Suzhou is a bustling commercial city that has still managed to retain some of its Renaissance charm with stunning gardens, interlocking canals and antique houses that appear to melt into the water. Only a 40-minute, 26 RMB, train ride from Shanghai, there’s little excuse not to visit this ‘Venice of the East.’
Suzhou is surrounded by the large rectangular canal and smaller channels dissect the city with gardens and pagodas dotted in between. Though compact, there’s a lot to explore. Visitors can easily spend two to three days just in the gardens. But also make sure to leave time to bicycle beside some of the city’s beautiful canals.
Of the many gardens that are scattered about Suzhou, the most notable are the tiny, yet labyrinthine, Garden of the Master of the Nets (网师园 Wǎngshī Yuán), and the wild and unkempt Blue Wave Pavillion (沧浪亭 Cānglàng Tíng). Visit both of them in the same day; conveniently, they’re within walking distance of each other.
Just inside the old city walls, in the southwest corner, is the Coiled Gate Scenic Area (盘门景区 Pánmén jǐngqū). Visit this huge and expansive garden, complete with large ponds, pavilions and Ruiguang Pagoda (瑞光寺塔 Ruìguāng sìtǎ). Climbing the Pagoda gives a refreshing view of the city’s old-style roof tops and distant temples. Alternatively, North Temple Pagoda (北寺塔 Běi sìtǎ), which towers over northern Suzhou, allows sweeping—albeit hazy—views of the newer parts of the city.?A visit to what was once the silk capital of China dictates that you visit Suzhou’s Silk Museum (苏州丝绸博物馆 Sūzhōu sīchóu bówùguǎn), which is close to the North Temple Pagoda. The museum offers a chance to see silk worms in action, munching away on mulberry leaves, and also houses a collection of exhibits that detail the city’s 4000-year-old silk industry.
Suzhou is also famous for its delicious food. Local dishes tend to have a sweet, yet light and delicate, flavour. Freshwater crabs from Lake Tai are the city’s speciality, along with songshu guiyu (松鼠桂鱼 Sōngshǔ guìyú, delicately battered fish meat covered in pine nuts and a -sweet and sour sauce) and xigua ji (西瓜鸡 Xīguājī, chicken wrapped in watermelon rind and steamed).
Read about a Water Town Wedding here!