Top 10 China tours 2024/2025 for first visits and returns: embark on a lifetime experience. Learn more
Nanxun Water Town - the Most Authentic and Tranquil Town

Nanxun Water Town - the Most Authentic and Tranquil Town

Written by CindyUpdated Aug. 18, 2023
Nanxun Water TownNanxun Water Town

Nanxun Ancient Town is not as famous as other water towns in South China, such as Zhouzhuang, Tongli, and Wuzhen. It is thanks to this that Nanxun has managed to retain its original features and traditional culture. It is recognized as the most authentic and tranquil water town.

With a history of over 1,400 years, the town came to prominence during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279) due to its prospering silk industry. In the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), it was one of the important commercial centers.

  • Chinese: 南浔水乡 Nánxún Shuĭxiāng /nan-sshwnn shway-sshyang/ 'South Xun (river name) Water Town'
  • Location: 1½ hours from Hangzhou, 2 hours from Shanghai
  • Highlights: bridges, lanes, ancient buildings, rich cultural heritage
  • Activities: seeing ancient buildings, boating, walking, photography
  • Recommended stay: 1–2 days
  • Admission fee: 100 yuan per person

Why Nanxun

Nanxun Water TownAn ancient bridge in Nanxun

Nanxun Water Town shares the typical features of other southern water towns: arched bridges, canals, narrow lanes, and old houses. But, for several reasons, Nanxun is the pick of the crop.

  • Nanxun is one of the relatively least visited water towns in the area. You won't find the huge crowds that swarm Zhouzhuang, Tongli, or Wuzhen. You can visit it at your own pace.
  • This town is less commercialized than many of its competitors. It is more authentic and soulful. You will see local people washing clothes, sipping tea, or playing cards beside the water.
  • The town has an interesting mix of European styles, which makes this place a little different from other water towns.
  • Besides sightseeing, you will be provided with a rich cultural experience, such as making Chinese writing brushes.

The Highlights You Should Not Miss

Walking alongside the canal in the old town, you will feel like you are walking into China's past. In addition to average houses, there are a few big family houses that accommodated well-known wealthy families. These houses often combine traditional Chinese styles with Western influences.

Little Lotus Garden

Nanxun Water TownYou can learn how to make a Chinese writing brush in Little Lotus Garden.

Little Lotus Garden (小莲庄) was a private garden of Liu Yong who was once the richest person in Nanxun. It is a fascinating mix of a garden, lake, pavilion, rockery, trees, and lotus flowers. It is one of the five most famous classic gardens in Nanxun.

The best time to visit the garden is in summer when the lotus pools are full of blooming flowers.

Besides enjoying its idyllic beauty, you will have a chance to see the traditional procedure for making Chinese writing brushes, and even make your own one.


Baijianlou (百间楼), or the "100 houses complex", is a perfect place to see the well-preserved traditional residential buildings.

Built 400 years ago, the houses extend along the canal for a length of 400 meters (1,300 feet). They are not restored and have kept their ancient and local charm. The Chinese old town lifestyle still exists there and can be seen along the canal by small numbers of tourists.

Liu's Family Compound

Nanxun Water TownYou can learn Chinese block printing at Nanxun.

Liu's Family Compound (刘氏梯号) or Red House is a good example of the Chinese imitation of Western styles. It features a classical portico and a red-brick residence with French balconies and stained glass in the windows.

In this residence, you will have a chance to learn Chinese block printing, an old type of technology used for making books. You can try your hand at printing and use your own brush to write your name in Chinese.

Zhangshiming's Former Residence

Zhangshiming's Former Residence (张石铭旧宅) is known as the "top private residence of the Jiangnan (southern part of the Yangtze River) region", and is one of the few such residences remaining that retains their original appearance. It offers a unique mix of Western ballrooms and Confucian family altars.

Wedding Performance on the Water

Wedding Performance On The WaterWedding performance on the water

Apart from historical sites, you will be impressed by a wedding show on the water. The boats are decorated with red flowers and ribbons, the bride and groom are dressed in the traditional Chinese style, and traditional music is played on ancient instruments. All of these depict how a traditional wedding was conducted in the ancient water town.

If you like, you can take part and play the bridegroom!

How to Get to Nanxun Water Town

There are many shuttle coaches running from Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Suzhou to Nanxun.

From Shanghai

  • Bus stations: Shanghai Long-Distance Bus Station, Shanghai South Long-Distance Bus Station, Pudong East Bus Station
  • Cost: about 50 yuan per person each way
  • Journey time: about 3 hours
Authentic And Tranquil TownAn authentic and tranquil town

From Hangzhou

  • Bus station: Hangzhou North Bus Station
  • Cost: about 45 yuan
  • Journey time: about 2 hours

From Suzhou

  • Bus stations: Suzhou South Bus Station, Suzhou West Bus Station
  • Cost: about 25 yuan
  • Journey time: about 1½ hours

The Best Time for a Visit

March to May is the best time to visit Nanxun when the weather is comfortable and the spring scenery is beautiful.

Fall is also a good season to travel Nanxun for the cool weather and clear sky.

Winter is quite cold (above freezing) in Nanxun, but driest, and you can enjoy a less-crowded time there. If you visit it in the heat of summer, avoid the midday crowds, and be careful of heatstroke.

You'd better avoid weekends and Chinese public holidays, such as Labor Day (May 1 to 7) and National Day (October 1 to 7), when Hangzhou is always crowded with Chinese people.

Tour Nanxun Water Town with China Highlights

Nanxun Water Town

If you are tired of the commercial atmosphere, crowds, and noisy megaphones in Zhouzhuang and Tongli, you should pay a visit to Nanxun Water Town. Here are our most popular tours including Nanxun:

Our Shanghai Watertown Tour takes you to visit the most unique water town – Nanxun Ancient Watertown.

See more Hangzhou tours. Our tours are customizable - tell us your interests and requirements and we will help you to tailor-make a Hangzhou tour.

Popular tours
Make the most of your time
Choose the best time to visit
Start planning your tailor-made tour with 1-1 help from our travel advisors. Create Your Trip

Sign up to Our Newsletter

Be the first to receive exciting updates, exclusive promotions, and valuable travel tips from our team of experts.

The China Highlights Experience

1-to-1 Expert Planning

1-to-1 Expert Planning

Your tour will be tailor-made by your personal travel advisor — a destination expert. Every reply will be within 24 hours.

Personal Journeys

Personal Journeys

Enjoy your personal local guide and ride. Explore destinations at your own pace. Have unparalleled flexibility, which is impossible on a group tour.

Authentic Experiences

Authentic Experiences

Discover the hidden gems. Experience local culture by practicing it. Try new and exciting activities, and unveil the stories behind the sights and people.

Well-Selected Local Guides

Well-Selected Local Guides

Knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and attentive — your personal local guides will share interesting stories, insider information, and even create unexpected highlights!

China Highlights tailor-makes China tours to help travelers discover China their way. We're a passionate team of one hundred avid travelers who love to share our knowledge of China with those looking for a more authentic travel experience, more ...
China Highlights International Travel Service Co., LTD
Corporate Number: 914503003486045699
Featured on