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The Yangtze delta was already a thriving trade center when Marco Polo arrived in 1266. Merchants relied on canals to transport goods, and villages bloomed at the watery intersections. Some water towns near Shanghai are now prosperous cities while others have been revived as tourist attractions. Ask your concierge to arrange for a sightseeing bus or private car.

Day Trips from Shanghai


This suburban town is the original home of Shanghai’s legendary soup dumplings, or xiao long bao. It’s relatively undeveloped for tourists, with gritty blocks of ordinary shops and canal homes between the temples and gardens. The 16th-century Garden of Ancient Splendor is a good place to begin.

About 12 miles northwest of Shanghai,
Tags: family | culture | history | day trip

Qibao Ancient Town

Qibao is close enough to visit by taxi. Much of the architecture has been recreated, but the thousand-year history, traditional snack foods, and lively crowds are real. No admission fee required, but a combined ticket for eight exhibits is 45 yuan.

11 miles west of People’s Square,
Tags: family | culture | history | day trip


Often called the Venice of the East, Suzhou offers elaborate gardens, a historic silk industry, and a new museum by architect I. M. Pei. Although a mature city of 6 million, you’ll consider it a quiet little burg after Shanghai. Also accessible by train.

About 50 miles west of Shanghai,;
Tags: family | art | culture | history | day trip


If the narrow alleys and black slate roofs seem familiar, then perhaps you remember this town from Mission Impossible: III, filmed here in 2005. Xitang is justly famous for its picturesque covered walkways and specialty dishes, such as river shrimp with ginger and green tea. The 60-yuan admission fee includes a dozen historic sites.

About 50 miles southwest of Shanghai,
Tags: family | culture | history | day trip


More authentic than Qibao, with well-preserved stone bridges and courtyard homes, Zhujiajaio suffers from its proximity to Shanghai. Your degree of enjoyment will depend on ignoring tour groups and souvenir shops and imagining 1700 years of life on the canals. Admission is 10 yuan.

About 20 miles southwest of Shanghai,
Tags: family | culture | history | day trip

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