One of China’s ‘National Park Cities’, Hefei blends green mountains with shimmering lakes against a high-tech city backdrop.

You’ll find Hefei, the capital city of the Anhui province, gleaming in the hinterland between two rivers – the Yangtze to the north and the Huaihe to the south. If you hopped on a bullet train directly inland from Shanghai, you’d arrive in Hefei in a few hours. It’s the biggest tourist town in the province, home to a population of around four million, its landscape a dense swathe of modernist skyscapers, large public parks, ancient temples and sprawling lakes, particularly the enormous, popular Chaohu Lake with its mountain backdrop (it’s one of the five largest fresh-water lakes in China) with its lakeside attractions. It’s a simultaneously industrial, scientific and educational city, home to multiple prestigious universities, research companies, factories and plants, and it’s a vital transport hub to surrounding destinations in China. But lush natural scenery still abounds, thanks to Hefei’s richness in rivers, lakes and waterfronts, as well as fascinating historic sites and restaurants showcasing herb-heavy Anhui cuisine, one of the eight culinary traditions of Chinese cuisine.

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Things to do

  • An aerial view of the tree-fringed lake of Xiaoyaojin Park, with the city skyline in the background.

    Picnic in the park

    Whether you’re up for a leisurely stroll, a relaxed picnic, or taking the kids to an amusement park, Xiaoyaojin Park is a lively, popular haven. It’s divided into the East Park and the West Park – the East has lakes, pavilions, bridges and promenades, amusement rides and waterside tea houses, while the West Park centres more on natural beauty. Lose yourself in blankets of azaleas or peonies, wander through the plum blossoms or admire the intricate bonsai garden.

  • An aerial view of the rooftops of Sanhe Ancient Town.

    Travel back in time

    With three rivers running through it, Sanhe Ancient Town, which sits 32kms from Hefei, is a fascinating area that is over 2500 years old. Meander these wondrous streets peppered with buildings in the Ming and Qing architectural styles and visit ancient stores and historically significant mansions and homes. Don’t miss the seven-storey Wangyue Pagoda and, if you’re there in spring, the gorgeous Peach Blossom Island, which is exactly as you would imagine.

  • Enormous lilypads float on a lake, surrounded by trees, grass and a stone bridge at the Hefei Botanic Gardens.

    See an explosion of colour

    Hefei’s Botanical Gardens explode in seasonal colour, from seas of tulips to bursts of plum and cherry blossoms. These sprawling gardens are perched near a reservoir so there are lots of internal ponds adorned with enormous floating lily pads and lotus flowers. If you’re looking for a little serenity, take in the lovely Chinese gardens and the bamboo forest here.

  • Government buildings surround Swan Lake, with floating flowerbeds and wooden platforms for relaxing on in the foreground.

    Dive into Swan Lake

    Crafted in the shape of a swan, Swan Lake is a recreational hotspot for Hefei locals – a waterside park with waterfalls and an artificial beach to laze on, as well as bike paths and running tracks. The lake is also surrounded by some major cultural institutions like the Hefei Grand Theater, Swan Lake Stadium and Anhui Museum. Arts festivals are also hosted here too, adding to the cultural vibe of the area.

  • Stone lions flank the entrance to the Qing Dynasty-style former residence of Li Hongzhang, with red lanterns above the door.

    Get some Qing Dynasty culture

    Right in the heart of downtown Hefei, you can explore the former residence of Li Hongzhang, who was born in Hefei. He was a major statesman of the late Qing Dynasty and a champion of the westernization of China. This large complex with its spacious courtyard features excellent examples of Qing Dynasty architecture as well as a museum centred around the life of Li Hongzhang and the cultural evolution of China.

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Airport information

Hefei Xinqiao International Airport opens in new window

Distance to Hefei 32km

Taxi You can take a taxi from the airport to downtown Hefei – it will take around 40 minutes.

Bus There are multiple shuttle buses and public buses that go between major stations and hotels and the airport. It takes roughly an hour to go from the airport to Swan Lake.

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When to go

Hefei has four very distinct seasons and a sub-tropical monsoon climate – winters are stinging cold, summers are hot and wet. Aim for a visit between April and October, when temperatures are mild, rainfall is light and the landscape is lush. Hefei’s average annual temperature comes out at around 16°C. Hefei celebrates all the major Chinese festivals, so why not time your trip to coincide with the Spring Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival or the Dragon Boat Festival?

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Getting around

As befitting a city that is a major transport hub, Hefei’s public transport system boasts an ever-evolving metro system, with lines running north to south and east to west, and more lines under construction. This is the most efficient way to get around, although there are also many bus lines operating from 6am until well into the evening, as well as taxis.

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