Xitang Ancient Water Town, about a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Shanghai, is a beautiful town that seems like a completely different world from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai. 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. Mornings in Xitang bring fresh air and light fog; during the evening, the setting sun casts a rosy glow on the old tiled roofs. Xitang truly is a world away.
Something that makes Xitang so special is the number of bridges that it contains. The city has 104 bridges, each built in varying styles spanning the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Some look like rainbows over the river and others like long flutes. Life for Xitang locals is calm and easy, full of comfort and peace, no difference 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 that run beside their houses. If you need a break from the stresses of Shanghai, there's really no better place for chilling out and experiencing the quieter side of Chinese life.
Ancient time-worn streets crisscross Xitang town. In total, the town has about 122 small lanes, and all are paved with stone slats. Along these lanes sit hundreds-years-old houses that still serve as homes to the locals. Of the 122 lanes, the Shipi Lane is the best preserved. Located on the west side of Zhongfu Hall on West Street, it has a total length of 68 meters, is about 1 meter at its widest, and its narrowest point is only 80 centimeters wide. Shipi Lane is paved with 166 stone planks, each only 3 centimeters thick, making them difficult to be chisel from granite. This is why the lane is called Shipi (which means “the skin of the stone”) Lane. Walking through these long, quiet lanes with tall, stained walls is like traveling through the town's long history in a spatio-temporal tunnel.
In Xiyuan Garden, trees, grass, flowers, towers, bridges, lakes, and waterfalls are harmoniously integrated.
Xue's House is a typical wooden building owned by a rich merchant of the region during the later years of the Qing Dynasty.
Wangxian Bridge was built during the Song Dynasty more than a thousand years ago. The name of the bridge is associated with an interesting legend in which a Taoist once stood on the bridge to watch immortal spirits. Wangxian means “to watch immortal spirits.”
Train (not recommended)
There are eight high-speed trains from Shanghai that pass through Jia Shan South Railway Station. However, the management of the public bus system in Jia Shan is not complete, so you can't find any public buses there. Outside of the train station, there are unlicensed taxis all around. The price for an unlicensed taxi is around 20 yuan.
Bus (the recommended routes)
At Shanghai South Railway Station (located on Liu Zhou Road 柳州路), there are 12 direct buses to Xi Tang Bus Station. The earliest bus is at 07:10 in the morning and the last bus is at 17:54. The bus runs every hour from 07:10 to 17:54; it costs 32 yuan per person and takes around one hour. The Shanghai Bus Terminal (located at 1666 Zhongxin Road) has eight direct buses to Xi Tang Bus Station, from 07:20 to 18:30 and a one way ticket is 32 yuan. The trip takes around 90 minutes.
Train (not recommended)
There are ten high-speed trains from Shanghai that pass through Jia Shan South Railway Station. The reason why we don't recommend this route is for the same reason as the Shanghai route.
Bus (the recommended route): In Hangzhou Jiu Bao Bus Station, there are four direct buses to Xi Tang at a price of 38 yuan and taking around two hours.
From Jia Xing North Bus Station, you can take the K152 bus to Xi Tang Bus Station costing 6 yuan and taking an hour. We don't recommend that you change to a different bus. If you want a convenient way to travel, taking a taxi for around 100 yuan will be a good choice.
From Jia Shan Bus Terminal to Xi Tang Bus Station, you can take the direct buses K215 and K216 for 2 yuan which take 40 minutes.
From Jia Shan Train Station to Xi Tang Bus Station, you can take the K210 bus to Xi Tang Bus Station costing 2 yuan and taking 40 minutes. A taxi fee will cost 40 yuan.
From Suzhou to Xitang
In the Shu Zhou North Square and the South Train Station, there are six buses to Xi Tang; the time between each bus is two hours for the price of 32 yuan and taking around one hour.
From Nanjing to Xitang
Firstly, you need to take the 14:40 bus which runs once a day from Nan Jing Long Trip Bus Station to Jia Shan Bus Terminal, at a cost of 97 yuan. After that, take the same routes from Jia Shan to Xi Tang.
There are two different types of tickets in Xitang. One is the through ticket including 11 different attractions; the access to these 11 following places. The other ticket is the night-travelling ticket costing 50 yuan and what you must pay attention to is the time for the ticket. You can only get the tickets after 15:00, or you must buy the through ticket.
The 11 attractions on the through ticket include "The Five Girls' Park 五姑娘公园", "The Zhang Zheng Geng Sculpture Gallery 张正根雕馆", "The Nation Liang Wang Temple 护国梁王庙", "The Sanctuary 圣堂", "The King House 王宅", "The Drunk Garden", "The Button Museum", "The Wa Dang Museum 瓦当馆", "The Yellow Wine Museum", "The Wood Carved Museum" and "The Ni House 倪宅".
"The Five Girls' Park" and "The Zhang Zheng Geng Sculpture Gallery" are inside the scenic spot. "The Nation Liang Wang Temple" and "The Sanctuary 圣堂" are expensive temples. In case you will be cheated for money we don't recommend that you visit them. "The Drunk Garden" is located in Ta Wan Street (塔湾街). "The King House", "The Button Museum" and "The Wa Dang Museum" are located on West Street. "The Yellow Wine Museum" is on East Street. "The Wood Carved Museum" and "The Ni House" are in the Shao Xiang Gang (烧香港).
The general route to visit all these places is to go to "The Drunk Garden" first, then turn right crossing Huan Xiu Bridge to see "The King House", "The Button Museum" and "The Wa Dang Museum". Go out of West Street, turn right and go past An Jing Bridge, then go under Lu Jia Bridge and turn left to arrive at the Shao Xiang Gang (烧香港) to visit "The Wood Carved Museum" and "The Ni House". The last destination is the "The Yellow Wine Museum" where you can learn the culture of Chinese wine.
The ship tickets can be divided into two different time periods.
From Sunday to Thursday a boat ride costs 20 yuan per person or 100 yuan to rent a boat (a boat can seat eight people).
On Friday and Saturday a boat ticket costs 30 yuan.
The traveling times of the ship: In the daytime from 08:00 to 17:00 and at night-time from 17:00 to 20:00. We recommend that you travel at night because it is quiet and the scenery is beautiful when the town is lit by colorful lights.
The routes to travel: There are three different routes for you to choose and the time is around 30 minutes.
In Xitang, there is a diverse choice of hotels and hostels. You can find different prices depending on what you like. The accommodation there can be divided into three different types.
There are many formal hotels inside the ancient town and the price is acceptable, being no different to the hotels in other cities. The only difference is that the rooms look simple and not grand. The representative hotels are the Xitang Holiday Inn (three-star) and Kai Xun Hotel (two-star).
The waterfront hostels
It is hard to give comments on the waterfront hostels. The advantage, no matter whether it's daytime or night-time, is that when you open a window you can always see the beautiful scenery there and get some fresh air. The disadvantage is that most of the hostels are rebuilt from old houses, so the rooms are very small and noisy when people are talking. Especially during summer, the mosquitoes everywhere are a problem.
The price: On weekdays, the price for a hotel is around 100 to 300 yuan. At the weekends or other holidays, the price will increase. We recommend tourists to choose a suitable time to visit depending on their own economic level.
Except for snacks, there are a number of restaurants in Xi Tang ranging from high-end to the low-end. As a 4A scenic spot, the prices of Xi Tang's restaurants are the cheapest and include the food service. There are some really terrible restaurants in this area. In case tourists go to the wrong restaurants, we are pleased to give you some advice as a reference for you to choose your favorite among the remaining open restaurants.
Qian Tang Ren Jia Restaurant is the most famous restaurant in Xi Tang and is located under Yong Ning Bridge. The Qian Tang Ren Jia Restaurant isn't very big, it's the same size as a normal restaurant, but the business is really flourishing. As this restaurant is rebuilt from an old house, the sanitary condition is general. The eating environment is really beautiful because the balcony is on the coastline. The restaurant is very famous now but the price is still the same as before. The restaurant prepares the dishes before it opens, so the serving time of the dishes is really quick - only three minutes after you have ordered the food. The difference from other places is that the restaurant is always closed after 19:00.
Yi Jiang Nan Restaurant is a very traditional Chinese restaurant, located on Shiban Road (outside the scenic area), having three branches. Because the restaurant is located outside the scenic spot, there are not a lot of people at noon. The busiest time is after 16:00 when a lot of tourists have just finished their trip. At this time, there will be a long line to get served, and this will also be the case in some peak tourist seasons. The sanitary condition is better than the Qian Tang Ren Jia Restaurant. Even though the price is cheap, the food is authentic. The reason why we recommend this restaurant is the good service from the boss to the waiters. All of them are virtuous and sincere. Before you order the dishes, the waiters will ask for your preferred tastes and will recommend the most suitable dishes for you, which is very sweet for new tourists there. Compared to the other restaurants, this one is the most worthy to visit. If you are a person who wants to experience the local conditions and customs, taste Xi Tang's specialties and find the best price, this restaurant will be the best choice for you.
When you hear the name Xiang Ying Fang, most people will be very unfamiliar with it. This restaurant is located on a big boat to the west of Huan Xiu Bridge. With this special location, the scenery there is no doubt going to be the best. Due to the environment, the price is expensive. Therefore, the fish there is sold for 68 yuan while in the Qian Tang Ren Jia it is 28 yuan. The taste of the food there is really good and delicate. The representative dish is Cha Shu Mushroom. The people who go there to eat pay more attention to the special sentiment the restaurant has rather than the prices of the dishes.
Last but not least is to introduce you to the bars in Xi Tang. There are a bunch of cool bars down Tang Dong Street （塘东街）. Tang Dong Street （塘东街） is famous as "the bar street" because there are thirty different bars gathered on this street; the street is colorful at night. The most interesting question for the customers is the price. There isn't any big difference between the bars there and other big cities. The cheapest beer there is 25 yuan for one bottle and 20 yuan for one plate of fruit. The Western wines are really expensive there and some of them are not genuine brands. The cocktails taste the same as in any other bars.
The reason why we recommend you to visit the bars there is the security assurance. You won't come across any dangerous situations, such as people putting some pills into your drink causing you to pass out. Most of the people who go there are tourists who just want to enjoy the bars. There won't be any bad people who sell drugs or fight with each other. The bars' businesses are booming because the security is very good. If you don't believe this, you can have a look on the Internet to try and find some information.
China Highlights can help you design a tour to see the best of Xitang Ancient Town.