Zhouzhuang Water Town - the Most Famous Water Town in China

Written by Vanessa Zheng Updated Dec. 4, 2023

Known as the No.1 Water Town in China, Zhouzhuang is located in Kunshan, Suzhou. Traveling to this beautiful town is convenient just only 1 hour driving from downtown Suzhou and 1.5 hours from Shanghai.

Zhouzhuang has the distinction of being the first ancient town in China to have been developed and commercialized. The town is noted for its typical Chinese water-town features, its well-preserved ancient residential houses, and a unique cultural landscape with a long history.

Zhouzhuang Water Town Facts

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Why Visit Zhouzhuang?

Zhouzhuang is a place not to be missed if you want to admire authentic ancient Chinese buildings and immerse yourself in incredible watery views at the same time.

Unique landscape – There is no motorized traffic in Zhouzhuang, offering exploration via gondola, rickshaw, or on foot. You can take a gondola ride along the beautiful Zhouzhuang canals.

Ancient buildings – The town has almost 100 classical courtyards, more than 60 brick-carved arches, and 14 distinctive ancient stone bridges dating from about 1,000 years ago. 60% of the residential houses there were built during the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties, between 1368 and 1911.

Distinctive local culture – The beauty of Zhouzhuang lies in both tangible and intangible assets. In addition to attractive landscapes, the town’s local culture such as Kunqu Opera, its original Xuan Juan folk theatre, tea culture, and annual events including the Fast-Boat Race and the Lantern Rowing Ceremony are also full of charm.

Top 7 Things to Do in Zhouzhuang

1. Have a Gondola Ride

Traversing Zhouzhuang's waterways by gondola is a fascinating experience not to be missed.

As you float beneath the town's bridge arches, their reflections on the canal surface enmesh to form a delightful optical illusion of a circle.

2. Cross the Double Bridges – Shuangqiao

Double Bridges
Double Bridges

Zhouzhuang's uniquely beautiful landscape is punctuated by numerous stone bridges. Foremost among them are the Twin Bridges at the center, also known as Shide Bridge (世德桥) and Yongan Bridge(永安桥).

These Ming-era bridges, which take the shape of a traditional Chinese key, caught international attention through the oil paintings of renowned artist Chen Yifei. His depiction of Zhouzhuang exhibited in New York, has immortalized the town's beauty and charm.

3. View the Fu'an Bridge

Fu'an Bridge
Fu'an Bridge

Fu'an Bridge is situated at the eastern end of Zhongshi Street. Its distinctive feature is the bridge towers at the four corners.

These towers house a tea house and a store specializing in tourist supplies, providing a resting place where you can enjoy the scenery and take photos.

Uniquely, it is the last remaining structure in the Jiangnan water town that seamlessly integrates a bridge and a building – a testament to historical architectural ingenuity.

4. Visit Shen House – Shenting

Located near Fu'an Bridge, the Shen House was founded in 1742 by a descendant of the early Ming Dynasty tycoon, Shen Wansan.

The house, mimicking a Siheyuan or a traditional Chinese courtyard house, is a labyrinth of twisting corridors leading to a sequence of courtyards.

Occupying an area of more than 2,000 m², this majestic dwelling boasts over 100 rooms dispersed into three sections interconnected by arcades and aisles. You can appreciate the home's lavishness and architectural grandeur at every step.

5. Visit Zhang House – Zhangting

Zhang House
Zhang House

Zhang House is a remarkable testimony to Zhouzhuang's Ming Dynasty architecture. The expansive residence consists of more than 70 rooms and unveils a charming courtyard with its own pool.

Its unique highlight is a river that flows right underneath the house, enabling small boats to thread through the property and anchor at the central pool in the courtyard. This ingenious integration of water establishes it as an architectural marvel in the town.

6. Go to See Milou Tower

Previously known as De's Tavern, Milou Tower was home to the region's artistic and revolutionary circles. Situated near the Zhenfeng Bridge, it became famous due to the literary works of the South Society (Nanshe) that referenced the tower.

Given its links to significant figures like Chen Qubing and the many stories that surround it, Milou Tower's influence indeed extends beyond Zhouzhuang.

7. Try Local Specialty Food

When you visit Zhouzhuang, be sure to try the Wansan Pork Knuckles (万三蹄) and the Wansan Cake (万三糕). These specialties were once used by the eminent Jiangnan tycoon, Shen Wansan, to entertain distinguished guests.

Additionally, don't forget to savor a cup of the distinctive Apo tea (阿婆茶) and taste the Qingtuanzi (青团子).

How to Get to Zhouzhuang

Zhouzhuang is in Kunshan, Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province, about 60 kilometers from Shanghai and 38 kilometers from downtown Suzhou. It is easily accessible for day trips from these nearby cities.

From Shanghai - 60 km (about 1.5 hours' drive)

You can take Shanghai Metro Line 17 from downtown Shanghai and disembark at Huaqiao Station. From there, you can board Kunshan tourist bus No.7 to Zhouzhuang Bus Station, then walk 20-30 minutes to the heart of Zhouzhuang.

Alternatively, there are direct bus services to Zhouzhuang from various long-distance bus stations in Shanghai: the Shanghai Long-Distance Bus Terminal, Shanghai South Long Distance Bus Station, and Shanghai Hongqiao West Bus Passenger Station. Once you reach Zhouzhuang Bus Station, it's just a short walk to the main attraction.

From Suzhou - 40km (about 1 hour drive)

Buses to Zhouzhuang are available from the Suzhou North Bus Station or from the north square of Suzhou Railway Station. After arriving at Zhouzhuang bus station, a 20-30-minute walk will lead you to the attraction.

Travel with China Travel (Highly Recommended)

Our English-speaking guides and experienced drivers facilitate worry-free trips while adding enjoyable and interesting insights along the way. We provide personalized pick-up services from any chosen starting point, such as hotels, airports, cruise terminals, or train stations.

Our guides ensure you imbibe the charm of Zhouzhuang fully, serving your specific needs and curating a trip solely tailored for you. After your Zhouzhuang tour, we ensure a smooth transit to your next destination.

Check our top Zhouzhuang trip: 1-Day Private Zhouzhuang Water Town Tour from Shanghai

How to Plan Your Zhouzhuang Tour


1. The daytime ticket gives you access to all the sites, while the night ticket only allows access to 4 sites.

2. Zhouzhuang is good to visit all year round. However, it is a very popular spot and can get crowded. You might encounter fewer people on weekdays. Make sure to avoid Chinese public holidays like National Day or Labor Day.

Where to Stay

houzhuang Water TownZhouzhuang Water Town

The star-rated hotels include Zhouzhuang Guesthouse, Sanniu Garden Hotel, and Zhouzhuang Hotel. Ranking slightly lower, the Zhengutang Hotel, Yunhai Resort, and Zhenfengrenjia Guesthouse are popular choices.

In fact, we recommend either Zhengutang Hotel or Zhenfengrenjia Guesthouse, since they are both located centrally, meaning you can spend more time exploring the heart – and soul – of Zhouzhuang.

In addition, there are numerous private dwellings and rooms for rent in Zhouzhuang at more modest prices. They tend to be simple, but clean, and most certainly fulfill the requirement of "a place to crash out" should you decide on the spur of the moment that you would like to spend more time in Zhouzhuang.

Related Reading:

You may get confused about which water town is the best to go to if you are a first-timer, so you could check and compare the water towns at Top Water Town near Shanghai for your inspiration.

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