After living in China for one year and travelling extensively throughout the country, I’d like to tell you more about one of the most interesting cities I visited. It’s known as the ‘venice of the East’, due to it’s many canals. Here’s my top 10 things to do in Suzhou.
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Where to stay in Suzhou:
|Price-Range||Accommodation||Why stay here?|
|Budget||Mingtown Suzhou International Youth Hostel||Central location, dorm rooms, Chinese ancient-style buildings and decor.|
|Mid-range||Garden Hotel||Beautiful hotel with stunning gardens. Luxury hotel at a mid-range hotel.|
|Luxury||Renaissance Hotel||Bathtubs in every room, onsite pool and central location.|
Things to do in Suzhou
1 Wander through the Chinese gardens
Suzhou is full of beautiful Chinese gardens, that you can easily spend an afternoon exploring. The traditional Chinese architecture is hidden amongst many small lakes and tall trees.
To me, all of the Chinese gardens I’ve seen look the same! I know this isn’t technically the case… but unless you are a big fan of Chinese gardens and architecture, I’d highly recommend visiting just one Suzhou garden. I’ve listed the best two below.
Your two best options are listed below.
Humble Administrators Garden
The Humble Administrator’s Garden is the most popular things to do in Suzhou. The gardens are extensive with many different areas to explore. It’s very easy to get lost! It is a very beautiful place, try to visit on a sunny day though.
Cost: 90 CNY (13$/£10)
How to get there: Take a taxi to the following address:
- 178 Dongbei St, Gusu Qu, Suzhou Shi, Jiangsu Sheng, China, 215001
This is the second most Suzhou garden. It is slightly smaller, but definitely worth a visit. It is full of hidden passages and various trees and plants.
We were greeted with 10 tourist buses when we arrived…. I’d suggest visiting midweek or out of Chinese holidays! This was one of my favourite things to do in suzhou.
Cost: 55 CNY (8$/£6)
How to get there: Take metro line 2 to Shilu Station.
2 See the mix of old and new at Jinji Lake
Jinji lake is located in the east of the city and is the perfect place to see the contrast of old and new in the city. The skyscrapers line the riverbanks and it becomes alive at night. Some of the more luxury hotels are located around here. It’s a must see place in Suzhou.
How to get there: Take the metro to Nanshi street.
3 Cruise from Shantang Street to Tiger Hill
Shantang Street is another part of the Grand canal. However, this is considerably narrower and has a more local feel. There’s many food stands for you to try – and even a Starbucks if you’re missing home! This one of the best things to do in Suzhou at night.
Take a boat from Shantang Street towards Tiger Hill Suzhou and back. It’s a beautiful journey – especially at night. Cost: 25 CNY (4$/£3).
How to get there: Take metro line 2 and exit at Shantang Street Station
4 Visit the Grand Canal
The Grand Canal runs from Beijing to Hangzhou. It’s possible to take a boat cruise from nearby cities into Suzhou. The Pan-gate scenic area is a pretty place to explore.
Cost: 40 CNY (6$/£5)
How to get there: The closest metro stop is Xujiang Road – but it’s a 30-minute walk to the attraction.
5 Visit Tongli water Town
There are many different water towns on the edge of Suzhou. This was recommended by a friend, and it didn’t disappoint!
It wasn’t quite Venice… the locals wash their clothes in the river, and there isn’t any gondolas. However, it’s still worth a visit!
This is the place where I’ve been followed the most for photos and videos! One man with a big DSLR camera followed me for 10 minutes constantly shooting photos. I also had many others taking photos and videos without asking! I suppose it’s part of being foreign in China (and my blonde hair).
Cost: 100 CNY (14$/£11)
How to get there: It is about a 30-minute drive from Suzhou itself. I recommend taking a Didi or taxi. The fare will be around 40 RMB.
6 Learn about the city’s history in the Suzhou Museum
The Suzhou museum will teach you all about the history of Chinese art and calligraphy. Whilst I haven’t visited this museum myself – I’m not so big on art – I heard only good things about it while there. Hence the reason for the recommendation. It’s meant to be one of the best historical things to do in Suzhou.
How to get there: It’s located around the corner from the Humble Administrator’s Garden, so pair them together if you decide to visit.
7 Hike up Tiger Hill
This hill is home to the ‘leaning pagoda of China’. The pagoda leans at an angle of 3.6 degrees…. which they mistranslated to say 36!
I was very confused and astonished, until I realised the mistake!
This place is supposedly one of the most beautiful places to go in Suzhou.
It’s a great thing to do in Suzhou except at Chinese new year!! It was like being in a crowd at a concert trying to walk through. Needless to say we didn’t stay long.
Remember to wander through the bamboo forest on your way out.
Cost: 80 CNY (11$/£9)
How to get there: Take a taxi to: No.8 Huqiushan, Suzhou 215008, China.
8 Visit the Silk museum
Interested in the history of silk in China? Find out all about it in this museum. Suzhou is very famous for its silk and you’ll notice many items being sold near to tourist attractions. We picked up some beautiful scarfs at a very good price!
How to get there: It’s a 30-minute walk south of Suzhou railway station. Alternatively, take a taxi straight to the attraction.
9 Eat Suzhou’s local delicacies
There are many amazing foods in China, but the most popular food to eat in Suzhou is the mandarin squirrel shaped fish. This fish is soaked in sweet and sour sauce and arranged to look like a squirrel.
Now I’m not a fish person, but the sauce was delicious.
If you’re squeamish look away though… the mouth is huge!
This is one of the top things to do in Suzhou.
Where to eat it: Deyuelou Restaurant:
How to get there:
• Address: 43, Taijian Lane, Guanqian Street, Pingjiang District
• Chinese: 平江区观前街太监弄43号
10 Visit Pingjiang road
This is yet another beautiful water street in Suzhou.
It is near to the Humble Administrator’s garden and the Suzhou museum. These three together would be a great itinerary for a day in Suzhou. This is a must see place in Suzhou.
How to get there: Take a taxi to pingjiang road. Alternatively take metro line 2 to Lindun Road and walk.
Where to eat in Suzhou:
- Deyuelou Restaurant:
- Enjoy local delicacies here: 100 RMB per person
- Address: 43, Taijian Lane, Guanqian Street, Pingjiang District
- Chinese: 平江区观前街太监弄43号
- YangYang Dumplings
- Get your fill of dumplings: 50 RMB per person
- Address: 420 Shiquan Jie
- Chinese: 十全街420号
- Haidilao HotPot
- Try Sichuan hotpot (a swirling vat of oil where you cook your meat and vegetables yourself…. don’t forget to try brain and intestines): 100 RMB per person
- Address: 7th Floor, Xinsutiandi Shopping Center, 219, Guangji South Road, Jinchang District
Money saving tips in Suzhou
Walk between places – the city is on the smaller side for China, many of the attractions are within walking distance of each other
Don’t visit to many of the ‘same’ attractions – e.g. the gardens, water towns are all similar. Simply choose one of each to keep entrance costs to a minimum
Take a daytrip – if you’re short on money and time, Suzhou can be visited in a day from Shanghai. Thereby removing your hotel costs.
How to get to Suzhou
- Sunan Shuofang International Airport – this is the closest airport but flights are limited
- Shanghai airport – It’s easier to fly into Shanghai and take the train to Suzhou from Shanghai in just one hour.
- Suzhou is very well connected by rail. It takes just one hour on the high speed train from to get to Suzhou from Shanghai.
How to get around Suzhou
Taxi/Didi: The easiest way to get around Suzhou is by taxi. Fares start at just 9 RMB. There are also many useful apps for China – but one major one is Didi – China’s version of Uber. Switch your app store to Chinese to download. This allows you to order taxis in English with ease.
Metro: The metro in Suzhou is somewhat limited compared with other cities, but it will still get you from A – B if you don’t mind the occasional walk.
Bus: Suzhou has a good bus system. However, I don’t tend to use these myself, as it can be difficult to navigate if you don’t speak Chinese, and taxis are so cheap.
Walk: my favourite option… unlike many Chinese cities it is doable between most attractions.
When to visit Suzhou
Suzhou’s best weather is in spring or autumn. During these times the weather is mild, and the gardens are at their most beautiful.
While summer can be a lovely time to visit remember temperatures can reach in excess of 30°C. Similarly, in winter, temperatures regularly hit -0°C. Pack many layers if you’re visiting at this time of year – Suzhou’s weather is freezing.
Staying safe in Suzhou
China, in general, is a very safe country. Petty crime is low, and it’s unlikely you’ll be targeted. However, it’s very important to take some normal precautions:
- If you need to leave the main tourist streets at night, consider taking a DiDi at just 10 RMB (£1/$1.4).
- Keep your bag on the front of your body in large crowds.
- If a young lady comes up to you and asks if you’d like to get tea – it normally means have tea for 1000 RMB a pot (£100/$143). They are likely to proposition Western men. A friend fell for this and my dad was offered it on his visit!
Insurance is really essential for any trip abroad. I recommend getting an insurance policy that covers most activities you are likely to do. True Traveller offers good insurance that will cover most pre-existing medical conditions – including mental health conditions.
If you have no pre-existing conditions, you may want to consider World Nomads.
Staying connected is essential in China to use all of the apps you’ll need for it. It’s very easy to pick up a SIM. Find a China Unicom shop near you. Expect to pay 200 RMB (£22/$28) for 20 GB plus minutes and texts.
Please note: Many other Chinese networks will not work in foreign phones. Please find a China Unicom store – otherwise you’re likely to pay and be disappointed.
I hope you enjoyed these 10 things to do in Suzhou, and they help you to plan a great trip there! If you have any questions feel free to contact me.