Sightseeing in Suzhou
Chinese Gardens in Suzhou
Suzhou’s classical gardens are what the city is famed for. The Humble Administrator’s Garden is the most famous, while the Lion Forest Garden, Master of Nets Garden and Lingering Garden make up the rest of what is considered to be the Top Four. Meanwhile, the Canglang Pavilion is Suzhou’s oldest garden. In 1997, nine of Suzhou’s classical gardens (including the five listed below) were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Each garden has its own beauty and it is indeed very difficult to rate one over another. Probably it’s best to choose two or maybe three – otherwise you run the risk of Chinese garden overload. If you’re in a hurry, then a good double is the Humble Administrator’s Garden and the Lion Forest Garden as they are very different from each other and only 7 minutes walk apart.
The Humble Administrator’s Garden (拙政园)
The Humble Administrator’s Garden is the largest and most famous of Suzhou’s classical gardens. Dating from 1509 (Ming Dynasty), it was originally the work of a retired administrator… (Read More…)
Admission: ¥70 peak season; ¥50 low season. Open: 7:30-17:30.
Directions: 178 Dongbei Jie – in the north-east corner of the Old Town.
Lion Forest Garden (狮子林)
The Lion Forest Garden differentiates itself from its brethren by being dominated by rocks. It’s quite a small garden, but the maze of walkways will be sure to have you walking in circles for some time… (Read More…)
Admission: ¥30 peak season; ¥20 low season. Open: 7:30-17:30.
Directions: 23 Yuanlin Lu – south of the Humble Administrator’s Garden.
Master of Nets Garden (网师园)
Although at 5400sq meters it is much smaller than Suzhou’s other gardens, the Master of Nets Garden is regarded as one of the city’s most impressive… (Read More…)
Admission: ¥30 peak season; ¥20 low season. Open: 7:30-17:30.
Address: 11 Kuojiatou Lane – in the south of Suzhou’s old town.
Lingering Garden (留园)
At just over 2.3 hectares, the Lingering Garden is one of Suzhou’s largest and is considered exquisite for its melding of buildings within the garden landscape… (Read More…)
Admission: ¥40 peak season; ¥30 low season. Open: 7:30-17:30.
Address: 338 Liuyuan Lu – west of the City Walls.
Canglang Pavilion (Surging Wave Pavilion) (沧浪亭)
Although not regarded as one of the top four gardens of Suzhou, the Surging Wave Pavilion is reputed for its unique features and is the oldest garden remaining in the city… (Read More…)
Admission: ¥20 peak season; ¥15 low season. Open: 7:30-17:30.
Address: 3 Canglangting Jie – east off Renmin Lu, south of Shiquan Jie.
Other Tourist Attractions in Suzhou
Tiger Hill (虎丘)
Famous Chinese poet Su Dongpu has been guilting people into visiting Tiger Hill for hundreds of years with his much quoted line, “It would be a pity if you had been to Suzhou but didn’t get to visit Tiger Hill.”… (Read More…)
Admission: ¥60 peak season; ¥40 low season. Open: 7:30-18.
Directions: Take tourist buses Y1 or Y2 from the train station or north pagoda.
Panmen Scenic Area (City Walls) (盘门)
As a general rule, you should be cautious of places in China calling themselves ‘scenic areas’. Usually it means that one interesting attraction has been bundled together with many dull ‘attractions’. This is the case here… (Read More…)
Admission: ¥25. Open: 7:30-18.
Directions: In the south-west corner of the Old Town.
Twin Pagodas (双塔)
This isn’t exactly a major sight of Suzhou, but it’s a very pleasant place if you get a chance to drop by. The two pretty pagodas stand 33.3m and 33.7m tall and were first built in 982 AD… (Read More…)
Admission: ¥8. Open: 8-16:30.
Address: 22 Dinghuishi Lane – east off Fenghuang Jie.
North Temple Pagoda (北寺塔)
Yet another pagoda to climb. This one is the tallest in Suzhou, not to mention the tallest south of the Yangtze River, at a height of 76m. The temple complex dates back 1700 years… (Read More…)
Admission: ¥25. Open: 7:45-17:30.
Address: 1918 Renmin Lu – at the intersection with Xibei Jie.
Suzhou Walking streets
Known as the “Venice of the East” with canals lining many of the streets of Suzhou’s Old Town, this is a very pleasant city to walk around (in spite of the inevitable traffic and scooters). Be sure to spend some time wandering down backstreets. The historical Shantang Jie and the picturesque Pingjiang Lu are two particularly lovely streets to stroll down, while Guangqian Jie is a pedestrian shopping mall with a temple in its center.
Shantang Jie (山塘街)
This 3.6km canal-lined street stretches all the way from Chang Gate (west City Wall) to Tiger Hill. It was constructed in 825AD (Tang Dynasty), under the supervision of poet and Governor of Suzhou, Bai Juyi… (Read More…)
Directions: Shantang Jie starts just across the moat from Chang Gate (Changmen) at the west city wall.
Pingjiang Lu (平江路)
A quiet, canal-lined street not far from the heart of the Old Town, Pingjiang Lu is another great alley to wander down. There’s quite a bit of development going on here – it seems it might be turned into an art district of sorts… (Read More…)
Directions: The prettiest section of Pingjiang Lu runs from Baita Dong Lu in the north to Ganjiang Dong Lu in the south. It is one block east of Lindun Lu.
Guangqian Jie (觀前街)
This pedestrian street isn’t really anything special – just a stretch of shopping centers, with a few restaurants, fast food outlets and so on. But it does boast a Taoist Temple in its center and is a lively place… (Read More…)
Directions: Guangqian Jie runs from Renmin Lu in the west to Lindun Lu in the east (a couple of blocks north of, and parallel to, Ganjiang Lu).
Suzhou has a few prominent temples. None are particularly fascinating places, but the Hanshan Temple is quite famous in China so is worth visiting if you’re a temple aficionado. Otherwise, there isn’t a whole lot of point in seeking them out.
Xuanmiao Taoist Temple (Temple of Mystery) (玄妙观)
Taoist temples aren’t exactly abundant in China, at least compared to the Buddhist variety, so the Xuanmiao Temple might be of interest to some, even though it’s not the finest example in China… (Read More…)
Admission: ¥10. Open: 7:30-16:45.
Directions: Xianmiao Taoist Temple stands in the center of Guangqian Jie.
Confucius Temple (Da Cheng Men) (大成门)
There isn’t a lot of information about this temple devoted to the great Chinese philosopher, though it is thought to be one of the oldest continuously-standing structures in Suzhou… (Read More…)
Admission: Free. Open: 8:30-16:30.
Address: 613 Renmin Lu – about 300m north of the intersection with Xinshi Lu.
Hanshan Temple (Cold Mountain Temple) (寒山寺)
This isn’t one of the most impressive Buddhist temples you will see in China, but it is considered an important one due to its famous namesake, a monk and poet who served as Abbott here in the Tang Dynasty… (Read More…)
Admission: ¥20. Open: 7-17:30.
Address: 24 Hanshansi Lane – at the end of Fengqiao Lu.
Around Suzhou – Canal Towns
There are numerous canal towns around Suzhou and visiting one of them is a must. Options include Zhouzhuang, Mudu, Shaxi and Luzhi, among others. Located only 17km from Suzhou’s center, Tongli (see below) is probably the most accessible option and is a beautiful town to visit. Luzhi is not quite as stunning but is less crowded and more peaceful.
All that really needs to be known about Tongli is that it has a history of more than one thousand years and canals form the major arteries of the township. There are various buildings and halls scattered throughout the town… (Read More…)
Admission: ¥80. Open: 7:30-17:15.
Directions: Buses leave for Tongli regularly from the North Bus Station. Otherwise, you can take a taxi.
Luzhi Water Town (甪直镇)
It’s not as visually striking as Tongli, but Luzhi Water Town is not as overrun by tourist hordes and therefore makes for a more peaceful canal town visit. Located about 25km south-east of Suzhou… (Read More…)
Admission: ¥80. Open: 8:00-17:00.
Directions: Bus #58 from the South Bus Station goes to Luzhi, or a taxi will cost ¥80-90.