- 1 Xuzhou railway station. Xuzhou is a major rail hub - very easy to get to by train. It is three hours from Nanjing on an express train. Most importantly, it's the half-way point between Beijing and Shanghai on the Shanghai-Beijing train route. (On average, it's 8 hours to China's political capital and 8 hr to China's fashion and enterprise capital. However, the train speeds can vary from 2½ hr to 13 hr for the same distance depending on the type of train.)
Caution: Many foreigners wanting to travel to Xuzhou have accidentally bought tickets to Suzhou (苏州, near Shanghai) instead of Xuzhou because the names sound so similar - and possibly because so few foreigners go to Xuzhou by train. So, it is highly useful to show the Chinese characters of Xuzhou (徐州) in order to convince the ticket officer and to overcome the phonetic confusion.
Once you arrive at the Xuzhou Station (徐州站) located just east of downtown, ascend the steps, show your ticket and exit. Outside, there will be a KFC, a McDonald's -- and a line/queue of taxis on the left. There is also Xuzhou East Station (徐州东) located in the eastern outskirts, where you can take high speed trains.
- 2 Xuzhou East railway station. This is where the high-speed trains go. It is on the high-speed line from Beijing to Shanghai, and is also connected to the northwestern frontier and other destinations further west via the line to Xinjiang.
A metro line has recently opened. It runs from the east to the west of the city, and stops at both railway stations. The urban buses are cheap, regular, and easy to figure out within the city. There are also minibuses that travel outside of the city to neighboring rural towns.
Walk the city and explore the old downtown neighborhoods. Narrow alleys and old 小区 (xiao qu) give access to hundred year old wet markets neighboring temporary encampments of migrant workers and traveling farmers, one room restaurants without menus (don't worry, they'll tell you what they've got, or you can glance at other tables), dog meat butchers, public toilets, backstreet whorehouses with eerie blue lights, arcades in scavenged brick huts with corrugated tin roofs.
Then, walk along the New Yellow River, a diverted portion of the river created by the floods of 1938, when Nationalist forces bombed dykes to stymie the Japanese (instead, they succeeded only in killing millions of their own country's farmers). You can have your fortune told, buy most kinds of medications (that are prescription-only in Western countries) and raw tobacco, get something good to eat, and catch small traveling musicians performing on traditional instruments.
After that, stroll into the downtown, identical in every Chinese city of this size, home to a KFC, department stores, and massive, empty squares.
- 1 Xuzhou Museum (徐州博物馆), 118 Heping Road, Yunlong District (云龙区和平路118号) (the nearest bus stops are Yunlong Park South Gate 云龙公园南门, Yunlong Mountain 云龙山, and Xuzhou Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine 中医院; over two dozen bus routes use one or more of these stops), ☏ . Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. A museum about the history and culture of Xuzhou. Free.
- 2 Huaihai Campaign Memorial Museum (淮海战役纪念馆), 2 Jiefang Road South, Quanshan District (泉山区解放南路2号) (Take bus nos. 11, 11w, 19, 20, 35, 35w, 51w, 61, 61w, 64, 64w, 65, 65w, 83, 83w, 118, 199, 601, 601w, 603, 603w, 604, 701, 838, 夜14, 游1 or 游2路外环 and get off at the Memorial Tower 纪念塔), ☏ . Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. A museum about the Huaihai Campaign, a major military campaign during the Chinese Civil War. The museum is situated inside a large park. Free.
- 3 Guishan Han Dynasty Tombs (龟山汉墓), No. 3 Xiangwang Road North, Gulou District (鼓楼区襄王北路3号) (Take bus no. 37 and get off at the bus stop of the same name), ☏ . 08:30-17:30. These tombs contain the remains of Liu Zhu, the sixth ruler of the ancient principality of Chu, and his wife. ¥80 (Covers all attractions within the Guishan Scenic Area).
- 4 Mausoleum of the Chu Prince (楚王陵), 1 Bingmayong Road, Yunlong District (云龙区兵马俑路1号) (Take bus nos. 49, 65, 65w, 71, 71w, 97, 97w, 605, 608 or 608w to the bus stop of the same name), ☏ , , ✉ JQKFB08@126.com. Believed to be the final resting place of Liu Wu, the third prince of the ancient principality of Chu. This is Xuzhou's own miniature version of Xi'an's Terracotta Warriors. The site features three pavilions featuring the warriors (three foot tall statues) in various states of excavation. Replicas are also sold. (Most people in the city have never seen the site and are only vaguely familiar with it). ¥90 (Covers all attractions within the Han Culture Scenic Area).
- 5 Yunlong Lake (云龙湖), Quanshan District (徐州市泉山区) (Bus routes 11, 34, 35, 38, 47, 48, 49, 51, 55, 59, 68, 69, 82, 601, 游2, and 游3), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Large scenic lake in the city's southwest. Free.
- 6 Xuzhou Aquarium (徐州水族展览馆), Huxin Island, Yunlong Lake, Quanshan District (徐州市泉山区云龙湖湖心岛) (The aquarium is located on an island in the middle of Yunlong Lake. The nearest bus stops are on the north side of the lake and include Jinfu Jiayuan 金府家园, Sports Centre 体育中心, and Fangnan Xiaoqu West Gate 纺南小区西门), ☏ , . 09:00-17:00 on normal days, 08:30-17:30 on public holidays. This is one of the largest aquariums in Asia. It contains hundreds of different aquatic species from all around the world. ¥60.
- 7 Xuzhou Botanical Gardens (徐州植物园), 3 Pingshan Road, Gulou District (鼓楼区平山路3号) (Catch bus nos. 6 or 6w to the Botanical Gardens bus stop), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 09:00-16:30. The Xuzhou Botanical Gardens were established in 2012 on the grounds of what used to be the Xuzhou Nursery. It covers an area of around 400,000 square metres and includes hundreds of different species of plants and trees, as well as some manmade streams and waterfalls. ¥20.
- 8 Ximatai (戏马台), 1 Xiangwang Road, Hubu Hill, Yunlong District (云龙区户部山项王路1号) (Take bus nos 19, 20, 39, 51w, 62, 65, 65w, 105, 105w, 611, 612, 夜14 or 游1 and get off at the Ximatai bus stop), ☏ . 08:30-17:00. The Ximatai, which literally means the horse-training terrace, was built several centuries ago (probably during the Ming dynasty) to commemorate the warlord Xiang Yu, who is believed to have spectated horsemanship performance here during the 3rd century BC. Few remnants of the original structures survived by the 1950s. Most of what you see here now is a modern reconstruction in the 1980s. However, built on the top of the hill, Ximatai affords a fine view of the area: many local dignitaries and wealthy businessmen during Ming and Qing dynasties sited their residences around. ¥30.
- 9 Xuzhou Folk Museum (徐州民俗博物馆), 2 Cuijia Lane, Hubu Hill, Yunlong District (云龙区户部山崔家巷2号) (Take bus nos 19, 20, 39, 51w, 62, 65, 65w, 105, 105w, 611, 612, 夜14 or 游1 and get off at the Ximatai bus stop), ☏ , , . 09:00-16:30. The Xuzhou Folk Museum occupies two historic courtyard houses on Hubu Hill, including the Zhai Family Compound and the Yu Family Compound. It contains exhibitions on various aspects of everyday life in China during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The body that operates the museum also manages and maintains several other historic houses in the area, all of which are accessible to the public. ¥25.
- Xuzhou Concert Hall (徐州音乐厅), No. 7 Binhu Park, Quanshan District, ☏ .
Diguo ji (地锅鸡) is a savoury combination of chicken, chillies and bread. It is exactly chicken cooked à la diguo which was a popular cookery among the fisherfolk of the Weishan Lake. They used a cauldron to boil the fish, and put the squashed doughs around the cauldron inside, thus they could have fish with bread. Now you can order its chicken version in most local restaurants. The half-singed bread is essential in this dish (or it would be common braised chicken). Dip it into the broth, which is the traditional thing to do.
Dog meat tacos on Heqing Lu, between Pengcheng Lu and Jie Fang Lu. There are two alleys leading off from Heqing Lu and you want the one closest to Pengcheng Lu. Quite easy to find. Look for a collection of skinned dog carcasses hung up on the corner, usually having the last bits of fur cleaned from them with a propane torch. The bread is amazing, cooked in a stone oven, a bit salty, a bit sweet, coated in sesame seeds. The dog meat is tender and flavorful and stringy, torn from a pile of bones in a big metal tray (you can't dog meat with a knife).
Sha tang. Everyone in Xuzhou knows the cute but fantasic story about the emperor tasting this soup and asking what the name was. The chef thought the emperor was calling it "What? soup," so he changed the name to that. It's a thick, mucilaginous soup full of eel, chicken meat (originally pheasant or other game meat), beans, and a ton of black pepper. The best place to cop it is Ma Shi Jie (马市街), a joint on Jie Fang Lu that's the city's recognized favorite sha tang place (there's also a branch on Heping Lu, near the church but popular opinion says it's just not as good). The soup here comes from a massive pot, as tall as the man ladling it out. Outside, you buy your dipping items: fried dumplings, salty fried dough, etc. The clientele is mainly ancient men that have been eating it for breakfast every day for fifty years and come equipped with their own bowls and spoons.
In this city, the people that go to nightclubs are crewcut and corrupt businessmen and massage parlor owners that hotbox the joint with fake Marlboros and drink Chivas by the gallon, while a pretty little prostitute perches on either side of them.
Armani is the classiest, the closest thing to a genuine nightclub. Beer for ¥30 (fake Corona for the same price), then bottles of Chivas whiskey. You've got the usual provincial Chinese city nightclub fare. Dance mixes of Mando-pop songs, men dirty dancing with each other, a few boys that dance in a glass cube behind the bar, lots of smoke, lots of fun. You will be encouraged to dance on top of things, remove your shirt, and join in, but watch out for prostitutes and gangsters. (Really, just the prostitutes of gangsters. You don't want to get a bottle of Heineken in the back of the head for being too friendly with one of the girls.)
All other clubs are near Armani. Check out Red Bar, S.O.S., Catwoman Bar and Virgin Bar. Those five are reasonably safe and alright and legit.
Taiwan Bar is near the downtown, at the intersection of Huai Hai Lu and Jie Fang Lu. It's dirty as hell and the most ideal place in the city to be offered drugs with your fruit platter. (Really, you are offered drugs from the moment you enter to the moment you leave). The clientele is sweaty, shirtless kids with a ton of tattoos and facial scars. You can sing karaoke in front of a crowd and buy cheap vodka, though. And the boss is always happy to see new people and the waitresses are effective in discouraging local thugs from offering you the powder-encrusted straw too many times.
Cheap hotels are everywhere. Most hotels in the city only run about ¥200 but they don't offer much more than the ¥80 joints near the train station. Remember, ask to look at the room before you agree to stay (just say, "kan kan", smile and check).
- 1 Bayview Holiday Hotel (徐州海天假日酒店), 1-252 Huaihai Road West, Quanshan District (泉山区淮海西路252-1号) (Take bus nos. 1, 1w, 8, 35, 35w, 59, 59w, 65, 65w, 67 or 67w and get off at the Mining Bureau 矿务局), ☏ (Main desk), (Room reservations), ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Four-star hotel. Prices start from ¥308.
- 2 The Qube Hotel Xuzhou East (徐州东区绿地铂骊酒店), 21 Zhannan Road, Jiawang District (贾汪区站南路21号) (Near the Xuzhou East Train Station), ☏ . Check-in: 16:00, check-out: 12:00. Five-star hotel. Prices start from ¥502.
- 3 Haiyi International Hotel Xuzhou (Hiya International Hotel, 徐州海逸国际大酒店), 50 Huancheng Road, Gulou District (徐州市鼓楼区环城路50号) (Catch bus nos. 2, 2w, 夜55, 73, 73w, 76, 76w, 201, 607, 607w, 610, 610w, 829, 830, 831 or 858 and get off at the No. 3 Hospital 市三院), ☏ . Check-in: 08:00, check-out: 14:00. Four-star hotel. Prices start from ¥288.