Not far from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai is a beautiful town that seems like a completely different world. Cobbled streets, old buildings, bridges arching over canals, rowing boats lingering on the river, locals singing folk songs - this is Xitang, a charming, ancient water town far away from the noise of the big city. Mornings in Xitang bring fresh air and light fog; during the evening, the setting sun casts a rosy glow on the old tiled rooves. It truly is a world away.
Something that makes Xitang so special is the number of bridges. There are 104 in total, built in varying styles spanning the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Some looks like rainbows over the river, and others like long flutes. Life for Xitang locals is calm and easy, full of comfort and peace – no different from the lifestyle of their ancestors thousands of years ago. The elderly play with their grandchildren on the bridges and in the lanes, and women wash vegetables and clothes in the rivers running beside their houses. If you need a break from the stresses of Shanghai, there’s really no better place to chill out and experience the quieter side of Chinese life.
Particularly appealing is the layout of the town. Everything revolves around the nine rivers – shops, markets, restaurants, and hotels.
Accommodation：The best place to stay in town is undoubtedly the Xitang Hotel. It is at 308 Hongfu Road, and is situated close to the river, so you’ll feel like you’re floating on the water as you sleep!
Food: Although it's a small town, Xitang has a whole host of tasty local treats for you to sample and enjoy. There’s a great mix of folk dishes and street snacks which have all the flavors of the southern Yangtze River region. For something a little more elegant, try the Qiantang Restaurant to the north Yongning Bridge. Have a leisurely meal beside the water, taste local Chinese wine, and watch the rowing boats pass – a perfect dining experience!
Entertainment: Unlike the big cities nearby, Xitang doesn’t have very much by way of entertainment facilities. Having said that, the opportunity to go fishing with the locals on their boats shouldn’t be missed. What better way to get to know a town than to spend time with local folk? As night falls, walk along the river banks to hear folk songs – it’s not a nightclub, but who needs rowdy hip-hop when you can listen to local girls singing traditional melodies as the sun goes down?
Shopping: If you want to take home some local souvenirs and delicacies, buy some "Liuyuehong" crab, and "Bazhen" cake, which is reported to have special medical effects. Also, pick up a bottle of the well-known Jiashan yellow wine which was first made in the Qing Dynasty.
ancient lanes: ancient time-worn streets crisscross xitang town. in total, there are about 122 small lanes in xitang town, all of which were paved with stone slats. line along these lanes are these hundreds-years-old house which still home to the locals. of all the 122 lanes, the shipi lane is the best preserved.. it is situated at the west side of zhongfu hall in the west street, with a total length of 68 meters. the lane is about 1 meter at the widest but the narrowest point is only 80 centimeters. it is paved with 166 stone planks which are only 3 centimeters thick, which is really hard to be chisel from the granite. that is why it is called shipi (the skin of the stone) lane. walking through the long quiet lane with stained tall walls is just like traveling through the town's long history in a spatio-temporal tunnel.
xiyuan garden: in the garden, trees, grass, flowers, towers, bridges, lakes, waterfalls are harmoniously integrated.
xue’s house: xue’s house is a typical wooden building of the rich merchant of that region in the later qing dynasty.
wangxian bridge: the bridge was built in song dynasty more than a thousand years ago. the name of bridge is associated with a interesting legend that one taoist once stood on the bridge to watch immortal spirits. wangxian means to watch immortal spirits in english.