Zhouzhuang Water Town (周庄) is said to be the oldest water town in China  situated in Kunshang City just south of Suzhou and about 90-min bus ride from Shanghai. The old town is famous for its canals and traditional style buildings dating from the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911) of which about 60% remain in excellent condition. Often described as the “Venice of the East”, Zhouzhuang is flooded with tourist who come to experience the historical beauty, shops, and the numerous food stalls.
Of all the water towns, Zhouzhuang is by far the best maintained, developed, and popular. Covering nearly 1/2 kilometer square, it is easy to walk and see all the sights. The China National Tourism Administration lists it as a AAAAA scenic attraction in recognition of it’s long cultural heritage, preserved buildings, and beauty. Having this rating is kind of a big deal.
The village was once an important trading hub for products such as food, silk, and crafts. What is so nice about Zhouzhuang aside from it’s current beauty is that it has retained most of the look and feel from its ancient times.
What’s There to See & Do?
The Hall of Shen’s Residence was built about 1742 as a private home of Shen Wansan who was a successful business man and quite wealthy. The home is located on the southeast side of the Fu’an Bridge and is a good representation of how rich people lived in that time.
The Zhang’s Hall of Residence is south of Double Bridge and has a cool stream flowing through in the middle.
The Double Bridge is the iconic bridge of the town. It’s actually not one, but two bridges next to each other at 90-degree. One bridge is arched and the other is square. The arched one is shown below:
There are many shops selling traditional crafts like paper cutting, textiles, and bamboo weaving, etc.
Chengxu and Quanfu Temples are both important landmarks of Zhouzhuang. Chengxu is a Taoist temple over 900 years old. Quanfu Temple was once a water tower built in 1987.
Fu’an Bridge is on the eastern end of Zhongshi Street. It was first built around 1355 during the Yuan Dynasty and was restored by Wanshan Shen’s brother Wansi.
In April is Tea Culture Exhibitions and in May there is the Dragon Boat Festival.
Do find the time to relax and take a boat ride around the canals; It’s fun.
Eat and Drink
Along the main street are numerous small shops and vendors selling all sorts of foods and snacks. For the most part they are the usual items you find at most “old” streets around China. Surly there are cakes, tofu, noodles, meats and stuff on sticks, and of course stinky tofu.
Wansan Pork Shank is the most famous dish from Zhouzhuang as it was the center piece served at special dinners put on by the Wansan family (the rich family that built Shen mansion). The pork shanks are slowly stewed in large pots with herb and spices. The meat is sliced and presented on a platter for the enjoy.
Wansan Pastries are a pastry item from long ago produced by a local baker. A certain townsman liked them quite a lot and ordered them for his banquet dinners. One of the tea houses in town is a good place to relax and enjoy Wansan pastry with tea.
Although I didn’t try any, there were many shops selling a local style of rice wine (about 9% alcohol).
How to Get to Zhouzhuang from Shanghai
The simplest way is to hire a car and go there directly. The next most convenient way is to take a bus. The nearest train station is in Suzhou and still it takes an hour from there. So, from Shanghai may as well use the bus which takes about 90 minutes if light traffic.
Taking the Bus to Zhouzhuang
Shanghai Tour Bus Center next to Caoxi Road station
Departure time: 08:45
- Take metro to Cao Xi Road (漕溪路) station on line number 3.
- Go out exit number 3 at the far end of the station then look to your right.
- The Shanghai Tour Bus Center is next to the station.
- Go inside to the information desk or the ticket window and purchase your tickets. I recommend getting inclusive package with round-trip bus, entrance fee, and boat ride all for only CNY 160.
- On the 2nd floor are the bus gates.
Getting Back to Shanghai
The but return to Shanghai is at 15:15 so don’t miss it. Or else, enjoy an evening at one of the hotels inside the water town.
Go to the bus station on the north end of the town on Daqiao Lu where you got dropped off.
Fees and Opening Hours
- Full day ticket is CNY 100 for entrance to the area and access to the scenic spots
- The town/streets for is open for walking all day long
- The scenic spots within the town are open from 08:00 to 16:30
- The “Four Seasons of Zhouzhuang” performance seats start at CNY 150
- A rowboat ride is CNY 150 for the boat (not per person; up to 6 persons in a boat) for about twenty-min tour
Check out China Highlights website for more details and options.
Download the brochure: Zhouzhuang town brochure and ticket