Suzhou Travel Guide
China’s ‘Garden City’ is one of the nation’s finest tourist attractions, and while it doesn’t have the name recognition of larger cities like Shanghai or Beijing, it remains a cultural hub with an important legacy to share.
Suzhou has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its superb selection of classical Chinese gardens. These deftly crafted environments promote meditation and reflection through concentric patterns and careful integration of natural features. They are unlike Western gardens in that they strive to harmonize nature rather than overtly control it.
Suzhou has grown into a major tourist destination, and Western-style flower beds and sculpted shrubs are more common. While these stray from the city’s cultural roots, they add color and character to Suzhou in the spring when the flowers are in bloom.
Tiger Hill is the focal point of the old city. Drenched in history, this is where most of the city’s legends still linger. King He Lu reigned from this spot in the 500s AD. Locals are still in search of the 3,000 swords he buried here in those days, though the only treasure that has been unearthed is a collection of Buddhist sutras.
Suzhou’s accommodation options range from upscale hotel franchises to atmosphere inns tucked into the old city. The best of both categories enjoy wonderful views over the Grand Canal. Suzhou cuisine, characterized by sweet sauces and freshwater fish, are served in restaurants along the canal.
Silk is another fine local commodity. The Number 1 Silk Mill and the Silk Museum are the best places to learn about this industry, and silk handicrafts are widely available in local markets. Fragrant sandalwood fans are another local specialty.
Getting There & Away
Suzhou is not served by a local airport, but Pudong International in Shanghai is conveniently close. This modern facility opened at the turn of the 21st century and sees off 21 million passengers per year to destinations around the world. The easiest way to get to and from the airport is with a hire car and private driver. Travel time is 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Trains can make the journey in less time. The fastest trains complete the journey in less than an hour. For a more leisurely travel experience, tourists can take boats along the Grand Canal, traveling to Hangzhou and even Beijing. Local transport options include bicycle rickshaws, motorcycle taxis, hire cars buses.
Things to Do
- Master of Nets Garden
The highlight of this smaller garden is the moon-gazing pavilion, where night-time visitors can see the moon in the sky, in mirrors and on the reflective surface of water.
- Humble Administrator’s Garden
Suzhou’s largest classical garden dates to the 1500s and harbors a maze of canals enveloping islets.
- Lingering Garden
This is a ming dynasty garden with undulating architecture that hints at waves on water.
- Tiger Hill
The central landmark of suzhou, tiger hill was the burial site for king he lu.
- Grand Canal
The major artery through suzhou is the perfect setting for boating, dining and evening strolls.
- Yunyan Pagoda
China’s answer to the pisa’s leaning tower, this pagoda is 154 feet tall, leans three degrees off axis but is shored up and safe for visitors to climb.
- Pan Gate
Remnant of suzhou’s ancient fortifications, this 14th-century gate once saw over land- and water- based access to the inner city.
- Temple of Mystery
This taoist temple is over 1,700 years old and houses a fascinating collection of sacred statuettes in a glass case.