It is located in the northeastern part of the province, sitting at the head of Hangzhou Bay, which separates Shanghai and Ningbo. Hangzhou grew to prominence as the southern terminus of the Grand Canal and has been one of China's most renowned and prosperous cities for much of the last millennium. It is a major economic and e-commerce hub within China, and the second biggest city in the Yangtze Delta after Shanghai. Hangzhou is classified as a sub-provincial city and forms the core of the Hangzhou metropolitan area, the fourth-largest in China after Guangzhou-Shenzhen Pearl River agglomeration, Shanghai-Suzhou-Wuxi-Changzhou conurbation and Beijing. As of 2019, the Hangzhou metropolitan area was estimated to produce a gross metropolitan product (nominal) of 3.2 trillion yuan ($486.53 billion), making it larger than the economy of Nigeria (the largest in Africa).
Hangzhou has been repeatedly rated as the best commercial city in mainland China by Forbes and the Chinese city with the highest growth potential by the Economist Intelligence Unit. A study conducted by PwC and China Development Research Foundation ranked Hangzhou first among "Chinese Cities of Opportunity". According to the Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC), the city is classified as Beta (global second-tier) city, together with Chongqing, Nanjing and Tianjin in China. Hangzhou is also one of the world's top 100 financial centers, according to the Global Financial Centres Index. It boasts the eighth largest GDP among cities in mainland China with a GDP of around 1.8 trillion RMB ($280 billion). Home to the headquarters of large global tech companies such as the Alibaba Group, Ant Group and NetEase, Hangzhou is known for attracting professionals and entrepreneurs who work in information technology. As of August 2023, Hangzhou has the tenth-most Fortune Global 500 headquarters of any city in the world and the fourth-most in China – after Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen – within its city limits. According to the 2020 Hurun Global Rich List, Hangzhou ranks 11th in the world and 6th in China (after Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou) in the number of resident billionaires.
Hangzhou is a major city for scientific research in the Asia-Pacific, ranking 16th globally by scientific outputs. It hosts several notable universities, including Zhejiang University, Zhejiang University of Technology, Hangzhou Normal University, Hangzhou Dianzi, Zhejiang A&F, Zhejiang Sci-Tech, Zhejiang Chinese Medical, Westlake University, China Jiliang and Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics. Its West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site west of the city, is among its best-known attractions. In 2023, it became the third Chinese city to host the Asian Games, after Beijing 1990 and Guangzhou 2010. It was also the second Chinese city to host the Asian Para Games after the Guangzhou 2010. Hangzhou also hosted the 11th G20 summit in 2016.