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Shanghai is a large city with the top economic aggregate and population size in China, and Suzhou is a cultural city with traditional gardens, ancient buildings, and water towns. The two cities look very different but they are only 100 kilometers apart.
If you want to experience both modern and traditional China but only have limited time, a Shanghai and Suzhou tour is recommended. Read on to see how to travel between Shanghai and Suzhou, the top things to do in Suzhou, and a day trip plan.
The fastest way to travel between the two cities is to take a bullet train or high-speed train.
There are over 190 bullet or high-speed trains departing from Shanghai Railway Station or Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station and arriving at Suzhou Railway Station or Suzhou North Railway Station every day. The travel time is about 30 minutes (high-speed train) to 50 minutes (bullet train) and it costs from 40 yuan (second-class seat) to 60 yuan (first-class seat).
Read more about Shanghai to Suzhou trains.
If you’d like to take the train, you are recommended to use the trains running to Suzhou Railway Station because the station is very close to some main attractions. Don’t worry if you arrive at Suzhou North Railway Station - simply take Metro Line 2 to Suzhou Railway Station.
Although there are plenty of trains, you are still recommended to book your ticket earlier, especially during a peak season or rush hour.
If you are traveling with us, you can enjoy a private transfer service from anywhere in Shanghai to Suzhou and you will visit Suzhou with a guide who speaks your language. The journey will take about 1½ hours.
You may be able to enjoy a visa-free policy of up to 6 days for your stay in Shanghai and Suzhou. Check the 144-hour visa-free policy to see if you are eligible to enjoy it, as well as the detailed conditions.
The best way to get to know the city of Shanghai is to discover the Bund. The visit will take you back to the 1920s and you will experience the history behind Shanghai’s golden age.
Shanghai has some of the tallest skyscrapers and one of the best skylines in the world. Some landmarks, such as the Shanghai Tower, offer brilliant bird’s-eye views of the city.
Shanghai and Suzhou preserve dozens of traditional gardens. If you like traditional Chinese architecture and horticulture, or just like to go on relaxing walks, visiting a garden is a good choice.
In the gardens, you can admire the harmonious combination of ponds, streams, artificial hills, and exquisite pavilions. The pastoral sceneries also offer some relaxing strolls and places to take photos.
Want some authentic traditional experiences in Suzhou? Then enjoy a rickshaw ride alongside some ancient canals. You will pass through stone paved lanes and see the aged city gates, houses, bridges, and food markets.
The water towns in Suzhou provide a chance for you to experience the locals’ waterside lifestyles. You can walk around Tongli to explore the deep alleys, serene lanes, and traditional waterside architectures. While you’re there, sip some tea in a riverside teahouse.
Shanghai and Suzhou dishes are based on refreshing and sweet flavors, and the chefs have some of the best ideas for making buns and fish dishes. The most iconic dish is mandarin fish: cut the fish into a pine cone shape, deep fry it, and then top it with sweet and sour sauce.
Two days are enough to visit both cities. Here is a 2-day trip plan to experience the highlights of Shanghai and Suzhou.
If you only have one day, enjoying a Shanghai day trip or a Suzhou day trip is also a good choice.
Morning: Visit the Bund
The Bund is a mile-long promenade alongside the Huangpu River. There are 52 historical buildings in various styles, such as Baroque and Gothic. Taking a walk along the Bund is the best way to appreciate this “museum of buildings”.
If you want to learn more about old Shanghai and listen to interesting stories about the Bund, go on an in-depth Bund culture discovery tour with us.
Lunch: Shanghai Local Restaurant
After visiting the Bund, it’s a good idea to have your lunch in a local restaurant where you can sample some Shanghai dishes. Some popular dishes are steamed buns, stewed duck in soy sauce, and braised pork. If you are traveling with us, your guide will help you to order the dishes.
Afternoon: Yu Garden
Yu Garden is a traditional garden with classical Chinese buildings and exquisite sculptures. You can enjoy a relaxing walk in the garden and find calligraphic and painting works created by artists. Visit Yuyuan Bazaar for some local snacks and souvenirs.
If you have enough time, visit the tallest building in Shanghai – the Shanghai Tower – to enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the city.
Accommodation: Sunrise On The Bund (4-star) / Les Suites Orient, Bund Shanghai, Bund view (5-star)
Morning: Visit a Traditional Garden and an Ancient Canal
Take a bullet or high-speed train to Suzhou Railway Station or let us drive you to Suzhou.
Suzhou Railway Station is only about 15 minutes’ drive to two famous traditional gardens: the Humble Administrator's Garden and Lingering Garden, as well as the ancient canal. You may pick one of the gardens plus the ancient canal for your morning visit.
The Humble Administrator's Garden: Located at 178 Northeast Street, this is the largest traditional garden in Suzhou. It features streams, artificial hills, and ancient architectures.
Lingering Garden: It is located at 338 Liuyuan Road. Besides the garden landscape and architecture, you can enjoy more idyllic scenery in this garden.
Ancient canal: It is fun and relaxing to take a rickshaw to travel around the ancient canal near the gardens.
Lunch: Eat Local Dishes
Suzhou food has much in common with Shanghai food but it’s best to taste some dishes in Suzhou. There are pan-fried buns, red soup noodles, and all kinds of fish and shrimp dishes.
Afternoon: Tongli Water Town
Tongli Water Town is about 45 minutes’ drive from the Humble Administrator's Garden. There, 15 streams dissect the town into seven islands, and 49 ancient bridges connect them together. Walking around, you can visit ancient streets, bridges, buildings, and gardens that have existed for hundreds of years.
Afterward, return to the railway station or let us drive you back to Shanghai.
Accommodation: Holiday Inn Jasmine Suzhou (4-star) / Pan Pacific Suzhou (5-star)
You have two options after your tour on day 1: stay overnight in Shanghai and head to Suzhou the next day, or take the train straight to Suzhou.
Suzhou has no airport at present, so you need to return to Shanghai after your trip. We recommend that you stay in Shanghai because it is possible to travel to Suzhou in the morning and return in the evening, and you don’t need to carry your luggage to Suzhou.
However, if you’d like to enjoy a night cruise on the ancient canal, you are advised to stay in Suzhou. The last train from Suzhou Railway Station to Shanghai departs at about 22:00 so it is still possible to catch the train back, but you may have to travel in a hurry.
When you travel with us, you can enjoy a bespoke tour of Shanghai and Suzhou. Just pick the attractions you like and let us solve all the ticketing and transportation issues.
Check out our popular tour for more information: