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Introducing Tónglǐ

This lovely Old Town, only 18km southeast of Sūzhōu, boasts rich, historical canal-side atmosphere and weather-beaten charm. Many of the buildings have kept their traditional facades, with stark whitewashed walls, black-tiled roofs, cobblestone pathways and willow-shaded canal views adding to a picturesque allure. The town is best explored the traditional way: aimlessly meandering along the canals and alleys until you get lost. A restrained carnival atmosphere reigns but the languorous tempo is frequently shredded by marauding tour groups that sweep in like cricket swarms, especially at weekends.

You can reach Tónglǐ from either Sūzhōu or Shànghǎi, but aim for a weekday visit.

The admission fee to the town includes access to the best sights, except the Chinese Sex Culture Museum.