Zhouzhuang Water Town - the Most Famous Ancient Water Town in China
Zhouzhuang, the most popular, developed, and commercialized water town in China, is a popular tourist spot for Shanghai and Suzhou visitors. The town is built amid canals, ponds, and lakes. What makes it special are the old buildings and bridges, boat rides, crafts, and the quaint water town scenery.
- Chinese name: 周庄水乡 Zhōuzhuāng Shuǐxiāng /joh-jwung shway-sshyang/
- Location: about a 1½-hour drive from Shanghai or Suzhou
- Suitable for: people who like "old China" scenery, bargaining for crafts, boat rides, and ancient architecture
- Recommended stay: at least a day
- Activities: walking, seeing historic architecture, taking photos, boat rides on canals and lakes
- Best times: The most beautiful seasons are spring (April/May) and autumn (September/October). Morning and the nightfall are the most charming times of the day.
- Avoid holiday crowds: China Highlights suggests that you not visit on public holidays or (peak season) weekends, because the crowds disturb the peace and the grace of the ancient water town.
Water Lanes & Stone Bridges
The canals that crisscross Zhouzhuang have many stone bridges, and some of them are ancient. About fourteen of these were built in the imperial era about 150 years ago or more. Representatives of these are the Twin Bridges, Fu'an Bridge, Zhenfeng Bridge and Fuhong Bridge.
The Twin Bridges: The twin Shide and Yong'an Bridges were built between 1573 and 1619. Each bridge has one square and one round opening that look like ancient keys. They are also known as the Key Bridges.
Fu'an Bridge was built in 1355 during the Yuan Dynasty era. There are towers on all four corners. Each side has carved beams and painted rafters. People enjoy local foods and shopping in the towers.
Zhenfeng Bridge is on the mouth of the Zhongshi River. It was built in the Ming and Qing dynasties and is well preserved today. There are towers on all four corners.
The Bodies of Water
Most of the residences of Zhouzhuang are built next to waterways or lakes. Baixian River runs north of Zhouzhuang west to east. There are several lakes around Zhouzhuang, where you can go boating, and the larger ones are Dianshan Lake, Cheng Lake, and Yuan Lake.
Zhouzhuang has about 1,000 households living in old dwellings that were built in the Ming and Qing dynasties and the early Republic of China. About half of the houses are well preserved. A hundred houses have courtyards. Several are excellent examples of traditional Chinese architecture.
Shen's House is southeast of Fu'an Bridge on Nanshi Street. Shen Benren built it in 1742. The compound has seven courtyards, five archways, and more than 100 rooms. It covers an area of 2,000 square meters. There is a gate and wharf for mooring boats.
Zhang's House is south of the Twin Bridges on Beishi Street. It was built between 1436 and 1449 and covers 1,800 square meters or about half an acre. The house has six courtyards and more than 70 rooms. A square pool was built in the middle section. It is an important historical building.
Ye Chucang's Residence: Ye Chucang (1887–1946) was a poet and a statesman. He was known for organizing a group of young people to publicize against gambling and opium and steer people away it. It is on Xiwan Street and has five courtyards. The Main Hall was his studio, and the Rear Hall was a place where he received friends.
With almost a thousand year’s of history, the townspeople people have kept their unique lifestyle as well as exquisite craftsmanship. While shopping in Zhouzhuang, you will find momentos with special meaning. A typical 'south-of-the-Yangtze River' water town, Zhouzhuang abounds in silk, Suzhou embroidery, woven bamboo, and other exquisite handicrafts.
Zhenfeng Street is where you can enjoy many traditional shops and tea houses lining the narrow street: herbal medicine shops, wine workshops, spinning weaving shops, bamboo weaving shops... Relax and have a taste of traditional Chinese culture. Chinese: 贞丰街 Zhenfeng Jie / jnn-fnng jyeah/, also called Cultural Street (文化街 Wenhua Jie /wnn-hwah jyeah/).
Typical Souvenir Items
Zhouzhuang bamboo weaving (竹编 zhubian /joo-byen/) has a long history and is famous for compactness, strength, and durability. In Cultural Street, see many locals, especially older people, weaving bamboo. Their exquisite craftsmanship gives tourists a deep impression. For tourists, bamboo weavings are made even prettier than usual.
Tiger head shoes (虎头鞋 hutou xie /hoo-taoww sshyeah/) are traditional shoes for Chinese children. In Chinese culture, people think tiger head shoes can bring luck to children. Tiger head shoes in Zhouzhuang are of exquisite craftsmanship and soft enough for children to wear comfortably.
Zhouzhuang stoves (庄炉 Zhuanglu /jwung-loo/) enjoy a high reputation as "the best of copper ware". Coppersmiths pound the flat copper sheets into oblate stoves and hollow out a snow-shape or pearl-shape hole on the lid. They engrave some pictures on the surface of the stoves, such as flowers, landscape paintings, clouds, lines, many kinds of birds and so on. Zhouzhuang stoves are a work of art.
Travel Essentials for Planning a Trip
Zhouzhuang has no airport, but travelers can arrive at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport and Shanghai Pudong Airport, Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, Hangzhou Xiaoshan Airport, or Suzhou's small Sunan Shuofang International Airport, and then take a coach to Zhouzhuang.
Major nearby train stations are Shanghai, Shanghai Hongqiao, and Suzhou.
Kunshan Railway Station is on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway and the Shanghai-Nanjing inter-city railway, and serves trains from most major cities, including Hangzhou bullet trains. From the station, take bus 88 or 111 to New Passenger Station, which takes about 15 minutes, and then take a 1-hour coach to Zhouzhuang. It's about 120 yuan for a taxi from Kunshan to Zhouzhuang.
Travelers from Hangzhou may also go by rail to Jiaxing Railway Station for a shorter train and coach ride to Zhouzhuang.
Take a coach to Zhouzhuang from Shanghai, Suzhou, Kunshan, or Hangzhou/Jiaxing (see above).
Shanghai to Zhouzhuang Buses
|Gongxing Road Long-Distance Bus Station
|80 Gongxing Road, Zhabei District
|021-5663 0000/0230||07:30, 09:30, 12:20, 13:00 and 14:30||2 hours||22 yuan|
|Shanghai Sports Stadium
|Parking Lot 4, 666 Yaoqiao Road, Xuhui District
|021-6426 5555||07:00, 09:05, 09:45, 12:10 (returning 14:30 and 16:30||1 hour 40 minutes||140 yuan (round trip), 20 yuan charged for next day return|
|Shanghai Soccer Stadium
|444 Dongjian Wan Road, Hongkou District
|021-5696 7721||06:00, 07:30, 08:20, 09:15, 11:40, 13:20, 14:20, 15:40 and 16:30||2 hours||128 yuan (including tour guide)|
Suzhou to Zhouzhuang Buses
|Suzhou North Bus Station||07:05-17:05||30 minutes||1½ hours||17.5 yuan|
Hangzhou/Jiaxing to Zhouzhuang Buses
|Hangzhou Yellow Dragon Sports Center||1 Huanglong Road, Xihu District
|08:00 every Saturday||178 yuan (round trip, including Zhouzhuang admission)|
|Jiaxing North Bus Station
|688 Zhonghuan North Road||06:15, 12:05 (returning 08:50, 14:35)||15 yuan|
Getting Around Zhouzhuang
Zhouzhuang Bus Station is on the edge of the ancient water town, which is only 2 km across, so taxis etc. are hardly necessary, unless walking is a problem. The flag down taxi fare is 9 yuan (for first 3 kilometers or 2 miles). A tricycle ride from Zhouzhuang Bus Station around the ancient town costs about 5 yuan.
Vehicles including bicycles are not allowed in the water town because the roads are too narrow. The only available transportation is boats, at about 80 yuan per 8 person craft.
Boat rides: The town is known for small boats like gondolas that ferry tourists for sightseeing around the area. The small boats take about six passengers and have a gondolier who sings for you.
- Daytime Ticket: CNY 100 (entry to the town and 15 sights)
- Night Ticket: CNY 80 (entry after 16:00 and two sights: Shen House and Zhang House)
- Free of charge for children under 1.4 meters (4.6 feet)
Our Recommended Water Town Tours
- One-day Zhouzhuang and Jinxi Water Town Tour
- 5-Day Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou Bullet Train Tour
- Shanghai Family Disneyland Tours: Enjoy happy family memories at Shanghai Disneyland.
Our tours are customizable — tell us your interests and requirements and we will help you to tailor-make a tour.