Life in China

Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province

Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang province in Eastern China, at the southern end of the Grand Canal of China, which runs to Beijing.

Hangzhou is approximately 107 miles (170km) southwest of Shanghai, and a high- speed rail connection links you to Shanghai within an hour.

Size and population

Hangzhou has the fourth largest metropolitan area in China – the whole metropolitan area has a population of 21 million over 13,353 square miles (34,585 km 2 , whereas the Hangzhou prefecture itself has a registered population of approximately 9 million.


The climate of Hangzhou is humid subtropical, with four distinctive seasons, characterised by long, very hot, humid summers and chilly, cloudy and drier winters (with occasional snow). The mean annual temperature is 17.0 °C (62.6 °F), with monthly daily averages ranging from 4.6 °C (40.3 °F) in January to 28.9 °C (84.0 °F) in July. The city receives an average annual rainfall of 1,438.0 mm (56.6 in) and is affected by the “plum rains” of the Asian monsoon in June. In late summer (August to September), suffers typhoon storms, but typhoons seldom strike it directly. Generally they make landfall along the southern coast of Zhejiang, and affect the area with strong winds and stormy rains. Extremes since 1951 have ranged from −9.6 °C (15 °F) on 6 February 1969 up to 41.6 °C (107 °F) on 9 August 2013, unofficial readings have reached −10.5 °C (13 °F), set on 29 December 1912 and 24 January 1916, up to 42.1 °C (108 °F), set on 10 August 1930.

Things to Do

Wonderful as it is, Hangzhou’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 with wide pedestrian walkways to wander, an unpretentious and exciting food scene, upbeat nightlife and an increasingly cosmopolitan population.

Living costs

The cost of renting an apartment in Hangzhou is comparable to most Chinese cities: at the upper end, a large apartment in a new apartment block, with two or three bedrooms, kitchen, living space and bathroom, can cost around 20,000RMB upwards. However, some great places can be found for very little, if you have time and energy to look for it – landlords often show you around the poor quality locations first, hoping you will sign up for it. Be patient and keep looking! A regular one-bedroomed apartment with kitchen and bathroom would cost between 4,000-8,000, depending on location and age of the building. You could also look into sharing an apartment with other expat teachers/professionals, and a decent room in a clean, new apartment would cost around 2,500-4,000RMB per month, often including all bills.

When moving to China, be prepared to have to pay a deposit on your apartment (of around the value of 2 months’ rent), plus your first month rent – this is standard, but can often be disconcerting or daunting for new arrivals. Also, expect to have to purchase additional items for your home, such as cooking utensils, bedding, which will add to your arrival costs.

Bills are not usually covered in with the cost of your apartment, unless it is a shared apartment with bills included. However, the cost of utilities is relatively low – water, or gas, are roughly 50RMB per quarter, and electricity is around 150RMB per month.

Travel and transport

Hangzhou has its own international airport, with flights to all major Chinese cities (except Shanghai, which is only a 1-hour train ride away), and international connections to Hong Kong, Macau, Tokyo, Singapore, and other destinations. There are several daily flights to Beijing and Guangzhou.

Hangzhou airport is is 30km from the city centre. It will cost around 100 – 130Rmb for the trip in a taxi. However, a shuttle bus runs every 15 minutes between 5am and 9pm from the CAAC office, also stopping at the train station (20RMB).

Cycling – A great way to get around is to use the Hangzhou Bike Hire Scheme. Stations are dotted in large numbers around the city, in what is one of the world’s largest networks. Apply at one of the booths at numerous bike stations near West Lake; you will need your passport as ID. Fill in a form and you will receive a swipe card, then swipe the pad at one of the docking stations till you get a steady green light to release the bike. Return bikes to any other station (ensure the bike is properly docked before leaving it). The first hour on each bike is free, so if you switch bikes within the hour, the rides are free. The second hour is ¥1, the third is ¥2 and after that it’s ¥3 / hour. Your deposit and unused credit are refunded to you when you return your swipe card (check when it should be returned as this can vary). Note you cannot return bikes outside booth operating hours as the swipe units deactivate (you will be charged a whole night’s rental).

Bus - Hangzhou has a clean, efficient bus system and getting around is easy (but roads are increasingly gridlocked). ‘Y’ buses are tourist buses; ‘K’ is simply an abbreviation of ‘kōngtiáo’ (air-con). Tickets are ¥2 to ¥5

Metro - Hangzhou’s new metro line 1 (tickets ¥2 to ¥8; first/last train 6.06am/11.32pm), runs from the southeast of town, through the Main Train Station, along the east side of West Lake and on to the East Train Station, the Main Bus Station and the northeast of town. It's not very useful for sightseeing around town. Line 2 runs south from Chaoyang to Qianjiang Road and Line 4 is expected to start service in 2016, while only a small part of Line 4 is open so far. Other lines are planned for the future.

Download Hangzhou City Guide

West Lake

One of China’s most enduringly popular holiday spots, Hangzhou’s 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).

Six Harmonies Pagoda

The Six Harmonies Pagoda (Liuhe Pagoda) is a multi-storey Chinese pagoda in southern Hangzhou, located at the foot of Yuelun Hill, facing the Qiantang River, and was originally constructed in 970AD during the Northern Song dynasty.

Lingyin temple

Lingyin temple is one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in China, and contains numerous pagodas and Buddhist grottoes. The monastery is the largest of several temples in the Wulin Mountains, which also features a large number of grottos and religious rock carvings.

China Silk Museum

Situated at the southern bank of West Lake of Hangzhou City, the China National Silk Museum tells about the origin, development and types of silk, Silk Road and the importance of silk in ancient society and life.