Free Things to Do in Suzhou
Suzhou, in eastern China’s Jiangsu Province, is famous for its delicate gardens. It represents the garden art in China. Every year, it attracts lots of visitors from all over the world. The gardens charge different entrance fees; however, if you want to explore more of the city and save money, listed below are some free things to do in Suzhou.
It is a local historical and art museum located in the former residence of Li Xiucheng, a leader of the Taiping Rebellion (1851-1864 ) which was a massive civil war from 1850 to 1864 against the rule of the Qing Government. It is next to the famous Humble Administrator's Garden.
The design of the museum is as spectacular as the artifacts inside it. The new part of the museum was designed by the famous Chinese-American architect, Ieoh Ming Pei . It keeps the essence of the traditional style of Suzhou, and is improved with the modern Western idea of simplicity. The perfect combination of bridges, plants, water and fish have made it an elegant modern classic.
There are over 15, 000 works of ancient calligraphy, painting, porcelain, craftsmanship and unearthed works. The porcelain bowls, the brush holders, antique Chinese gowns and other small artifacts are very lovingly restored.
Opening times: 09:00-17:00 (tickets are available before 16:00) from Tuesdays to Sundays. It is closed on Mondays, excluding the legal holidays.
Recommended time for a visit: 2 hours
Transportation: Bus 50, 55, 178, 202, 262, 309, 518, 529, 811 or 923 can take you there.
It is the largest inner city lake in China, bigger than West Lake in Hangzhou. Jinji Lake is a spur of the vast Taihu Lake. Jinji means "golden chicken" in Chinese. It is said that a golden chicken flew into the lake which is how it got its name.
It is located in Suzhou Industrial Park, covering an area of 11.5 kilometers squared, of which 7.4 kilometers squared is water.
There are 5 areas: the cultural exhibition area, the fashionable shopping area, the leisure gourmet area, the city view area, and the central water view area. The design makes it a “new paradise" in Suzhou.
Every side has bike lanes and walkways, interesting sculptures and things to do. There are small food places, toy stalls, markets, relaxing areas, bikes and carts for hire, and Suzhou Amusement Park on the side. It has a laser light show every weekend and cruises are available which go out to the central island and temples. The fountain in Xintiandi Shopping Square on the riverside is beautiful and worth seeing.
Location: in Suzhou Industrial Park.
Transportation: Bus 142, 218, 812, 146, 178, 100 or 228 can take you there.
Shantang Street — an Ancient Commercial Street
Shantang Street is regarded as the ‘First Street’ of Suzhou. It is a traditional Chinese style street with over 1,100 years of history. At 3.5 kilometers long, there are lots of traditional Chinese architectures along the riverside. Lots of celebrities once lived there.
It divides into two sections. The east section is mainly comprised of shops and residences. Most of the shops sell toys, handicrafts, apparels and souvenirs. The west part is adjacent to the suburbs; it is quiet and lovely. The description of the famous Chinese novel A Dream of Red Mansions begins from Shantang Street.
It's a good place to stroll around, especially in the evening, when the lanterns will come alive and add an extra charisma to the place. There are lots of Suzhou snacks for you to taste, such as pan-fried steamed buns, glutinous rice dumplings in sweet rice wine, duck blood and vermicelli soup, and Suzhou style bisk wontons.
If you want to be quiet, you can go along the river to see the local people washing clothes in front of their houses, or you can watch newlyweds taking pictures there. If you don’t want to walk around, the bars will always welcome you into them.
Note: The street area free. There are seven historical sites which altogether charge CNY 45 per person. A boat trip is CNY 25 per person and a hand cradle boat is CNY 100 per person.
Opening times: 08:30-17:00; tickets are available before 16:30.
Location: Jinchang District, Suzhou
Transportation: Bus 5, 6, 7, 46, 70 or 91 can take you there.
Suzhou Folk Customs Museum
Suzhou is a typical historical and cultural city in China. With a long history, the people there created a brilliant culture and civilization, as well as interesting customs.
The Suzhou Museum of Folk Customs is located in the east of Lion Forest Grove Garden — one of the well noted gardens of Suzhou — and covers an area of about 500 meters squared. The building is in the Qing Dynasty style.
There are five exhibition halls: the Marriage Custom Hall, the New Births Custom Hall, the Holiday Custom Hall, the Birthday Custom Hall and the Suzhou Fold Music Hall. There are over 2,000 works altogether; 500 for exhibiting. The marriage customs keep the late Qing Dynasty style, in the model of the Han nationality in South China. You will find it very interesting.
Location: 30 Panru Lane, next to the Lion Forest Grove Garden 潘儒巷30号, 狮子林旁
Opening times: 08:00-16:30
Transportation: Bus 1, 2 or 301 can take you there.
Pingjiang Road — an Ancient Pedestrian Road
It is a street that was built along the Pingjiang River 800 year ago. It is 1,606 meters long, located in the north-east of Suzhou Ancient Town, next to the Humble Administrator's Garden and Suzhou Museum.
In the Song and Yuan Dynasties, Suzhou was also called Pingjiang, and so the road was named.
Compared to Shantang Street, it is much quieter and more rustic. Besides, it is full of an artistic atmosphere, with many interesting shops and cafés along the way; it is a bit like Tianzifang in Shanghai.
The best time to go there is in the evening. You can just stroll around or sit in a café or teahouse, enjoying the beautiful water town. The snacks there are tasty.
Location: in the north-east of Suzhou Ancient Town, next to the Humble Administrator's Garden and Suzhou Museum.
Transportation: Bus 1, 2, 5, 202, 313, 529, 40 or 78 can take you there.
How to plan a Suzhou tour
Visitors usually spend 1-2 days in Suzhou for the beautiful gardens such as the Humble Administrator's Garden and the Lingering Garden, as well as Tiger Hill and the Grand Canal, together with a water town visit. If you have 4-5 days, you can extend your tour to the nearby cities of Hangzhou or Shanghai. With 6-7 days you can cover all three of the cities. Let's customize a Suzhou tour for you, or see our Suzhou Tours.
I updated this article on February 13, 2014
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