Top Water Towns close Shanghai

Among a great many ancient water towns near Shanghai, travelers usually only choose one or two to visit, mainly based on their crowdedness, sightseeing features, air quality, and levels of commercialization. Among local people, Tongli near Suzhou, Nanxun near Hangzhou, and Zhujiajiao near Shanghai, are the 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.

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

These are the 4 famous visited water towns:

Tongli: An Elegant Ancient Water Town

Most of the buildings in Tongli are situated along the waterways. Local fishermen train cormorants to catch fish in the river.

Recommended Tour: Suzhou and Tongli Water Town Tour from Shanghai

Tongli Water Town
Tongli Water Town

Nanxun: Well-Preserved Architecture

If you want to avoid the crowds, this is a great water town to visit. It is the only ancient town with such a mix of western and traditional Chinese houses and gardens.

Recommended Tour: Nanxun Water Town Trip from Shanghai

Zhujiajiao: An Oasis in the Shanghai Metropolis

Zhujiajiao is very easy to reach from Shanghai, so it's a popular family destination for Shanghai people at weekends.

Recommended Tour: Zhujiajiao Water Town Tour from Shanghai

Zhujiajiao Water Town
Zhujiajiao Water Town

Xitang: Mission Impossible III Filmed Here

The scenery here is just like a painting and the photos you take will all be like paintings, no matter which way your camera points.

How to Decide Which One to Visit?

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. Though some water towns such as Zhujiajiao are admission-free, it costs extra for the sites in the town.

Water town Raking Different Visiting Time Admission Fee Transport from
Tongli 5 Well-preserved, lots to see. 4 hours RMB 100 P.P Shanghai: 2h
Suzhou: 35min
Nanxun 5 most affluent town in the past, featuring Chinese and western architecture. 4 hours RMB 100 P.P Shanghai: 2h
Suzhou: 1h
Hangzhou: 2h
Xitang 4.5 Mission Impossible III was filmed here 4 hours RMB 100 P.P Shanghai: 2h
Suzhou: 1h
Hangzhou: 2h
Zhujiajiao 4

Foodies paradise, near Shanghai

4 hours Free Shanghai: 1h
Wuzhen 4 Large, having good accommodation and beautiful night view 7 hours or 2 days RMB 120 P.P Shanghai: 2h
Hangzhou: 1h
Luzhi 3.5 The wide array of museum and temples 4 hours RMB 78 P.P Shanghai: 1.5h
Suzhou: 1h
Zhouzhuang 3.5 Local wealthy and influential family, very crowded 7 hours or 2 days RMB 100 P.P Shanghai: 2h
Suzhou: 1h
Mudu 3 A collection of private gardens 4 hours Free Shanghai: 2h
Suzhou: 40min
Jinxi 3 many folk-art museums 4 hour RMB 65 P.P Shanghai: 2h
Suzhou: 1.5h
Fengjing 2 old bridges, well-preserved wooden houses, open-air stage.  4 hours Free Shanghai: 2h
Suzhou: 1.5h
Jinze 2 southern culture of China 3 hour Free Shanghai: 1.5h
Qibao 1 Little old street with not much to see 1 hour Free Shanghai: 30min

Note: The above information is for your reference only.

Water Town Culture Experience

Gondola Ride

The boat ride on the canal was a highlight of your water town trip, you can find out in most of the water towns.

Take a closer look at how local people live outside the big city. It is great to relax by going past the town, viewing ancient arch bridges, teahouses, and stop for a cormorant fishing demonstration.

Normally there are three types of gondola, with 12, 6, or 4 seats, respectively. Such a boat ride usually lasts 20 minutes and costs CNY 100-120 per person.


Visit a Local Family

To acknowledge a city, the most efficient way is to meet locals, if you visit Tongli, your guide will arrange a visit to the Ruanamei family, listen to hosts singing the folk songs to welcome guests, sit down have a cup of tea, chatting with the host about their life and the town in the past.

Classical Private Gardens

Chinese private garden is the simple of power and fortune, and also the good taste of its owner. It was built for the demand of high quality of life, A mix of pleasant Chinese gardens and tranquil water and pavilions, very pretty peonies, peach blossom trees, bonsai, wisteria, shrubbery.

Tuisi Garden in Tongli
Tuisi Garden in Tongli

Best Time to Visit

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.

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.

Travel from Shanghai with Us

There is no subway or high-speed train going directly to the water towns. Feel free to contact us to book a private tour, including a vehicle and an English-speaking guide, for easy access and in-depth understanding.

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