Suzhou is more than 2500 years old, and became a trading hub when China’s Grand Canal was built during the Sui Dynasty. In the 13th century, explorer Marco Polo visited Suzhou and said it was one of China’s most beautiful cities. By the 14th century it was the centre of China’s silk production industry, and actors and artists flocked there to be part of its prosperous lifestyle. For centuries Suzhou had hundreds of gardens, but today only about 50 remain, including nine that have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Things to do
Where better to start than Suzhou’s Classical Gardens? These gardens were designed and built mostly by scholars who had beauty and harmony in mind. Despite being made at different times over a period of about 1000 years, these gardens often have common sights like canals, pagodas, bridges and lotus ponds. Explore within the Lingering Garden, for a rockery built from Ming Dynasty-era stones and soil, the Garden of Cultivation for 13 pavilions, or Couple’s Retreat garden, which has two gardens – one east, one west.
You’ll also find plenty of cultural activities. Suzhou Museum is a massive free museum filled with 15,000 works of ancient Chinese art, including old paintings, relics and books. Visit a local theatre and see an opera performed in Suzhou dialect, then wander streets lit by lanterns at night and drop into one of the city’s many teahouses for a pot of local and delicious tea. When you feel like shopping, take a walk through Shantang Street, a shopping district that runs along Shantang Canal, or visit Yuanrong Times Square, Suzhou’s largest shopping centre.
Suzhou is a pretty silky place, so visit the Suzhou Silk Museum. With its collection of models, pictures and exhibits, it will teach you all about the history of silk in Suzhou and the process of making it. Possibly the strangest sight is the silkworm-rearing room, where live silk worms chow down on mulberry leaves.
Tiger Hill is possibly Suzhou’s most popular tourist destination, a 36- metre hill that looks like a crouching tiger and has walking tracks and huge pagodas. It’s the final resting place of King Helv, Wu ruler from 514-496 B.C.
Book one of our flights to Shanghai and then take a 30-minute bullet train to Suzhou. Whether you’re exploring Suzhou on its own or embarking on a China adventure, book your Suzhou accommodation with us for gardens AND earthly delights.
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