perfect for a long walk.

The road to the temple is bordered by hundreds of Buddhist sculptures carved into the mountainside. The oldest sculptures date back to the 10th century. Don’t miss the Laughing Buddha – a real good luck charm! Inside the temple more gleaming Buddha sculptures await, including the 25-metre-high Sakyamuni. Take the cable car behind the temple to the top of the hill for a breathtaking view of Hangzhou and West Lake.

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