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Suzhou Travel Guide

Suzhou is renowned for its classic gardens, traditional waterside architecture, traditional operas, and silk.

Suzhou (/soo-joh/) was a prosperous ancient state capital, built in 514 BC by He Lv (/her lyoo/), the King of Wu State. It grew in favor with China's dynasties — a summer retreat of emperors, and a well-placed trade center.

An old Chinese proverb praising the beauty and prosperity of Suzhou says, "In heaven there is paradise, on earth there are Hangzhou and Suzhou."

Where Suzhou Is

The beautifully-landscaped city of Suzhou is in the center of the Yangtze Delta region, approximately 100 km (60 miles) west of Shanghai. These two cities are well-connected by high-speed train. It takes an hour or less to travel from Shanghai to Suzhou.

144-Hour Visa-Free Travel

Since January 30, 2016, a policy has been active allowing citizens from 51 countries to visit Suzhou without applying for a visa before their trip.

According to the policy, for 6 days eligible passengers can travel within Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang provincial areas. Suzhou is the most popular tourist city in Jiangsu. It can be easily included in a Shanghai tour.

Net Master's GardenNet Master's Garden

Learn more about the 144-hour visa-free policy.

The Highlights of Suzhou

Classic Gardens

As the saying goes, "Gardens in the ‘Yangtze South’ area are the best in the world, and Suzhou gardens are the best among them." Suzhou's classical gardens have an international reputation.

The classic gardens flourished in the mid-Ming to early-Qing dynasties (1500–1700). Most gardens are private ones built by aristocrats, scholars, and rich businessmen.

Today, more than 60 classic gardens remain in the city, nine of which have been listed as World Heritage, including the Humble Administrator's Garden, Lingering Garden, and Net Master's Garden.

Water Towns

water town Zhouzhuang Water Town

With the Yangtze River flowing through the city's north boundary, and the Grand Canal running down from north to south, Suzhou is rich in canals, and is called "the World's Oriental Venice".

The top water towns of Suzhou are Zhouzhuang, Luzhi, Tongli, Shaxi, Qiandeng, and Jinxi. Of these Zhouzhuang is honored as the number one water town in China, but it is the most commercialized. Tongli is a quiet water town and is less crowded. See the top 8 ancient towns near Shanghai.

The water towns of Suzhou are crisscrossed by canals, rivers, and bridges. Old buildings and streets are built along the waterways. Many of them are still preserved well, reflecting old China. You can walk along lanes and bridges, or take a boat to appreciate ancient architecture and the beautiful canal scenery.

Kun Opera

kunqu Kun Opera

Suzhou is the hometown of Kun Opera (or Kunqu /kwnn-chyoo/), one of the oldest forms of Chinese opera. It was listed as one of the Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2001. It perfectly blends dramatic literature, soulful singing, and elegant dancing.

The best place to watch a Kun Opera performance and learn about Kun Opera is Suzhou Opera Museum.

The Best Times to Visit Suzhou

The best times to visit Suzhou are March–May and September–November when the weather is pleasant.

You’d better visit on a weekday as it will be less crowed than on a weekend. Less than an hour away by high-speed train, Suzhou has become a weekend hangout for Shanghai folk, and the streets can be crowded.

Try to avoid Chinese public holidays, such as Labor Day (May 1 to 7) and National Day (October 1 to 7).

Our Most Popular Suzhou Tours

Humble Administrator‘s GardenHumble Administrator‘s Garden

For a first time trip to China you may not want to go to Suzhou, as there are more popular places to go, like Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, and Guilin. Suzhou is a good second trip destination to deepen your understanding and appreciation of Chinese culture.

With the 144-hour visa-free transit policy, Suzhou can be conveniently added into your itinerary when you transit through Shanghai or Nanjing. We have specially designed some tours to take advantage of your visa-free stay.

See more of our Suzhou tours. Our tours are extremely flexible and can be tailor-made based on your requirements.