suzhou

Suzhou Travel Guide: Explore Top 26 Things to Do and See

Imagine walking along ancient streets lined with traditional Chinese architecture, where every corner reveals a new story. That’s Suzhou, a city that seamlessly blends history with modernity. Known as the “Venice of the East” for its intricate network of canals, Suzhou offers a tranquil escape from the bustling cities.

Start your day with a peaceful boat ride along the Grand Canal, soaking in the city’s waterway charm. Explore exquisite classical gardens like the Humble Administrator’s Garden, where every corner reveals a new poetic scene.

In this guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the top 26 things to do in Suzhou, highlighting the best the city has to offer.

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🌟Suzhou Travel Planning Guide

Considering a last-minute trip to Suzhou?

🇨🇳 Top Activities and Tours in Suzhou:

1. Suzhou Flexible Private Day Tour with Lunch
2. Private Flexible Suzhou City Tour with Tongli or Zhouzhuang Water Town Options
3. Suzhou Alleyway Walking Food Tour With Locals


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👑 Top 26 Things to do in Suzhou

1. Pingjiang Road

Pingjiang Road is only two kilometers long, yet it captures the essence of the entire ancient city of Suzhou. Lined with white-walled, grey-tiled ancient houses parallel to the river, the road is flanked by lush camphor trees. Underneath the trees, stone tables and stools depict the life of the water town residents, spreading out along this street.

Today, while there are still locals living on Pingjiang Road, it is predominantly a realm for tourists. Pastry shops, snack stalls, bookstores, cafes, and bars, along with various shops converted from old houses, have settled along the street.

Many alleys stretch out on both sides of Pingjiang Road, featuring former residences of scholars and celebrities, as well as niche museums like the Scholar’s Mansion, Kunqu Opera Museum, and Suzhou Pingtan Museum, all worth exploring.

A significant feature of Pingjiang Road is the hand-rowed boats on the water. Boatmen, dressed in uniform clothing and straw hats, occasionally sing a Jiangnan folk tune.

🚗How to get there: Take metro line 1 to Lindun Road Station or Xiangmen Station.

2. Guangqian Street

Guangqian Street, situated in the heart of Suzhou, derives its name from the Xuanmiao Taoist Temple. In the past, people gathered here to burn incense and pray, gradually forming a market and later developing into a street. Until the early 21st century before the renovation of the old city, Guangqian Street had always been the commercial center of Suzhou.

It’s a paradise for food lovers, with old and famous eateries still bustling with customers, such as Lugaojian, Caizhizhai Candy Store, Huangtianyuan, Songhelou Restaurant, and Deyuelou Restaurant. Besides local delicacies, you can find everything from steaks to snacks, pastries, and desserts here!

However, unlike the more subdued ambiance of Pingjiang Road, Guangqian Street exudes a stronger commercial vibe. Moreover, a stroll through Lindun Road at the street’s end leads to Pingjiang Road.

🚗How to get there: Take metro line 4 to Chayuanchang Station

3. Shantang Street

Shantang Street, also known as Seven-Li Shantang, extends about 2.2 miles (seven li), hence its name. This street was built over a thousand years ago during the Tang Dynasty when the great poet Bai Juyi was the governor of Suzhou, and workers were recruited to dig the river and build the embankment.

Today, Shantang is divided into east and west sections. The east section has been transformed into a scenic area and a bustling commercial street, attracting tourists with its lively water town atmosphere.

The west section retains its original charm, with houses facing the street and backing onto the river, offering visitors the best place to experience the lifestyle of the Shantang people.

Regardless of the section, at night, the lanterns on both sides of the street and in the houses light up in succession, their reflections shimmering on the water, making Shantang even more beautiful!

Shantang Street is actually a series of narrow and secluded lanes, lined with a variety of shops selling all kinds of trinkets and delicious snacks. It can take several hours to explore all the shops. Female tourists often enjoy buying oil-paper umbrellas, fans, head ornaments, bronze mirrors, and combs.

To truly experience the ambiance of a Jiangnan water town, visitors can take a boat ride along the waterway. Along the riverbanks, you can observe elderly women washing clothes, stone houses adorned with dark green moss where the stone meets the water, providing glimpses of Suzhou’s primitive way of life!

🚗How to get there: Take metro line 2 and get off at Shantang Street Station.

4. Humble Administrator’s Garden

As the premier among China’s four famous gardens, the Humble Administrator’s Garden is often the first stop for many tourists seeking to experience Suzhou’s classical gardens.

The garden is vast, requiring 2-3 hours to explore fully, and is divided into three main sections: East, Central, and West, with the Central section being the highlight.

The Eastern Section features expansive lotus ponds, particularly enchanting during the summer when lotus flowers bloom, occasionally graced by the presence of ducks swimming in the lake.

The Central Garden embodies the typical Ming Dynasty garden style, featuring water pools, artificial hills, small pavilions, exuberant trees, and a well-organized layout.

The Western section is characterized by its architecture, including various covered corridors and residential courtyards. This area is less crowded, offering a peaceful environment to stroll and admire the former owners’ living spaces.

I personally recommend hiring a guide for CNY 30 per person. There are two reasons for this: first, the garden is extensive, and you might get lost without guidance; second, many attractions here have interesting stories behind them, which you can only appreciate fully if you understand them.

However, due to the garden’s fame, it attracts a large number of tourists, which can diminish the sense of freedom and tranquility while sightseeing. If time allows, it’s advisable to visit in the early morning or evening to avoid crowds.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 90 (Apr-Oct); CNY 70 (Nov-Mar)
⏰Opening hours: 07:30 – 17:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 40 or 313 and get off at Beiyuanlu Station.

5. Lion Grove Garden

Ranked among the four renowned gardens in China, Lion Grove Garden is often described by visitors as “fun!”

Unlike the sprawling Humble Administrator’s Garden, Lion Grove Garden is relatively compact, offering a completely different experience. While the Humble Administrator’s Garden impresses with its grandeur, Lion Grove Garden exudes a sense of amusement.

The garden boasts the largest surviving ancient rockery in China, forming a delicate stone maze with 9 mountain paths and 21 caves. Visitors navigate through winding mountain paths and dark tunnels, encountering peculiar rocks resembling lions along the way, blending amusement with scenic beauty.

In addition to the fascinating rockery, the garden’s floral windows are also worth mentioning. Especially in buildings like Yanyu Hall (yanyutang) and Pointing at Cypresses Hall (zhibaixuan), these windows are adorned with colored glass, adding a different play of light and shadow to the predominantly black and white garden.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 40 (Apr-Oct); CNY 30 (Nov-Mar)
⏰Opening hours: 07:30 – 17:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 55, 178, 202, 518, 529, 811, 923 or 925, or tourist bus no. 1, 2 or 5, and then get off at Suzhou Museum Station.

6. Suzhou Museum

The Suzhou Museum, designed by the renowned American-Chinese architect Mr. Ieoh Ming Pei, is not only home to valuable collections but is also considered an architectural masterpiece.

The museum consists of two parts: the new museum and the old Prince Zhong’s Mansion, blending seamlessly into a small garden-like setting.

Inside, visitors can explore four permanent exhibitions: Relics of Wudi, National Treasure of Wu Tower, Wuzhong Fengya, and Wumen Calligraphy and Painting, which offer a deep dive into the refined elegance of Suzhou. The collections include ancient to modern ceramics, jade artifacts, and calligraphy and paintings. The old mansion section showcases Suzhou-style painted decorations.

Among the museum’s highlights are two “national treasures”: the Olive Green Lotus-Shaped Bowl discovered at the Tiger Hill Pagoda in Tiger Hill and the exquisite Pearl Pillar of the Buddhist Shrine from the Song Dynasty.

Beyond its collections, the Suzhou Museum’s architecture is a major draw. The interplay of light in its corridors, the natural and logical lighting, the ink-painting-style background walls, and a large central pool in the courtyard that reflects the surrounding scenery create a visually stunning experience.

Note: The Suzhou Museum, Humble Administrator’s Garden, Lion Grove, and other attractions are close to each other, making it convenient for visitors to explore them in a single day. It’s advisable to make reservations in advance.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: 9:00 – 17:00 (Tuesday – Sunday)
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 55, 178, 202, 518, 529, 811, 923 or 925, or tourist bus no. 1, 2 or 5, and then get off at Suzhou Museum Station.

7. Suzhou Silk Museum

Suzhou is a renowned ancient silk city in China, is famous for its Suzhou embroidery, a type of silk craftsmanship that has gained worldwide recognition. The Suzhou Silk Museum, established in 1989, is the first specialized silk museum in China.

The museum not only displays fragments of silk from the Tang, Liao, Song, and Yuan dynasties, as well as clothing from the Ming and Qing dynasties, but also provides information on silkworms, silk, sericulture, and textile production.

One particularly interesting feature is the display of specimens showing the different growth stages of silkworms, alongside machines used for silk reeling. Moreover, the museum’s flooring consists of transparent fiberglass structures with flowing water beneath. Illuminated by soft blue lights, it creates a beautiful effect, giving the impression of walking on water.

Additionally, a large part of the museum is dedicated to showcasing and selling silk products such as silk quilts and silk garments.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: 9:00 – 17:00
🚗How to get there: Take tourist bus no. 4, bus no. 1, 5, 8, 38, 54, 101, 102 or 602 and get off at Pingmen Station.

8. North Temple Pagoda

Bao’en Temple, the oldest temple in Suzhou, has a history of over 1700 years.

The North Temple Pagoda in Bao’en Temple stands at 76 meters tall, with high eaves and a slender pagoda spire. The outer wooden eaves, reconstructed during the Qing Dynasty, are still intact.

As the tallest landmark within Suzhou’s ancient city, the North Temple Pagoda sets the height limit for buildings in the old city according to Suzhou’s government regulations. The best viewing spot for the pagoda is from the nearby Humble Administrator’s Garden.

Apart from the ancient pagoda, two other must-see structures in the North Temple Pagoda scenic area are the Bronze Buddha Hall and the Hall of the Goddess of Mercy.

In early December, visitors to the North Temple Pagoda scenic area can also enjoy the beautiful views of gingko trees.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 25
⏰Opening hours: 07:45 – 17:30
🚗How to get there: Take metro line 4 to Beisita Station.

9. Master of Nets Garden

Although it is one of the famous gardens in Suzhou, the Master of Nets Garden is actually the smallest. Despite its small size, it does not feel cramped at all. The garden features traditional Suzhou-style architecture, including small bridges over flowing water and pavilions, all laid out in a compact yet clever and delicate design.

As the former residence of many literati and scholars, the garden is adorned with numerous inscriptions of poems and literary works, and the study rooms and halls are arranged with great elegance. For instance, you’ll find the “Four Treasures of the Study” placed on the desk and incense burners placed beside the elegant seats.

In addition to its elegance, the Master of Nets Garden is the only garden in Suzhou that can be visited at night. From April to October each year, from 7:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. every evening, visitors can enjoy performances of Kunqu Opera, Pingtan (a Suzhou storytelling art form), ancient Chinese music, and folk music, making it a truly representative experience of Suzhou!

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 40 (Apr-Oct); CNY 30 (Nov-Mar)
⏰Opening hours: 07:30 – 17:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 55, 202, 529, 811, or 931 and get off at Wangshiyuan Station.

10. FengMen HengJie

To deeply understand Suzhou, it’s essential to visit FengMen HengJie. This street is a narrow, east-west oriented, 600-meter-long lane paved with stone slabs,, wide enough for only a small car to pass through. Despite its narrowness, it’s densely packed with shops selling vegetables, fruits, clothing, shoes, aged liquor, poultry, fish, and more.

However, each shop is neatly arranged, and the shopkeepers don’t use loudspeakers to advertise, maintaining a sense of order. Here, you’ll find traditional Suzhou residents, and you’ll discover things you can’t see in many other places.

🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 501 and get off at Fengmen Station.

11. 虎丘

Tiger Hill, with a history of over 2500 years, is almost a must-visit for everyone traveling to Suzhou. Located in the northwest suburb of the city, it features a small hill shaped like a crouching tiger. Although the area is not large, it is densely packed with historical relics, each step revealing its mysteries.

The highlight of the area is the Tiger Hill Pagoda and the Sword Pool. The Tiger Hill Pagoda is Suzhou’s oldest pagoda, with a history of over a thousand years. It is also the world’s second leaning tower, majestic and ancient, long symbolizing ancient Suzhou.

Descending from the Tiger Hill Pagoda, you will find the Sword Pool, where the walls bear inscriptions from ancient Chinese calligraphy masters. Legend has it that the bottom of the pool is the entrance to the tomb of an emperor, containing a large number of swords and treasures.

Tiger Hill is full of many story-filled attractions. The area offers free guided tours, allowing visitors to better appreciate the charm of Tiger Hill’s history.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 80 (Apr-Oct); CNY 60 (Nov-Mar)
⏰Opening hours: 07:30 – 17:30
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 146 or tourist bus no. 1 or 2 and get off at Huqiu Station.

12. Hanshan Temple

Hanshan Temple is one of the most famous temples in Suzhou, with a history of over 1,400 years. It gained widespread fame due to the poem “A Night Mooring Near Maple Bridge” written by Zhang Ji, a poet of the Tang Dynasty.

The temple houses many historical relics, including the statue of Han Shan, the stone tablet inscription of the poem “A Night Mooring Near Maple Bridge,” and other tablet inscriptions written by famous intellectuals of ancient China.

Today, it remains a place of worship, attracting locals and visitors alike. Every year on December 31st, Hanshan Temple holds a New Year’s Eve bell-ringing ceremony, ringing the bell 108 times to pray for happiness and safety in the upcoming year.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 20
⏰Opening hours: 07:30 – 17:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 30, 31, 33, 40, 44, 300, 301, 307, 313, 324, 332, 406, 415, 442, 622, 816, 932 or tourist bus no. 3 and get off at Hanshansi South Station.

13. Panmen Scenic Area

Panmen City Gate is the only remaining ancient city gate in Suzhou. The scenic area is expansive, combining the charm of Jiangnan gardens with the grandeur of ancient city gates, exceeding my expectations during my visit.

Within the scenic area, Ruiguang Pagoda and Wumen Bridge, along with Panmen Water Gate, are collectively known as the Three Scenes of Panmen.

Panmen City Gate was first constructed during the Wu Kingdom of the Spring and Autumn Period (770BC-476BC). It includes the land city gate, the water city gate, the city gate tower, the barbican, and the city wall on both sides. Walking along the slope on the north of the city wall provides a panoramic view of Panmen City Gate.

Wumen Bridge, near Panmen City Gate, was built during the Northern Song Dynasty. It is a typical large single-arch stone bridge with the characteristics of Jiangnan water towns. The bridge arch is tall, allowing boats to pass smoothly. However, the bridge has a steep slope with many stone steps that have become uneven and sunken over time due to its age.

Upon entering from the east gate of the scenic area, the first building you encounter is the Ruiguang Pagoda. This ancient pagoda stands at over fifty meters tall with seven floors. It is a brick-and-wood structure with a loft-style Buddha pagoda. Relics, scriptures, and many Buddhist artifacts were discovered in the pagoda.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 40
⏰Opening hours: 07:30 – 17:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 39, 47, 305, 935, 949, or tourist bus no. 2 or 5 and get off at Panmen Scenic Area North Station.

14. Lingering Garden

Among China’s four famous gardens, Suzhou boasts two: the Humble Administrator’s Garden and the Lingering Garden. Compared to the Lion Grove and the Humble Administrator’s Garden in the old city area, the Lingering Garden doesn’t seem too crowded.

The entrance to the Lingering Garden is small, resembling the doorway of an ordinary ancient household. Upon entering, visitors navigate through a maze-like corridor that alternates between spacious and narrow. This section of the garden is highly admired by enthusiasts of garden and architectural design.

The Lingering Garden is primarily divided into four areas: east, west, north, and central, connected by a winding corridor spanning 700 meters.

The eastern part of the garden focuses on architecture, while the central area features landscapes of mountains, water, and flowers. The western side showcases fantastic rockeries, and the northern section offers a pastoral atmosphere abundant with greenery.

The rooms in the Lingering Garden are grand and bright, resembling those of affluent households, adorned with numerous paintings and calligraphy. Apricot and peach trees are planted throughout the garden, and pergolas are erected over the gravel paths.

The garden boasts numerous bonsai trees of varying sizes, meticulously crafted, with bamboo railings separating scenic spots from pedestrian paths throughout the garden.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 55 (Apr-Oct); CNY 45 (Nov-Mar)
⏰Opening hours: 07:30 – 17:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 85, 317, 933, or tourist bus no. 1 and get off at Liuyuan Station.

15. Xiyuan Temple

Outside Changmen in Suzhou stands Xiyuan Temple, with a history of over 700 years. The existing halls were mostly built in the late Qing and early Republican periods, making it the largest temple in Suzhou.

Xiyuan Temple has a unique structure, different from ordinary temples. Before entering the main gate, there are two bridges. Behind the temple, there is a large garden and a Free Life Pond. It is said that there were originally two spotted turtles in the Free Life Pond, and this kind of turtle with spots on its back is one of only three left in the world, with Xiyuan Temple having two of them.

As one of the few temples offering Buddhist study courses, most of the visitors here are believers and pilgrims. In the rooms, you can often see people quietly copying scriptures and diligently studying.

Entering through the door next to the Hall of Heavenly Kings, you will find the vegetarian hall on the left, which attracts many tourists and is often in high demand. There are many varieties of vegetarian dishes here, including vegetarian steamed buns and buffet, at very affordable prices.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 5
⏰Opening hours: 07:30 – 17:30
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 406 and get off at Xiyuan Station.

16. Canglang Pavilion (Blue Wave Pavilion)

Canglang Pavilion is Suzhou’s oldest garden and one of the city’s four most famous gardens. It exudes a delicate charm, reminiscent of a small, precious jade. The pavilion’s corridors, floral windows, inscribed steles, and pond fish all contribute to its unique aura.

Before entering the garden, visitors are greeted by a large pond, which they must cross via a stone bridge. Unlike other famous gardens like the Humble Administrator’s Garden, Canglang Pavilion is relatively small and devoid of crowds, offering a tranquil atmosphere.

One notable feature of Canglang Pavilion is its abundance of bamboo. Everywhere you look, lush green bamboo creates a soothing ambiance, with a diverse array of bamboo species found throughout the garden. While winter might not be the ideal time to appreciate bamboo, the leaves remain verdant throughout the season, ensuring a consistent scenery year-round.

Another unique feature of Canglang Pavilion is its lattice windows. The garden boasts 108 different patterns of lattice windows, each more exquisite than the last. These intricate lattice windows adorn the walls of the corridors, featuring designs like Han vases, autumn leaves, longevity peaches, potted flowers, crabapple blossoms, gourds, and more!

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 20 (Apr-Oct); CNY 15 (Nov-Mar)
⏰Opening hours: 07:30 – 17:00
🚗How to get there: Take metro line 4 to Sanyuanfang Station.

17. Couple’s Retreat Garden (Ou Yuan)

This is a garden near Pingjiang Road, so you can walk there from Pingjiang Road. They also sell tickets that include a boat ride. After exploring Couple’s Retreat Garden, you can take a boat back to Pingjiang Road, experiencing a bit of the water town’s charm.

The name “Couple’s Retreat Garden” reflects the deep bond between the original owners, as everything in the garden, including the buildings, lattice windows, rockeries, pavilions, and towers, comes in pairs.

The garden still preserves a large number of calligraphy and paintings by the original owners Another feature is its large yellow stone rockery, which is as big as a small hill.

There are performances here almost every day, including Pingtan storytelling, traditional Chinese opera, and Suzhou embroidery. You can see a schedule of performances at the entrance. While watching the performances is free, there is an additional charge if you want to request specific songs or pieces.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 25 (Apr-Oct); CNY 20 (Nov-Mar)
⏰Opening hours: 08:00-17:00
🚗How to get there: Take metro line 1 to Xiangmen Station.

18. Jinji Lake

The most beautiful night scenery in Suzhou is undoubtedly Jinji Lake!

Jinji Lake boasts stunning scenery, surrounded by Suzhou’s CBD where skyscrapers that are not visible in the old area are concentrated. It features attractions like Lakeside Avenue, Ferris Wheel Park, Li Gong Di Causeway, and the Suzhou Culture and Arts Center.

The Suzhou Ferris wheel stands at 120 meters, making it the largest water-based Ferris wheel in China, offering panoramic views of Jinji Lake from high above.

The commercial area here offers everything from clothing and snacks to horseback riding, game rooms, and ice skating rinks.

Jinji Lake is quite large, and walking around it during the day can be quite challenging. Riding a bike is the best way to explore it.

In the evening, you can visit Moonlight Harbor or the bar street. Sitting in one of the waterfront bars, sipping wine, listening to jazz, and enjoying the beautiful night lights is a delightful experience!

🎫Admission ticket: Free
⏰Opening hours: All day
🚗How to get there: Take metro line 1 to Gate of the Orient Station.

19. Zhouzhuang Water Town

Located about 40 km southeast of Suzhou, Zhouzhuang Water Town is hailed as the “Number One Water Town in China.” It is not only one of the six ancient towns in the south of the Yangtze River but also once listed by CNN as one of the “Top 10 Most Beautiful Towns in the World.”

Zhouzhuang Water Town is built around water, with streets following the rivers. The grid-like waterways still retain 14 ancient bridges built during the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. More than 60% of the residences still maintain the architectural style of the Ming and Qing periods. Major attractions in the town include the Twin Bridges (Shuang Qiao), Shen House, and Zhang House.

The Twin Bridges are a must-visit spot. They are not two separate bridges but rather, their significance lies in the perfect circle formed by their reflections in the water, which is quite unique. Other famous bridges include Taiping Bridge and Fu’an Bridge.

In the town, you can take a boat tour with friends, enjoy wine at a bar, or drink tea at a tea house. Walking along the streets, you’ll see elderly ladies weaving, and passing by the river, you might hear locals singing folk songs while rowing boats. The people here are known for their simplicity and kindness.

It is highly recommended to visit Zhouzhuang during off-peak tourist seasons, such as avoiding the May Day holiday and National Day, as the town is not particularly large and may not be ideal for exploring when crowded.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 100; CNY 180 for a daytime cruise
⏰Opening hours: All day
🚗How to get there: Take a bus from Suzhou North Bus Station to Zhouzhuang, departing approximately every 40 minutes between 7:00 and 18:05. The fare is CNY 16.

👉 Book Zhouzhuang Water Town Tour on VIATOR

20. Tongli Ancient Town

As one of the six ancient towns in Jiangnan, Tongli Ancient Town is the most conveniently located among the ancient towns around Suzhou, as you can reach it by taking the subway to Tongli Station and then a short taxi ride to the town.

Tongli Ancient Town is not very large, with its crisscrossing streets and waterways. It features various attractions, including the Retreat and Reflection Garden, Jiayin Hall, and the Ternate Bridges.

In my opinion, the Retreat and Reflection Garden is the most worthwhile visit, as the other attractions are quite small. The Retreat and Reflection Garden is the most famous private garden in Tongli Ancient Town and is the only World Cultural Heritage site in Jiangnan ancient towns, comparable to the Lingering Garden.

The town is still home to many local residents, and you’ll often see people washing by the river and pedicabs carrying tourists around the town. There are also many riverside restaurants with plenty of tables and chairs, which are not usually full during the day.

Tongli Ancient Town also has a small island called Luoxing Island, which you can reach by ferry from Tongli Lake Pier, about a 5-minute journey. The island is basically tourist-free, offering a quiet retreat with clear waters reflecting temples built along the lake.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 100
⏰Opening hours: 08:00-17:15
🚗How to get there: Take metro line 4 to Tongli Station, then switch to the tourist bus heading to the north entrance of Tongli.

👉 Book Tongli Ancient Town Tour on VIATOR

21. Luzhi Town

Luzhi Town, with a history of over 2500 years, may not have the same level of fame as Zhouzhuang or Tongli, but it’s still one of the six major ancient towns in Jiangnan. It’s not very large, and you can explore most of it in half a day.

The town is still inhabited by generations of locals, preserving the traditional way of life of a water town to the fullest.

Various ancient bridges are scattered throughout the small town, and you’ll encounter one every few steps. You can take a leisurely ride on a black awning boat for a serene and peaceful experience on the river, as there are not many boats, ensuring tranquility.

Walking along the slightly uneven bluestone roads deeper into the ancient streets, you’ll find quaint old houses on both sides, some housing local specialty workshops, teahouses, restaurants, old shops, or even small stores renting out traditional costumes for tourists to take photos in.

The ancient town is open to the public for free, but there are some attractions that charge admission. However, in my opinion, buying a combination ticket isn’t necessary.

🎫Admission ticket: Free
⏰Opening hours: All day
🚗How to get there: Take metro line 1 to Zhongnan Street Station, Exit 1. Transfer to bus no. 528, exiting at Xiaoshi Road Station.

22. Jinxi Ancient Town

Jinxi Ancient Town is located in the southwest of Kunshan City, about a one-hour drive from Suzhou City.

For thousands of years, people here have lived by the river, closely connected with water. The town is dotted with bridges, among which the most famous is the Shiyan Bridge built in the Ming Dynasty.

There is no entrance fee, and there aren’t many tourists. Taking a boat ride and listening to the boatwomen sing folk tunes are must-have relaxing experiences. These boatwomen are all locals with excellent singing voices, singing in the soft and sweet Wu dialect.

Many residents still wash clothes in the river. During the wheat rain season, the countryside is filled with scenes of planting rice seedlings.

After strolling through the old streets, you can find a teahouse to rest and enjoy a cup of tea.

🎫Admission ticket: Free
⏰Opening hours: 08:00-17:00
🚗How to get there: It should take a high-speed train to Kunshan first, and then take a bus to Jinxi.

23. Taste Suzhou-style Noodles

Suzhou-style noodles are a popular comfort food in Suzhou and are enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

One distinctive feature of Suzhou-style noodles is their soup base, which is usually clear and light, allowing the flavors of the toppings to shine through.

The noodles should be thin with a fragrance, smooth and chewy, and neatly arranged in the bowl without clumping together.

These noodles can be served with a variety of toppings. In any noodle restaurant, you can see dozens of toppings. Braised pork, fried pork, fried fish, fried eels, braised duck, shrimp, crab meat… if one topping is not enough, then double toppings!

When a steaming bowl of noodles and toppings is served, first blow on the steam, then take a small sip of the soup with a spoon and taste the freshness of the soup.

24. Suzhou Cuisine and Local Snacks

Suzhou people are particularly particular about food, perhaps unmatched elsewhere in Jiangnan. Whether it’s Suzhou-style cuisine or local snacks, there’s always something to satisfy your taste buds.

For tourists, Suzhou’s culinary delights are mainly concentrated in areas such as Guanqian Street, Pingjiang Road, Shantang Street, and Shiquan Street.

Jiangsu cuisine is one of China’s traditional Eight Great Cuisines, which is known for its fresh and sweet flavors, attention to cooking techniques, and seasonal variations.

As a land of plenty with abundant produce, Suzhou cuisine boasts a wide variety of ingredients. Fish and shrimp are major highlights, with a variety of fresh fish and shrimp enjoyed seasonally throughout the year. Signature dishes like “Squirrel Mandarin Fish,” “Braised Minced Eel,” “Stir-fried Shrimp,” and “Crab Meat Tofu” have long been renowned.

Suzhou’s snacks are diverse, with offerings like sweet red bean porridge, which is soft, sticky, and sweet; savory soy milk, a unique local delicacy; as well as pan-fried buns, crab roe soup dumplings, small wontons, pork lard rice cakes, and savory meat mooncakes.

25. Taihu Lake

Taihu Lake is one of the five largest freshwater lakes in China, located quite far from downtown Suzhou, about 50 kilometers away. Due to its size, it typically takes at least two days to fully explore. Many people choose to cycle around the lake to enjoy its beauty.

The main scenic spots around Taihu Lake are concentrated on Dongshan Island, Xishan Island, and Sanshan Islands.

Dongshan Island is the most beautiful, extending into the lake as a peninsula. The famous Diaohua Building is a must-visit, and Luxiang Ancient Village features over 30 Ming and Qing Dynasty buildings scattered around.

Compared to Dongshan Island, the scenery of Xishan Island is slightly less spectacular, but the Taihu Lake Bridge lying across the lake is a beautiful sight. Linwu Cave is a rare stalactite cave in the area. Moon Bay is a typical representation of the ancient villages along the Taihu Lake, with its ancient pier still in use since the Tang Dynasty.

Without visiting the shores of Taihu Lake, you cannot experience the abundance of fruits and vegetables, as well as the fat fish and shrimp available throughout the year.

From March to April, Biluochun tea is in season; in May, green plums and loquats ripen, offering a refreshing and delicious treat; from June to July, waxberries and peaches are ripe; in August to September, the fishing season begins, allowing you to taste the freshest “Three Whites of Taihu Lake” (white fish, white shrimp, and silver fish); from October to December, Taihu Lake crabs are in season, with large sizes and rich roe.

26. Watch Kunqu Opera and Suzhou Pingtan

Walking in Suzhou, the trendiest entertainment is not the rock or folk music in other bars, but listening to authentic Kunqu Opera and Suzhou Pingtan.

Both Kunqu Opera and Pingtan originated in Suzhou. The former is one of the oldest forms of Chinese opera, while the latter combines storytelling and singing, often focusing on historical stories and heroes, making it more accessible.

To listen to authentic Kunqu Opera, you can visit Fuxi Hall on Pingjiang Road and Shantang Kunqu Opera House on Shantang Street. Suzhou Kunqu Opera Theater not only features classic Kunqu Opera performances but also showcases the development history of Kunqu Opera.

Pingtan performances are often held in teahouses. You can enjoy them in teahouses and restaurants on commercial streets such as Pingjiang Road and Shantang Street. For a more authentic experience, you can visit the Guangyu Theatre on Guanqian Street, where many locals and elderly people go. The tickets are cheap, and the atmosphere is authentic.

🛫 How Do I Travel to Suzhou

By Plane

Currently, Suzhou does not have a civilian airport.

The nearest airport is Wuxi Sunan Shuofang International Airport. The airport operates several shuttle buses to and from Suzhou Railway Station daily, with a journey time of approximately 45 minutes.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport also offer passenger shuttle buses to and from Suzhou. If you arrive or depart from Terminal 2 of Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, you can also choose to take a high-speed train to Suzhou, which takes only 35 minutes.

By Train

The most convenient way to travel to Suzhou is by high-speed train.

Suzhou has four main railway stations: Suzhou Railway Station, Suzhou North Railway Station, Suzhou Xinqu Railway Station, and Suzhou Yuanqu Railway Station. Among these, Suzhou Railway Station and Suzhou North Railway Station are the primary stations.

If your departing city has high-speed trains to multiple railway stations, we recommend choosing Suzhou Railway Station as it is located in the city center and close to major attractions.

🚖 How to Get Around Suzhou

  • 🚇 Metro: Suzhou currently has four metro lines (Line 1, Line 2, Line 3, and Line 4) covering many popular tourist destinations.
  • 🚗 Taxi: Taxi are easily accessible in Suzhou, and you can hail one on the street or use smartphone apps to book a ride.
  • 🚌 Public Bus: Suzhou’s public bus system can take you to most tourist sites, and you’ll enjoy the garden-style design of the bus stops.
  • ⛵ Bike Sharing: Chengdu has a variety of bike-sharing options, making it a convenient choice for short-distance travel.

☀️ Best Time to Visit Suzhou

The best time to visit Suzhou is during the autumn months from October to November. During this time, the weather is cool and comfortable, making it ideal for exploring the city’s gardens, parks, and attractions.

The spring months of March to May are also a good time to visit, as the weather is mild and the city’s gardens are in full bloom. However, Suzhou can be quite crowded with tourists during these peak seasons.

If you prefer fewer crowds, consider visiting during the winter months from December to February, although it can be cold and rainy during this time.

🌸Final Tips on Traveling to Suzhou

  • When traveling in Suzhou, consider trying the sightseeing buses that go directly to major attractions.
  • Start your journey in Suzhou by visiting its renowned classical gardens, like the Humble Administrator’s Garden and the Lingering Garden.
  • When buying silk in Suzhou, be sure to visit reputable old stores and avoid buying around tourist spots.
  • Fengmen Hengjie is Suzhou’s most lively and authentic old street, where you can find surprising discoveries while strolling around.
  • Using ride-hailing services in Suzhou is very convenient and you won’t encounter fraudulent practices.
  • When in Suzhou, taking a boat ride is a must. Enjoy a leisurely boat trip and listen to the boatwoman sing authentic Suzhou folk songs.
  • Sample local specialties like sweet and sour Mandarin fish and Suzhou-style mooncakes.
  • Relax at a traditional tea house and enjoy a cup of Suzhou’s famous Biluochun green tea.
  • Watch a performance of Kunqu Opera, a traditional art form that originated in Suzhou.
  • Shop at Shantang Street for souvenirs and handicrafts.
  • Take a day trip to Zhouzhuang Water Town to explore its ancient canals, bridges, and traditional architecture.
  • In Suzhou, admire cherry blossoms in spring, lotus flowers in summer, gingko trees in autumn, and plum blossoms in winter.

China Travel Planning Guide&FAQ

🎫Do I need a visa for China?

Yes. Most visitors to China will need a visa to enter the country. The type of visa you need will depend on the purpose and duration of your trip, as well as your nationality. If you are a resident of the US, you must apply for a Chinese visa at the Consular Office in the country. On the other hand, inhabitants of countries like Japan, Canada, and the UK can request a visa through the Chinese Visa Application Service Center.

🤔Why is it necessary to install a VPN in China?

In China, the government has strict regulations on internet access, leading to the blocking of popular websites and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube. To access these sites, a VPN is suggested as a means of bypassing the restrictions. It is important to choose a reputable VPN provider and use caution while doing so. ExpressVPN has been historically deemed the most reliable VPN for this purpose, despite being heavily targeted by China’s censors. Nevertheless, it is still a widely preferred option owing to its ease of installation and user-friendliness.

📲Is it necessary to have a Chinese SIM card while in China?

Yes. It is crucial to acknowledge that accessing the internet in China may pose limitations due to certain websites being prohibited or filtered. To ensure uninterrupted connectivity while staying in China, purchasing a local SIM card is advisable. For optimum results, acquiring SIM cards from either China Unicom or China Mobile is recommended. While China Mobile has the most comprehensive coverage in China and is a market leader, China Unicom is more compatible with foreign phones, enabling 3G and 4G services. Or you can purchase a SIM card online.

🔮Should I buy China travel insurance?

Yes. Although China is generally a safe country for travel, it is still possible to encounter accidents or other unexpected occurrences. Therefore, obtaining travel insurance can provide a sense of security and financial protection. In my research, I have found that World Nomads is a reputable travel insurance provider that covers a wide range of activities and is recommended for the average traveler. Nevertheless, I advise you to compare insurance quotes from various providers before making a decision.

🚙Can you rent a car in China?

Unfeasible. Obtaining a Chinese driver’s license to rent a car and self-drive may seem like an option, but it is not a practical choice for most foreigners. Therefore, many prefer to opt for a driver or public transportation when navigating China, as it proves to be more convenient.

✈️What’s the best site to purchase flight tickets for China?

I suggest using Trip for affordable flights to China. As a China-based company, they often offer lower prices compared to foreign companies. Additionally, they offer English-speaking phone support in case of any issues.

🏡What is the best way to book hotels in China?

Not only does Trip offer a wider range of flight options, but it also provides a greater selection of hotels to choose from. Moreover, Agoda is a reliable resource for hotels throughout Asia.

🎒What do I pack for China?

Travel adapter and converter: China uses a different electrical system than many other countries, so it’s important to bring a travel adapter and converter if you plan to use electronic devices such as phones, cameras, and laptops.  
Sunscreen: The UV index in China can be high, particularly during the summer months, and prolonged exposure to the sun without protection can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer.
Deodorant: It should be noted that finding deodorant in China may not be a simple task.

📚Can a guidebook for traveling to China be useful?

Yes. If you’re planning to travel to China for the first time, a travel guidebook can be a valuable resource, and Lonely Planet is one of the most reputable guides available globally. Its comprehensive itineraries and recommendations take into account your personal preferences and can save you both time and money. The insider tips are also extremely helpful in navigating China’s unique cultural landscape like a local.

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