With all tremendous fast developments in China it may give the impression that authencity becomes hard to find. Nevertheless, just one hour from metropolis Shanghai there is ancient water town Zhujiajiao. A critcal question is: how long will this place still look authentic? In the meantime I would say: go and check out out, it is lovely!
Pronouncing the name maybe requires some practice, but Zhujiajio is located in the Qingpu District, east of downtown Shanghai and south of the almighty Yangtze River. Canals and rivers full of boats propelled by gondeliers, 36 curvy bridges, red lanterns, lush green trees, streets with pitoresque white houses… Zhujiajiao definitely has charm! Officially the town has a population of 60,000 people, but to be honest I didn’t really notice this when walking around in it’s village atmosphere.
Zhujiajiao was established about 1,700 years ago. This old trade town dates back from the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) but had it’s golden time during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) when it grew to one of the richest trade towns of the region. Especially clothing and rice were important money makers for Zhujiajiao merchants back in the day.
Zhujiajiao has many sights of historic interest, such as Fangsheng Bridge, Kezhi Garden and the City God Temple. There are also a market and tea house. The town is no longer a stranger to tourists as direction signs to the highlights are nowadays both in Mandarin and English.
Finally visiting a Chinese style garden was a really nice experience. So serene! Lovely flowers, plants and trees. Plus: sunny weather too!
Started to built in 1912, the owner spent 15 years in perfectly finishing the KeZhi Garden, a unique mixture of Chinese and Western styles.
City God Temple
The City God Temple is a Taoist temple you can easily visit and walk around for a bit. A great piece of architecture and culture at the same time!
Not to miss when you are in Zhujiajiao: take a ride in one of the boats with your very own gondelier. It’s like the Chinese version of Venice here! A short boat ride costs 80 Yuan, a long ride 150 Yuan.
Each boat can take up to 6 people, but you can also rent one for just yourself or as a couple, no problem. There are seven different locations (docks) throughout town where you can hop on a boat. Perfect when your feet get tired from walking around.
Like other Chinese markets, at Zhujiajao market you will see things offered that Western people may have never seen before. When you pass by restaurants, you can see on their menus displayed with pictures outside, it becomes clear you can eat things here like turtles, salamanders and some undefined bloody organs… I hope you’re not squeamish!
The longest, largest and tallest stone bridge of Zhujiajiao was built in 1571. Very nice! I love old bridges, they always stand out so well.
And there is more
Other places to discover in Zhujiajiao are for example:
- Yuanjin Buddist Temple
- Ah Po’s Tea House
- Great Qing Post Office
- Tong Tian He Chinese Pharmacy
- Han Lin Stele Museum
- Humanistic Museum
- Shanghai Handicraft Zhujiajiao Exhibition Hall
- Shanghai Quanhua Art Gallery
- Y-art Gallery
Not all highlights of Zhujiajiao are in Google Maps yet, but this map hopefully helps to orientate yourself a bit.
How to get to Zhujiajiao from Shanghai
The easiest and most convenient way to reach Zhujiajiao from Shanghai is by guided group tour. Most tours will pick you up from your hotel or a central point in the city, see description. The guide will tell and show you things you would not have have known or seen without a guide. Below some suggestons of tours via GetYourGuide. In addition, Viator has several options too.
There are a few alternative ways to reach and individually visit Zhujiajiao ancient water town from downtown Shanghai: by taxi or public transport (metro or bus). Public transport will be the cheapest option, obviously.
Ask your hotel to arrange a day taxi for you. The taxi will take you from downtown Shanghai (for example The Langham Xintiandi hotel in 1 to 1.5 hours) to ancient watertown Zhujiajiao. Like in any other big city, travel time will strongly depend on downtown traffic. Try to avoid rush hour. The taxi driver will wait in Zhujiajiao while you stroll around town and take you back once you are done. Unfortunately I cannot recall the exact costs of this taxi ride, please check with your accommodation.
Take line 17 from Shanghai downtown, which was established late 2017. The metro will take you to Zhujiajiao Station in two hours. Get off the second last stop, exit the station, go left and cross the street at the first traffic lights. It’s about 10-15 minute walk from the station to the canals of downtown Zhujiajao.
You can also take a bus to Zhujiajiao Bus Station. The Huzhu Express Line takes 60 minutes, the Huzhu Special Line takes 60-120 minutes. The earliest bus goes at 05:50h, the latest at 22:00h.
When to go
I visited Zhujiajiao in the second half of April and everything was beautifully green. A great time to go! But I guess every season will have it’s charm in this town.
Where to stay
Looking for a great hotel in downtown Shanghai? You won’t regret booking the best hotel I ever stayed at. It’s just 1 hour by car from Zhujiajiao! Or if you want, stay close to Zhujiajiao town itself.
Do I need a visa for China?
The answer to that question highly depends on your nationality, how long you wish to stay, what you plan to do (tourist or other), etc. Check for example the website of iVisa to learn whether you need a visa or not.
Interested to learn more about China? Check out my earlier blog post Travel series to watch for Ruben Terlou. His China TV series are amazing and very educational (yet only available in Dutch).
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Have you ever been to China? Would you like to visit Zhujiajiao? Please share your experience or question in a comment below.
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