The city has a history of over 2,500 years and developed as a major trading center for salt, rice and silk. Marco Polo served as the city's governor (or possibly a Salt Official for the government, or he just stayed there for that period of time) for three years in the late 13th century. Yangzhou has a population exceeding 1,000,000.
Built on flat land a few miles north of the Yangtze River, Yangzhou is criss-crossed by a network of canals of all size, from the Grand Canal of China (which, actually, has two routes - the old, next to the city center, and the modern, a few miles to the east) to small neighborhood canals.
Several walled cities existed here over the two millennia, but even the last (Ming Dynasty) wall has been demolished long ago. Still, the contours of the Ming city wall are traced by the canals surrounding the two kilometer square in Yangzhou's city center. New neighborhoods have grown for about 5 km or more in all directions outside of the former walled city.
Yangzhou is the birthplace of former Chinese politician and general secretary Jiang Zemin, the 5th president of China.
Most of Yangzhou is built on a rectangular grid street plan. The main east–west artery is Wenchang Rd, divided into the West, Central, and East sections (文昌西路 Wenchang Xi Lu,文昌中路 Wenchang Zhong Lu, 文昌东路 Wenchang Dong Lu). The main north–south street within the old city center in Wenhe Road, with the North and South sections (汶河北路 Wenhe Bei Lu, 汶河南路 Wenhe Nan Lu) divided by Wenchang Road. The Wenchang Pavilion (文昌阁 Wenchang Ge), one of the city's few surviving historic buildings, stands in the traffic circle at the crossing of Wenchang and Wenhe Roads, which is often viewed as the city's symbolic center point. Many of the city's upscale shopping centers, hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues are found within a few blocks of this circle.
Several square miles northwest of the city center, with a maze of narrow ("slender") lakes and rivers, is occupied by a number of green areas, with various architectural and historical monuments scattered among them. Some sections of this area (notable, the Slender West Lake Scenic Area) require a fairly steep admission charge; others, such as the Songjiacheng Sports and Recreation Park (宋夹城体育闲公园) are free to enter, but gated (so that opening hours could be observed, entrance with bicycles or dogs can be prohibited, etc.); yet others are open to everyone at all times. The surroundings of this park area have been undergoing extensive "urban renewal"; a brand-new (as of 2017) Rainbow Bridge Plaza (虹桥广场), at Shouxihu Rd and Dangongqiao Rd, outside of the Slender West Lake's south gate, contains an assortment of tourist-oriented facilities (coffee shops, restaurants, an information center)
The west side—the section of town south of the "Double Museum" and the train station—is an area of apartment complexes built after 2000, with wide streets with light traffic. Landscaped walking/running paths follow some of the numerous rivers and canals of this region.
The far east side (beyond the new Grand Canal) has several large-scale recreational facilities, including Yangzhou Zoo and Marco Polo Flower World.
On the south side, beyond a belt of hotels along Jiangyang Road and a belt of industrial/commercial properties (开发区), one enters a mostly rural area, which stretches all the way to the Yangtze River. A few little towns, such as Chahe 汊河 and Guazhou 瓜洲 are scattered there. Long, mostly unpaved trails run along both sides of the (old) Grand Canal from Gaomin Temple (at the southern edge of the actual urban) down almost to the Yangtze.
Gaoyou is a county-level city administered by Yangzhou.
1 Yangzhou Taizhou Airport (YTY IATA) (About halfway between Yangzhou and the nearby Taizhou, about 30 km east of Yangzhou's city center). So far, it has fairly limited service, to a few major airports throughout China, to Taiwan, and to a few nearby countries (South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia).
The closest major airport is Nanjing Lukou, 37 mi (60 km) southwest of the city; buses from there go to both bus stations in Yangzhou. You can also reach the airport by taking a train from Yangzhou to Nanjing Railway Station, and transferring to Nanjing Metro (Subway).
You can also fly into Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, and take a high-speed train from the nearby Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station to Zhenjiang (under 2 hr; see below), and then a bus across the river to Yangzhou. However, if you are flying from overseas, you probably will arrive to Pudong Airport instead; which means that you'd have to spend an extra 1-1.5 hr crossing Shanghai by subway, shuttle bus, or taxi, to get from Pudong Airport to Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station (or to Shanghai Railway Station, downtown).
By train (directly to Yangzhou)
2 Yangzhou Railway Station, built in 2003, stands remote from the town's center, roughly 2 km further out than the museum and the Century Market, serving D series and ordinary trains. As of 2017, it has fairly frequent high-speed (D series) service, with a train going in each direction almost every hour during most of the day. Westbound trains go either to Nanjing Railway Station or to points further west (Hefei/Hankou [for Wuhan]/Chongqing), skipping Nanjing; eastbound ones, to Taizhou and Nantong.
There is also a convenient overnight train to Beijing (Z29), and of course plenty of trains to eastern Jiangsu (Taizhou, Nantong, Yancheng). As elsewhere, T-series trains are somewhat faster than K-series, which in their turn are faster and more comfortable than "plain" (no-letter) trains.
Departures and tickets are on the upper level of the station, and arrivals are on the lower level. The checked luggage department is at the eastern end of the station building.
There's a small convenience store inside the station. Buses and taxis depart from outside — 'black' illegal taxis are rare in Yangzhou, but regular drivers may 'forget' to use the meter.
Besides Yangzhou Railway Station, China Railways also opened another new railway station, 3 Yangzhou East Railway Station in late 2020. The station serves high-speed trains, and is fairly close to Yangzhou's city center.
There is no direct railway service from Yangzhou to Shanghai, because there is no railway bridge in Nantong (so far). To travel by train to Shanghai (or other cities south of the Yangtze, such as Suzhou) by train, you can use 4 Zhenjiang Railway Station (see below).
Yangzhou's main intercity bus station (see below) is just SW of the train station, although you have to go outside to get there.
Jiangdu District (Yangzhou's far eastern suburb, east of Grand Canal) has its own 5 Jiangdu Railway Station, on the same line with Yangzhou Station.
By train via Zhenjiang
Zhenjiang, across the river from Yangzhou, is served by one of the busiest passenger railways in the country. (Actually, it's 3 parallel railways: one "conventional" and two high-speed). Most buses from Yangzhou go to 6 Zhenjiang Railway Station. This station consists of two buildings on the opposite sides of the tracks, connected by a pedestrian tunnel. The new building south of the tracks is for the frequent high-speed service on the Shanghai-Nanjing Intercity Line. Some trains continue beyond Shanghai to Hangzhou, or beyond Nanjing to Hefei and Wuhan. Most of the "conventional" trains running between Shanghai and the northern part of the country (every place north of the Yangtze) stop at Zhenjiang as well (served by the older station building north of the tracks). The bus station is adjacent to the new train station building. Buses across the river stop running around 20:00.
7 Zhenjiang South Railway Station. Zhenjiang's South station is on the Beijng-Shanghai high-speed line, and is served by long-distance high-speed trains, most of which run between Shanghai and Beijing. A few continue to various other major cities throughout the country, from Harbin to Xi'an to Wenzhou to Guiyang. There are buses from Zhenjiang South to Yangzhou as well, but they are fewer, and the service ends earlier.
The city has two major bus stations:
- 8 Yangzhou Passenger Bus Terminal (扬州汽车客运站) (Yanghou West Passenger Bus Station (to distinguish from the East Station)), ☏ , . It is immediately southwest of the train station. There is a pedestrian bridge to get to the bus station from the train station. It was opened in 2015, apparently to replace the old main bus station, which was on the city's south side. The station has service to most cities and counties throughout Jiangsu (especially those not served by railways, or not easily reachable by train from Yangzhou), and to some destinations in nearby provinces. There is bus service to several destinations in Nanjing, including Nanjing South Railway Station.
A local bus (K35) runs from Yangzhou Passenger Bus Terminal to the northernmost station of Nanjing's subway system (Jinniuhu 金牛湖). The service is frequent (every 20 min or so, between 05:00 and 18:00), cheap (¥10), and requires no advance ticket purchase, but is slow (70 min bus ride, arriving to a subway station that's still 1.5 hours by subway from Nanjing's city center). Still, it can be used if you need to travel on a short notice and realize that all train and "normal" bus tickets are sold out (which may happen around the holidays).
- Yangzhou East Bus Station, at 800 Yunhe East St (运河东路800号)
Of most interest to visitors are bus services across the Yangtze. Buses to Zhenjiang are frequent. There are also multiple departures every day to Shanghai; Shanghai-bound buses usually start from the main (West) station, and pick more passengers at the East Station half an hour or so later. As of 2017, one bus a day goes directly to Shanghai Pudong Airport; four buses go to the Bailianjing (白莲泾) Bus Station in southern Pudong, and the rest, to various other major bus stations, including those at Shanghai (main) Railway Station and Shanghai South Railway Station. The bus station's web site does not seem to have a schedule, but it can be found elsewhere[dead link].
Older maps and guide books mention the previous location of city's main bus station, 9 [Former] Yangzhou Passenger Bus Terminal ([旧]扬州汽车客运站), in Jiangyang St about 3.2 km southwest of downtown. The services were moved to the new (West) station in 2015, and this old station has been demolished. The former North Bus Station is gone as well.
A passenger and vehicle ferry (镇杨汽渡, Zhen-Yang qi du) operates across the Yangtze River, with the Yangzhou terminal in Guazhou town (20 km south of downtown Yangzhou) and the Zhenjiang terminal a couple of kilomters west of Jinshan Temple. Both terminals are served by several routes of, respectively, Yangzhou's and Zhenjiang's city buses. As of 2017, the fare for a walk-on passenger is ¥3, for a bicyclist ¥5. The ferry runs round the clock, on a fairly frequent schedule (several departures per hour). The ferry company has a fleet of over half a dozen vessels, although only some of them are in use at any given moment.
If traveling to Yangzhou from south of the Yangtze (say, from Suzhou or Nanjing), be aware that the Run-Yang Bridge connecting Yangzhou and Zhenjiang is on an expressway, and cannot be used by bicycles (or small two-wheeled motor vehicles, such as China's popular electric motorcycle). Bicyclists can use the Zhen-Yang Ferry instead (see above).
City buses are reliable and cheap (¥1-2 fare usually), but many routes stop running around 18:00-19:00, the rest around 22:00. Bus stops are well marked; bus schedules (in Chinese), with the list of stops along the route, are posted at bus stops, and routes are shown on city maps that can be purchased e.g. at the Xinhua bookstore downtown. Routes that run in the evening (after 18:00-19:00) have the letter "w" appended to their route number; the evening route may be different from the daytime route (the list of stops posted at each stop will indicate that).
Many city bus routes originate at the West Bus Station (adjacent to the railway station). One can board the bus inside the bus station, before the bus becomes more crowded as a lot more people will board at the outdoor bus stop in the station square. The East Bus Station (of less use to most visitors) is also the terminal for many bus routes.
Taxis are widely available. Flat rate starts at ¥7, and all are metered (it is illegal to drive an unmetered taxi). If your feet get tired and you want an exhilarating ride, pedicabs are also abound in the city center, especially around tourist sites.
Bicycling around Yangzhou is fairly pleasant, as major streets usually have separate bicycle lanes, which, outside of the city center, are usually not crowded. As in other Chinese cities, public rental bicycles abound throughout the city (2018), but probably require a local resident card and a Chinese smartphone to use. Ask your local friends for help.
- Daming Temple (大明寺; Dàmíngsì; Lit. Temple of Abundant Light). 08:00-16:45. Rebuilt after being destroyed in the Taiping Rebellion, this temple originally dated from the 5th century AD. There is a spring next to the tea house.
- Hanlinyuan Museum. 08:30-17:00. A magnificent tomb for Liu Xu, ruler of the Guangling Kingdom. It is five stories deep, with different levels housing things like a warehouse, living quarters, and a coffin on wheels.
- Slender West Lake (瘦西湖 Shouxihu). Very slim lake winding through the park area just northwest of the city center. Several pavilions dot the park around the lake that was designed to mimic the west lake in Hangzhou. ¥120.
- 1 Tianning Temple (扬州天宁寺; Yángzhōu Tiānníngsì), 丰乐上街3号 (facing the canal, just west of Shi Kefa Memorial Hall (between Beimenwai St and Shi Kefa St)). Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. A large Buddhist temple, with multiple buildings (halls) arranged along the south-to-north axis, and landscaped courtyards between them. One of the halls stores a copy of Siku Quanshu, a Qing-era collection of all of China's important literature. Another hall has an exhibit on the history of Buddhism in Yangzhou, with information on other temples that can be visited. Elsewhere in the temple, you can find art or calligraphy exhibits and numerous antique shops. The front courtyard has statues of the "Eight Eccentrics" of Yangzhou, a Qing-era bixi (stele-bearing dragon turtle) who has lost its stele, and a large rusty bell with a pulao dragon on top. The temple is labeled on some maps as 中国扬州佛教文化博物馆 (China Yangzhou Buddhist Culture Museum). Free.
- 2 Yangzhou Museum (扬州博物馆; Yángzhōu Bówùguǎn). 08:30-11:00, 13:00-17:00. The Yangzhou Museum has splendid displays of things like a boat salvaged from the Grand Canal that crosses through eastern China. The museum used to be housed in Tianning Temple downtown (see above), but now it is on the west side, in a new purpose-built building, known as the "Double Museum" (Shuang Bowuguan). It is "double" because the other tenant in the building is a museum of traditional Chinese book printing. free.
- 3 Shi Kefa Memorial (史可法纪念馆 Shǐ Kěfǎ Jìniànguǎn), 广储门外街24号. The memorial/temple honors a Ming general who refused to surrender the city to the Qing invaders in 1645.
- Ge Yuan 个园 A lovely garden with sections representing the four seasons and with pavilions, open 07:30-17:00 daily, discount with student ID.
- He Yuan 何园 This true scholar's garden is cleverly arranged garden with several tea houses, open grottoes, and pleasant view. One of the best gardens in Jiangsu Province. open daily 07:30-18:00, discount with student ID.
- Lu Shi Yan-shang Zhu-zhai (卢氏 盐商 住宅) A lavishly furnished home with 100 rooms that belonged to a local salt merchant, open daily 08:00-17:00.
- 4 Puhaddin Park (普哈丁公园) (Just east of the Old Grand Canal, south of Wenchang Rd). Daily 08:00-17:00. Puhaddin Park is centered on the tomb of Puhaddin, an Islamic missionary, said to be a descendant of Mohammed, who arrived to Yangzhou in the 13th century. Puhaddin's tomb, in an inscription-covered building, is surrounded by tombs of his disciples and other important Muslims. A few smaller buildings contain an exhibit on the history of Yangzhou's and China's Muslim community (the Hui people), a few Qing-era stone tablets with inscriptions, and a modern bust of Puhaddin. (Obviously, the prohibition on graven images is less strict here than elsewhere in the Islamic World). Outside of the small walled cemetery, a bigger park spreads, and halal eateries face the street. There is apparently no mosque at this site, as the city's mosque is downtown (Xianhe Temple). Free.
- 5 Wenchang Ge (文昌阁). The name mean "Promoting Literature Pavilion". Once part of the Confucian Academy, this pavilion is all that's left. Now it stands in a roundabout in a city square, marking Yangzhou's symbolic central point
- 6 The Grand Canal. The old route of the Grand Canal runs along the southern and eastern edge of the historic center city. The new Grand Canal, with a continuous stream of cargo boats and barges, is a few kilometer east of city center, and is accessible by city bus.
- Marco Polo Memorial Hall is situated somewhat away from Tianning Temple (and not inside it!) at the corner of Tai Zhou Lu/Dong Guan Jie. The exhibition itself is an uncritical scenic description of Marco Polo's journey, which may be interesting for children, but does not meet academic standards. There are no remnants of Marco Polo's time in China on view (that would be a sensation anyway!), and at the end of the exhibition you find a whole isle dedicated to the twinning between Yangzhou and Rimini in Italy, which has nothing to do with Marco Polo. The impression you get is that Venice was not available for twinning, so just another Italian city had to fill in. Open 09:00-11:30 and 14:00-17:30.
- 7 Zhuyuwan Scenic Area and Yangzhou Zoo (茱萸湾风景区，扬州动物园) (about 5 km northeast of downtown).
Stroll along the Xiaoqinhuaihe Canal (小秦淮河) that crosses the city's historical center, and the narrow lanes of the (few) surviving blocks of the old city nearby.
Go for some exercise in Songjiacheng Sports and Recreation Park (entry free; some sports facilities may require fees. Open 17:30-21:30). It's on an island east of the Slender West Lake Scenic Area. The park has an interesting past: farmers' fields and a few small villages were converted to a Wetlands Nature Park in 2005, then to Songjiacheng Archaeological Park around 2009, and finally to a sports park in 2015. Boardwalks through the marshes surrounding the island have been inherited from its Wetlands Park incarnation, while the four gate towers, from the Archaeological Park period. The rest of the landscaping apparently comes from the 2015 remodeling. One can enter the park from the Changchun Rd (via its southern or western gates), or from Shouxihu Rd (via the eastern gate). Bicycles are not allowed in the park, except for those rented in the park itself (at the rental station outside of the western gate); those can be used on the 3,200 m long bicycle trail around the park's perimeter.
On a summer day, walk on a boardwalk trail to Baozhang Lake (保障湖) a popular locals' swimming place, about 2 km north of downtown. The trail starts outside of the southern gate of Songjiacheng, and runs east and north outside of the park's borders (within a narrow strip of greenery that's separated from the Songjiacheng park by the lakes' water).
For goods and necessities, there are 2 RT-Mart(s) (大润发 da run fa) one on Hanjiang Road and the other on Wenchang Middle Road; several bus lines run there from downtown and from the local colleges. As far as Western products go, RT-Mart, Tesco (Hanjiang Rd, north of the old bus station) or Auchan (Jiangyang Rd, east of the old bus station), are good.
One major local industry is ceramics and teaware; a few big ceramics factories and showcases can be visited here.
Not a shopping mecca, however, there are a number of department stores in the city centre. Here you can find the Golden Eagle Shopping Centre (in the city's main square, facing the Wenchang Pavilion), Times Extra Mall and the Times Square Mall. If you feel the need for a more Western-style shopping experience, the Living Mall, in the new development zone, was completed in 2008 and is easily reached by taxi. Big name foreign and domestic designer brands, western style restaurants, K-TV bars and a cinema can be found here.
A popular area for the locals to shop for clothes and footwear is Ganquan Road (甘泉路), a major east–west street in the southern part of the historic central city. Over a mile of shops of various kind, from bargain-basement to boutique level. The north-south Guoqing Rd, which crosses Ganquan east of the city center, is full of such shops as well.
Books and maps
The six-storey Xinhua Bookstore is located in South Wenhe Rd (Wenhe Nan Lu) just a block south of the city's main square, where the Wenchang Pavilion stands. Maps, and local interest books are on the first floor; for the city map, ask at the cash register. The store's usual business hours are 09:00 to 21:00; shorter hours on holidays.
Cell phones, SIM cards, electronics
Many cell phone and electronics stores are located in Siwangting Street, within several blocks to the west of the Siwangting Pavilion.
Another large center for electronics and computer equipment is found in Wenchang St, about 1.6 km east of the Wenchang Pavilion: the Yinhe Electronics Center (银河电子城 Yinhe Dianzi Cheng) on the south side of the street, and Hongtu Sanbao Lou (宏图三胞楼) opposite to it (on the north side of the street). The 7-story Hongtu Sanbao Lou building also houses repair/service centers for various electronics and computer brands; entry from the back of the building.
While small cell phone shops everywhere sell SIM cards, since the late 2017 most shops require a Chinese resident ID card (of a citizen or permanent resident) to buy a SIM card. If you're a foreign visitor, and your only ID is a passport, you need to go to the cell phone company's main office to buy a SIM card. Such an office for China Mobile is located at 55 West Wenchang Road (文昌西路55号), in a big tower with the company's name (中国移动) on top.
The big-name local dish is Yangzhou fried rice 扬州炒饭, filled with fried egg, muer mushroom 木耳, ham, shrimp, scallions, peas, and carrots. It's representative of the Huaiyang cuisine. Other famous dishes include the Lion's Head 狮子头, which is a giant meatball made with pork and crab. Also suggested is; semisweet Thousand-layer cake 千层糕, steamed dumpling 蒸饺, amazing tofu noodles often like chicken soup 大煮干丝, delicious soup fill dumplings 小笼汤包, and stinky tofu 臭豆腐. For breakfast you'll be sure to find steamed filled buns (baozi)包子, steamed buns (mantou)馒头, rice porridge (zhou)粥, boiled eggs (zhujidan)煮鸡蛋.
If these choices look unappealing to you—or if they look appealing, but you just don't eat that stuff—try Damingsi Vegetarian Restaurant 大明寺素菜馆, 1802 Wenhui Road East. It's affiliated with the temple, and serves vegetable-matter simulacra of the local favorites for very reasonable prices.
The most popular beer is from Shenyang, called Snow 雪花啤酒, and costs around ¥3 for a large bottle. But should you want something with a stronger beer-flavor, the L-Mart at the Living Mall has Kirin Japanese beer, brewed in Taiwan, ¥5 a can. The Living Mall 京华城 also boasts a Starbucks 辛巴克, semi-conveniently placed between the train station and the RT-Mart.
Unlike most Chinese cities, Yangzhou has little lodging available in the train station area, although a Hanting Hotel has opened in the new bus station building (next to the train station).
Although some hotels are found in major streets all over the city, they are mostly concentrated in two areas: around downtown, and within a few blocks of the old main bus station (Jiangyang Rd and Hanjiang Rd, a few km to the southwest of downtown). The demolition of the old bus station has not affected the hotels too much, since Jiangyang Rd is still the natural route for entering the city by car. As of 2017, room rates start from around ¥100 in both areas.
As elsewhere in China, some smaller hotels are closed for a few days around the Chinese New Year, while others raise their price around this and other holidays, when crowds of tourists from all over the country descend on the Slender West Lake area.