Escape from Shanghai to Hangzhou

West Lake area, Hangzhou

Italian explorer Marco Polo described the thriving city of Hangzhou, nearly 100 miles from Shanghai, as “beyond dispute, the finest and noblest in the world.”

Hangzhou is now a technology hub, so concentrate your escape on the more traditional West Lake area, with willow-lined banks, pagodas from 970 A.D., and mist-shrouded hills that look like a classic Chinese watercolor painting.

Sunset at West Lake in Hangzhou

Catch the Impression West Lake Show and see performers dance on water in a production from Zhang Yimou, the creator of the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony for $42. Then stop by the nearby Longjing Tea Plantation to sample some of the world’s finest brews of floral green tea, grown exclusively on the property. To get there, take a 45-minute bullet train direct from Shanghai for about $12.

To stay here, try the traditional Shangri-La Hotel Hangzhou, with 40 acres of lush grounds—it’s steps away from West Lake. Borrow a bike from the concierge and ride along the water to the high-style Jin Sha Restaurant in the nearby Four Seasons Hangzhou at West Lake. Recommendation: Order the abalone—a large, sweet snail.

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