Welcome to Hangzhou
So you want to visit China and you did your homework on what cities are worth the visit. Chances are you unknowingly landed on Hangzhou or heard about it from someone. Well you have found the real treasure of China!
Just 1 hour train ride southwest of Shanghai lies a modest town of 10 million people (urban area), only the 5th largest city in all of China. Here you can find every bit of what your looking for in a Chinese experience without the chaos, believe it or not, of Shanghai or Beijing. Maybe reason why the world giant Alibaba.com was birthed and is still headquartered there. If you’re looking for history, romantic getaway in the tea fields, a spiritual moment in one of many temples, wilderness trails and hidden gardens, food heaven, or a nightlife you won’t ever forget then join the Trader Bros. tour of Hangzhou!
Hangzhou is yet a top destination city for China and should be on your list
(See our China page for what to expect in general for traveling in China)
Unlike many major cities around the world or even in China for that matter, Hangzhou is vast in width but lacks the height of the typical large Asia cities. With an overall population of 19+ Million and city population of 10+ million the cityscape stretches beyond imagine to accommodate the growth. As the downtown area known as City Center had already been established for the most part, the layout of Hangzhou was set. The growth can be attributed to the geographic location. The Hangzhou River dumps out in Ningbo one the worlds busiest ports. This booming rich economy gave way to the nearest city with potential, Hangzhou.
Hangzhou is known for its rising economy but don’t be fooled by the glam and glitter, it has 7,000 years of history and has been inhabited for 5,000. The southern end of China’s Grand Canal which stretches all the way to Beijing sits Hangzhou, it was given its name in 589 AD as the seat of the Zhou of Hang, thus lending to Hangzhou. This ancient history is found all over the city and the province. Zhejiang Province is also a diamond of China featuring Avatar style mountains, Atlantis-like underwater cities, and Euro themed ghost towns, what is more to ask? There is not enough time for one visit to this city to appreciate all that it has to offer.
Because of the rapid growth, Hangzhou is more widely seen as a young family and young adult demographic. The youth of the older culture smaller towns left the nest and attended university or found a job at one of the many growing companies. Most famous is Alibaba.com one of the largest companies in the world which is stationed right in Hangzhou. When there is this much success you can find a lot of money which leads way to an even richer lifestyle. Luxury cars adorn the streets and you can find a Starbucks on almost every corner. This technology Mecca has opened to the world and foreigners are not foreign at all. From English pubs to Arabic or Turkish eateries you can find whatever your stomach desires be it street food or white tablecloth dining. Let your hair down because the youth own the night, even if you left your youth behind years ago you can be young again here!
One glance in any direction yields a curiosity of flora and fauna with pagoda adorned mountains or ancient river towns. To the West you will find marshlands and tea mountains where you can enjoy wildlife or a cup of Hangzhou’s famous Dragon Well green tea. To the North you will find mountains and parks and temples, Easterly you will find much of the same including the might Hangzhou River where annually in Autumn the largest river swell reaching 30 feet tall rolls through, and to the South you have water features, mountains, water falls, ancient towns and more. Literally any park or any historic landmark will perk the minds and calm the soul as you drift back in time and take in the beauty of nature.
Technology rules the world in China, so get with the times. You can do things the hard way or you can just breeze right on through all the troubles that come with being in a foreign land not speaking the same language.
Follow these steps if you want to get around Hangzhou with limited stress:
Getting to Hangzhou:
FROM SHANGHAI PUDONG PVG: Charter bus, charter bus, charter bus! Don’t even bother trying any other way from Shangai Pudong Airport (PVG). There is a 3 hour bus that takes you to Hangzhou City Center and is only around $18. If you try to go light rail, taxi, or subway to Hongqiao (Shanghai’s second airport and railway station) it will take you at least 1 hour, then you will buy a train ticket at and wait around 30 minutes at least, then the train is 1 hour. All of that will occur with long lines, wait times, stress, and will cost around $10-15… take the charter. Exit the baggage claim at PVG and head up to the second floor where you will be in a long hallway going towards the other terminal, trains, Maglev, and metro. You want the Long Distance Bus which is only a few yards/meters down the hallway and down stairs or elevator in the middle of the hall. Follow the signs to the bus that look like this or show someone this image:
Once there go to the window and buy a ticket, say Hangzhou (Han-Jo). The bus leaves almost every hour from 7am-7pm, you can get a ticket fairly easy and within a few minutes so no need to rush and be there an hour early (unless holidays).
FROM SHANGHAI HONGQIOA SHA: If you arrived at the smaller airport or found your way to Hongqiao Railway Station then you are only one 45 minute high speed train away from Hangzhou! It is important to know that Hongqiao has an airport and a train station but its easily accesible to either once you are there. Just follow signs to Railway Ticket Office ***you cannot get into most train stations (line with airport-like security and xray) without first buying a ticket, so go to the ticket station first which is on the bottom floor. Signs will be in English and has a symbol that looks like this or show someone this image:
Read more about what to expect and how to go through the train process on our China page.
The Trader Bros made a handy map for you to find your away around the subway, simply determine the area you wish to see and pay attention to the direction and end station. This will get you on the right train where you can then check the appropriate stop, however if you need more detail just click on the map below to see all the stops.
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Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance
See our section on the China page for general China Planning ahead like apps and gear you will need.
This is always a huge topic when we talk to groups or fellow travelers; “what is the best and cheapest way to exchange cash and do I even need to?”. The answer is yes, the Trader Bros have never been to another country and not needed local currency. Having exchanged money in every way possible, they have found that the easiest and cheapest way is to have USD cash planned out and on you. Once you arrive to that particular country you can go to the nearest and most known bank and exchange for the local currency. There is no fee for this and the currency is a straight conversion at whatever the current rate is. In China, Bank of China is the most well known and largest bank but others can also do this such as China Construction Bank or CCB (Bank of America partner with no ATM fees if you bank with BOAC).
Weather in Hangzhou from a daily perspective is a mystery but seasonally it stays predictable. Freezing to the bone during winter including snow is from November to February. It isn’t the outside temperature that will surprise you as much as it is the conditions inside hotels, businesses, and restaurants. Heaters aren’t really a thing in China, so it is important to overpack on the winter clothes and fortunately the one thing they do prepare for is hanging and stowing your jackets and layers once you’ve arrived. The cool months can sometimes go either direction but will be found in Spring and Fall, so March-May and September-October. During these months you could wear shorts and a tshirt but always bring a light jacket and umbrella due to the wavering conditions. The hottest months give any desert a run for its money here in Hangzhou just like its winter chills. Humidity is a major factory when it is 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity at 50% or higher. At these temps it really doesn’t matter what you are wearing or not wearing because it will be soaked in sweat either way. The nightlife is a little laid back when it comes to attire unless you are Middle Eastern or Italian and 3 piece suits are your thing. For the most part just dress nicely and wear shoes if you are a guy and leave the yoga pants at home if your a gal when enjoying the clubs. Bars, well they are just bars and you won’t get any comments on your attire there. This is even the case with restaurants where even Trader Bros Eddie Rey and Jordan Wendelken enjoyed a Michelin rated dining experience in flip flops, board shorts, and tank tops.. stay classy San Diego!
Creepy crawlies aren’t really a thing here which is nice an unlike many asian countries, but mosquitos are definitely a force to be reckoned with. Bring your favorite arsenal or buy some major deet filled solutions here. Because it is a fairly wet climate including humidity, mosquitos will be on you and you will get bit.
Having hand sanitizer, tissues, and a bottle of water is always a good idea no matter where you travel and this is no exception to the rule. Spit is everywhere, some restaurants don’t offer napkins, and tap water is not something you really want to play with.
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Zhejiang in itself is stunning and holds the very best of China past and present. You can wander through the mountains, visit beaches and islands, dive to underwater cities, and stand before ancient temples and tombs. It can take weeks to explore the province but in Hangzhou you can get lost in the same ancient history and beauty within a few days. The Trader Bros have collected their most favorite adventures and places to visit right here. You can follow their suggested iteneraries or go à la carte.
- Broken Bridge
- Tiger Spring
- Westlake Water Show
- Light Show
If you know anything about bars you can expect anything especially in China, but Hangzhou doesn’t fall short of supply in this category. There is a bar for every occasion and for every person whether it is a hole in the wall or a crowded pub. Here is our favorites based on the atmosphere.
- 9 Bar- Western style pool bar and concert venue $$
- Libre- Latin style with outdoor pool popular with the college students $$
- Social 10- Pub style with a single pool table and outdoor seating $$
- Wades- Western style with a single pool table and two convenient locations $$
- Basement- Underground urban style with house music dj $$$
- Ellens- Western style dive bar popular with the locals (fake alcohol) $
The Trader Bros. have been around the world many times and have enjoyed all the local attractions but one thing remains true, Hangzhou nightlife is hands down one of the best! But, you have to know how to do it. We saw a need for a quality guide not only for daytime activities but night too. So get ready to live the good life!
- Asia Bar
- Coco Banana