With wide canals, arched stone bridges and traditional architecture, Suzhou is postcard perfect. Often referred to as the ‘Oriental Venice’, you can expect wooden boats gliding through the still water, water lilies covering ponds, and familiar Chinese architecture lining the canals. With its southern location, situated just below the Yangtze River, its traditional charm is alive and well with the province dating back to the 6th century BC.
The canals form a large part of Suzhou’s makeup and interestingly were created to control the low water until the Grand Canal was constructed, bring prosperity. Many come to Suzhou to experience its array of attractions from temples to ancient gardens and museums.
Start your Suzhou tour with the Beisi Ta, a temple displaying sharp upturned eaves reminiscent of traditional Chinese architecture. Visitors can reach the very top for magnificent views of the city and its landscape.
Then wonder over to the Suzhou Silk Museum where you can trace the long history of silk right back from the beginning in 4000BC with the aid of old looms and ancient silk samples. All the exhibits are exquisitely documented and can be a great learning experience.
Then for a stroll in the garden for fresh air take the trip to the Humble Administrator’s Garden, the largest in Suzhou. The garden has been kept well over the many years and many owners with additions, transformations and further development over the years, each reminiscent of the time they were done. There are beautiful flower gardens and even a section that imitates the lower Yangzi scenery. It is a stunning place to catch your breath before moving on.
For a beautiful testament to a teacher, head to the Twin Pagodas. They are octagonal twin temples built in the Song era built by two brothers who set out to honour their teacher. What is unique about these temples is their twin design which is more commonly found in India.
Before finishing your tour of Suzhou, take a peak at the Confucian Temple. Although it was unfortunately destroyed during the Taiping Rebellion, it has since been rebuilt. Within you will find an ancient star chart map dating as far back as 1247 (one of the earliest of its kind).
With varying climate, with temperatures in the single digits in January to hot summers in July and August, planning your trip around the climate can make your trip that much more enjoyable.
When in the process of finding a place to stay, take into consideration these places as a starting guide:
Shangri-La Hotel (Ta Yuan Road)
Nicely situated close to many of Suzhou’s sights and located high in one of Suzhou’s highest buildings offering excellent panoramic views.
Although a wee way away from the city centre, this area is a nice relaxing getaway for some peace and quiet.
There is plenty to see in Suzhou, however if you are after a modern adventure stay away, as it is anything but. Its beauty lies in its traditional and historical value.