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Home > China Travel Destinations > Suzhou Travel Guide

Suzhou ( 苏州 Sūzhōu )

Suzhou ( 苏州 Sūzhōu ) is a city in Jiangsu province. It is famed for its beautiful gardens and traditional waterside architecture.

Suzhou is situated in the south of Jiangsu Province, bordered with Shanghai in the east, Zhejiang Province in the south , Taihu Lake in the west and the Yangtze River in the north. The Classical Gardens of Suzhou were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997. Suzhou was the capital of the kingdom of Wu from the 12th to 4th centuries BC. More recently, it as been a center of the silk trade and a place of gardens and canals. It has been called both the Venice and the Paris of the East. It's long history has left behind many attractive scenic spots and historical sites with beautiful and interesting legends.

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How to Get to Suzhou

 

Shanghai - Myriad trains leave for Suzhou daily. The cost for a train without air-con is ¥13 for an approximately two-hour ride or ¥28 with air-con for an approximately 40-minute ride.

Hangzhou - There is an international Airport in Hangzhou , which is about 2.5 hours by car from Suzhou . Hangzhou is a great place to visit in itself. Between Hangzhou and Suzhou there is an overnight ferry on the Grand Canal , which departs at 5:30pm and arrives around 7:00am. NOTE: Hangzhou is often cheaper to fly to than Shanghai .

Nanjing also has an international airport and is near Suzhou .

There are riverboats on the Yangtze that stop at Suzhou .

 

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Get around in Suzhou

 

By Tourist bus

Suzhou has a network of five tourist buses that are all in Chinese and take you to the tourist attractions throughout the city. They are marked with the Chinese character plus the route number -- 游 1, 游 2, etc.

By taxi

Taxis, like in most other Chinese cities, are a safe and easy method to travel around a city. If possible try to have your destination written in Chinese on a piece of paper as this will greatly simplify your journey. Always walk past the touts near stations and tourist attractions and get a taxi from the queue.

By Bicycle:

Bicycles are another option as Suzhou is arranged in a grid-like pattern; navigation is quite easy and bikes can be hired from several locations. Go east from the train station to the traffic circle, south on Renmin Rd , across the canal and there are two or more bicycle rental places on the right side. WARNING: One word of warning is that the traffic requires much more respect and attention than in most Western cities.

By Limo:

Limo, as in most other cities it is possible to arrange for a car and driver to pick you up. This will cost about 50% more than a taxi but it is more predictable.

By Pedicabs :

Pedicabs are available on most main streets and always near tourist attractions. Negotiate the price BEFORE you get in and don't allow the driver to change it once you arrive at your destination, for example, saying 15 and demanding 50. This is a slow means of travel but it allows you to actually see the city while you go somewhere. Expect to pay a little more in the summer months since the driver is working hard in the heat to take you there.

Walking:

Walking is possible to walk around the city although many will find the distances between some attractions too large to make walking an option. Ask the conceirge at your hotel to write out the name of your destination(s), as well as how to get back. Make sure to add your own notes so you know what the translation is.

 

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Attractions

 

Landmarks

Temples

  • The North Temple Pagoda
  • The Twin Pagodas
  • The Hanshan Temple
  • The Mysterious Taoist Temple
  • The North Temple Pagoda
  • The Twin Pagodas
  • The Hanshan Temple
  • The Mysterious Taoist Temple
  • Tiger Hill Pagoda and Hill(Yunyan Ta) was built during the Song dynasty from 959 to 961. It is a 48-meter tall brick pagoda with seven stories and eight sides. It is sometimes called the Leaning Tower Pagoda because it leans to the north by 3.5 degrees.

Waterside townships

  • Tong Li
  • Lu Zhi
  • Mudu
  • Zhou Zhuang

 

Parks and scenic sites

Parks

  • The Humble Administrator's Garden  : Tours through the garden start every 5-10 minutes. Included in the tour is a "Chinese marriage", a look at carved tree roots, followed by a boat ride through the garden canals. Do not do the incense burning/fortune telling thing at the end of your guided tour unless you are really curious, or you think your wishes will be granted if you do so, or you simply enjoy being a fleeced tourist.
  • The Garden of the Master of the Nets
  • The Lingering Garden
  • Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty
  • The Lion Grove Garden
  • The Surging Wave Pavilion
  • The Couple's Garden Retreat
  • The Garden of Cultivation
  • The Retreat and Reflection Garden

Hills

  • The East Hill
  • The West Hill
  • The Flat-top Hill
  • The Heavenly Pond Hill
  • The Commander-in-chief Deng's Hill
  • The Delicate Rock Hill

 

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When to Visit

Suzhou has long and humid summer with high temperatures and occasional rain from April to October. In winter, the temperature can drop below freezing. The best time to visit this region is spring and autumn.

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Where to Stay

 

Budget

  • Dongwu Hotel , :Wuyachang, Shiquan St. Tel: +86 512 6519-3681
  • Suzhou Youth Hostel Hosteling International, 178 Xiangwang Lane (Next to Shiquan St and the Dong Wu & 100 Happy Hotels). Tel +86 512 6510-9418 or 6518-8734 -beds from 40-50RMB
  • Suzhou Hostel Tel: +86 512 6518-0266 - beds from 45RMB
  • 100 Happy Hotel Tel: +86 512 6801-7999, 6560-0796 or 6137-7646
  • Hengdeli Hotel offers small but clean rooms at cheap rates. If you call them, they will quote their cheapest room to you as "200 yuan", but if you say you found them on the internet, the price will drop to 160. And although they don't advertise it, they also offer ultra-cheap rooms for ¥128/night. Also unadvertised is the fact that all standard rooms are equipped with (extremely slow, but free) "broadband" access for laptop users. Breakfast is included. Staff are very friendly and speak English well enough to take a telephone reservation or give directions. A short walk from central Suzhou , but still very quiet. A great find and good value in Suzhou . Highly recommended.

 

Mid-range

  • Bamboo Grove - Comfortable rooms, lot's of smokers, I found the dining room too smoke filled to enjoy eating there. Rates are reasonable. The internet connetion is serviceable.
  • Gloria - Nice hotel. Decent restaurant, clean rooms. Close to the center of the city and a short walk to the pedestrian mall area. Good internet connections, cost was reasonable.

 

Splurge

  • Sheraton - Nice western style hotel, pool, gym, good restaurant, but somewhat expensive. The tap water is filtered and drinkable. Good internet connections. There is a large and very nice garden right behind the Sheraton which is nice to visit.
  • Holiday Inn - New Western-style hotel with excellent amentities in-room that rival nearly any rooms in the United States (of any price). While somewhat out of the way of nightlife, the Holiday Inn would probably suit business travellers well. Free internet in-room, as of Aug 2006.

 

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