Hangzhou is a culinary hotspot in China. In fact, the cuisine of Zhejiang Province is praised as one of China's eight greatest culinary traditions, leaving plenty of incentive for restaurants to perfect age-old recipes.
Freshwater fish including eels and crustaceans are featured prominently in local dishes. Infusions of Longjing tea, ginger and soybean milk are also common. Beggar's chicken, baked in an earthen oven, is a land-based specialty featured on menus across the city. West Lake vinegar fish and fried shrimp are also popular.
The modern commercial district has plenty of national chains and more than a few Western fast-food restaurants. That aside, most tourists focus on the lakeside where there are atmospheric, historic restaurants abound.
As with the rest of Hangzhou's commerce, the best restaurants are perch on the lakefront. Most of these serve local cuisine, but there are a few lakeside restaurants that branch out into mainstream Chinese cooking. Expect prices to be higher but still affordable on this premium real estate.
The streets that branch out from Hangzhou Fish Market light up after hours. It transforms into a lively restaurant district where local eateries serve up the day's fresh catch. Tourists won't find many English-language menus, but this is the sort of place where you're better off pointing at your fish and trusting the chef with the details.
Zhejiang University is west of the lake and operates a commercial district that is independent from the main tourist districts. This is a good place for simple, straightforward Chinese food, but there are also a few finer family establishments near the hotels in this part of town.
Lou Wai Lou
30 Gushan Road, Solitary Hill, Hangzhou
Phone: +86 571 879 6968
Given its premium location on Solitary Hill, this restaurant is without question the city's most popular. It is also one of the longest standing restaurants in Hangzhou, and the only thing that rivals its view over West Lake is the traditional Hangzhou menu.
124 Jiefant Street, Hangzhou
Phone: +86 571 8706 5921
This popular restaurant was founded in the Qing Dynasty, and it specializes in the local shrimp-and-fried-eel delicacy. This is an excellent place to experience authentic Hangzhou cuisine.
Shan Wai Shan
8 Yuquan Road, Hangzhou
Phone: +86 571 8702 6621
Not all of the restaurants in Hangzhou serve strictly local cuisine. Shan Wai Shan is one of the finer restaurants to specialize in other regional traditions including Sichuan and Cantonese cuisine. This atmospheric restaurant is next door to the Botanical Gardens.
23 Hubing Road, Hangzhou
Phone: +86 571 8702 0701
Another lakeside restaurant, Hupanju Teahouse is three stories tall and features an all-you-can-eat buffet. It is most popular at lunchtime, when patrons sip at Longjing tea while looking out over the water.
Find more information about Hangzhou and hotels in the area:
Hangzhou hotels | China hotels
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