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China's Ancient Water Towns 101

Known as the "Venice of The East", Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou are surrounded by rivers, lakes and canals. Therefore, you'll find many ancient water towns around the cities. We divide them into several categories, check this out!

Painting of Chinese ancient water town

The most famous water towns

1) Zhouzhuang

Located near Suzhou (1 hour drive), Zhouzhuang is the most famous and crowded water town. Compared to other water towns, Zhouzhuang is bigger and offer a lot more to see.

Zhouzhuang Water Town

2) Tongli

If you are looking for an art deco and classic Chinese water town photography, Tongli is your answer. Preserving more than 1,000 years of history, Tongli is one of the most recommended water towns, or should we say, the most beautiful water town. At night, you can feel the different atmosphere of Tongli when the lanterns are lit up. It is located 35 minutes drive away from Suzhou.

Tongli Water Town

3) Wuzhen

Another infamous water town boasting more than 6,000 years of history, Wuzhen is Shanghai people's favorite weekend getaway. As it's located relatively far from Shanghai and Suzhou (1 hour bullet train ride), travelers usually spend 1 night to enjoy the night scenery at Wuzhen.

Wuzhen Water Town

Tom Cruise was there to shoot Mission Impossible!

Tom Cruise & Michelle Monaghan in Xitang filming MI3


Xitang is located quite a distance from Shanghai and Suzhou. It's less crowded compared to other water towns and it has its own unique points that invite traveler to come.

Xitang Water Town

Foodie (and public transport) friendly

1) Zhujiajiao

Shanghai just finished its Metro Line 16 construction and it takes you straight to Zhujiajiao Water Town (1 hour ride). Zhujiajiao has several beautiful boutique hotels , so you can plan a 2 days getaway there. Warm tips: embrace the crowd.

Zhujiajiao Water Town Sunset

2) Qibao

Even nearer, it takes only 30-40 minutes metro rides from Shanghai city center. Qibao water town is surrounded by several shopping malls and located near Shanghai's Korean Town. Compared to other water towns, Qibao is the smallest water town. Warm tips: embrace the crowd

Qibao Water Town at Night

Less known but pretty!

1) Nanxun

Influenced by its history, Nanxun is a pretty ancient Chinese water town with a bit of Western twist. Located 1 hour drive from Suzhou, if you are looking for a hidden gem, Nanxun will be your answer!

Nanxun Water town

2) Mudu

Last but not least, Mudu water town is a unique place to visit. Compared to other water towns that boast about their long lanes and canals, Mudu boasts about its beautiful gardens. You don't need to pay for the entrance fee and it only needs 40 minutes drive away from Suzhou downtown.

Cherry Blossom at Mudu

Mudu Water Town from Above

So, based on our travel experience, we did some comparison and that is the complete list of our picked water town.

Water Town Map comparison

Tell us your favorite and if you need any travel advice, our experts are more than happy to help you!

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