Sit-and-Sippers: 5 Great Independent Cafés in Hangzhou

Sit-and-Sippers: 5 Great Independent Cafés in Hangzhou
By Kevin Sundeen ,

As more and more foreigners and Chinese in Hangzhou require their early-morning coffee jolt, more and more coffee shops are popping up to fill that demand; however, not all of these are the ubiquitous Starbucks, C. Straits, or even McCafés. Hangzhou has some great independent coffee shop and cafes for those who prefer a different flavour of coffee experience. These are cafes for those who like to sit and savour their coffee with a good book in hand, for those would rather sip a cappuccino topped with a foamy white heart rather than guzzle something hot and bitter from a paper cup while they speed-walk to work. While there is a time for the walk and gulp routine, these little cafes are better enjoyed after work—but maybe get a decaf!

IFE reminds me of my own university days, maybe due to its proximity to the Zhejiang University Yuquan Campus back gate on Xixi Road (and the free wifi). The front is all glass, letting lots of natural light in for better studying and making people-watching possible from inside. Lined with benches and plush chairs at dark wood tables, the walls are a dark grey with some chalk paint sections covered in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, French and English graffiti. IFE serves various coffee drinks hot or cold and it’s cheaper if you order takeaway. If you’re hungry, you can get pastries, but more often than not you’ll see someone munching on an unlikely coffee pairing: a New York hot dog with all the trimmings.

IFE View In Map
Add: 418 Xixi Lu, near yugu Lu or Tianmushan Lu, Hangzhou
地址: 杭州市西湖区西溪路418号
Tel: 0571 8512 2676
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 09:00-24:00
Getting there: Buses No. K101, K21 both stop on Yugu Lu, east of Xixi Lu, or buses K900, K816, K598, K502, K356, K349, K346, K306, K282, K213, K193, K102, K92, K89, K83, K81, K72, K79, K49, K17, K15, K9, B2 stop on Tianmushan Lu, go south on Xixi Lu and turn east on Xixi Lu

If IFE is a study-time shot of espresso, then the next-door Panini is an indulgent milkshake.  Panini also has a floor-to-ceiling glass storefront to illuminate its cheery and spacious-feeling interior. Also a very international place, the café’s walls are decorated with ticket stubs and pictures from all over the world. The eponymous highlight of Panini is, well, paninis.  They offer a variety of the grill-pressed sandwiches, including a vegetarian and dessert option, none of which will disappoint a sandwich-deprived foreigner. To wash down your sandwich you could order a coffee but Panini offers great milkshakes or specials on fresh juice if you order it with a sandwich.

PaniniView In Map
Add: 418 Xixi Lu, near Yugu Lu or Tianmushan Lu, Hangzhou
地址: 杭州市西湖区西溪路418号 418号
Tel: 0571 8515 8353
Opening hours: 08:00-24:00 Mon-Sun
Getting there: buses No. K101, K21 both stop on Yugu Lu, east of Xixi Lu, or buses K900, K816, K598, K502, K356, K349, K346, K306, K282, K213, K193, K102, K92, K89, K83, K81, K72, K79, K49, K17, K15, K9, B2 stop on Tianmushan Lu, go south on Xixi Lu and turn east on Xixi Lu

35mm Café, Hangzhou (Photo:

35mm Café
35mm Café, with storefront windows that on the first floor resemble a roll of film and on the second floor the lens of an SLR camera, definitely has a theme and sticks to it all the way through the well thought-out space. The first floor houses the coffee bar and several plush sofas, while the second floor provides a more intimate setting with smaller tables and chairs. The staff hangs out downstairs and only come upstairs when you ring the bell thoughtfully placed on every table. The decoration, in keeping with the photography theme, features tastefully framed prints of famous photographs, natural wood accents and corkboards with artsy postcards. Spend some time at 35mm Café to enjoy a slower paced place—settle down, listen to some quiet tunes from the Bose speakers, order a cappuccino and you’ll find it topped with a heart that would be broken if you took it away in a paper cup.

35mm CaféView In Map
Add: No.385-10 Gudun Lu, near Wen Er Lu, Hangzhou
地址: 杭州市西湖区古墩路385-10号
Tel: 0571 8535 6287
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 08:30-24:00
Getting there: Buses No. K221, K199, K194, 86/K86, 81/K81 all stop around the corner on Wen Er Lu


Isotope is the new hip place to be in the west—just about every other week you’ll see huge colourful posters over the front windows advertising someone’s birthday party. While the occasional parties they throw aren’t really relaxing sit and sip affairs, Isotope also offers a relaxing environment during the afternoon and on less busy evenings. In keeping with its name, Isotope expands the idea of bar and cafe to include beer and spirits right next to coffee and tea. The staff is laid-back, so much so that sometimes it’s hard to tell who works there and who is just a friend because people are constantly walking in and out from behind the bar. With three floors, including secluded booths on the second and a sadly unutilized stage on the third floor, Isotope has a bit of something for everyone.

IsotopeView In Map
Add: 29 Wen San Xi Lu, near Fengtan Lu
地址: 杭州市西湖区文三西路29号
Tel: 0571 8797 9483
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 10:00-01:00
Getting there: buses No. K900, K349, K290, K209, K203, K179, K81, K24 all stop just east on Wensan Xi Lu


Café Lumiere

Café Lumiere
Things are getting very French at Kaiyuan Lu and Yanan Lu: right down the road from the loved-by-all-foreigners-in-Hangzhou Carrefour is the very French Café Lumiere.  Situated downtown on one of the city’s smaller and more leafy-lined streets, this place has truly nailed the feel of a European style café by having on-the-sidewalk outdoor seating.  There might not be a better way to spend a fair autumn day sipping a coffee and watching passing shoppers, bikes and cars. Inside, Café Lumiere has an earthy feel with coffee-toned furniture and decorations but you won’t feel like you’re trapped in a bag of coffee because you can watch passers-by through the glass sliding doors facing the street.

Café LumiereView In Map
Add: 72-1 Kaiyuan Lu, near Yan’an Lu
地址: 杭州市上城区开元路72-1号
Tel: 0571 8706 3927
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 12:00-23:00; Sat-Sun 11:00-24:00
Getting there: buses K900, 514/K514, K504, K315, K274, K216, 208, K206, K188, 68, 8/K8, K4 all stop on Yan’an Lu across from Carrefour and around the corner from Café Lumiere

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