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Top Shanghai Water Towns

There are many luxury water towns in southern China. Among Chinese people, Zhouzhuang, Nanxun and Tongli near Suzhou, and Xitang and Wuzhen near Hangzhou, are most popular.

An ancient Chinese saying goes: “In heaven there is paradise, on earth there are Suzhou and Hangzhou”. Water towns are indispensable parts of the enchanting scenery of Suzhou and Hangzhou. They are all easily accessible from the biggest metropolis in China, Shanghai.

The towns share hundreds of years of history, scenery typical of Chinese ink-paintings, traditional houses built on waterways, ancient stone-paved arched bridges and interesting folk customs; while each retains its own unique attributes.

Where They Are

Distinctive Features

Water town Raking Crowds Features Visiting time Cost of entrance tickets Transport from
Tongli
Tranquil, less crowded, we recommended most highly. Well-preserved, lots to see, our top town in 2016, 360 customers booked with us. 4 hours CNY100/person Shanghai: 2h Suzhou: 35min
Nanxun
Fewer tourists but a bit far away from Shanghai. The most affluent town in the past, featuring Chinese and western architecture. 4 hours CNY100/person Shanghai: 2h Suzhou: 1h Hangzhou: 1 1/2h
Xitang
Pleasantly empty, except at weekends Mission Impossible III was filmed here 4 hours CNY100/person Shanghai: 2h Suzhou: 50min Hangzhou: 2h
Wuzhen
Very crowded and commercial Large –scale Qing dynasty architecture is well-preserved 7 hours/2 days CNY100-120/person Shanghai: 2h Hangzhou: 1h
Zhujiajiao
Crowded but quiet orderly Foodies paradise 4 hours Free (but it costs extra for the sites in the town) Shanghai: 50min
Luzhi
A little busy in weekends Wide array of museum and temples 4 hours CNY78 (but it costs extra for the sites and gondolas in the town) Shanghai: 1 1/2h Suzhou: 50min
Zhouzhuang
Always filled with big tourist groups Local wealthy and influential family-Zhang and Shen family 7 hours or 2 days CNY100 Shanghai: 2h Suzhou: 1h
Mudu

Ok, No big tourist groups

A collection of private gardens 4 hours Free (but it costs extra for the sites in the town) Shanghai: 2 1/2h Suzhou: 30min
Jinxi
Weekend escape for local people 26 Ancient bridges 4 hours Free (but it costs extra for the sites in the town) Shanghai: 2 1/2h Suzhou: 1h
Fengjing
Quite empty even on holiday Historical sites and relics 4 hours Free (but it costs extra for the sites in the town) Shanghai: 3h Suzhou: 1 1/2h
Qibao
Crowded and commercial Little old street with not much to see 1 hour Free (but it costs extra for the sites in the town) Shanghai: 30min

Water Towns Briefing

People would confusing which water town is the best to go if they are first time visit, here we list water towns sort by its identification, which would help you make a good plan.

Travel Tips

1. Best Time to Go

March to October is the best time to visit the water towns, for the weather is quite comfortable. Winter is also fine, for there are fewer tourists, the towns are less crowded and you can expect some tranquility. It’s great to escape the big city and see a little of the ancient architecture and local culture.

2. Gondola Rides

Small rivers wind through the towns. Hop on a gondola and as the oarsman punts through tunnels and arches, take a closer look at how local people live outside the big city. Such a boat ride usually lasts 20 minutes and costs CNY 100-120 per person.

How many people are on a gondola ride? Normally there are three types of gondola, with 12, 6 or 4 seats, respectively.

3. Food

The typical water-town cuisine is braised meat or vegetable in soy sauce, with sweet and salty flavors. Fish and chicken are recommended in the restaurants. Sesame pancake and homemade wine are also popular among locals.

4. Weather

Water towns in southern China are located in a subtropical monsoon zone. The weather is mild and humid all year round, so the region produces a bountiful supply of food, especially rice and fish.

5. Transport

There is no subway or high-speed train going directly to the water towns. If you go from Shanghai, we suggest booking a private tour with us, including a vehicle and an English-speaking guide, for easy access and in-depth understanding.

6. Scenic Sites in the Towns

Each water town has more than 5 historical sites worth visiting. Not all are included in the tour prices; for some you would need to pay an extra entrance fee. If you plan to go, you should ask for details beforehand.