One of China’s most enduringly popular holiday spots, Hángzhōu’s (杭州) dreamy West Lake panoramas and fabulously green hills can easily tempt you into long sojourns. Eulogised by poets and applauded by emperors, the lake has intoxicated the Chinese imagination for aeons. Kept spotlessly clean by armies of street sweepers and litter collectors, its scenic vistas draw you into a classical Chinese watercolour of willow-lined banks, mist-covered hills and the occasional shíkùmén (stone-gate house) and old lǐlòng (residential lane).
Wonderful as it is, Hángzhōu's charms are by no means limited to West Lake scenery – delve further into the city to climb ancient pagodas and discover blissfully quiet temples. Away from the tourist drawcards exists a charismatic and buzzing city in its own right, with wide pedestrian walkways to wander, an unpretentious and exciting food scene, upbeat nightlife and increasingly cosmopolitan population.