A mere 100 miles from Shanghai, it's something of a surprise that Hangzhou has been able to maintain its own distinct identity in the face of its neighbor's rapid success. But that's just what this city has done, adding just the right mix of modernity to balance 2,000 years of history and tradition.
Hangzhou is the capital of its province, and as such it's one of the most important regional shopping centers. Tourists will find a mix of modern shops and traditional markets with just enough atmosphere to keep everything interesting.
Hangzhou is less than an hour from Shanghai by high-speed rail, a fact that's partly responsible for the obvious modern edge to this traditional and historic city. Even better, visitors find that the city is highly accessible and easily explored. Tourists are in a great position to learn the local customs without fear that their own foreign customs will be misinterpreted.
The major sites in Hangzhou are situated around West Lake. There are several parks and gardens, some boasting pagodas, tea houses or temples. Tea is also grown in the area and depending on the season, visitors may see the tea being harvested or processed.
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.
There is plenty to keep visitors occupied in Hangzhou, from outdoor daytime activities like cycling and boating to more cosmopolitan pursuits after hours. The city has a well-established night scene with a mix of clubs, bars and restaurants that cater for a diverse crowd.