OK, Venice of the East may be an overstatement, but it’s still worth checking out. Zhouzhuang is about an hour and half from Shanghai. It is a beautiful old canal town near Suzhou and is a great day trip back in time. The stone houses are built side by side, and many of them have been converted to shops while others have been converted to musuems. Stone bridges criss-cross the waterways.
Boat rides are available, and they’re a great way to check out the old buildings from the water and experience life at slower pace. China is becoming so incredibly modern, it’s fun to check out historic architecture that is so stereotypically Chinese. And it’s a nice break from the chaos of the city.
Getting there: You can easily visit Zhouzhuang as part of a few days in Suzhou or as a day’s excursion from Shanghai. Tourist buses go to Zhouzhuang from both cities multiple times daily. It takes about 1.5 hours from Shanghai, less from Suzhou.