Minibreak to China! Hangzhou with a four year old

IMG_8100Living in Hong Kong and planning your vacation, you can forget mainland China is a hop, skip and a jump away. The lure of Thai beaches and Vietnamese adventures means that parts of China get overlooked for that minibreak. If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway that combines boating on a lake, bicycles and wandering in tea fields – look no further than Hangzhou!

Where is Hangzhou?
A 45 min train ride from Shanghai, Hangzhou is a key city in the Yangtze River Delta. It is the capital of Zhejiang Province and offers a mlld climate, something we enjoyed on our recent April visit.

How can I get there?
Under two hours flying time from Hong Kong, Hangzhou is served by Hong Kong Airlines, China Eastern and Dragonair.  I got a cheap fare on Dragonair through their weekly fanfare sales held every Tuesday at 8am.

China Visa
Don’t forget it!  I organised mine through the China Travel Service and it took four working days.  My daughter’s visa required her birth certificate and copies of parents passports.

Airport Transfer
My daughter and I were staying in Hangzhou’s famous West Lake area, a 50 minute drive from the airport.  Taxis are plentiful and cheap, just remember to get your hotel to give you a map in Chinese to tell the taxi driver where you’re going.

Where to stay?
For luxury on the lake, stay at Hangzhou’s first Western hotel, the Shangri-La set on 40 acres of greenery.  The East Wing gets you rooms with beautiful views of West Lake.  It’s also worth paying extra for the Horizon Club, an oasis with complimentary nibbles and drinks all day.  Best of all, the Shangri-La has a lovely indoor pool – a winner if you have young kids who are bored of sightseeing.

What to do?


  • Walk down to the banks of West Lake and hire your own private sampan to take you on a tour (I bartered for 200RMB) or pick up a regular Cruise Boat.
  • Rent a bike for free at at the self-service bicycle rental (requires valid ID card).  The Shangri-La also rents out bikes and more importantly, helmets.


  • Stroll the many paths that envelope the lake to check out the pagodas and parks and if that gets too much, hope on a golf cart and relax your feet.
  • Visit a museum!  Take your pick from the West Lake Expo, China Silk Museum and the China Tea Museum.


  • Take a 20 minute taxi ride from West Lake area to visit a tea plantation.  We headed to the picturesque village of Meijawu where we sampled the famous Longjin tea and sneaked into the tea fields


  • Qinghefang Ancient street is a fun place to walk around.  On the surface it appears very touristy but don’t follow the main streets and wander down the side roads for a quieter vibe.
  • Pay a visit to the Music Fountain in the waters off Hubin Road – a delight for kids, especially at night.
  • Book tickets to see Impressions of West Lake, an amazing show set over the water. Directed by Zhang Yimou, resonsible for opening and closing ceremonies of Beijing Olympics, this is a feast for the eyes, even though we had no idea of the plot!

Where to eat?
Normally I love to sample street food but in light of the Avian flu outbreak, my daughter and I were extra careful.  For a sensational meal of Hangzhou delicacies, I highly recommend booking 28 Hubin Road located within the Grand Hyatt Hotel.  It is fairly smart but they were extremely welcoming to my four year old, even providing us with plastic cutlery.


If the kids want a change from Chinese food, I also recommend Peppino, the Italian restaurant at the Shangri-La which has a fantastic kids pizza menu.

For more tips on travel to mainland China with kids click here


Jetlag & Mayhem stayed as guests of the fantastic Shangri-La Hangzhou, which I highly recommend if you are visiting the West Lake area with your family.


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  1. Lj Ferrara

    this sounds great for a weekend break! thanks Nicola

    1. Nicola

      My pleasure – I was really pleasantly surprised by this trip, it was so much fun

  2. julieana

    I am thinking about a trip to Hangzhou this summer with my family (husband and three kids). Your article tripled my excitement level. Thank you!

  3. Claire

    This sounds great- one for next year for sure! 👍🏼

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