One of China's most revered tourist drawcards, Hangzhou's dreamy West Lake panoramas and fabulously green and hilly environs can easily lull you into long sojourns. Religiously cleaned by armies of street sweepers and litter collectors, its scenic vistas draw you into a classical Chinese watercolor of willow-lined banks, ancient pagodas, mist-covered hills, and the occasional shikumen building and old lilong.
The very definition of classical beauty in China, West Lake continues to mesmerize visitors. Pagoda-topped hills rise over willow-lined waters as boasts drift slowly through a vignette of leisurely charm. Connected to the northern shores by the Bai Causeway is Gushan Island, the largest island in the lake and the location of several attractions, including the Zhejiang Provincial Museum and Zhongshan Park. The smaller island in the lake is Xiaoying Island, where you can find the 'Three Pools Mirroring the Moon', three small towers in the water, each which has five holes that release shafts of candlelight on the night of the mid-autumn festival.
Topped with a golden spire, you can climb the eye-catching Leifeng Pagoda for fine views of the lake. To the east of the lake, at the south end of Zhongshan Zhonglu is the fascinating pedestrian Qinghefang Old Street. Lined with makeshift puppet theatres, teahouses, and curio stalls, it'salso the home of several traditional medicine shops. Hangzhou grants free admission to all museums and gardens.
From Shanghai, buses leave frequently for Hangzhou's east bus station (Y65, 2.5h) from Shanghai's south bus station, the main long-distance bus station, and Hengfeng Rd bus station. Regular buses (Y100, 3h) also run to Hangzhou from Pudong International Airport.