So now that you’ve acquired a bicycle, whether it’s yours or a rental, the question you may have is where do I go with it? The most obvious answer is West Lake. This is what people come to Hangzhou for, and where the vast majority of the bicycle tour companies will take you. If you’re particularly interested in the history of West Lake, going with one of these outfits is a great way to find out more. The distance around the lake is not particularly long, about 7 miles (11 kilometres or so), depending on which route you take. If you’re a fast biker, you can easily get around the lake in under an hour or so. Most people, however, will take their time and stop at various points. I’d plan on a trip taking at least two hours to be safe.
Alternative Route 1: South of West Lake
Though West Lake is a great place to explore on bike, it’s certainly not the only one. There’s also some great biking to be had just south of West Lake. One route I’d recommend is through the neighborhood that the Hangzhou Tea Museum is located in. Using Wulin Square (武林广场) as a reference point, you’re going to want to head south on Yan’an Road (延安路) until Heavenly Wing over Wu Hill. If you’d prefer to bike along West Lake as opposed to Hangzhou’s city center, head west when Yan’an Road hits Qingchun Road(庆春路), then head south on Hubin Road (湖滨路) along the south end of the West Lake. After about five blocks, Hubin runs into Nanshan (南山路), the hub of activity along West Lake’s south waterfront.
Continue on Nanshan until it turns west at the south corner of West Lake. Instead of turning west to follow Nanshan, continue straight on Yuhuangshan Road (玉皇山路). This is where the scenery starts to get interesting, as the buildings spread out and the trees start to increase in volume. Stay on Yuhuangshan (玉皇山) until you reach Lianhuafeng (莲花山), which goes west. You’ll see the China National Silk Museum (中国丝绸博物馆) just before the turn. This museum is one of the best in Hangzhou, and worthy of a stop if this is where you choose to end your bike trip. It’s 3.41 miles from Wulin Square to the National Silk Museum, so 6.82 miles round trip (11 kilometres).
If you’re not feeling like a museum day or want a more intense bike ride, then head down Lianhuafeng, which twists through a neighborhood of detached traditional housing. If you choose to continue straight on Yuhuangshan, you’ll see some interesting scenery, but you’ll soon hit a tunnel that will take you south to the river and isn’t particularly fun to bike through. So I recommend taking Lianhuafeng, which winds through the forest south of Hangzhou for about 1.3 miles (2.1 kilometres), at which point it turns into Hupao Road (虎跑路). Go north on Hupao to head back towards the lake. If you’re looking to take a break, a great place for a rest is Shaonian Ertong Park (少年儿童公园). It’s not far north from the intersection of Lianhuafeng and Hupao, less than a quarter mile. You want to trek on, continue north on Hupao until it becomes Nanshan (about another mile). From there, it’s 6.3 miles (10.1 kilometres) back to Wulin Square. Roundtrip, that’s just over 11 miles.
Alternative Route 2: Xixi Wetland Park
If you’ve been around the West Lake one time too many and are looking to get out of Hangzhou altogether, try heading along Wen Er Lu (文二路) going West towards Xixi National Wetland Park (西溪湿地国家公园). I only recommend Wen Er because I’ve personally taken this route, but there are a number of other ways to get to Xixi Wetland Park. Wen San Lu (文三路) and Tianmushan Lu (天目山路) also work (Wen San will come out just north of the park, while Tianmushan will come out just south. The nice thing about the long blocks along Wen Er is that they ensure relative safety when you’re in the city, and at a certain point, the city simply stops, opening up into a landscape of fields and half constructed buildings.
Continue on Wen Er, Wen San, or Tianmushan until the road intersects with Zijingang Road (紫金港路). Riding your bike to Xixi Wetland Park and back will take you about two and a half hours altogether, depending on how fast you cycle. From the Hangzhou’s city center south of West Lake the distance is about 5 miles one way, so 10 miles round trip (or 8 kilometers, 16 kilometers round trip). It’s a fairly straightforward ride.
Alternative Route 3: Grand Canal
Another great route is along the Grand Canal that cuts through the city and runs all the way to Beijing. This ride gives you a variety of scenery, and offers a very long stretch of relatively uninterrupted pathway. If you’re not sure how to get to the canal from where you are, ask around or check out a map. If you head south, you’ll eventually hit the river. If you head north, you’ll go through a variety of urban scenery ranging from high density residential to industrial before the city eventually ends and opens up into low density housing and fields.
These three routes are, of course, just suggestions and certainly not the only places worth seeing on bike. Whether you’re the type of person that prefers to follow guidebooks or the type who prefers to get lost, you’re sure to run into something memorable as you bike through this city. Just remember to be safe and look both ways before crossing the street, as few things can ruin your day more than ending up on someone’s windshield.
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