Top 10 Attractions
With more than 400 attractions to choose from, planning your perfect Suzhou itinerary may leave you not knowing where to start. Ranging from breathtaking gardens and sacred pagodas to romantic water towns and world-class museums, this list will make building your ultimate Suzhou itinerary easy.
Humble Administrator’s Garden
Dating back to 1509, this famed garden — dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site and counted among China’s famous classical gardens — is the largest in Suzhou and is considered one of the greatest examples of quintessential Chinese landscape design. Walk atop interlacing bridges as they lead you to the garden’s romantic water features, famed relics and preserved pavilions. Savor tea at the garden’s teahouse and be sure to stop by the museum for more history.
Location: Gusu District — 178 Dongbei Street, Suzhou
Hours: 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (Mar. 1–Nov. 15) / 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Nov. 16–Feb. 29)
Admission: ¥70 (Jan.–Mar., June, Nov.–Dec.) / ¥90 (Apr.–May, July–Oct.)
Built in 1593 and famous for its stunning architecture, Lingering Garden is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and spans an area of almost nine square miles (23.31 sq km). Separated into four distinct themed sections — East, West, Central and North — each area serves a unique purpose and can be explored by way of a connecting corridor bedecked in ancient inlaid calligraphy.
Location: Gusu District — 338 Liuyuan Road, Suzhou
Hours: 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission: ¥45 (Jan.–March, June, Nov.–Dec.) / ¥55 (April–May, July–Oct.)
Master of the Nets Garden
It may be the smallest of Suzhou’s Classical Gardens, but Master of the Nets Garden packs a grand punch. This 12th century gem (later refurbished in the 18th century) and UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts an impressive garden and nightly Kunqu opera performances, but it’s best known for its architectural splendor. An elaborate labyrinth of rooms leads to windows and gateways that perfectly frame the courtyards and gardens beyond, creating the illusion of a space that appears much larger than it actually is. If it looks familiar, it’s because it is — Ming Hall Garden at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is modeled after Master of the Nets Garden.
Location: Gusu District — No 1, Kuo JIa Tou Lane, Suzhou
Hours: 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (Apr. 16–Oct. 30) / 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Oct. 31–Apr. 15) / 7:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. (Mid-Mar.–Mid-Nov.)
Admission: ¥30 (Jan.–Mar., June, Nov.–Dec.) / ¥40 (Apr.–May, July–Oct.) / ¥100 night tour (Mid-Mar.–Mid-Nov.).
Lion Grove Garden
Renowned for its multi-story rock maze that rises nearly 23 feet (7 m) into the air, it’s also one of nine Suzhou gardens that bear UNESCO World Heritage Site prestige. Stare in awe at the garden’s famed manmade mountains, comprised of deep caves and whimsical rock formations made from limestone found in nearby Taihu Lake. Observe the garden’s dazzling architecture and learn about each pavilion’s backstory. Don’t miss the majestic waterfall and ancient trees that also dot the grounds.
Location: Gusu District — 23 Yuanlin Road, Suzhou
Hours: 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (March 1 to October 15) / 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. (October 16 - End of February)
Admission: ¥30 (Oct. 31–Apr. 15) / ¥40 (Apr. 16–Oct .30)
According to legend, in 496 B.C., three days after the King of Wu buried his father atop this hill, a white tiger appeared and guarded the tomb. Drenched in history and folklore, the ancient poet Su Dongpo about this popular attraction, “to visit Suzhou and not see Tiger Hill would lead to a lifetime of regret.” Upon approach, it’s hard to miss the cultural symbol of Suzhou, the Yunyan Pagoda (also called Huqiu Tower) — the park’s soaring, thousand-year-old pagoda famous for its menacing lean. After you’re done looking up, turn your eyes down towards to the Sword Pool, believed to be the king’s final resting place… for his swords. It only takes one visit to Tiger Hill to realize what Su Dongpo was talking about.
Location: Gusu District — 585 Huqiu Hill, Suzhou
Hours: 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Admission: ¥60 (January - March, June, November - December) / ¥80 (April, May, July - October)
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a trip to quintessential Suzhou countryside — its water towns. Living up to the nickname “Venice of the East,” Suzhou’s water towns are some of the oldest and most charming in the world. Zhouzhuang, located in Kunshan City along the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and Taihu Lake, is as enchanting as a fairytale. From its impeccably preserved residential architecture and stone bridges to its winding canals and colored traditions, Zhouzhuang does not disappoint.
Location: Kunshan City, Suzhou
Hours: 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Admission: ¥100 (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.) / ¥80 (4 – 9 p.m.)
Another top draw destination is the ancient water town of Tongli. Located in the Wujiang District along Taihu Lake, this thousand-year-old town boasts sacred bridges — the most famous being Taiping (peace), Jili (luck) and Changing (celebration) — plus hundreds of gardens, temples and mansions. Whether you’re visiting Zhouzhuang or Tongli (or both), the best way to experience Suzhou’s water towns is by way of a seafaring gondola.
Location: Wujiang District — No. 1 South Zhongshan Road, Suzhou
Hours: 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Admission: ¥100 (day) / ¥50 (evening)
One of the ten great temples in China, Hanshan Temple’s current structure dates back to the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), but its original architecture can be traced as far back as the Southern dynasty (502–557). With more than 1,500 years of history under its roof, Hanshan Temple — or Cold Mountain Temple as it translates — is an absolute must-see on the tourism circuit. Originally made famous by the poem “Mooring for the Night at Fengqiao Bridge,” the Buddhist monastery’s 108-bell-ringing ceremony has become an annual New Year’s Eve tradition for locals and visitors alike. If you happen to visit on a non-holiday, make your way to the top — the pagoda offers some of the best views of the city.
Location: Gusu District — No. 24, Hanshan Temple Alley, Fengqiao, Suzhou
Hours: 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
What better way to absorb more than 2,500 years of history than with a visit to one of Suzhou’s fascinating museums. Due in part to Suzhou’s pristine preservation of its culture and heritage, Suzhou’s museums are both enriching and abundant. A longstanding history of silk production remains an integral thread in Suzhou’s cultural fabric. Guests of the Suzhou Silk Museum can experience the silk lifecycle by watching the artisans hard at work, beginning with harvesting the silk (from silkworm to cocoons), before moving on to preparing the silk and finally spinning the thread.
Location: Gusu District — No. 2001, Renmin Road, Suzhou
Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Built in 2006 by famed local architect I.M. Pei, the Suzhou Museum is the city’s largest museum, showcasing a vast majority of the area’s breathtaking culture. Satisfying art and architecture buffs alike, the Suzhou Museum’s design was inspired by the region’s Classical Gardens with water and bamboo elements sprinkled throughout. Its galleries host a collection of more than 15,000 pieces, from ancient paintings and ornate calligraphy to porcelain crafts and unearthed relics.
Location: Gusu District — No. 204 Dongbei Street, Suzhou
Hours: 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. (closed Mondays)
Admission: Free (¥100 for a docent-led tour in English or ¥30 for an audio tour)
Sightseeing Along Suzhou’s Historic Streets
Set out on foot (or bike) to discover Suzhou’s storied landmarks and hidden gems. For a trip back in time, head to Shantang Street, famous for its old temples, ancestral halls and memorial arches. For an even richer blast to the past, stroll along Shiquan Street to discover architecture from the Ming and Qing dynastiesy, as well as the popular Nanlin Restaurant and Hotel and the commanding Master of the Nets Garden. Sample dumplings and confections on Guanqian Street, or enjoy Suzhou’s most delicious export at a local teahouse along Pingjiang Street. Along the way, be sure to admire the narrow canal, stone bridges and charming, whitewashed homes. Modern shoppers rejoice — Jinchang District’s Shilu Shopping Street provides a bevy of retail and department store goodies, and the shops even stay open until 10 p.m. Whether you’re exploring the city’s deep-rooted history or you’re in need of a major shopping fix, Suzhou’s streets are the place to go.
Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP)
Suzhou Industrial Park — or SIP — is the epicenter of modern-day Suzhou. Boasting hundreds of contemporary hotels, shops and restaurants, SIP is also home to several modern marvels, including Jinji Lake, the largest inland city lake in China, the Suzhou International Expo Center, two manmade islands (Peach Blossom Island and Exquisite Island), the largest Ferris wheel in Asia and a musical fountain and water curtain that doubles as a movie screen — the largest waterscape engineering feat in eastern China. If you happen to be in town on Friday or Saturday, don’t miss the 30-minute-long show that begins at 8 p.m.
One of the best ways to tour the "Venice of the East" is from a front row seat on a hand-steered canal boat. Afterwards, stop into 130-year-old Pin Von Teahouse for exotic teas served in private booths on the second floor. It overlooks Pingjiang Lu, an 800-year-old lively pedestrian street, one of China's "National Historic and Cultural Streets." next tip>