Located just 60 miles west of Shanghai, travelers will discover vibrant history, grand canals, classical gardens, and authentic culture in the ancient city of Suzhou. Dating back 2,500 years, Suzhou’s stunning water towns and rich cultural life capture the romance of ancient China. Even with its old-world appeal, Suzhou is one of the most developed cities in the country. Modern transportation systems make it easy to incorporate 48 hours in the “Venice of the East” into any trip to China.
- Overnight in Shanghai: Getting to Suzhou is easy with nonstop flights to neighboring Shanghai’s two international airports, Hongqiao International Airport (SHA) and Pudong International Airport (PVG). From the airport, take the Maglev bullet train downtown, which takes just seven minutes, and spend the night exploring the booming city of Shanghai.
- Transfer via bullet train to Suzhou:In the morning, transfer from Shanghai to Suzhou in just 30 minutes via the Maglev bullet train.
- Sightsee at Humble Administrator’s Garden: Dating back to 1509, this famed garden — named a UNESCO World Heritage Site — is the largest in Suzhou and considered one of the greatest examples of quintessential Chinese landscape design. Located in the historic district, walk atop interlacing bridges as they lead to the garden’s romantic water features, famed relics, and preserved pavilions.
- Visit the Suzhou Museum: Adjacent to Humble Administrator’s Garden, the Suzhou Museum appeals to lovers of art, architecture, and culture. Suzhou’s own I.M. Pei, an internationally recognized and award-winning architect, traveled back to his hometown to design and build this popular attraction. Free to visitors, it showcases a vast collection of ancient ceramics, cultural relics and woodcarvings, not to mention the lotus pool at the center.
- Lunch at Tondexing Noodle Restaurant: Often regarded as the favorite noodle restaurant in Suzhou, Tondexing Noodle Restaurant offers a variety of soup bases and toppings. Opt for the white soup with stewed meat – a specialty worth a try.
- Visit the Suzhou Silk Museum: Known as the “Silk Capital of the World,” trace Suzhou’s culture of silk from the Chinese empress Leizu to the latest innovations and runway fashions. Then check out silkworms munching on their staple diet of mulberry leaves, watch silk being spun on old-fashioned looms and learn how to tell genuine silk from counterfeits.
- Rickshaw ride down the historical streets surrounding Pingjiang Road: Set along a canal lined with whitewashed houses, tea houses, local cafes and shops, this area offers a glimpse into the daily life of Suzhou’s past. The road and its surroundings have been around for more than 800 years. Professional rickshaw pullers are familiar with Suzhou’s history, culture and folk customs.
- Dinner and drinks at the W Suzhou: Located on the banks of Suzhou’s Jinji Lake in the city’s modern SIP District, the new W Suzhou opened in September 2017 and features a carefully-curated design inspired by the ancient city. Upscale dining options include Toro Loco, a stylish sanctuary for Spanish cuisine; Su Yan, where Chinese classics are redefined; and The Kitchen Table, an eclectic three-meal buffet-style restaurant. In the lobby, the stylish Woobar is the ideal spot for snacks and sips during the day, and the place to see and be seen after dark.
- Water Fountain Show over Jinji Lake:On Saturday’s at 8pm, Jinji Lake comes to life with color and sound with a dramatic weekly music fountain show. It’s the largest waterscape engineering in East China, combining laser, movie, music, and other elements to transform the surrounding landscape. Tip: Head up to the new rooftop bar at the W Suzhou for a nightcap and captivating view of the show.
- Walk along the Moatring Fitness Trail: Take a stroll along the river to the famous Pan Gate in old Suzhou. The Moatring Fitness Trail guides visitors down a paved path to the only remaining ancient city gate in the city and a classic example of Suzhou architecture. Check out the nearby Wu Gate Bridge and Ruiguang Pagoda, the oldest in Suzhou.
- Visit Lingering Garden:Known for its stunning architecture, Lingering Garden is among the best-preserved in the city and one of the four most famous in China. Once a private garden, visitors can now enjoy nearly nine square miles of magnificent halls, various buildings and lush grounds.
- Lunch at Yáng Yáng Dumpling Restaurant: Housed in an old-style whitewashed building, the Yáng Yáng Dumpling Restaurant specializes in dumplings and classic Chinese favorites such as duck, pork, broccoli and fried rice.
- Visit the new Six Arts Museum: Be one of the first to visit the new Six Arts Museum opening this summer. Located in Lili Ancient Water Village, the museum is devoted to the rescue, preservation, and display of ancient Chinese arts. With more than 30 galleries spread over four floors, guests will discover architectural salvage pieces, stone and wood carvings, antique furniture and furnishings, artistic artifacts, and more. From intriguing Ming and Qing Dynasty signs to an array of traditional Chinese music and performing arts, visitors can also embrace their artistic side with hands-on learning from artisans and masters.
- Dinner at Songhelou Restaurant: Don’t leave Suzhou without tasting the city’s traditional dish, sweet and sour fried squirrel Mandarin fish. The popular Songhelou Restaurant has a history of more than 250 years and a reputation for serving one of the best variations. The festive presentation with reddish-orange sweet and sour sauce, and porcupine-like shape sets just the right tone for a celebratory gathering on the last night in the city.
- Night view on Shantang Street: Following dinner, stroll along Shantang Street. The historical and cultural block in the old city of Suzhou dates back to 825 AD and was once among the most developed commercial and cultural districts in China during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Famous for its old temples, ancestral halls, and memorial arches, it is a window of Wu Culture and must-see scenic spot in Suzhou.
Tip:This is the perfect area for shopping for silk scarves to take home as souvenirs. Many pubs in the street have live music, so stop in for a pint!
- Nightly performance at the Master of the Nets Garden: Considered by many locals to be the most exquisite of Suzhou’s famed gardens, this UNESCO World Heritage Site becomes magical at night when talented locals treat audiences to traditional song and dance performances set among the garden’s gorgeously lit pavilions. Explore this gem to find out why the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC wanted to capture the essence of its classical Chinese garden design when creating The Astor Court.
WHERE TO STAY IN SUZHOU
Stay in the SIP – Suzhou Industrial Park – the epicenter of modern-day Suzhou. The SIP boasts five-star hotels, the iconic Jinji Lake, and China’s largest overwater Ferris wheel. Its impressive buildings house fascinating museums, living attractions, and refined arts that beckon sophisticated travelers.
- W Suzhou: Located on the banks of Suzhou’s Jinji Lake, the new W Suzhou opened just last year. The latest offering for guests is the hotel’s new rooftop bar, which offers sweeping views of the city. The W’s signature “Whatever/Whenever” service is available to assist guests in getting to know the many sides of the destination. Experiences include taking a romantic canal ride at dusk, pondering classic poetry on a private tour of Suzhou’s iconic gardens, or custom designing an ornate silk brocade hand-embroidered by a skilled local artisan.
- InterContinental Suzhou: Situated on the waterfront promenade of Suzhou’s Jinji Lake, InterContinental Suzhou is the perfect place from which to explore arts, shopping, and entertainment centers. The on-site XIU restaurant, meaning “embroidery” in Mandarin, celebrates local and regional Chinese dining, and the interior design is inspired by the timeless symbols of the city, colorful silk and embroidery.