How to Plan a Suzhou Tour
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.)
Here are our most popular Suzhou tours, for inspiration:
- Suzhou Classic Gardens Day Trip: Explore some hidden gems in "the most beautiful and welcoming city in South China".
- 2-Day Essential Suzhou and Tongli Water Town from Shanghai: The World Heritage gardens and charming water town are unmissable highlights.
- 5-Day Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Suzhou Bullet Train Tour: This tour offers the best of the three most important cities in the Yangtze Delta.