Zhouzhuang China Bootsfahrt auf Kanälen unter Brücken

Best Things to do in Zhouzhuang, China

Aktualisiert am: 10/11/2023

Zhouzhuang is located in the very east of China and modestly calls itself China’s number one water city. Not far from Shanghai and Suzhou, Zhouzhuang is a popular excursion destination: with its many canals and waterways as well as a pretty little old town, Zhouzhuang (pronounced: chuu-chuang) is definitely worth a visit. The small water town is considered one of the cultural centers of the region and offers not only Chinese tourists but also foreign visitors like me fascinating insights into China’s extensive culture and history.

Zhouzhuang: Back to ancient China

The term China’s number one water city is no coincidence: in 1985, the two now best-known Zhouzhuang bridges adorned the first issue of the United Nations stamp. Shuangqiao (key bridges) is the name given to the two bridges standing at right angles to each other because they look like a Chinese key. Chen Yifei, a Chinese artist, was exhibiting in a gallery in New York at the time, including a painting of the same key bridges. In short, the paintings were a success, the bridges made it onto the stamp, the stamp into the world and Zhouzhuang (and China’s water towns) onto the international stage.

Zhouzhuang China Key Bridge
Popular motif: the two key bridges directly at the main entrance to the number one water city: Zhouzhang.
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Hey, I’m Tatiana, a German-Brazilian living in Berlin & the author behind The Happy Jetlagger. I’ve been writing about my travels since 2014. In addition to my job as a flight attendant, this blog is my passion project!

But Zhouzhuang has been around for much longer, of course – just like Suzhou Zhouzhuang can look back on over 2000 years of history. Like the entire region, the city experienced its heyday during the Ming dynasty and some remnants of this can still be admired in the city today.

Vases Zhouzhuang China

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Boat trip in Zhouzhuang: China’s romantic waterways

Don’t miss out on a boat trip on the numerous small wooden boats that sail along the small canals. The tour starts collectively at a departure point, where tickets are purchased at the same time. A 20-minute trip costs 150 yuan per boat, and up to 6 people can go on it. The trip was a bit short for my taste, but that could also be because it was just too nice to glide through the atmospheric canals on this traditional wooden boat! On request (and a small tip), the boatwomen will also sing classical Chinese folk songs – it doesn’t get much more idyllic than that.

Zhouzhuang China boat trip
Female power: gondoliers in Zhouzhuang are also female.
Zhouzhuang Water Town China

Places of interest in Zhouzhuang: Shen House

One of the main attractions in Zhouzhuang is the Shen House. Shen Wansan was a wealthy businessman who left his mark on Zhouzhuang – and he was so rich that even his descendants benefited from it for a long time. In 1742, they built Shen House – and “house” is a slight understatement! The entrance to the building, inconspicuous from the outside, leads into a complex with over 100(!) rooms that extends over 6 blocks. I could have spent hours wandering through the many detailed rooms and courtyards: The Shen House is an absolute experience, you immediately feel transported back to ancient China.

Shen House Zhouzhuang Tourist
Proud tourists in Shen House: Zhouzhuang is one of the most famous water towns in the whole of China.
Shen House Zhouzhuang pictures

Would you like to spend the night in a traditional Chinese house? In the middle of the old town of Zhouzhuang, there are great accommodations like this one:

Click here for more info*

Shen House Zhouzhuang Courtyard
Shen House Zhouzhuang Happiness Money
There is a golden Buddha in one of the many rooms of the Shen House – placing money under the Buddha is said to bring good luck.
Shen House Zhouzhuang Entrance
Shen House Zhouzhuang Rooms

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Quang Fu Temple: relaxation from sightseeing

There is also a huge temple complex in the middle of Zhouzhang. If the narrow streets of the old town have become too narrow and you need some space, you should definitely take a short break around the Buddhist Quang Fu Temple in Zhouzhuang. The temple is located in the huge Nanhu Garden and the grounds are a great contrast to the bustling old town. Zhouzhuang is a popular destination for Chinese tourists – and not without reason, as it is beautiful! It can sometimes get crowded and a little more air is not a bad thing, especially in hot tropical temperatures.

Quanfu Temple Zhouzhuang China
Quanfu Temple Zhouzhuang
Candle Temple Zhouzhuang
Zhouzhuang China Quanfu Temple
Zhouzhuang Quanfu Temple
The Nanhu Garden is located around the Quanfu Temple.

The old town of Zhouzhuang: stroll, store, enjoy

Zhouzhuang is not only steeped in history, the small alleyways are also great for a stroll. There is certainly a lot of tourist kitsch, but for me as a European, everything here is so exotic that I can even enjoy the banal trinkets. The small souvenir stores blend in surprisingly harmoniously with the historic streets, so that I was once again amazed at how well cultural assets are maintained here in the region – despite the hordes of tourists. You can even still find real street life, and the best moments can be captured in the small side streets.

Zhouzhuang China Streetlife
Zhouzhuang China Old Town
Zhouzhuang China residential building
Local life in the side streets.
Zhouzhuang China doors
Stores are still traditionally closed with large wooden boards after closing time.
Zhouzhuang China tea store
Tea store in the old town of Zhouzhang.
Zhouzhuang market
I completely forgot what it was because of all the exotic food. Even the vegetables are prettier in Zhouzhuang.

How to get to Zhouzhuang

Visiting Zhouzhang is surprisingly well regulated: Access is limited! There is a huge parking lot for cars and coaches, with a large visitor center where you can also buy tickets. That’s right: Zhouzhang charges admission. What has long been discussed in crowded tourist attractions such as Venice and is now slowly gaining acceptance there at least, is simply done in Zhouzhang. Once again, I was struck by the well thought-out management of tourist flows and sophisticated infrastructure: China is really more organized than you might think in this country!

However, so much organization is probably necessary, as we were advised not to come to Zhouzhuang during Golden Week. Golden Week is the name given to three different weeks in China: The Chinese New Year or Spring Festival (January or February), the week around May 1st (Labor Day Golden Week) and the week around October 1st (National Day Golden Week). Then Zhouzhuang, like many other popular destinations in China, will be bursting at the seams.

Zhouzhang is only about 30 kilometers away from Suzhou, which I also liked very much. But Zhouzhuang is also easily accessible from Shanghai by public transport or with tour operators.

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China Tours and the tourism authority of Suzhou invited me on this trip.

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