Tourists to Suzhou mainly like the extensive gardens and the water towns. It is one of the wealthiest cities and has been known for its high culture, academic excellence, and wealth for many generations. Here are 10 important facts for visitors for their trip to Suzhou.
Chinese: 苏州 Sūzhōu /soo-joh/ 'revived prefecture'
1. It is one of the 20 most popular tourist cities in China.
Of all the hundreds of cities and towns in China, Suzhou ranks 18th on TripAdvisor in 2016. It's main draws are its cultural attractions such as its ancient Chinese gardens that Chinese and many foreigners think are exquisitely designed and some old "water towns" that are towns with canals. People also enjoy the museums, refined Chinese music and theater, some old buildings, and the gourmet restaurants.
2. The city is applauded primarily for the big ancient gardens.
"The gardens to the south of Yangtze River are the best in the world, and Suzhou's gardens are the best among them."
That is an old Chinese saying, and you might not agree. But it is true that Suzhou's classical gardens have an international reputation and have even been listed as a World Heritage Site.
The classic gardens date from the Ming and Qing dynasties or from about 1500–1900. Today, about 60 classic gardens remain in the city, and nine of them have been listed as a World Heritage, namely the Humble Administrator's Garden, Lingering Garden, Net Master's Garden, the Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty, Canglang Pavilion, Lion Grove Garden, the Garden of Cultivation, the Couple's Garden Retreat, and the Retreat and Reflection Garden. We can help you tour them.
3. It is mainly a destination for tourists who love Chinese culture and gardens.
Preferred by seasoned Sinophiles: Suzhou isn't a city with great natural scenery or impressive ancient sights. It is more appropriate for returning tourists or long-term visitors who love Chinese art and culture than for first-timers.
Suzhou is better for those who want to learn more about Chinese culture. It is suited especially those who like Chinese gardens, old Chinese towns, and the delicious, esoteric, gourmet cuisine.
Note for new tourists: If you are coming to China for the first time, we recommend China's more famous cities and locations such as Beijing, Xi'an and Hong Kong to enjoy yourself and get acquainted with the country. They have spectacular sights and ancient buildings, and young tourists especially will appreciate those cities more.
4. Suzhou is about the most affluent of China's cities.
It is comparably an affluent, educated, middle class city with a big tech sector and services industry. The city produces more lap top computers than any other place in the world, and the people have the third highest per capita income of large Chinese cities (about 17,000 USD), behind Shenzhen but ahead of Beijing and even Shanghai.
What that means for tourists...
It is cleaner, with some more modern facilities, and less polluted. Maybe its position on the coast allows it fresh sea breezes. Though it is a large city and there is a lot of industry, its 2016 air quality index is 72, about the same as Shanghai's, and much better than Beijing's index that is greater than 100.
It is more expensive: Visiting costs more. You can expect higher room rates and food prices. It isn't as inexpensive as visiting Guilin, but hotel room rates are actually less than Shanghai's.
5. One of Suzhou's main attractions is the food.
Jiangsu style gourmet cuisine is one of Suzhou's fortes. It was developed over hundreds of years to please and promote the health of the local wealthy Eastern aristocrats, merchants and court officials who lived in a city famous for high academic and cultural attainment in the Qing Dynasty era (1664-1912).
Jiangsu has long been the province in China with the wealthiest people and general population, so they could afford high quality ingredients and artistically presented meals. In China, the cuisine is known for its quality, wonderful aroma, and medicinal virtues to promote health.
For seafood lovers, lots and lots of different kinds of sea food is served, and the food is not spicy, but quite delicate. The restaurants that serve up this healthy, elegant, and artistic style of cuisine are comparatively expensive.
6. The water towns are another popular attraction.
Suzhou has several water towns similar to the better known ones closer to Shanghai. They are popular with tourists too. Part of their popularity might be that several are either in the city or close to it making a trip short and convenient.
It's main water towns are Tongli (rated 5 on TripAdvisor in 2016, 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Suzhou), Shantung Street (rated 7 and 14! under two different names, located in the city next to Tiger Hill), and Luzhi (rated 25 on TripAdvisor, 25 kilometers from Suzhou).
You might want to just take a taxi to these places, but we can arrange for a private driver to take your around. See below.
7. The best times to visit are between April and September.
When its sunny and warm from April to September, it is the best time to enjoy Suzhou's outdoor attractions of gardens, parks and the water towns. This is when the gardens are in bloom and the vegetation is green.
The weather sours by November though, and temperatures get too cool for comfort, and it turns cloudy and gloomy. Frost and snow in the winter kills the plants. More about Suzhou's weather>>
Avoid the holidays: the first week of May and October and the Spring Festival holidays are times to avoid going because of greatly increased crowding of Chinese on vacation.
8. Planes or the bullet train are the best ways to go.
Airport: Suzhou has no airport, but you can use the large airports in Shanghai and then quickly get to Suzhou by the bullet train.
Hongqiao Airport is the most convenient because you can go to the adjacent Hongqiao Bullet Train Station for a fast train to Suzhou Train Station in 30 or 40 minutes.
The Sunang Shoufang International Airport is mainly a domestic airport although there are flights to Hong Kong and some other Asian cities. It is 22 km (14 miles) northwest of Suzhou.
We recommend the Hongqiao Airport for the comparatively cheap but fast bullet trains depending on where you want to go to in Suzhou. Taxi between Sunang Airport and the western side of Suzhou may cost 150 RMB. Pudong isn't recommended because of the distance and lack of convenient public transport.
Bullet trains: In terms of speed, price and comfort, it is by far the best way to go to Suzhou for domestic travel now from much of the country. It is about half an hour to Shanghai (7 USD) and about 5 and a quarter hours to Beijing (81 USD).
9. To make a tour even more convenient, the whole Jiangsu/Zhejiang/Shanghai area is now 6 day visa free!
Since January 2016, citizens from 51 countries can visit Suzhou and the whole region of Jiangsu Province and Zhejiang Province and Shanghai through the main international airports in Shanghai, Hangzhou and Nanjing and through the major Shanghai ocean and bullet train ports. Read more about the regional visa-free travel and tours>>
10. The best things to buy locally are silks.
China's silk production center: In centuries past, the region was the center of silk trade, and producing silk garments and brocades is still is an important industry. The city is especially known for brocades and embroidery.
The Suzhou Silk Museum is a good place to learn about silk, watch its production, and perhaps buy some products.
Other special products:
- Jade sculpture and jewelry
- Biluochun Tea that is an expensive local green tea.
- Pearls and pearl jewelry
You can expect the best personalized private tours with us. We can arrange everything from area transportation to your flight tickets and visa to China.
If you are planning on coming to the Suzhou or Jiangsu area, you can contact our travel guides easily by phone or online. We can provide free travel advice or help you arrange a trip.
We can help with transportation too.
Our private drivers can help, and you can arrange for our driver and guide to wait for you. We provide individualized help for our customers.
- 1-Day Suzhou Highlights Tour
- 2-Day Essential Suzhou and Tongli Water Town
- 5-Day Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou Bullet Train Tour