1. Lake living
As you gaze upon Hangzhou's West Lake and its surrounding lush hillsides, you'll understand immediately why it's been a great source of inspiration for artists, poets and philosophers throughout Chinese history.
The mountain-fringed West Lake grounds are speckled with pagodas, pavilions, temples and gardens.
To best experience the lake's charms, hike up to the hills in the early morning or at sunset.
While the rest of the country is moving from two wheels to four, cycling culture is thriving in Hangzhou.
The city developed China's first bike-sharing system in 2008 in an effort to alleviate traffic congestion.
It's since grown into the world's biggest — and one of the world's best — public bike systems.
You can hardly go a kilometer without passing a bike-sharing station.
Hangzhou residents have access to over 84,000 bikes scattered across 3,300 service spots. The bikes have taken more than 600 million trips in the past seven years.
Want to get in on the action?
You'll need a "Transportation Smart Card Z," which is designed for visitors. They're available at the Smart Card Center at 25 Ding'an Lu, open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Show your ID and put in a deposit of 300 yuan and you're all set.
Bikes can be dropped off at any station any time of the day.
It costs 1 yuan ($0.15) for the first hour, 2 yuan for 2-3 hours and 3 yuan/hour if you use the bike longer than three hours.
3. Longjing tea
Hangzhou grows some of China's finest and most expensive green tea — Longjing.
Every spring, before the traditional Qingming Festival, tea lovers from all over the country come to Longjing, a village just south of West Lake, for the first cut of top-quality tea.
As for how to brew it, Longjing leaves are delicate so the water can't be too hot — around 90 C.
Freshly brewed Longjing tea has a yellow-greenish color and an aroma of chestnuts and cut grass.
Among the top places to experience the region's tea culture is Longjing Imperial Garden at the rear of the village.
The compound houses a classic Hangzhou garden where you can sip tea and dine.
Meanwhile, the National Tea Museum offers displays highlighting the history and techniques of tea making, as well as tea ceremonies.
4. Hangbang cuisine
Unlike dishes from northern China, which are heavy in sauces and spices, Hangzhou cuisine is mild but flavorful with a focus on fresh ingredients.
You can't leave Hangzhou without trying its signature dish, Longjing shrimp, which combines the city's famous green tea with freshwater shrimp from local rivers.
The shrimps are peeled, seasoned, drained and marinated. Green tea leaves are quickly blanched in oil to bring out a hint of flavor, then the shrimps are fried in a wok.
When the shrimps are nearly done, a spoonful of boiled green tea is ladled into the wok to enhance the aroma.
Among the best places to try this dish is restaurant 28 Hubin Road.
Another celebrated restaurant serving local Hangbang cai dishes is Longjing Manor. Surrounded by tea plantations, it gained fame internationally when profiled by the New Yorker in 2008.
5. Mountain getaways
Looking for a quick city escape?
About 40 kilometers away from Hangzhou's city center, Qiandai Resort sits on Jing Mountain — another tea-growing center.
With only 10 rooms, the resort isn't grand or luxurious but every detail has been thoughtfully designed.
Built by local architecture firms, the sustainable resort harmoniously merges into the surrounding environment.
Rustic yet delicate, original but imaginative, the minimalist architecture is tasteful.
All the wooden furniture, frames and ornaments were made from locally sourced timber or abandoned furniture.
The hotel can arrange pick-ups and drop-offs to and from Hangzhou's airport and railway station. There's no website yet but staff speak English so foreign guests can call for reservations.
Hangzhou is the city of silk.
Its exquisite silk products have been sold domestically and internationally throughout its long history and have even been recognized by UNESCO.
Scarves are the city's most popular silk souvenir, highlighting its cutting-edge dyeing techniques.
The industry leader is Wensli, a homegrown silk brand that's determined to become China's Hermes.
The company has already purchased renowned French silk company Marc Rozier and hired a former Hermes executive as its CEO.
National and international leaders and dignities have worn the company's products on various occasions.
You can also get a tailored dress or suit from Wansli's flagship store in Hangzhou Tower, a shopping center dominated by Western luxury brands.
Hangzhou is also home to China's National Silk Museum.
Alibaba, the world's leading e-commerce group, is headquartered in founder Jack Ma's hometown, Hangzhou.
It's single-handedly reshaped the city, once known for little more than natural scenery and cultural heritage.
Following Alibaba's lead, Hangzhou has morphed into a high-tech metropolis, leading some to call it China's Silicon Valley.
Hangzhou residents can easily get by without a wallet as the app allows them to pay bills with a simple swipe of their smart phones — even at the smallest street restaurants and vegetable vendors.
Hangzhou is a major center of Chan Buddhism in southern China and a popular destination for pilgrimages.
Among the top spots for Zen-seekers is Lingyin — which means "soul's retreat." It's one of the country's oldest and most important Buddhist monasteries.
Even if you're not interested in the religion, the pagodas and pavilions, bridges and statues offer a sense of how Buddhism is woven into the landscape.
9. Hand fans
It's said that tea, silk and hand fans are Hangzhou's three unparalleled gifts.
The most iconic fans are by Wang Xing Ji.
Established in 1875, this time-honored brand has charmed tourists and locals alike with its intricately designed fans.
Sandalwood and black-paper styles are the most popular.
The black-paper fans were once used as imperial tributes. It takes more than 80 procedures to make each one.
10. Art and architecture
Located on French sycamore-covered Nanshan Road, China Art Academy is one of the country's most prestigious fine art institutions.
The Art Academy was established by some of China's most celebrated painters and educators near West Lake in 1928.
Its students and graduates have made a massive contribution to Hangzhou's robust cultural creative industry.
For tourists, the Academy's campus architecture is the biggest draw.
Dotted with students and instructors' artwork, it's elegant and minimalist, modern but classic.
The open campus is integrated into the West Lake surroundings.
Its enclosed modern courtyards and gardens offer a hint of traditional Chinese landscape art.
Wang Shu, the Academy's head of the Architecture School who participated in campus designs, brought home China's first Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2012.