Wuzhen Ancient Town

Written by Vanessa Zheng Updated Oct. 31, 2023

Wuzhen, the most famous water town near Hangzhou, is situated in Tongxiang County of Zhejiang Province, about 1.5 hours ' driving distance from Hangzhou, and 2.5 hours from Shanghai.

It is divided into four scenic sections: Dongzha, Nanzha, Xizha, and Beizha. Nanzha and Beizha are where the locals live, and Dongzha and Xizha are open to tourists.

Dongzha has been largely preserved in its original layout. At the same time, Xizha has been reconstructed with the intention of offering a comprehensive sightseeing and leisure experience within a traditional 'water town' scenic spot.

Wuzhen Water Town Facts

Why Visit Wuzhen Ancient Town

Wuzhen, one of the top six ancient water towns south of the Yangtze River, is graced by the world-famous Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal coursing through it. The town is known for its murmuring rivers, with quaint small boats decked with black awnings floating gently on the waters.

You can spot charming stone bridges everywhere, looming above the rivers. The black-bricked and gray-tiled houses present a striking contrast against the white walls, rendering Wuzhen as an exquisite Chinese ink-wash painting.

Wuzhen isn't just another pretty water town; it stands out for its rich history and profound culture. Being the birthplace of many celebrated personalities of Chinese culture, like the literary master Mao Dun and popular poet and writer Mu Xin, Wuzhen prides itself on a unique cultural legacy.

Top Things to Do in Dongzha

Dongzha, or East Gate, keeps its authentic water town style and profound cultural heritage. The highlight of Dongzha is to enjoy all kinds of folk customs and museums.

1. Visit the Hundred-Bed Museum

It is a unique museum that houses more than 100 traditional Chinese beds from the Ming and Qing dynasties, offering an insight into the cultural and artistic essence of these eras.

2. Explore Hong Yuan Tai Dye House

Hong Yuan Tai Dye House Blue printed cloth of China is world-renowned for its beauty, delicacy, and good quality. Wuzhen is one of the original places where it was manufactured, and Hong Yuan Tai Dye House enjoys a good reputation for its blue-printed cloth.

The process of making blue-printed cloth is complex but interesting. Observing it reminds you of the intricacy of craftsmanship in ancient China.

3. Visit Folk Customs Museum

This museum provides you the unique local birthday ceremonies, wedding customs, and folk customs at various festivals. Here you can learn about the interesting lifestyle of local people.

4. Enjoy Shadow Play

Shadow play is a traditional art form accompanied by traditional Chinese musical instruments, such as the flute, gong, and erhu. It is famous for its lingering music, exquisite sculpture, bright colors, and lively performances.

Show times: 9:30, 10:00, 10:30, 11:00, 13:00, 13:30, 14:00, 14:30, 15:00, 15:50

5. Watch Martial Arts Performances

Martial arts are performed on boxing boats, which always moor on the bank. Actors in kungfu suits battle with sabers, swords, and other traditional weapons, fighting each other, to the sound of clamoring drums.

Show times: 8:30-8:40, 9:30-9:40, 10:30-10:40, 11:10-11:20, 13:30-13:40, 14:30-14:40 , 15:30-15:40, 16:10-16:20

6. Visit the Former Residence of Mao Dun

Mao Dun, a great and respected writer in modern China, is best known for his long novel Midnight. His former home, a traditional Chinese-style house built during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), is located in the middle part of Guan Qian Street, where he lived his happy childhood.

7. Cross the Fengyuan Bridge

This bridge is a unique twin bridge built during the Qing Dynasty.

It’s said that when one passes by this bridge, the person should walk one-half of it first, before walking the other half.

In this way, he will have “fengyuan both on the left and on the right”, which means he will be successful in his career.

Top Things to Do in Xizha

Xizha, also known as West Gate, excellently preserves Ming and Qing dynasty buildings and old streets and alleys. Despite maintaining their traditional exterior charm, interiors are selectively modernized, offering a wonderful experience of overnight stay.

1. Visit the Chinese Foot Binding Culture Museum

Women's feet were called "three-inch golden lotuses" in ancient China. Young girls were forced to bind their feet with cloth to make the feet smaller, which was regarded as more beautiful.

This Museum displays a collection of hundreds of pairs of intricately embroidered miniature shoes and tools used for foot-binding.

It also has lots of pictures and texts explaining the history and significance of this practice. You have the opportunity to learn about this part of Chinese cultural history.

2. Enjoy Night Scene

The night scene is Xizha’s special attraction for tourists. At night, the lights in the houses along both sides of the river are lit, which makes Xizha a dreamlike world.

With clusters of light dots reflecting on the waving water, you can enjoy the leisure, as well as the noise or quietness of the dreamland, by taking a short single-oar ferry on the river.

Which to go, Dongzha or Xizha?

The quaint Dongzha offers rich cultural experiences, distinct workshops, traditional shops, and various exhibits. It's good for you to take a half-day or 1-day tour from Hangzhou or Shanghai.

If you prefer to explore this area longer, spending one night in Xizha is suitable. Xizha is more spacious than Dongzha, making it an ideal sightseeing and vacation destination.  

If you have 2 days, it's recommended for you to visit both Dongzha and Xizha. To visit Dongzha first, and then go to Xizha for one one-night stay and sightseeing.

How to Get to Wuzhen

Located in the north of Tongxiang City, Zhejiang Province, Wuzhen is about 140 kilometers from Shanghai and 80 kilometers from both downtown Hangzhou and Suzhou. Given its accessibility from these three places, you can easily plan your visit.

From Hangzhou - 80km (about 1.5 hours drive)

You can take a bullet train from Hangzhou to the Tongxiang Railway Station. Once there, catch the bus K282 to the Wuzhen Bus Station. Finally, take Bus K350 to reach Wuzhen Xizha.

Buses to Wuzhen Xizha are available from the Hangzhou North Bus Station and Hangzhou East Railway Station as well.

Additionally, there are airport buses from Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport to Wuzhen Bus Station. Transfer to bus K350 to reach Xizha.

From Shanghai - 140km (about 2.5 hours' drive)

Take a bullet train from Shanghai to the Tongxiang Railway Station, then follow bus K282 to the Wuzhen Bus Station, and finally take the bus K350 to Wuzhen Xizha.

From Suzhou - 80km (about 1.5 hours drive)

Take a bullet train from Suzhou to the Tongxiang Railway Station.

Alternatively, buses are also available from the Suzhou North Bus Station directly to Wuzhen Xizha.

Travel with China Travel (Recommended)

Our English-speaking guides and experienced drivers ensure you fully experience the charm of Wuzhen, meeting your specific needs and creating a trip solely tailored for you.

Check out our top Wuzhen trip - 1-Day Private Wuzhen Water Town Tour from Shanghai 

How to Plan Your Wuzhen Tour

Where to Stay in Wuzhen

1. Economic Hotels

Economy hotels cater to those who prioritize budget over luxury. These homestay-style inns offer rooms facing either a canal or a street. Note that all economy hotels are managed by the West Area Tourist Office, which means guests cannot contact the hotel owners directly.

Among the recommended hotels, all with river-facing platforms ideal for evening dinners and sightseeing, are Wen Gu Hotel, Fu An Hotel, and Ju Xian Hotel. These are subject to room availability.

2. Star-Rated Hotels

If you prefer a more comfortable environment, consider the star-rated hotels. While these hotels are high-grade, they might not meet all national four- or five-star standards.

Recommended options include Tong An Hotel, the largest hotel in Xizha featuring various room types and extensive facilities; and Zhaoming Hotel, newly opened and nestled among tranquil surroundings.

3. Boutique Hotels

For those seeking high-quality living, there are three boutique hotels in Xizha: Shinetown, with its distinctive courtyards; Splendid Clubhouse, offering the pinnacle of luxury; and Healtown, which provides affordable pricing. These hotels primarily offer rooms with king-sized beds.

You Might Like to Read

You may get confused about which water town is the best to go to if you are the first time to visit, so we list all the water towns with detailed information for your inspiration:

Also read: the Top water towns close to Hangzhou, which is better for you?

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