Eight centuries ago, Marco Polo anointed Hangzhou “the most splendid city in the world.” Today it’s one of China’s best-preserved destinations, thanks to the careful stewardship of its pagodas and pavilions, mountain-fringed West Lake, and terraced plantations growing the region’s famous longjing green tea. Here, an essential guide to the best hotels, restaurants, and sights for the modern-day explorer.
The second property in China from those wizards of the luxurious exotic, Amanresorts, Amanfayun (doubles from $580) includes 42 residences in traditional courtyard dwellings. Don’t miss the spa, with its Japanese-style deep soaking tubs, though an early morning walk to the neighboring Lingyin Buddhist temple is just as invigorating. A 25-minute drive away, Banyan Tree Hangzhou (doubles from $550) abuts the 2,800-acre Xixi National Wetland Park. All 72 spacious suites and villas are decorated with Chinese antiques (porcelain snuff bottles; calligraphy brushes) and are scattered across the grounds like a traditional village, complete with arched bridges and a lagoon. Hangzhou’s latest entry this fall is also the city’s first Western luxury hotel group: the Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou (doubles from $372) will have hand-painted silk panels and such high-tech touches as plasma TV’s in its 78 guest rooms and three villas.