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Zhouzhuang – over 1000 years of History

Away from the population density, towering skyscrapers and bustle of Shanghai’s busy streets you’ll transport to an entirely different realm. Have you ever googled Water Town Shanghai? There are several water towns near Shanghai to choose from. But what are they?

Preserved and historic Zhouzhuang is just an hour outside of Shanghai. This specific village is clad with architecture from the Ming and Qing dynasty. Many regard this water town as the ‘Venice of the East.’ It delivers much charm and enchantment as its western counterpart. Here, you can experience a preserved water village reminiscent of life hundreds of years ago. Zhouzhuang is a popular getaway for locals and foreign visitors, alike.

Water Town Shanghai

What do you need to know?

Bring lots of cash with you

Meandering the general town is completely free. The town is comprised of boutique hotels, restaurants and banks. To enter the actual Ancient Water Town, where the main attractions are, you have to pay. The entrance fee at the time of visiting is equivalent to $12 USD. The entrance fee, admission for a boat ride and the vast majority of the vendors selling specialty goods only accept cash. Bring a lot more cash than you expect to spend. You will not be able to easily obtain more, should something come up.

Take out cash before arriving in Zhouzhuang

Learn from our mistakes on this one. We did not bring nearly enough Yuan to the water town Shanghai. We could not find an ATM anywhere in the water village or the town that our debit card would work in. In addition, keep in mind that your ATM card will likely not work in the majority of Chinese ATM machines. We were very fortunate that a Woman we encountered translated what we were asking and directed us to the only bank open on a Sunday! We took a cab a bit outside of town and were able to obtain cash, but obviously best to avoid this situation entirely.

Haggling is welcomed and expected

Like many shopping mecca’s around the globe, the art of price negotiation or “haggling” is anticipated and even encouraged at Water Town Shanghai. For instance, if an item is marked as $20USD, you can offer $15USD. The seller might counter with $18USD. For US visitors, this will likely feel unnatural, as all items are typically priced as marked within North America. Give it a go, it may grow on you!

Water Town Shanghai
Merchant hand crafting the candy he sells

What not to do?

Don’t eat at the Restaurants near where they take your tickets to enter the Ancient Water Town

Leading up to the entry point of where they will take your admission tickets to enter the Water Town you will see several restaurants. I recommend not eating at them and waiting to eat inside the village. Inside the town there are countless food options. In addition to the abundance of restaurants, there are many vendors who sell every kind of dumpling you can imagine. We ate our first meal at a restaurant by the entrance. While the food wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great either and it was also… outrageously overpriced.

Don’t expect English Speakers or Signs in English

If you are not on a tour or with a guide, it is completely feasible to explore and maneuver the town with ease. Just make sure that you have your translator apps handy, you will need them! You will not find any English signs here and very few to no English speakers. As long as you have a translator app, like Google Translate, you will be just fine. Most of the shop keepers or restaurant employees are used to communicating with non-Chinese speaking visitors via translate apps.

What is there to do in Zhouzhuang?

Shopping Galore

The residents of Zhouzhuang make a living entirely from the tourist traffic that visits. In other words, if you plan to bring home souvenirs or gifts, this is a great place to purchase them. There are many vendors lining the narrow alleyways. As you meander, you will see the usual and unusual, and a plethora of beautiful craftsman goods. You will find Chinese candy and snacks, hand made combs, clothes, decorative art pieces and more. Therefore, you’ll likely find something of interest.

Water Town Shanghai
Hand crafted Tea Pots – less than $5USD
Water Town Shanghai
Boat ride through the Canals

Visiting a Water Town near Shanghai, is one of the many worth while adventures you can embark on while in China. Another noteworthy excursion was hiking the Great Wall of China in Beijing.

Water Town Shanghai
Enjoying a relaxing boat ride through the Canals

What’s to eat?

Dumplings and other delicious Delicacies

Deep into the Water Town is a maze of food vendors. You will find an assortment of Chinese delicacies. Most notable, you will come across every type of dumpling imaginable! Not only are they very cheap, but absolutely delicious. So eat some dumplings while here. After that, eat more dumplings. Some of the vendors have seating to enjoy your food, others you will need to purchase your food and eat it while walking. If you are looking for a formal sit down dinner, there are many restaurants to choose from as well.

Water Town Shanghai
Array of dumplings for sale
Water Town Shanghai
A dumpling vendor in the Water Town
Water Town Shanghai
Pick your delicacy and they will make it fresh for you!
Water Town Shanghai
A restaurant along the Canal

Zhouzhuang After Dark

Water Town Shanghai
Zhouzhuang after dark

Visiting this historic water town is a unique and interesting experience. Whether you choose to visit for the day, half day or stay overnight, you will be glad you added this to your Shanghai itinerary. There are many group or private tours you can join that do day trips to Zhouzhuang. You can also travel by taxi or bus on your own. If you decide to visit sans tour group, you will be just fine as long as you have your translator app. The preserved ancient beauty that Zhouzhuang has to offer will surely make for one of the most memorable places you’ve ever visited.

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