Hangzhou, China

Famed for its natural scenery, Hangzhou and its West Lake (西湖 Xī Hú) have been immortalised by countless poets and artists. The city was the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty from 1127 until the Mongol invasion of 1276, during that time the city’s population is estimated to have been as high as one million, making it the largest city in the world at the time. Even Marco Polo claimed to have passed through, calling it “beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world”. With the gradual silting up of its harbor, much of the city’s trade and industry passed north to nearby Shanghai, but the city still has a bustling population of 1.7 million.

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