Before we headed to Suzhou last weekend I knew two things about this historical city: silk & canals. Suzhou is known as being a prosperous city and I've learned that this is due to these two factors. A greater Canal Construction many many years ago allowed Suzhou to start exporting silk to many provinces and since then Suzhou has been known for wealth and silk. This is also the reason for its rather sophisticated reputation which through time has been well-kept and which is also one of the reasons you will find some of the most beautiful Chinese Gardens in Suzhou. For example the beautiful Humble Garden.
We traveled from Shanghai on Saturday morning from Hongqiao Train station. You can also take trains from Shanghai Station but we live right at Line 10 which makes it super easy to reach Hongqiao within 30 min from leaving our door.
Though we travel quite often we did a real beginner's mistake and didn't book tickets in advantage. This resulted in an almost 2h waiting in Hongqiao because there where no available seats... China has a lot of people so therefore there is a lot of departures to most destination, but to repeat: China has a lot of people so bookbookbookbook #lessonlearned
(The "expat" travel agency C-trip is the one we most often use to book flight tickets in and out of China and I have used them for hotels couple of times as well. They now offer train tickets as well and delivers to your door or office!)
Tourists for a day in Suzhou
Despite our little delay and hang-out in Hongqiao we quickly arrived in Suzhou (less than 1h from Shanghai) and was welcomed by sunshine at the beautiful open square at Suzhou Station. From here we crossed the river and walked by Renmin Road towards the Beita Bao'en Pagaoda which also serves as a buddhist Monastry.
The Pagodao is situated in a small garden where you pay approx. RMB 25 to get in and to climb the 9 stories - a total of 76m. It's super old and super cute. The coolest thing is that you from the top stories can get a 360 degrees view of Suzhou and really get a feel for new Suzhou vs. old Suzhou.
From the Pagoda we walked left at Xibeijie and reached the popular area around Dongbei Pedestrian Street hosting Suzhou Museum, Suzhou Garden Museum, the Humble Garden and lots of souvenir shops.
Suzhou Museum was packed and due to the length of the queue outside and our limited time we skipped it. I am not a big museum'er buuut I've read lots of recommendations for this museum. Oh well it's always good to have something to come back to in Suzhou.
The Humble Garden (see photo on top of page) located just after Suzhou Museum is said to be one of the most beautiful Chinese Gardens and if the weather is nice it's definitely worth the entrance fee of approx. RMB 75. You can easily spend a couple of hours in here strolling around and exploring traditional Chinese garden style.
Continuing at the Pedestrian Street we reached the famous Pingjiang street and if you turn right you can follow the street with the canal on your right side. During the Song dynasty Suzhou was also called Pingjiang and this road is named hereafter. It is renowned for its ancient city style as well as the canal street hosting all sorts of cafes, vendors and snack stalls.
Though quite crowded this is such a nice street with lots of different snacks to try, lots of different things to look at and all sorts of souvenirs to buy in all sorts of qualities (christmas coming uuuup). We ended up not being thaaaaat hungry when we reached Alley Sunshine Cafe which I had recommended for a lunch/snack stop but we still enjoyed a delicious latte in this charming and very unique cafe. It's definitely worth a visit though I can't tell you whether the food experience is worth it to!
On Pingjiang street we even found a Danish Baker, owned by the Danish Baking Shifu Lars and as they happened to celebrate their 1 years anniversary with cake-sale we happened to buy 5 different desserts for later including traditional Danish Ris a la mande (Rice pudding cream dessert thingy we have for christmas in DK)! YUM.
We topped our weekend get-away off with a stay in a nicer hotel where we ordered roomservice and watched movies. We usually don't care too much about accommodation and mostly choose simpler options when we travel around in China but sometimes it's really nice to wake up in luxury settings, take a morning swim before indulging in a massive breakfast buffet. We asked for a late check-out in order to chill a couple of hours in the hotel with books and studies before returning to Shanghai super relaxed and re-vitalized.
I could have spend another day in Suzhou so I'll definitely return to visit Suzhou Museum and explore a bit more. Such a perfect destination for a shorter Shanghai-getaway!
What's your next get-away? Any recommendations - let me know (contact me here) and don't forget to subscrbie to Shanghaihabits for more travel inspiration: