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Bridge over river in Tongli Water Town

Tongli Water Town: A Quieter Ancient Town in Suzhou

Heard of Tongli Water Town, but not sure it is worth a visit or not and don’t know how to visit it? You will find all the answers and get some insiders’ suggestions and tips in this article.

Why Should You Visit Tongli Water Town?

There are several water towns in Suzhou. Tongli Water Town is one of the most welcomed ancient towns. It is worth a trip from any of the nearby cities of Suzhou, Hangzhou, and Shanghai. Why?

  • It is easily accessible from Shanghai or Suzhou, ½h drive from Shanghai and 1½h from Suzhou. It can be visited as a day trip from Shanghai.
  • It is a lively real ancient water town. Tongli is still inhabited by locals who go about their daily life.
  • It is less touristy than many water towns around Shanghai. Even with an increasing number of tourists, you can still find some beautiful hidden spaces offering tranquility.

Tongli or Zhouzhuang, Which One to Go?

You must have heard of another more famous water town in Suzhou, Zhouzhuang Water Town. Which one to visit, Tongli or Zhouzhuang?

Tongli definitely, if you are seeking a quiet leisure moment to see the daily life of a typical Chinese ancient town.

Crowds:Tongli is less commercialized and crowded than Zhouzhuang.

Zhouzhuang is the first few water towns developed 20 years ago, and it was so peaceful and beautiful those days. But now it is very commercialized, crowded, noisy. Tongli is as beautiful as Zhouzhuang but quieter.

Accessibility:Tongli is more convenient to reach than Zhouzhuang for visitors from Suzhou.

Tongli is a 30-minute drive from Suzhou while Zhouzhuang is about 70 minutes away. Tongli is accessible by subway from Suzhou center.

How to Get to Tongli from Shanghai, Suzhou, or Hangzhou? (with map)

Get from Shanghai to Tongli Water Town

Tongli is about 80 kilometers away from Shanghai in the east. There are several ways to get here from Shanghai - bus, train and metro, or as part of a tour group.

By Bus

There are direct buses departing from Shanghai Passenger Station at Hutai Road, Tourist Center at Shanghai Stadium, and the North Square of Shanghai Station to Tongli. It takes about 2.5 hours.

By Train

There is no direct train from Shanghai to Tongli. You can take a train from Shanghai Train Station to Suzhou, about 30 minutes.

From Suzhou Train Station, you can take the line 4 subway to Tongli metro station, then take the taxi to Tongli Water Town. Alternatively, take a shuttle bus from Suzhou North Square Station near Suzhou Train Station to Tongli.

Book a Private Transfer:Convenient and Timesaving

If you are short of time and seeks for a hassle-free journey, the best way to get from Shanghai to Tongli is to book a private transfer.

You will be picked up from your hotel, airport, or any places in Shanghai, and taken to Tongli directly and transferred back to any places you want to get in Shanghai.

Get from Suzhou to Tongli Water Town

The distance between Suzhou and Tongli is 20 km. You can get from Suzhou to Tongli via subway, bus, and taxi.

By subway:The cheapest way to get from Suzhou to Tongli is to the line 4 subway. But it still requires a taxi or bus drive from the metro station to the water town.

By bus:There is a direct bus departing from Suzhou North Square Station near Suzhou Train Station and arriving at Tongli. Services depart every hour. The journey takes approximately 45 min.

By taxi:The quickest way to get from Suzhou to Tongli is to take a taxi which costs 100-150 yuan and takes about 20 min.

Get from Hangzhou to Tongli Water Town

The distance between Hangzhou and Tongli is 110 km. There is no direct connection between them. You can take a train or bus.

By Train

Take a high-speed train from Hangzhou East Station to Suzhou Train Station, taking 1.5-2 hours. Then take a subway, bus, or taxi from Suzhou Train Station to Tongli Water Village. See the detailed information in the section of Suzhou to Tonglin as above.

By Bus

Take a bus from Hangzhou Passenger Station to Suzhou North Square Station near Suzhou Train Station from where take a bus to Tongli Ancient Town.

What You Shouldn’t Miss in Tongli Water Town?  (with attractions map)

Tongli Ancient Town is like a traditional Chinese painting with arched bridges, canals, gondolas, cobbled stone walkways, tile-roofed houses, etc. It isnice to spend one day there. Just slow down your pace and enjoy it. You can:

Take your time to walk aroundand enjoy the ancient way of the people who are still living there. You are suggested to stroll away from the busy part and walk the small pathways of the residential area.

Take a boat ride along the canals to get a unique perspective.

Visit Tuisi Garden which is the only classical garden outside the city of Suzhou that has been selected as a world cultural heritage, or Pearl Tower. It's better to have a tour guide to explain the different structures so that you can have a better understanding of these places.

Follow the local custom to walk across the Three Bridges in a triangle, cross them all! One is for longevity, one is for happiness and one is for healthy.

If you are interested, you can pay some money to see the fisherman use the birds to catch fish which is a traditional skill of fishing dating back to over 1,300 years.

What’s the Best Way to Visit Tongli Ancient Town?

Tongli Water Town is not big. If your time is limited, it is enough to spend half day there.

It is popular to make a day trip from Shanghai to Suzhou and visit the highlights in Suzhou city and then visit Tongli Water Town. It is doable if you plan very well. A private tour with private car and guide is a guarantee for a smooth and enjoyable tour.

Here is a sample tour of Suzhou and Tongli Tour from Shanghai, for your reference:

8:30–10:30 Transfer from Shanghai to Suzhou by Private Car

10:30–12:30 Sightseeing in Suzhou City: Lingering Garden, Humble Administrator Garden

12:30–13:30 Have lunch

13:30–14:00 Suzhou to Tongli Water Town

14:00–16:30 Tongli Water Town Exploration

16:30–18:00 Transferfrom Tongli Water Town to Shanghai

Travel Tips to Help You Enjoy Tongli Better

1. It is popular to make a day trip to Tongli Water Town. However, if your time is permitted, we recommend you stay overnight if you are coming from Shanghai. You can enjoy the beautiful night view of the town lit up by lanterns and walk around in the morning before the day-tourists come.

2. If you stay overnight in the town, you can find a guesthouse along the canal which provides a beautiful night view.

3. It is advisable to go on weekdays, and the earlier you go, the less the chance you will encounter the noisy crowds. The tourists, particularly the tour groups, start coming in droves after 11 am.

4. Don't miss the free music show beside the Three Bridge which is presented during the nights of every Friday and Saturday.

5. There are many shopping places in the town. Remember to bargain if you want to buy some souvenirs.

6. Do not expect the locals can speak English. Book a tour with an English-speaking guide is helpful if you are not satisfied to take some pictures only.

7. Be careful of the numerous motorbikes/bikes that 'share' the path with people.

Ticket and Open Hours

The entrance fee to Tongli Old Town is RMB100 each.

It includes entry to the different houses and gardens, and you will need to show it at each place so don’t lose it.

If you come after 5 pm, entry is free into the tourist area. However, if you want to see any of the sights or get a tour guide, you still have to pay the entrance fee.

The ticket is valid for two days. If you want to stay in Tongli Water Town for 2 days, keep the ticket.

The open hours for attractions in Tongli are between 7:30 and 17:30. The town is still open after 17:30, but most attractions are closed.

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