City Guide: Suzhou
Suzhou is a major metropolis close to Shanghai. The city is known for its many fascinating gardens, but has much more to offer than just that. In this extensive city guide, we’ll explain what you need to know about visiting Suzhou!
China is an incredibly diverse country and depending on what city you are visiting, you can get a very different impression of the company. While most cities, including the most important business cities like Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou, have some kind of history and culture, only few are really focused on tourism. Suzhou on the other hand, while an important business city as well, is particularly known as a tourism destination, a little like Kunming or Guilin. In this article, I’ll explain what you should definitely see when visiting Suzhou, which will give you a good idea on why visiting Suzhou is worth it!
Visiting the famous gardens in Suzhou
The major tourism attraction in Suzhou are the many famous gardens. The Humble’s Administrator’s Garden might be the most famous of all, it’s even part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
While it sure is a really beautiful garden, which also offers some beautiful lakes, it’s often also the most crowded of all the gardens in Suzhou, which takes a bit away of the atmosphere.
Not far away from this garden, you can find the Master of Nets Garden, which often is a bit less crowded, but also definitely worth visiting.
The focus is less about the garden per se, but more about the rock and water scenery, which is quite special, in my opinion.
Another highlight is the Lingering Garden, which is located a bit further out the city center. It’s much calmer and comes with a really nice atmosphere.
I also very much enjoyed the Lion Forest Garden with its many pagodas.
Last but not least, I also visited the Couple Retreats Garden, which is nice enough, but not as special as the other gardens.
In general, I’d say that it depends on how much time you have, to judge how many gardens you should visit. In each respective one you can spend between 30 minutes and several hours, depending on how interested you are in the details and indulging into the scenery.
Enjoying the historic city center & Pingjiang River
When you are visiting the gardens in the city center, you may also walk around there a little. While there are also the usual busy streets of China’s metropolises, there is also a pedestrian zone along Pingjiang River.
This area is quite nice as you can go for a nice walk in a relaxed atmosphere here. You may even take a little boat to ride along the river.
It’s all a bit overdone touristy, but it’s still quite charming with several smaller shops and food vendors.
Other than that, the city center per se doesn’t have all that much to offer, but there are some attractions nearby. For example, in the south of the city center, you can find the Yongzuo Pagode, which is worth paying a brief visit.
Stretching alongside the river, on the eastern side of the city center, you can also find remaining (or rather a rebuild) of the historic city wall.
It feels really fake, but it’s still nice enough to walk by the water for a bit.
To the west of the city center, you’ll be able to find another touristic hotspot, which is Tonggui Bridge.
This area feels very busy and feels much more real than the actual city center. In case you want to get a sense of historic Suzhou, this is the place to go!
Generally speaking though, the city center with its many attractions and gardens is quite spread out, but definitely worth visiting. Be aware of the distances though as you definitely need two or maybe even three days to visit all the important sights in the city center.
Exploring the massive Yunyan Temple
Another scenic area, which is quite interesting for visiting is the Yunyan Temple and the large park around it. You’ll need a ticket to visit, but it’s worth it.
The temple consists of several buildings, which are located in a widespread park with dozens of nice walkways, where you can relax and enjoy the peace.
The main sight though is a large pagoda, located in the middle of the temple, which you can also see from a far distance.
However, I also enjoyed the nice bridges over the different waterways in the park.
While the Yunyan Temple in Suzhou might not be a must-visit, I enjoyed paying it a visit and thus would recommend doing though if you have the time.
Jinji Lake Suzhou & the modern city center
As I’ve mentioned earlier, Suzhou is not only a very historic and touristy city, but it’s also a modern business hub. This leads to the city having a second center close to Jinji Lake.
It’s quite some kilometers away from the old city and located right by a nice lake with lots of promenades and even some ferries to a little island.
The area mainly consists of skyscrapers and modern shopping malls, but this area is also the new cultural hub with an opera house or a culture and arts center, for example.
There’s also what is referred to as the ‘Times Square’ – not exactly comparable to New York.
Overall impressions of visiting Suzhou
Suzhou is one of the most famous tourist cities in China and that’s for a reason. There are not many cities in the country, which have so many sights. Yet, what makes Suzhou particularly nice in my opinion is that it really feels like the Garden City: There are so many nice green patches throughout the city center that you can forget about the hustle around you and just relax for a bit. This makes Suzhou a great place to visit, particularly in combination with crazy Shanghai!
Do you have any questions about Suzhou? Feel free to ask or share your impressions in the comments!