(Last updated on: 30/05/2020)
When we first moved to Hangzhou, one of the first places that was on our ‘must-see’ list was the Leifeng Pagoda. This pagoda is one of the most iconic landmarks of the city, and it’s full of history and culture too.
I am aware that Hangzhou doesn’t get too many non-Chinese tourists, and this can make navigating your way around and finding reliable, up to date information challenging at times. So I decided to share my experiences at Leifeng Pagoda with you all to help make your visit a little bit easier and enjoyable!
What is the Leifeng Pagoda?
Located on Hangzhou’s Sunset Hill, south of the West Lake, Leifeng Pagoda is a five-story tower with eight sides. It was originally built in 975 AD. This was during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, and the construction was ordered by King Qian Chu of Wuyue. The original pagoda was built from brick and wood, with a brick base.
Japanese pirates attacked Hangzhou during the Ming dynasty. They thought the Leifeng Pagoda contained weapons so they burnt the wooden part. Just a brick skeleton remained.
As the years went on, the brick skeleton stayed. It can be seen in Ming paintings of the West Lake. But later, a superstition arose: people believed that bricks from the pagoda could repel illness and prevent miscarriage. For this reason, people stole the bricks to grind into powder. Eventually, in September 1924, Leifeng Pagoda collapsed in a state of disrepair.
Rebuilding the pagoda
Years later, in October 1999, the government decided it was time to rebuild the Leifeng Pagoda on the same site. The new pagoda is made of a 1400 tonne steel structure with 200 tonnes of copper parts. There are 4 sightseeing elevators, air conditioning, speakers and TVs. It was opened in October 2002.
During the rebuild, the much-debated mausoleum was found below the pagoda site. It was discovered in 2001 and excavated. Many artefacts were recovered from the mausoleum: bronze mirrors, jade figures, Buddhist relics and more.
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Getting to the Leifeng Pagoda
You can access the pagoda by bus. From Hangzhou take any of the following buses to Jingsi Station: 4, 31, 51, 51, 87, 287, 315, 334, 822, y2, y10 and jy6. The Leifeng Pagoda is a short walk from the station.
You can also reach the Leifeng Pagoda by Didi. Didis are a cheap and convenient way to travel around Hangzhou. But beware that this area is very popular with domestic tourists and there can be a lot of traffic during weekends, holidays and rush hour.
Hangzhou itself is definitely worth visiting on any trip to China. It is the capital of the Zhejiang province and is the southern terminus of the Grand Canal waterway. Famed for its West Lake – with islands, temples, gardens, bridges and pavilions – Hangzhou has a lot to offer. The Leifeng Pagoda is one of the most famous parts of the city!
Visiting the pagoda
Children can visit Leifeng Pagoda for free, if they are under 1.2 metres tall. For those over this height, and adults, the entrance fee is 40RMB. There is also a reduced fee for senior citizens. The ticket booth is located at the main entrance.
Between March 16th and the end of April, the pagoda is open from 8.00 am until 7.00 pm. From May until the end of October, it is open from 8.00 am until 8.00 pm. Between November and March 15th, the pagoda is only open from 8.00 am until 5.30 pm. Tickets are available until half an hour before closing time each day.
China is not exactly famed for its accessible tourism, and the Leifeng Pagoda is no exception. There are quite a lot of stairs and escalators that are not pram or wheelchair friendly. There are some ramps around, but you will need to walk the long way around to find them (we did it).
The main reason to visit Leifeng Pagoda is for the views. If possible, take the stairs to avoid queueing for the lift. The top floor offers an incredible 360 degree view of the entire city, so it’s definitely worth the climb if you can manage it! Ideally you want a clear and sunny day. October has the least rainfall and temperatures between 15 and 23°C making it a great time to visit – June, July and August are all hot but come with their fair share of rainy days. The smog is worst in the winter months, which can significantly reduce visibility.
The 2nd floor is home to beautiful wooden carvings, and there are things to see on each floor. Even if you take the lift up to the top to see the view, it is worth walking back down so you don’t miss anything. This is a great way of doing it! Walking down the different flights of stairs, stopping in between, is much less strenuous than climbing right the way up…
Where to stay in Hangzhou
If seeing the Leifeng Pagoda is on your list, then a trip to Hangzhou is a must. Many people travel here for a couple of days from Shanghai using the high speed train. Beware that not all hotels in China will allow foreigners to stay and many will allow you to book and pay without notifying you of this! Here are some of my recommendations for places for foreigners to stay-
Rock&Wood Cozy House is a beautiful hotel. As the name suggests, there is a real cosy vibe inside – soft hues and plenty of cushions. There is free parking and free WiFi, air conditioning and 24-hour security. Leifeng Pagoda is exactly a mile away, but the area is quiet. Previous guests really praise the delicious food, fantastic host and comfortable rooms. Each room has a private bathroom with toiletries and a hairdryer, and breakfast is available on-site too.
Yuyou Hotel is great if you are looking to visit Hangzhou on a budget. Offering free WiFi, free parking, family rooms and great disabled access, this is a fantastic hotel for so many different travellers. There is a bar and restaurant, a 24-hour front desk and each room has air conditioning and a private bathroom. The hotel has a business centre too, should you be travelling for work purposes!
Floral Hotel Chatan Boutique Inn offers something a bit special. Stunning garden views and balconies with hammocks, hot tubs and beautiful decor – this is all part of the experience. Breakfast is available on site, and there is plenty of outdoor space including BBQ facilities. WiFi is free and there is air conditioning, room service and even a library!
Still not sure where to stay? Type your search dates in the box below for a full list of all available accommodation options and prices for your travel dates.
Leifeng Pagoda is a fascinating attraction in Hangzhou. If you are in the area, definitely plan a visit to this structure and check out the incredible views on offer.