When to Go: Visit during autumn and spring, as summer months are sweltering and winter temperatures often dip below freezing. Avoid peak-season crowds during Chinese New Year (January or February) and National Day (October).
Getting There: Hangzhou is a 100-minute train ride from Shanghai; express trains launching next month will take 38 minutes. From Hong Kong, take the two-hour flight on Dragonair (dragonair.com), which departs three times weekly.
T+L Tip: Beyond West Lake, Hangzhou is a sprawling city. Arrange a car and driver through your hotel to access hard-to-reach destinations.
Jennifer Chen is the Southeast Asia correspondent for Travel + Leisure.