Xitang Water Town is a beautiful town that seems like a completely different world from the hustle and bustle of nearby Shanghai. Cobbled streets, old buildings, bridges arching over canals, rowing boats lingering on the river, and locals singing folk songs, all feature in Xitang, a charming, ancient water town. Mornings in Xitang bring fresh air and light fog; by evening, the setting sun casts a rosy glow on the old tiled roofs.
- Chinese: 西塘水乡 Xītáng shuǐxiāng /sshee-tung shway-sshyang/
- Location: Jiashan County, Zhejiang. 1½ hours’ drive from Shanghai
- Highlights: Bridges, ancient lanes, covered waterside walkways, boating
- Best times: March and April
- Suggested length of stay: 1 day
Xitang Water Town Highlights
Xitang’s numerous bridges make it particularly special. The town is mostly flat, with 9 waterways splitting it into 8 areas. The areas are connected by 104 bridges, built in varying styles spanning the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties. Some look like rainbows over the river while others look like long flutes.
122 Ancient Lanes
Ancient lanes are a typical feature of Xitang. The narrow lanes connect streets, waterways, and houses, each lane with its own name. The 68-meter-long Shipi Lane is the most famous. The widest part of the lane is 110 cm and the narrowest part is only 80 cm.
Long lanes create a vertical sliver of sky. The longest is Sixianci Lane, at 236 meters.
Long Covered Waterside Walks
The long covered walkways are the most unique feature of Xitang, distinguishing it from other water towns. They used to be roads with roofs. Now chairs are arranged there for people to enjoy a leisurely rest by the canals. You don’t need to worry about rainy days or about the hot summer sun’s rays.
Things to Do
Stroll in the Town
When you come to Xitang, you will escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Mornings there are peaceful; by evening, smoke curls up from the chimneys.
Slow down, pace the flagstones, walk through the long corridors and lanes, and enjoy your leisurely vacation. Visit the shops making and selling folding fans and paper cuts. Have a rest on a bench by the river, listen to the babbling water and watch the busy residents.
Some walkways are not uniformly flat. A comfortable pair of shoes would be helpful.
Visit Old Houses and Gardens
Xitang is a quaint and quiet water town with a history of more than 1,000 years. It is one of the cradles of Zhejiang and Jiangsu culture. It retains a total of 250,000 square meters covered by ancient buildings from the Ming and Qing dynasties, including many ancient houses.
All the decorations in the houses retain their ancient style. Tourists can enter these houses to see how people lived in past times.
Xiyuan Garden is the most beautiful garden in Xitang. Rockeries, trees, fish ponds, pavilions and long corridors create a complete picture-postcard garden scroll.
Relax on a Boat
Wupeng boats are a unique means of transport in Xitang. They got their name for their black awning (wu means black, peng refers to awning).
In the past, locals used such boats for transport, fishing and even at weddings and funerals. Nowadays, most of the boats are used for sightseeing. Tourists can enjoy the sights from on board.
The hull of a wupeng boat is relatively small. It is sometimes crowded with many tourists. We will arrange a boat exclusively for you, so you don't have to share it with other tourists. In the summer, taking a cruise can be quite hot, so we recommend a morning or night cruise.
- Ticket: 100 yuan
- Open: whole day
- Dining: There are many restaurants or snack stalls in Xitang. If you would like to taste some special food, our local guide will give you some good tips.
Accommodation in Xitang Water Town
In Xitang there is a wide choice of hotels and inns, which can be broadly divided into two types. On weekdays the price of staying in a hotel is around 100 to 300 yuan. At weekends or holidays, the price jumps significantly.
There are many starred hotels inside the ancient town and the price is reasonable, comparable to that for hotels in the cities. The only difference is that the rooms look simpler.
Starred hotels provide higher standards of service and quality than hostels. They provide breakfast, laundry, pick-up and other services. Most are outside the scenic area, but within walking distance, not far away. The most popular is the Xitang Holiday Inn (three-star) near the Water Town entrance.
Most hostels are inside the scenic area. Whether by day or night, when you open a window you can always see the beautiful scenery and get some fresh air.
The owners of most hostels are locals. They are kind and enthusiastic. If you wish to have a more authentic experience and get closer to locals, you can book to stay in a hostel.
Many hostels have been re-modeled from old houses, so the rooms may be very small, and noisy if the people next door are talking loudly.
- Starred hotels may be more suitable for many foreign tourists. The living conditions and facilities there are much better than in the hostels.
- Reserve in advance. Xitang is a popular tourist spot. If you don’t book in advance, it is hard to find a hotel in peak season. You can find most hotel information and make a reservation on the internet.
- Beware of booking via sales-people or drivers at the entrance to the scenic spot or at the station. They may introduce you to hotels at inflated prices.
Travel with us and let us help you arrange your hotel. Just tell us your preferred location and requirements, and we will book a hotel accordingly.
How to Get to Xitang Water Town
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From nearby cities, direct buses are generally easier, cheaper, and faster than trains. Ordinary trains stop at Jiashan Station, 10 km (6 miles) south of Xitang. Bullet trains stop at Jiashan South Station.
It may be a little complicated for foreign tourists to visit Xitang alone. Let us help you organize your Xitang tour, to ease your transportation problems.
From Shanghai (best access)
- By bullet train (from Shanghai Hongqiao–Jiashan South): 25–35 minutes, 30 yuan
- By ordinary train (Shanghai South–Jiashan): 36–48 minutes, 13 yuan
- Shanghai South Bus Terminal (上海长途汽车南站, on 666 Shilong Road石龙路666号) - 9 direct buses to Xitang (8:45 am-6:19 pm) — 2 hours, 36 yuan
- Shanghai Bus Terminal (上海长途客运总站, Shanghai’s main bus terminal at 1666 Zhongxin Road中兴路1666号) - 4 direct buses to Xitang (9:40 am-6:30 pm) — 2 hours, 37 yuan
From Suzhou (next best)
- By bullet train (from Suzhou or Suzhou North–Jiashan South): about 1 hour, 70 yuan
- By ordinary train: NOT recommended (2 trains 03:49, 04:45! 2½ hours+!)
- From Suzhou Railway Station’s north square there are 8 buses departing daily every two hours to Xitang: 1½ hours, 38 yuan.
From Hangzhou (less convenient)
- By bullet train (Hangzhou or Hangzhou East–Jiashan South): 30–50 minutes, 47 yuan
- By ordinary train (Hangzhou or Hangzhou East–Jiashan): about 1 hour, 17 yuan
- From Hangzhou (Jiubao) Passenger Transport Central Station there are direct buses (7:45 am-6:15 pm): 2 hours, 47 yuan
From Nanjing (and further) — consider going via Shanghai
- By bullet train Nanjing South–Jiashan South — 08:48, 18:14): about 2 hours, 163 yuan
- By ordinary train: NOT recommended (2 trains 01:06, 02:07! 5½ hours!)
- From Nanjing Long-Distance Bus Station take the 14:40 bus to Jiashan Bus Terminal: 3 hours, 97 yuan
From Jiaxing (the little-visited nearest city)
From Jiaxing North Bus Station take the K152 (we don't recommend other buses) — 1 hour, 6 yuan. For more convenience, a taxi costs around 100 yuan.
From Jiashan (Xitang’s County Town)
Jiashan South Railway Station (for bullet trains): there is a transit special-line direct to Xitang, only 30 minutes for 8 yuan.
Jiashan Railway Station (for normal trains) has bus K210 — 40 minutes, 2 yuan. A taxi costs 40 yuan.
Jiashan Bus Terminal (200 m SE of the train station) has buses K215 and K216 direct to Xitang.
Start a Relaxed Xitang Tour with Us
If you are interested in travelling to Xitang Water Town, please see our 3-Day Essence of Shanghai and Watertown Tour for inspiration. Or you can contact us to tailor-make your own water town tour.