First of all, I also wrote a review on the Wuzhen Guest House site on Tripadvisors. I highly recommend you stay there one night to take it all in. Stay at a guest house, not a hotel.
I'll just repeat a few words here about Wuzhen.
I went from Shanghai South Bus station, about 1 hr and 45 min bus ride. Then you arrive Wuzhen bus station. There is free green minivan that takes you to the scenic areas, West side or Xizha, or East side or Dongzha. You can also take the tricycle for 10RMB they will take you to Xizha in few minutes.
When arrived at the Xizha arrival lobby, the place is very well organized. Yes, I have to admit its very commericialized. Some other reviewers have mentioned. All the guest houses are centrally managed. All the old couples that live in the guest houses, they are not the owners anymore. All the original houses are sold to the private/state owned entities to promote tourism. These couples are all local people selected to host the tourist and cook local food, they must be husband and wife to give the appearance of they own the house. That didnt bother me.
The town is over 1,000 years old, built around General Wu. You will see a big sculpture of him inside the scenic areas. But this specific water town was built probably just over 100 years ago. it is still very nice, generally authentic. All the guest houses have been upgraded and its very nice, so I highly recommend staying there 1 night. In Xizha, the walkways/alleys are on either sides of the canal. The place is gorgeous, really, both in day time and night time. There are many food places. There are also bars and night clubs. Most of the food places I didnt find it overly expensive. Of course they are expensive but not too bad. A place sells great noodles for 20-25RMB a bowl. Again, many different little food place to eat. Also, the first floor of most guest houses serve local food, and you can just walk in and order them. The couple/manager will cook it right there in their kitchen. There is a massage place and there was a waiting list by early evening. Again, I did the foot massage and its really nice.
A reviewer call it "fake" but I wouldnt say that. All the buildings are real, over 100 years old. Its just that they completely remodeled the inside so they are fairly new but to make it look old. When you walk in the alley (hutong) you very much feel the authenticity of the place. Again, I admit this place is very commercialized, managed well, but again, they needed to transform to survive. Just skip all the noise and enjoy it, its great place and absolutely beautiful. I arrived around 3:30PM, ate all kinds of food for hours and had foot massage. By 11PM the place is bit empty. But staying in guest house is great, you can open you window and see all the people down there.
I went in March so there were some tourist but not too bad. I can definitely imagine this place in the summer or a popular holiday that it can get very crowded.
Next day, after more walking around and had many different breakfast foods, I went to East side (dongzha). Took the free minivan there. Dongzha is different that it sells more things, sells more souveniers. I dont think there is hotel or guest house there. Definitely bargain with them. After 2-3 hours in Dongzha, returned Shanghai by late afternoon. The time spent there was perfect, very nice and serene and beautiful place.
The time I spent there was perfect, and definitely, absolutely, stay in a guest house. I stayed in Guest house #59 (not facing water, for 380RMB) and its exactly like what the pictures show in their website. #59 is also close to many food places, right across from a wonton soup place.
I highly recommend Wuzhen Water Town
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