Suzhou Travel Guide: Top Attractions, Best Time to Visit

Written by ivana Updated Nov. 23, 2023

Suzhou is one of the first 24 national historical and cultural cities in China known as the famous southern water town, hailed as a "paradise on earth."  

Suzhou is at the heart of the Yangtze River Delta region, with the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal running through its territory. By taking steps around Suzhou, experiencing the rich history along the riverbanks and its water town, exploring mixed architecture arts by immersing in picturesque gardening nature, fascinating museums, and ancient temples, and discovering cultural appeal with events like Kunqu Opera and delicious Suzhou cuisine.

Suzhou Culture

As the core carrier of "Jiangnan culture," Suzhou is synonymous with the 2500-year-old Kunqu Opera, Pingtan storytelling, gardens, and Suzhou embroidery, becoming distinctive symbols that the world recognizes China.

Suzhou culture, the core of Wu culture, encompasses history, geography, local customs and traditions, traditional customs, lifestyle, literature and art, behavioral norms, ways of thinking, values, and other aspects, and is the product of long-term creative accumulation.

Suzhou Gardens

Suzhou Classical Gardens are outstanding representatives of Chinese garden art, and treasures within China's ancient cultural heritage. The culture of Suzhou Gardens has a long history, embodying a profound national culture.

Suzhou Gardens expresses the ancient people of Wu's inherent pursuit and exploration of beauty. The aesthetic principles they embody serve as permanent aesthetic standards for later generations.

Today, there are many excellent garden architectures in Suzhou, including the Humble Administrator's Garden, Lion Forest Garden, Master of the Nets Garden, Canglang Pavilion, Lingering Garden, Garden of Pleasure, and Garden of Art. 

Kun Opera

Kun Opera or Kunqu Opera has been seen as the "origin of a hundred operas". Originating in Taicang district, Kunshan in Suzhou, it boasts a history of about 600 years and evolved from Kunshan Tone in the late Yuan Dynasty and the early Ming Dynasty.

Suzhou Pingtan

Besides Kun opera, there is another art form deeply loved by locals. Suzhou Pingtan is a traditional art form that is performed with storytelling and ballad singing, in which two performers take part respectively. 

Generally, Pingtan stories are drawn from Chinese folklore, history, and some literature. Enjoying a Pingtan performance in a teahouse is the best option for locals to relax and spend time with their families.

Pingtan Performance
Pingtan Performance

Silk Culture

China is celebrated for its silk and china. As the epicenter of silk, Suzhou has a long history of silk making, dating back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). 

Now locals still cultivate the mulberry trees and raise the silkworms as a prosperous industry, working the looms with weathered hands. Travelers can visit Suzhou Silk Museum which houses hulking, ancient-looking silk-spinning contraptions. 

Suzhou Weather

Suzhou falls under the East Asian monsoonal humid subtropical climate, characterized by distinct four seasons. Suzhou weather is moderate, with plentiful rainfall. The average annual temperature is around 16 °C, and the annual rainfall exceeds 1,000 millimeters. 

The Best Time to Visit

Suzhou features four distinctive seasons and temperatures vary widely in seasons. Choosing the best time to visit depends on your attitude to the weather and the crowds.

Suzhou's average annual temperature is 14.5 ℃ (58 ℉). Summer temperatures can get up to 33 ℃ (91 ℉), while winter temperatures dip to around 2 ℃ (36 ℉).

If you really ask for an exact time, March to May would definitely be a perfect time to hit the road.

In spring, the tourism peak hasn’t come yet and the mild temperatures are 7 to 17 ℃ (45 to 63 ℉), sometimes breeze and drizzle. The scent of wet earth wafts through the air, which makes it an ideal time to stroll through the city's gardens and temples in peace. It’s the kind of experience that lingers in your memory. During this time, there is less crowded anywhere, although booking in advance with a cheap deal is highly recommended.

Suzhou History

The city of Suzhou was founded in 514 BC, giving it a history of over 2500 years. Emperor Wen of Sui renamed the "Wu County", "Suzhou," taking the name from Mount Gusu, in 589 AD.

During the Spring and Autumn period, Suzhou was the second capital of the Wu kingdom and its economic, political, and cultural center. It was praised as the "unrivaled metropolis in the eastern part of the river" during Qin dynasty, Han, and the Six Dynasties.

In the Tang dynasty, it was recognized as the only predominant state in Jiangnan and known as "the leading state of the world."

In the Song dynasty, the saying "Heaven above, Suzhou and Hangzhou below" began to circulate.

During the Yuan dynasty, Suzhou was "astonishingly beautiful," while in the Ming dynasty, it was a megacity in Jiangnan.

During the Qing dynasty, it was a "prime hotspot for wealth and luxury in the mundane world." 

How to get to Suzhou

Although Suzhou isn’t intended to play hard-to-get, there is no direct way to arrive from abroad.

However, as one of the most important tourist cities, once you reach China, it is far easier to come for bullet trains connecting Suzhou to other major cities, including Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, Nanjing, etc. Also, all places in Suzhou are within reach of the convenient metro lines.

Trains to Suzhou

Four railway stations-- Suzhou Railway Station, Suzhou North Railway Station, Suzhou Park Railway Station and Suzhou New District Railway Station in Suzhou offer advanced bullet trains and ordinary trains to nearby cities and beyond. They connect Suzhou by rail to Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, Nanjing, and other cities.

The following two stations have the most daily trains:

Suzhou Railway Station: is situated in the downtown area, making it a convenient place from which tourists can arrive or depart from Suzhou. There are around 130 high-speed trains and more than 50 ordinary trains running between Shanghai and Suzhou daily. Most of the trains start from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station and Shanghai Railway Station. There are frequent trains to nearby Nanjing, Hangzhou, Wuxi, and other cities.

Suzhou North Railway Station: is far more away from the city centre than Suzhou Train Station and caters to bullet trains only. It is located on the popular Shanghai–Beijing High-speed Railway. There are over 70 trains connecting Shanghai Hongqiao Station and Shanghai Station with Suzhou North Railway Station daily. It also offers 20 fast trains to Beijing South Railway Station every day.

Transportation in Suzhou


Metro would be the first choice of most people for its convenience and efficiency. Suzhou has 6 metro lines that cover Suzhou Railway Station, Suzhou North Railway Station, Shantang Street, and other places. The ticket price ranges from CN¥2 to CN¥8 according to the distance traveled.

City Bus

Although city buses are not usually the first choice of foreign travelers, it is a good idea to take them as they cover a lot of the city. Ticket prices range from CN¥1 to CN¥3 per person one way based on the route and distance. It's all self-payment after boarding.


If you would like to travel with greater comfort and privacy, you could take taxis instead of using public transport. The starting taxi fare is CN¥10 for the first 3 km (1 mi). Taxis operate 24/7 in Suzhou, but there are different fares for different times of the day. In addition, taxis may be hard to get during the peak travel times of 7–10 a.m. and 5–8 p.m.

SND Tram

SND Tram would be a great choice for some of your specific destinations. Two tram lines are operating in Suzhou. Line 1 runs between Suzhou Amusement Land (Shizhishan Station) and Xiyangshan Station, while Line 2 connects Longkang Lu Station and Wenchang Lu Station. The fare is CN¥2 per person for a single ride.


There are some places none of the transportation above can run through. So as a more classic and traditional kind of transportation- an alternative to Taxis, rickshaws are a great way to navigate older and more congested neighbourhoods and will give you a taste of local life in the city. While you can try haggling over the rate, the usual cost of taking a rickshaw is around CN¥10.

Rented Bicycle

China is called the kingdom of bikes and for good reason. Bicycles are the most popular> mode of transportation and also a better way to protect our environment. You can rent a bicycle from some youth hostels or bicycle shops. You could also rent a public bicycle with CN¥3 each time.

Things to do in Suzhou

How to organize your time for a vivid Suzhou if you only get a few days here, while massive marvelous sceneries are waiting for you? Renowned as “ Venice of the East”, various brooks flow through the city from west to east, though plenty of surprises are hidden in winding alleyways making it special.

To better save you time and fulfill your expectations of this trip, there are a few places we provide that should be prioritized.

Tongli Water Town

If you want to experience a world of traditional Chinese painting vibe with bridges, rivers, and beautiful houses, Tongli Water Town is a must-visit tourist spot! 

The Three Bridges(The Taiping Bridge, Jili Bridge, and Changqing Bridge) of Tongli are the heart of the town, spanning the network of waterways that the area.

Locals carry on their daily lives in the streets and along the canals, drawing water and washing clothes and the rhythmic splashing of them being wrung out provides a calming backdrop to your visit. 

Humble Administrator’s Garden

As one of the most representative classical gardens in Suzhou, a trip wouldn’t be completed without visiting Humble Administrator’s Garden. Experiencing over 500 years of dynastic changes and different owners through splendour and decay, the garden developed from forming one entity into separating into the eastern, middle, the western parts all with exquisite pavilions, winding paths, and picturesque bridges that cross the garden's lakes and ponds. 

Lingering Garden

Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Lingering Garden consists of four distinctly themed sections: East, Central, West, and North which definitely fill your day! 

A beautiful entrance gate and a tranquil courtyard make up the East part, where the cloud-capped peak stone marvels you. Occupied one-third of the total area, the Central part, encircled by a pond and several pavilions, features a winding corridor of over a thousand meters. Odd wigwams and winding paths characterize the Western part while a quiet bamboo forest and a traditional teahouse complete the North

Suzhou Museum

A perfect example of Pei’s work captures the essence of the city it calls home. Suzhou Museum’s simple, contemporary lines reflect the influence of Western architecture, while the intricate latticework and lush greenery reflect the beauty of the Jiangnan style which is deeply rooted in Chinese culture. 

There are three main parts, the Central area is the main exhibit hall with rotating displays of art and artifacts, the West wing houses the museum’s permanent collection and the East wing is decorated with modern art galleries and other facilities. 

Hanshan Temple

Dating back to the 9th century, the Hanshan Temple is a legend of Suzhou, embracing the serene and solemn of Buddism while being a coexist with the ancient and modern. 

There are inscriptions including poems and wordings, carved on stone steles and two ancient bells that have tolled through the centuries. People who travel by come to the temple making offerings at the temple, leaving behind coins or burning incense, as a way to show their devotion and ask for blessings

Shantang Street

Strolling down Shantang Street, the sweet smell of sugar and maltose wafts from shops selling traditional snacks like sugar painting, and the sound of Kun opera and Tanping drifts from the teahouses, where people sit sipping tea and watching the performance. 

Stated as the "First Street in Shuzou", every detail you want to know about Suzhou is exposed everywhere. Especially when you’re exhausted from showing around in daylight, it’s the best place to chill down on a boat under the voices of locals chatting and the backdrop of lights dazzling upon the water. 

Master of the Nets Garden

Evoking a sense of serenity and detachment from the outside world, with less than one-sixth of the Humble Administrator's Garden, the garden allows travelers to authentically immerse themselves in nature. 

Also, the way the Master of the Nets Garden incorporates the outside monastery with white walls and green tile roofs to add to the garden's overall design is a vital example of the concept of "borrowed scenery", which was an important part of traditional Chinese garden design. Btw, as the night neared, a night garden show was hosted including Kun opera and Pingtan performances. 

Tiger Hill

Barely over thirty meters high, Tiger Hill is extraordinary, with towering ancient trees and a thousand-year-old pagoda. The hill itself is said to resemble a reclining tiger, hence the name.

If you’re too tired to travel around, it’s a good choice to recharge your batteries in a graceful teahouse, letting the soothing sounds of Kunqu Opera drift in through the windows, and the scent of tea wafts through the air.

Suzhou Attraction Map
Suzhou Attraction Map

Suzhou Cuisine

Suzhou is the birthplace of Su Cuisine, where the top characteristic courses include Sweet and Sour Mandarin Fish, Eel Paste with Oyster Saule, Chaudfroid, and Braised Ham in Honey Sauce.

Suzhou Shopping

When shopping in Suzhou, the top recommended souvenir is Suzhou Embroidery. Suzhou's embroidery technique, along with Hunan's Xiang Embroidery, Sichuan's Shu Embroidery, and Guangdong's Yue Embroidery, are collectively known as the Four Famous Embroideries of China.

In addition, Suzhou's Bi Luo Chun Tea is one of China's top ten famous teas and an excellent gift for friends and family. Other renowned local specialties include Suzhou's Song Brocade, Taohuawu Woodblock New Year's Paintings, Caizhizhai Candies, Suzhou-style pastries, Suzhou-style candied fruit, Bi Luo Chun Tea, White Sand Loquats, and Suzhou fans.  

Plan your Suzhou Trip with China Travel

If you would like a detailed tour of Suzhou, let us know, and we will plan a trip customized to your preferences. Our experienced English-speaking guides will escort you to the museum and tell you about the history and stories of this charming city.

Please feel free to share your tour ideas with us. We look forward to serving you.

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