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How to Plan a Suzhou Tour

Written by CindyUpdated Apr. 10, 2024

Suzhou is one of the oldest and most prosperous cities in the Yangtze Basin. It should not be missed if you are interested in beautiful landscaped gardens and traditional waterside architecture.

If you are planning a tour of Suzhou, read on to find out the best times for visiting and get some suggestions on planning your itinerary.

Choosing the Best Time to Go

The Best Times: Spring and Autumn

SuzhouSpring is a good time to visit Suzhou.

Spring (March–May) and fall (September–November) are the best times to visit Suzhou, when the weather is pleasant with moderate temperatures. It is enjoyable to immerse yourself in a garden or wander alongside an ancient canal.

Summer — Hot and Rainy

The hottest time in Suzhou is from June to August. The temperature can reach 32°C (90°F). Humidity rises as the rainy season starts from June and extends to July. Don't forget to pack rain gear if you travel during this period.

Winter — Cold and Damp

The coldest period and the coldest day of the year usually occur in mid-to-late January. Although it seldom snows, the air is damp and soaked with humidity, making you feel freezing cold. While it's the coldest season, winter (December–February) boasts the least amount of tourists.

Inconvenient and High-Price Periods

If you don't want to be overwhelmed in crowds, you'd better avoid Chinese New Year (usually in January or February) and the week-long holidays, such as Labor Day (May 1–7) and National Day (Oct 1–7).

Otherwise, be prepared for huge crowds at the airports, tourist sites, shopping areas, restaurants, and hotels during these periods.

Read more about Suzhou weather.

Highlights to Put on Your List

Looking for a place to escape the skyscrapers and traffic? — Go to Suzhou. It is an ancient city perfectly combining picturesque canals, stone bridges, temples, gardens, and pagodas. If your time is limited, make the most of it and explore the following must-sees:

Humble Administrator's Garden

Tiger HillTiger Hill

The Humble Administrator's Garden is the largest and most renowned classical landscaped garden in Suzhou. With a history of over 500 years, it is recognized as one of the four most famous gardens in China, on a par with the Summer Palace in Beijing.

Explore this garden to find how traditional Chinese architects and landscapers used pavilions, winding corridors, ponds, rockeries, and trees to create a relaxing, harmonious atmosphere.

  • Time needed: 2–3 hours
  • Ticket: 50–70 yuan

If you want to explore more gardens in Suzhou, Lingering Garden and The Garden of the Master of the Nets are great options.

Tiger Hill

Tiger Hill, also known as Surging Sea Hill, is renowned for its natural beauty as well as its historical sites. The most famous two sites are the Sword Pool and the Yunyan Temple Pagoda.

Standing at the top of the hill, the Yunyan Pagoda has a history of more than 1,000 years. It is known as the Second Leaning Tower on Earth, but was built earlier than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

  • Time needed: 2–3 hours
  • Ticket: 60–80 yuan

The Grand Canal

Known as "Venice of the East", Suzhou is a dynamic city with enchanting canals and winding waterways. The Grand Canal, the longest canal in the world, passes through Suzhou and has become an important part of Suzhou's history and culture.

The Grand Canal, like the Great Wall, is one of China's most magnificent creations. You can take a boat along the Grand Canal to admire the views of typical river towns combining ancient dwellings, stone bridges, and historical relics.

Water Towns

TongliTongli Water Town

Apart from exquisite gardens, ancient water towns are another feature of Suzhou, attracting a large number of visitors.

Zhouzhuang is the most famous water town in China, and also the most developed and commercialized. Tongli is another classic water town, about a 30-minute drive from Suzhou. It is quieter and less crowded.

You can walk along lanes and bridges, or take a boat trip to appreciate ancient architecture and the beautiful canal scenery.

Want to know the differences between the water towns around Suzhou? Click to see the top 8 ancient water towns.

How Many Days to Stay in Suzhou?

Suzhou is not a big city. For ordinary tourists, it is enough to stay for 2 days. You can spend one day exploring some gardens, and visit a water town on the second day. Here is a sample tour itinerary, for your reference:

A Suggested Itinerary: Suzhou Highlights and a Water Town

Day 1: Explore the best representatives of Chinese gardens — the Humble Administrator's Garden and Tiger Hill. Take a cruise on the Grand Canal or ride a rickshaw to visit the old streets and hutongs in the old city area.

Day 2: Drive to Tongli Water Town (about 30 minutes). Experience the traditional culture, appreciate the well-preserved ancient architecture, and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the waterways.

See the detailed itinerary.

How to Get to Suzhou?

For foreign tourists, the most convenient way to get to Suzhou is flying to Shanghai first and then taking a high-speed train to Suzhou.
How to get to Suzhou

Travel from Shanghai to Suzhou by Train

Suzhou lies 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Shanghai and is only about 30 minutes away by high-speed train.

Take a high-speed train to Suzhou.Take a high-speed train to Suzhou.

There are over 150 pairs of high-speed trains running each day between Shanghai and Suzhou, with an interval of about 10 minutes. You have many train options.

There are different terminals in Shanghai and Suzhou for high-speed trains, such as Shanghai Railway Station, Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station, Suzhou Railway Station, and Suzhou North Railway Station.

To make your train journey convenient, you are recommended to book the trains starting from Shanghai Railway Station ("上海 Shanghai" on tickets) and ending at Suzhou Railway Station ("苏州 Suzhou" on tickets), and vice versa.

Check about how to plan a Shanghai and Suzhou tour.

Travel from Hangzhou to Suzhou by Train

Hangzhou is about 480 kilometers away from Suzhou. These two cities are well connected by high-speed trains. It is convenient to travel from Hangzhou to Suzhou. The train journey takes about 1½ hours.

See how to plan a trip to Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou.

Where to Stay in Suzhou

Suzhou has plenty of accommodation options from budget to luxury and local to global. Below are some recommended hotels in Suzhou, for your reference.

Five-Star Hotels: 

Crowne Plaza Hotel, ranked #2 on TripAdvisor

InterContinental Suzhou, ranked #3 on TripAdvisor

Marriott Hotel, ranked #5 on TripAdvisor

Pan Pacific Suzhou, ranked #6 on TripAdvisor

Hyatt Regency, ranked #13 on TripAdvisor

Four-Star Hotels:

Holiday Inn Jasmine Suzhou, ranked #18 on TripAdvisor

Modena Jinjihu Suzhou, ranked #32 on TripAdvisor

Novotel Suzhou SIP, ranked #120 on TripAdvisor

Holiday Inn Youlian Suzhou, ranked #349 on TripAdvisor

Three-Star Hotels:

Garden Hotel, ranked #11 on TripAdvisor

Experience More of Suzhou with Us

One very memorable evening was with Candy in Suzhou, where she asked if we wanted to "hang out tonight". We went to a night market and had some snacks at some of her favorite places, while we just talked about daily life (like missing our pets when we travel). 

— Victor and Mary Ann Cognato, China Highlights customers (We select and train the best guides like Candy.) 

Tour Suzhou with China HighlightsTour Suzhou with China Highlights

Here are our most popular Suzhou tours, for inspiration:

Do the above tours not meet your requirements? See more of our Suzhou tours. Or contact us and let us help you plan a personalized Suzhou tour.

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