Pretty Zhujiajiao, a day trip out from Shanghai

Zhujaijiao, ChinaZhujiajiao is a pretty canal village an hours bus ride out from Shanghai, it makes a perfect day out from the city with its quaint old atmosphere and attractive canal-lined streets, a complete contrast to modern Shanghai. Of course, all this prettiness and close proximity to Shanghai means you don’t get to explore Zhujiajiao alone, it can get very packed with tourists. We were lucky, visiting in the off-season, and it was easy to lose the crowds who generally milled along the main streets.

We had been recommended Zhujiajiao by a British girl we met working in M50 Art Complex in Shanghai and I’m very glad we took her advice. It was so pretty and an easy way to see a Chinese water town.

Most of the historic architecture of old Zhujiajiao dates from the Ming and Qing Dynasties {1300s to the 1900s}. It is a warren of narrow alleys and streets that lead down to, and over, the canals. The town has a bohemian feel with eclectic shops, cafes, coffee shops and bars, most of which opened out onto the canals.

Zhujaijiao, ChinaPeeking in through the open frontages revealed comfy sofas and stylish decor. Little bridges crossed over the canals regularly, linking the streets and giving charming vistas down the waterways where balconies and laundry hung out over the water.


At the foot of the bigger bridges vendors sold souvenirs and food, the smelly tofu, chou doufu, permeating the narrower alleys. It’s not a smell I savour I’m afraid! One of the main alleys was lined with food shops selling dried fish and strange meats, these proved popular with the visiting Chinese.

Zhujaijiao, China


Our entry ticket {30 Yuan} gave us access to a few things within the town of which Ke Zhi Garden was one. A peaceful respite from the tourists choking the narrower alleys, this lovely garden was set behind the grand house of a salt merchant. Half Chinese and half western the garden is for pleasure, study {Ke} and for growing food {Zhi}. It was verdant with vegetables growing in neat lines, paths wound round the garden linking sections and fish teemed in the pools. An artificial hill provided a high viewpoint to view the garden and pavilions gave shade. We explored the house as well, the late afternoon light filtered through the windows onto the pretty tiled floors. Some of the more interesting old buildings in the town had been restored as mini museums that were included in the entry ticket.

Ke Zhi garden house

Ke Zhi garden house

The Great Qing Post Office gave a potted history of the Chinese Post Office, it was a major Shanghai branch in it’s heyday.

Zhujaijiao, China

The old Pharmacy was dusty and atmospheric, like walking into a shop on Diagon Alley! Strange roots, herbs and powders were stored in jars and drawers, dried lizards were bundled up under the glass counter.

Zhujaijiao, China

Zhujaijiao, China

To reach Zhujiajiao we took a local {pink coloured} bus from Puan Bus Station behind the Shanghai Museum. We just approached a bus and asked for Zhujiajiao and were pointed to the right one. The bus dropped us off at the Zhujiajiao bus station in the modern town, there were no directions to the old town that we could see but we followed our instincts and they proved right.

To get back to Shanghai we went back to the bus station only to find a long queue waiting for the bus. We had to wait about half an hour for one packed bus to leave before we could get on the next one.

On the bus back we got seats behind a young Chinese guy who seemed thrilled to have someone to talk to in English. He introduced himself then talked to us enthusiastically about Dr Who, to say he loved Dr Who would be an understatement! He had a photo of David Tennant, his favourite Doctor, on his phone and he had clearly practiced the name of the new Doctor to perfection as “David Capaldi” rolled off his tongue better than any other English word he spoke! He even serenaded us with the Dr Who theme!

He studied advertising in Shanghai and we talked about the air pollution there and in Beijing. He asked if we had been to Japan then spoke very negatively about it, that the world should be concerned about Japan’s technology! I wonder what propaganda they hear. It was interesting talking to him, getting a youthful insight into Chinese culture.

Zhujaijiao, China



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4 Responses

  1. As always, amazing photos.
    As I recall, you are vegetarian? How did you feel about the lizards? Did they say what lizard is used for? My Chinese girlfriend tells me of her experience in China that practically everything helps with virility. Same with the lizards I suspect?

    • Thank you! Yes I am a veggie! I hate seeing amazing creatures like that but I never asked what they were for, all bound up with rubber bands, I didn’t want to know, poor little things! My enjoyment of China required me to ‘switch off’ my sensitive, animal-loving side to some degree 😉

  2. davegct says:

    I love this posting! Especially your photos, they really capture the feeling of the old town and canals. Got to remember this place for our visit to Shanghai! (Hopefully summer 2017 ?) How big was the old town/canal area? Were you able to see most/all of it in your visit? Were the tourists Chinese or foreigners? So fun that you got this recommendation from someone you met during your travels – love the serendipity. But especially love your chat with the Chinese lover of Dr Who on the bus, especially that he sang the theme song for you! Priceless…

    • I just had to include our Dr Who-loving friend! He really topped off the wonderful day! We saw most of the old town, it was so pretty and not particularly large. There were a lot of Chinese tourists but they mainly stuck to the main alleys, clogging them up somewhat but they thinned out as we wandered. There were a few non-Chinese tourists as well. Very few of the Chinese tourists went in the ‘museum’ sights like the KeZhi Garden and the Post Office, they seemed happy shopping and walking the foodie streets.
      Hey, you’re heading back to China in a few years? How exciting! That’s fabulous news!