Wuzhen is a Chinese town located in Zhejiang Province. What makes it pretty unique is that Wuzhen is one of the few water towns in China that has successfully preserved its ancient heritage. A popular tourist destination, the town has a history of over a thousand years. Of the 60,000 people living in the town, only about 12,000 are permanent residents.
The canals in Wuzhen divide it into four sections — Beizha, Nanzha, Dongzha, and Xizha. Of these, the Xinza and Dongzha sections account for the largest share of tourist traffic. Visiting these areas requires tourists to buy tickets that can range anywhere from 120 RMB (US$16) to 200 RMB (US$28) per person. The ticket is typically valid for only one day.
“Dongzha, the more popular area, is a great place to enjoy Wuzhen’s hallmark canals and traditional architecture… This area is also known for its traditional folk performances, including shadow plays, bamboo pole climbing, and kung fu shows on boats along the canal… Xizha is particularly well known for its attractive stone bridges that arch gracefully across the canal… This part of the town is particularly beautiful at night, when the homes and buildings along the canal light up,” according to The China Guide.
Tourists should check out the shadow plays performed by traditional artists. Shadows of handmade figures are projected on a screen along with a story that is explained with the accompaniment of instruments like a gong, flute, erhu, etc. The show usually takes place between 8:30 a.m. and 11:20 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day. Martial arts and bamboo pole climbing performances are also a must-watch.
Wuzhen receives around 7 million tourists every year, which has been a huge boost to such a small town.
The nature of tourism development has also changed in Wuzhen. “People no longer want to just take photos and leave… They want to stay in places longer and immerse themselves in the experience… With Wuzhen, we have built a beautiful shell. So now we are trying to fill in the shell with culture,” Chen Xianghong, the president of the Wuzhen Tourism Company, said to The New York Times.
Traveling to Wuzhen
The best time to visit Wuzhen is from March to May when spring is in the air. The temperature is comfortable and the scenery beautiful. The slight drizzle and mist add to the charm of the town. If you are not free during spring, visit in the fall instead. Ideally, it can take up to three days to fully explore the town and experience all that it has to offer.
Wuzhen is “an hour north of Hangzhou. It’s a small town without an airport or train station, but lots of local tourist transport. The K350 bus from Wuzhen Bus Station to Dong Zha takes 5 minutes, or walk for 15 minutes. Xi Zha takes 10 minutes by local cab or 30 minutes by foot. The K282 bus from Tongxiang Train Station to Wuzhen Bus Station takes 40 minutes. A taxi takes about 20 minutes,” according to China Highlights.
From Shanghai, the best way to visit Wuzhen is by bullet train. If you come from Suzhou, traveling by bus would be cheaper.
As for accommodation, you can opt for budget, boutique, and star-rated hotels. The budget hotels usually tend to be home stay inns.