Suzhou, China Travel Guide: Top Things to Do and See in China
Welcome to Venice of the East.
- Suzhou is known for its stone bridges, canals, gardens, pagodas, and its very own leaning tower.
- Suzhou has its own dialect known as “Suzhounese.”
- Part of the Yangtze River Delta region and a trade and commerce hub.
- Suzhou is known for silk, sweets, fresh seafood, and beautiful women.
- Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit Suzhou is during the spring (April – June) and fall (September – November). These two seasons offer generally comfortable weather and temperatures – perfect for enjoying the many outdoor sights Suzhou has to offer.
- What to Wear: If you visit during winter (November – March), be sure to bring all the winter essentials, e.g., heavy coat, scarf, hat, gloves, earmuffs, and boots. If you are visiting during spring or fall, be sure to bring a good jacket for the possible chilly and rainy days. You should also bring comfortable walking shoes. For summer, pack light, airy, breathable clothing. The heat can be oppressive and clothes can stick to your body.
- Getting around: Traveling to and around Suzhou has gotten increasingly easier in recent years using public transportation. Suzhou is accessible by train, metro, bus, and car. There is a tram system that serves Suzhou New District (Xinqu).
WHAT TO DO:
- Tiger Hill is a must-see when you are in Suzhou. People gather here regularly for morning exercises and festivals.
- Huqiu Tower (Tiger Hill Pagoda/Yunyan Pagoda) is dubbed the “Leaning Tower of China” at 154 feet high and 7 stories tall. Buddhist scriptures found inside a stone casket inside the pagoda notes the completion date as 961 CE.
- Spring of Simplicity and Honesty is a well that was believed to have sprung up to a monk exhausted from carrying water up the entire hill.
- Sword Pond is a regular pond where the Huqiu Tower’s foundation rests. It is believed that 3000 swords are buried in the pond.
- Thousand People Rock is a plaza perfect for strolls.
- Suzhou Industrial Park is a cooperative project between the Chinese and Singaporean government.
- Jinji Lake is surrounded by restaurants, hotels, sand, Suzhou Science and Cultural Arts Center, Ferris Wheel, shopping malls, beautiful scenery, sculptures, parks, and playgrounds.
- Gate to the East is a skyscraper adjacent to Jinji Lake that was completed in 2015 and is currently the tallest building in Suzhou. The twin towers, connected at the top, is a gateway from the new business district looking towards the historical city center.
- Chongyuan Temple is a Buddhist temple built during the Liang dynasty along the YangCheng Lake. The temple was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and rebuilt in the 2000s. Chongyuan currently has the highest and heaviest Guanyin (Bodhisattva/goddess of compassion, mercy, and kindness) statue in China.
- Moon Harbor is perfect eating and entertainment. Enjoy the night lights as it lights up around Jinji Lake.
- Grand Canal (UNESCO World Heritage Site) runs from Beijing to Hangzhou, where it connects the Yellow and Yangtze rivers. Taking a boat cruise is definitely the best way to see and enjoy the canal and the structures that run along the canal. The canal is particularly beautiful at night as lights light up along the canal.
- Pan Gate (aka Land and Water Gate) is a historical landmark located along the Main Canal and part of the Pan Gate Scenic Area. Pan Gate was part of the ancient city wall that protected Suzhou and the only entrance into the city.
- Classical Gardens of Suzhou as a group are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The designs span more than 2000 years of Chinese landscape garden designs and each garden is unique. The gardens are perfect for leisure strolls and photography. Each garden has a distinctly designed entry gate.
- Humble Administrator’s Garden is the largest garden in Suzhou. The garden was built during the Ming dynasty. The garden’s pavilions and bridges connect its ponds and islands.
- Lingering Garden is divided into four sections. In the center is a yellowstone granite grotto and a pond. You will also find pavilions, a Penzai garden, and courtyards surrounded by buildings.
- Canglang Pavilion was built during the Song dynasty and is the oldest garden in Suzhou. Inside you will find rock formations, pavilions, lotus ponds, uniquely designed lattice windows, and buildings with historical artifacts.
- Lion Grove Garden is another garden popular with the locals. The garden, built during the Yuan dynasty, is famous for its labyrinthine grotto and for the shapes of rocks resembling lions. The garden has multiple walking paths, buildings, bridges, ponds, waterfalls, and caves.
- Master of the Nets Garden (Wangshi Yuan) is popular with locals. Inside you will find buildings, pavilions, ponds, grottos, and cypress and pine trees dating back several centuries.
- Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty is a man made limestone mountain with buildings, brick plateau stelae, old trees, streams, pavilions, a grotto, and a waterfall that flows into a pool.
- Couple’s Retreat Garden is surrounded by water on three sides as it’s built at an intersection of canals and accessible by boat. The garden houses the Taoism Tower, grottos, ponds, and a fruit orchard.
- Garden of Cultivation was built during the Ming dynasty and has several pavilions, lotus ponds, waterfalls, bridges, and rock formations.
- Retreat and Reflection Garden is a relatively newer garden built in the 1800s. The garden has courtyards and a pool in the main courtyard surrounded by buildings.
- Taihu Lake is a freshwater lake that includes around 90 islands of varying sizes and connects to the Grand Canal. Taihu Lake is best viewed from nearby Wuxi where you can ride the Star of Lake Tai, a giant Ferris wheel on the lake shoreline, or climb atop the Dragon Light Pagoda.
- Beisi Pagoda is located at Bao’en Temple and stands at 243 feet tall, making it the tallest pagoda south of the Yangtze River.
- Xuanmiao Temple is a Taoist temple located in the city center on Guanqian Street, a popular pedestrian street, lined with restaurants, stores, and bars, clubs, and shops. Temple dates back to the Tang dynasty and houses six Taoist god statues as well as idols of marshals and generals.
- Suzhou Museum houses ancient Chinese paintings, calligraphy, ancient Chinese art, and handmade crafts.
- Suzhou Silk Museum showcases Suzhou’s silk history dating back to 2000 BC. Silk scarfs as well as silk clothing items are popular gift ideas.
WHERE TO EAT:
When in Suzhou, you should try fried dumplings, soup dumplings, steamed buns, fried steamed buns, wontons, noodles, boiled lotus roots, and smoked fish. Be open to trying new things. There is so much goodness to eat in Suzhou!
- Song He Lou (Pine and Crane Restaurant) has more than 200 years of history as serving authentic Suzhou cuisine. Some of the recommended foods are fresh shrimp, crabs, silver fish, and eel.
- De Yue Lou has more than 400 years of culinary experience serving authentic dishes. Some of the recommended foods to try are Ghost Fish, spring chicken, shrimp, and crab meat.
- Xie He Cai Guan is a very traditional restaurant serving Suzhou cuisine. Recommended dishes include braised pork, Tofu braised with hairy crab and roe, and fresh eel.
- Wumen Renjia serves Suzhou delicacies in a historical Chinese building. The recommended foods here include fresh eel, fresh shrimp, tangzhou, and Babao Ya (duck stuffed with eight treasures).
- Lao Beimen was the first super large restaurant in the Suzhou Industrial Park and has multiple levels. Lao Beimen offers seasonal cuisines and fresh ingredients. Some of its famous dishes include deep fried yellow croaker, chitterlings and pig lung soup, and goose nugget and coagulated