Hangzhou’s West Lake

When visiting Hangzhou, no one can miss the West Lake. As Hangzhou’s largest tourist landmark, the West Lake attracts plenty of visitors all year round.

Essentially, it’s a large urban lake primarily known for its stunning lake views and rich cultural landscape, offering breathtaking sceneries. The ten most famous sights of West Lake, widely known since the Southern Song Dynasty, have drawn countless overseas tourists.

The cultural landscape of West Lake is rich, with must-see spots including the Broken Bridge, Su Causeway, Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, and Leifeng Pagoda.

The Broken Bridge and Leifeng Pagoda are not only landmarks of the romantic story of Xu Xian and Bai Suzhen but also the signature spots for “Broken Bridge in Snow” and “Leifeng Pagoda in Evening Glow”, respectively. The willow trees lining the Su Causeway best embody the graceful charm of West Lake.

The Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, hailed as “the number one scenic spot of West Lake”, is a popular photo op for tourists, who often pose with a one-yuan note featuring the three stone towers.

Hangzhou's West Lake

The tour route around West Lake can be divided into clockwise and counterclockwise directions. The clockwise route is ideal for a relaxed journey on a sightseeing bus. The counterclockwise route, less crowded, is the preferred option for off-peak visits.

However, it doesn’t offer sightseeing buses, making it more suitable for a leisurely exploration of West Lake. In addition, boat tours are a significant feature of West Lake tourism. There are numerous docks around the lake, offering four types of boat tours.

The conventional approach is to take a boat to the Xiaoying Island in the middle of the lake, a perfect spot to capture the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon.

The less common route includes “Turtle Pond, Rainbow Bridge, and Swan Bay”, offering narrow waterways and picturesque views of pavilions, towers, and lush trees. It’s best to arrive early in the morning for this, as the boat operators usually don’t offer this route in the afternoon.


Hangzhou's West Lake

West Lake, located in the western part of Hangzhou city, is easily accessible by public transportation. Visitors can reach it by subway or bus. Internal transportation around West Lake includes cycling, sightseeing buses, boat tours, and special bus lines, allowing for flexible transfers.

As the tour area of West Lake is quite extensive, it can be physically demanding to explore the entire area on foot. It’s recommended for visitors to utilize the transportation within the scenic area, making the journey much more relaxed.

Time & Cost:

A half-day or full-day trip is sufficient for exploring West Lake, with an average cost ranging from 100 to 300 yuan per person.

Avoiding Tourist Pitfalls

  1. It’s best not to drive to West Lake. Given the high volume of visitors and frequent traffic jams along the lake, public transportation is a more convenient option.
  2. The West Lake tour bus stops on request and only travels clockwise around the lake. If you decide to travel counter-clockwise from Broken Bridge towards Su Causeway, there will be no tour bus service available. You can purchase tickets on-site by scanning a QR code. There are options for an area-specific ticket or an all-around-the-lake ticket.
  3. Be sure to book cultural attractions in advance. Visits to cultural sites such as Leifeng Pagoda, Yue Fei Temple, and Jingci Temple require pre-booking. This can be done through the WeChat mini-program “West Lake Xixi On Hand”.
  4. Be very clear about the type of boat ticket you’re purchasing. With numerous piers along West Lake’s edge very close to each other, it’s easy to confuse and buy the wrong ticket, especially for the around-the-lake and island tours.
  5. To visit Xiaoying Island (also known as Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon Island), you will need to purchase the island tour boat ticket. This ticket includes a round trip and entrance fee to Xiaoying Island. During the boat ride, staff will provide a free explanation of the attractions along the way.
  6. The last boat to the island departs at 4:10 PM, and the return trip is at 5 PM. Visitors planning to visit Xiaoying Island should schedule their time accordingly.
  7. On Xiaoying Island, you can only view the Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon from a distance. If you wish to see it up close, consider taking a rowboat tour from the Flower Harbor Viewing Fish Pier.
  8. It’s not recommended to row your own boat to the island in West Lake. The do-it-yourself rowing boats are only available for hire and return at the Liugong Park pier, which allows you to reach the Xiao Yingzhou and Hu Xin Ting islands. However, the pier is quite a distance from the two islands, and you’ll need to purchase additional tickets to access the small islands.
  9. The red bicycles around West Lake are the top choice for cycling. The first hour of riding is free, and you can usually find the bike return stations near bus stops.
  10. Cycling is not allowed on Bai Di and Su Di; these are only accessible by foot or sightseeing vehicles. Bicycles can travel along the lakeside ring road, but with heavy traffic along the way, safety should be your primary concern.
  11. Besides the Leifeng Pagoda, the Broken Bridge, Xiling Bridge, and Chang Bridge also offer excellent spots for sunset viewing at West Lake. If you’re short on time to visit Leifeng Pagoda, you can opt for these three locations instead.
  12. Near the Zhejiang Provincial Museum, there’s a bus station at Bai Di that runs to and from Leifeng Pagoda. The special bus route accepts payments through Alipay’s “Hangzhou Electronic Bus Card”. Just scan the code on-site to pay. The one-way fare is 5 Yuan per person.

Restaurant Review

Hangzhou's West Lake

The popular food scene around West Lake is concentrated along Hubin Road and Nanshan Road. Hubin Road is a commercial pedestrian street, home to many local Hangzhou restaurant chains.

Nanshan Road, on the other hand, boasts quaint lakeside restaurants with a touch of sophistication. Customers can opt to dine by the lake, enjoying an atmosphere that is nothing short of excellent.

Due to the high foot traffic around West Lake, popular restaurants in the vicinity often experience long wait times during peak dining hours. It is recommended to make a reservation by phone in advance for a seamless dining experience upon arrival.


West Lake is open to the public for free all year round, with a higher volume of visitors on weekends and holidays. For a half-day tour, it’s recommended to start in the afternoon, while for a full-day tour, a morning start is ideal.

The half-day tour begins at Lakeside Park and follows a clockwise route. First, take a sightseeing ride to Leifeng Pagoda, then enjoy a boat ride around the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, and finally visit the Bai Causeway and Broken Bridge. This itinerary is both relaxed and covers all the main attractions.

The full-day tour starts at the northwest gate and proceeds in a counterclockwise direction, which helps avoid the peak crowd times. Take a leisurely stroll around West Lake and sequentially visit the Broken Bridge, Bai Causeway, Zhejiang Provincial Museum, and Su Causeway, finally ending at Leifeng Pagoda and Jingci Temple.

Every year from May to October, you can experience a night boat ride on West Lake, where you can admire the bustling nighttime scene of the lake, offering a different experience from daytime visits.

The availability of night tours depends on the weather conditions of the evening, and the dock’s actual arrangements should be confirmed. Night tour docks include the Children’s Palace Dock, Second Park Dock, Lakeside Fifth Park Dock, and Broken Bridge Dock. Visitors can board at the closest dock.

Detailed Guide:

Broken Bridge: Located between Bai Causeway and Beishan Road, the Broken Bridge is the iconic structure representing the “Remnant Snow on the Broken Bridge,” one of the ten sceneries of West Lake. According to folklore, it is also where Xu Xian and Lady White met.

Su Causeway: Su Causeway was originally constructed by Su Shi, the governor of Hangzhou, for the purpose of dredging West Lake. In the spring, willows on either side of the causeway sprout fresh green leaves, making it the best time to leisurely admire the “Spring Dawn at Su Causeway.”

Three Pools Mirroring the Moon: As the largest island in West Lake, Three Pools Mirroring the Moon is famous for having a lake within the island and an island within the lake. On the southeast side of the island, there are three stone pagodas, which served as the design inspiration for the back of the one-yuan paper currency.

Leifeng Pagoda: Serving as a checkpoint for the “Leifeng Pagoda in the Sunset,” one of the ten sceneries of West Lake, it is also said to be the place where Lady White was suppressed. Visitors can take an elevator to the top of Leifeng Pagoda for a panoramic view of West Lake. However, the best vantage point for viewing the “Leifeng Pagoda in the Sunset” is from the Long Bridge.

Special Notices

  1. Entry to West Lake is free, but tickets must be purchased for cultural attractions such as Leifeng Pagoda, Yue Wang Temple, and Jingci Temple. Please bring your ID for admission.
  2. There are frequent West Lake sightseeing buses running every 10 minutes, which are very convenient to use. However, they only operate in a clockwise direction. If you are traveling from the Broken Bridge to the Su Causeway in a counter-clockwise direction, there are no sightseeing buses available.
  3. There are two types of West Lake sightseeing buses, both of which follow the same route. The fare for the green bus is 10 yuan per person per section, and for the antique bus, it’s 20 yuan per person per section. The antique bus offers a more comfortable and stable ride, making it suitable for seniors, pregnant women, and other groups.
  4. There are many piers along the shore of West Lake, and they are quite close to each other, which can easily confuse tourists. Therefore, make sure to understand the type of boat tickets and the tour route before purchasing.
  5. There are two types of island tour boat tickets, both including a round-trip boat ticket and admission to Xiaoying Island. The difference is that the 70-yuan ticket is for a deluxe painted boat, while the 55-yuan ticket is for a simple leisure boat. However, the return trip is always on a leisure boat. Overall, the painted boat does not offer good value for money.
  6. When returning from the island tour, you can board and disembark at different piers on Xiaoying Island. There are four piers: Hubin Pier (near the city center), Hangfan Pier (near Yue Temple, Beishan Street), Huagang Pier (near Leifeng Pagoda, Taizi Bay, Su Causeway), and Zhongshan Pier (near Louwailou, Zhongshan Park, Bai Causeway). Visitors can choose flexibly according to their itinerary.
  7. For a close-up view of the “Three Pools Mirroring the Moon” landscape, consider taking a paddle boat near the Flower Harbor Fish Viewing Dock. Typically, paddle boats only visit nearby attractions.
  8. From May to October each year, West Lake night cruises are available from the Youth Palace Dock, Second Park Dock, and Fifth Official Dock. These night cruises do not dock, and instead provide a lake tour that passes by the Broken Bridge, Mid-Lake Pavilion, Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, Leifeng Pagoda, before returning to the starting dock.
  9. Visitors are not recommended to row themselves to the islands. West Lake row boats can only be rented and returned at the Sixth Park Dock. Although these boats can take you to Xiaoyingzhou and Mid-Lake Pavilion Island, the dock is quite far from both islands and the island entrance tickets need to be purchased separately.
  10. The availability of shared bicycles along Nanshan Road is limited. There are more bicycles near Pinghu Qiuyue and the First Park Bus Station, so we recommend cycling from these two locations.
  11. Avoid renting electronic guides from the Zhejiang Provincial Museum. The Museum’s official WeChat account offers free guides that are similar to those on the electronic guides. The account also updates with the latest exhibit pictures, making it a more practical option.

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