This picturesque village southeast of Suzhou is one of several ancient water towns dotting the Yangtze River Delta. More than a dozen rivers and waterways divide this Song Dynasty town into multiple islets, connected by 49 stone bridges. This Venice of the Orient is also known for its gardens, including the UNESCO-listed Tuisi Garden.
Tongli Water Town is one of the most popular excursions from Suzhou or Shanghai, offering visitors a chance to catch a glimpse of an older China. Day-trippers on a private or group tour from Shanghai can spend the morning touring the gardens of Suzhou before strolling along the canals of Tongli in the afternoon.
Those based in Suzhou have even more time to explore; a typical day trip to Tongli might include a cruise on a wooden boat, a visit to a UNESCO-listed Chinese garden, and the chance to see a couple of the town’s traditional mansions, Jiayin Hall and Congben Hall.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Tongli Water Town is accessible from Shanghai and Suzhou.
- Wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking over uneven surfaces.
- Day trips from Suzhou typically last 7 to 8 hours, depending on the activities included.
- Most day trips include hotel pickup and drop-off, as well as a local lunch.
How to Get There
The easiest way to reach Tongli is with a guided tour from Shanghai or Suzhou with included round-trip transportation. Those who visit independently can catch a sightseeing bus from the Suzhou Railway Station to Tongli; buses leave every 20 minutes, and the trip takes about 45 minutes.
When to Get There
Most attractions within Tongli Water Town are open daily throughout the year. Spring offers some of the best weather for enjoying the canals and other outdoor scenery. Plan to arrive early in the morning or stay overnight to take in the sights, before or after the tour buses arrive.
The Bridges of Tongli
A trip to Tongli wouldn’t be complete without walking over its three most famous bridges—Taiping, Jili, and Changqing—which are believed to grant health, happiness, and future prosperity to all who cross.