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Revision as of 07:03, 29 April 2013
Suzhou (苏州; Sūzhōu)  is a city in Jiangsu province. It is famed for its beautiful gardens and traditional waterside architecture. The Classical Gardens of Suzhou were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997.
Suzhou was the capital of the kingdom of Wu from the 12th to 4th centuries BC. Historically, it was the center of Wu culture, and the Suzhou dialect of the Wu language is still considered the standard dialect even though the language is now often called "Shanghainese".
Today, Suzhou has become a core city of China's Yangtze River Delta economic zone, given its high GDP contribution to China. More recently, it has been a center of the silk trade and a place of gardens and canals. Suzhou has long been a heaven for scholars, artists, and skilled craftsmen, and this is still the case today.
In its many beautiful gardens and courtyard parks, Suzhou's ancient heritage has been preserved. This ambitious city, however, is not going to trade upon its past in order to meet the future. A wander off the beaten path and into some of the old neighborhoods can be quite a treat, but their seediness and crowded conditions provide a stark contrast to the endless billboards at the edge of the city advertising Orange County like suburban developments. Suzhou is a bustling city, though you can still see traces of a very old lifestyle centered around the canals.
So come prepared to feel a bit betrayed by the guidebooks singing the praises of a quaint thousand year old city. On XiBei Road thoroughfare, every other storefront advertised foot massages. It seems that half the city are masseur/masseuses and the other half are potential clients.
At the same time, Suzhou has grown into a major center of joint-venture high-tech manufacturing and currently boasts one of the hottest economies in the world. It is the world's largest single producer of laptop computers. The Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) in the east, and the Suzhou New District (SND) in the west, are home to factories from numerous North American, European, East Asian, and Australian companies. Major industrial products include microchips, flash memory systems, electronics, computer equipment, telecommunications components, power tools, speciality chemicals and materials, automotive components, pharmaceuticals, and much more. This makes for a sense of stark contrasts, the outskirts of town were farmland just ten years ago. Now there are four lane highways connecting the city to Shanghai...four lane highways with pedestrians, bicyclists and pedicabs using the breakdown lanes.
Suzhou doesn't have a passenger airport. The closest airports with flights of use to most travelers are in Shanghai. There is one in Wuxi which is closer, but it serves mostly domestic flights. Nanjing and Hangzhou are also an alternative.
Pudong International Airport (IATA: PVG ICAO: ZSPD) has most international flights and Hongqiao Airport (IATA: SHA ICAO: ZSSS) has mostly domestic flights. They are 120 km (75 mi) and 86 km (53 mi) away from Suzhou respectively but regular Shuttle buses run between Suzhou and the airports daily, taking about one hour and forty minutes to get you where you want to go.
Shuttle bus services between Suzhou and Shanghai Airports
- Shanghai-Hongqiao to Suzhou. Departs from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport. On the hour from 10AM-4PM; and one at 5:30PM and 7PM. ¥50.
- Shanghai-Pudong to Suzhou, 26 kerry rd. Departs from the parking lot on the 2nd floor of Terminal 1 building. Almost hourly 10:40AM-7:40PM ¥82.
- Suzhou to Shanghai-Pudong. Departs from the CEAG (China Eastern Airlines Group) ticket office (No.115, Ganjiang West Rd). Almost hourly 6:20AM-2:50PM. ¥80.
- Suzhou to Shanghai-Hongqiao. The China Eastern Airlines buses going to Pudong pass through Hongqiao first.
A shuttle bus between Pudong and Hongqiao leaves every 10 minutes from 6AM-9PM and costs ¥30
Intercity Bus between Suzhou and Hangzhou airports. You can go to Waiting Room,the location is North of Entrance 5 to the Arrival Hall, First Level of Terminal Building. Price range is CNY20/per~CNY30per.
Wuxi Airport is situated to the southeast of Wuxi and has several domestic and few international flights (e.g. to Taiwan)
From airport to Wuxi city center (Wuxi train station) there are infrequent (every 30 minutes) buses, just on the right side when you exit the airport (see blue plate with chinese characters and timetable for 1,2,3 routes). Allow at least 40 minutes to ride to Wuxi center and about 15 minutes for a ride between Wuxi and Suzhou on a high-speed train.
There are four major train stations in Suzhou: Suzhou Station (Suzhou Zhan), Suzhou North Station (Suzhou Bei Zhan), Suzhou Industrial Park Station (Suzhou Yuanqu), and Suzhou Xinqu Station.
If you live in SIP it's more convinient to use Suzhou Yuanqu station (note some trains stop on that one instead of Suzhou Station)
Suzhou North Railway station (苏州北站, Sūzhōu běi zhàn) is used for high-speed trains departing to/from Beijing. It's situated a bit outskirts. A ride to Beijing usually takes 5 hours.
Suzhou Station (苏州火车站, Sūzhōu huǒchē zhàn) is located just north of the downtown on the northern ring-road (Beihuan Lu) and is on the Shanghai-Nanjing mainline. There are frequent high-speed trains to Shanghai, Wuxi, Changzhou, Zhenjiang and Nanjing. A train ride to Shanghai takes less than half an hour and Nanjing is about one hour away.
The slower and lower class T- and K- services from other provinces on their way to Shanghai or Nanjing stop at Suzhou, but if you are traveling from anywhere within Jiangsu you're advised to take a fast G-train.
Buying tickets for G- and D-trains using self-service machines is not possible for people without chinese ID card since June 2011 - only using ticket office. All other tickets can be bought at the counter at the railway station or at railway ticket offices throughout the city. For services other than the high-speed trains, it's wise to book outbound tickets a few days in advance as they fill up quickly, especially during public holidays. If you have a Chinese bank account, it is possible to book a ticket at the railways' official 12306.cn, it is in Chinese only and only accept UnionPay payment. The official 12306.cn doesn't charge any fees.
Ticket Offices in the city: 8 Taijian Alley Guanqian Jie (观前街）, 566 Renmin Lu （人民路）, 50 Jinmen Lu （金门路）, 22 Beiju Lu, 18 Shi Lu （石路）, 120 Sanxiang Lu （三香路） and Xiangwang Lu （相王路） (Near the east end of Shi Quan Jie （十全街）)
From the Suzhou Railway Station into town
The new train station is exceptional and has metered taxis only and bus services well set out. Buses mostly services will head towards the Guanqian Street/Ganjiang Lu area of downtown (15-20 minutes), although it's advisable to check. Buses 6, 26, 29, 178 will go to the SIP. It is possible to buy a tourist map (English-Chinese, ¥10) indicating the bus routes in one of the tourism offices on the lefthand side of the walkway leading up to the North exit. Once outside the station, the bus stops can be found on the righthand side. Bus You1 and You4 (both heading towards Renmin Lu) leave from platform 4. On foot, it takes about 20-30 minutes to walk to most of the sights - simply go outside the station and head right. At the first intersection, make an immediate right into either one of two tunnels heading under the train tracks. A pedestrian path is available that will take you to the old part of town. Once you cross the river, the 8-story pagoda called Beisi Ta should be in plain sight. In summer, it might not be very convenient to walk downtown as temperatures might easily get up to 40 degrees.
If you are adventurous you can try to unofficial e-bike taxi - guys standing right to the station outside, you can negotiate to about ¥20 to city center.
Suzhou has 3 main bus stations
- Suzhou South Bus Station (苏州南汽车站 Sūzhōu Nán Zhàn, Yingchun Rd, East Nanhuan Rd, 0512-65204867), the largest station, a modern, clean terminal serving regular shuttles to Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou as well as most other major destinations around eastern China. It is just south of the city centre and is connected by many local buses and taxis. You can arrive at the bus station by taking buses 29, 30, 31 and 101.
- Suzhou North Bus Station (苏州北汽车站 Sūzhōu Běi Zhàn, 29 Xihui Rd, 0512-67530686) is immediately adjacent to the train station. It mainly serves nearby cities such as Wuxi, Zhangjiagang, Changzhou and Kunshan as well as less-frequent services to other cities including Nanjing. The station was recently completely rebuilt and is much cleaner and more spacious than before, and is now a smoke-free zone. The ticket office and departure gates are located on the 1st floor whilst arrivals are located in the basement. All buses serving the train station also stop at the North Bus Station, and you can walk into the city centre in 20-30 minutes (see Get In/By Train for more info.
- Suzhou West Bus Station (苏州西站 Sūzhōu Xī Zhàn, Jinshan Road Changjiang Road New District Suzhou (Suzhou Xinqu)) is on the far edge of the Suzhou New District (north of Suzhou Amusement Park) and mostly serves nearby towns of little interest to travellers.
The China Eastern Airlines City Air Terminal on the intersection of Renmin Lu and Ganjiang Xilu also has a small terminal for shuttle buses to Shanghai Hongqiao and Pudong airports, see Get In/Air for details.
If you are feeling adventurous, it is possible to cycle from Shanghai to Suzhou in 2-3 hours (70km). From Shanghai city centre, head west towards Hongqiao Airport (following the route of Metro line 2) and follow the S343 Provincial Highway. This road can be quite busy but there's a segregated cycle path along it's entire length and the route is entirely flat. The road passes through the attractive water town of Luzhi (20km east of Suzhou) making a nice stopping off point and the road will bring you into the Suzhou Industrial Park and ends at Donghuan Lu (the east part of the inner ring road).
The overnight ferries between Hangzhou and Suzhou are no longer running.
Riverboats on the Yangtze stop at Suzhou. See Along the Yangtze river.
- Suzhou-Shimonoseki: Shanghai-Shimonoseki Ferry , 083-232-6615 (Japan) or 0512-53186686 (China), thrice weekly service. ¥15,000+.
Downtown Suzhou (Canglang, Pingjiang and part of Jinchang district) is completely bounded by a large, rectangular canal known as the Weichang River (Weichang Hé), with 9 east-west canals and 12 north-south canals running through the city. Most of the major sights are located within this area. Slightly further out is the ring road which is divided into east (Donghuan Lu), west (Xihuan Lu), north-east (Beihuan Dong Lu), north-west (Beihuan Xi Lu), south-east (Nanhuan Dong Lu) and south-west (Nanhuan Xi Lu) sections. The main long-distance transport hubs are located along this road, and bus #10 runs in a complete loop of the ring road. The two main cross-town avenues are Renmin Lu (north-south) and Ganjiang Lu (east-west). Outside of the ring road, Jinjihu Lake marks the centre of the SIP with 2 main through roads crossing the lake (Xiandai Avenue to the north and Jinjihu Avenue to the south). All streets in the SIP have names beginning with Xing (from 'Xingjiapo' - the Chinese rendering of Singapore, referencing to Singapore's input to the development of the SIP) for east-west routes and Su (Suzhou) for north-south routes.
It's possible to walk around the city although many will find the distances between some attractions too large to make walking an option. Ask the concierge at your hotel to write out the name of your destination(s), as well as how to get back. Make sure to add your own notes so you know what the translation is. Be warned that walking in downtown is by no means relaxing - most sidewalks are narrow and clogged with parked scooters meaning that you'll end up walking in the bike lane or in the road. Also, around the subway construction sites the sidewalk and bike lane disappear altogether. Keep your eyes and ears open. Walking in the SIP is more pleasant as roads and sidewalks are wider, and traffic is less heavy.
Suzhou's rattling old silver-and-teal VW Santana taxis are a very reasonably priced way of getting around and are easily available outside of rush hour. Fares start at ¥11 for 3 km and tick up at ¥2.5 per km, so most trips within the city are cheap. That said, Suzhou's cabbies are infamous for their lack of local knowledge so having an address or phone contact to your destination will save you a lot of hassle. Driving style is best described as aggressive, although serious accidents involving taxis are rare. Be warned of taxi touts near tourist destinations and the train station - always use the taxi queue or flag one down from the street (available taxis have a green light on the front dash). Always get a receipt from the taxi driver at the end of the ride, so you may call the taxi company if you have left anything behind or need to dispute a fare.
Few, if any taxi drivers speak English or any other foreign languages, so unless you speak the local Suzhou dialect or Mandarin, be sure to get your hotel's business card, and have the names and addresses of your destinations written in Chinese to show your taxi driver.
Cycling is an interesting but sometimes hair-raising way of exploring Suzhou. That said, cycling is much safer here than in, say London or New York, as Suzhou has an excellent network of cycle paths running alongside most major roads, however these also double up as scooter paths, sidewalks and parking lots; and some are rather potholed, so it's advisable to stay alert.
Bikes can be rented from most youth hostels or small bike shops (around 30 yuan per day for a slow, heavy 1-speed city bike) or from the Bicycle Kingdom rental agency on Pingjiang Lu (they have road bikes and mountain bikes to rent for around 150-300 yuan per day depending on the model).
If you are planning on cycle-touring in China, Suzhou is a good place to start out. Several major cycle manufacturors including Giant, Merida, Dahon, UCC, bTwin and Shimano have factories in nearby Kunshan (a small industrial town which falls under Suzhou's municipal administration), which has given Suzhou a lively cycling culture. The following bicycle stores are recommended:-
Giant (1607 Renmin Lu, Pingjiang-qu)
The largest store of the Taiwanese aptly-named giant - offers everything from single-speed city-bikes to full-suspension mountain bikes; and electric scooters to ultra-aerodynamic triathlon road bikes. Giant is somewhat cheaper than in the west, making them a popular choice. A simple city-bike will cost around ¥500, mountain bikes run from around ¥800 (for a steel-frame, no suspension with old components. ¥2,000 will get you an entry-level road bike, a decent hard-tail MTB, a hybrid or a basic tourer. Staff don't speak much English.
Decathlon (Auchan Shopping Mall 1F, 55 Jinjihu Lu, SIP)
The French sports-hypermarket has a branch on the 1F of the Auchan Supermarket in SIP. Price-wise they are similar to Giant although quality of components is not so great. Staff speak a little English.
Silver Storm (city branch on Shizi Jie, Canglang-qu; SIP Branch on Xinggui Jie, SIP)
Silver Storm is one of the best places to buy components and accessories, and also the only place who will completely custom-build you a bike. They stock several regular brands including UCC, Orbea and Dahon, although they will order almost any brand for you. Prices are fairly reasonable and there is always an interesting variety of bikes on sale. The staff speak good English.
Specialized (Harmony Plaza, Ganjiang Dong Lu, Pingjiang-qu)
By far the most expensive but also the best bike shop in Suzhou. If you want a top-end road or mountain bike, or the latest Shimano components, this is the place to come. Prices are approx. 20% higher than in the West.
Trek (Xincheng Dasha, Xiandai Dadao, SIP)
The 'other' top American brand has a small store in the New City community shopping center (behind the Starbucks) offering more top-end bikes. Prices are more reasonable for a top-end brand and the service is very good. As the store is very small, they only carry a small stock - if you are buying a whole bike, most likely the store will need to order it.
Most hypermarkets also stock bikes, typically cheap but low-quality. Expect to pay 200-300 yuan for a 1-speed city bike that will fall apart after 2 weeks.
Remember to always keep your bike locked when not in use - bike theft is a major problem, particularly in downtown. Always leave your bike somewhere brightly lit and crowded. In some places (particularly around Guanqian Jie), attendants will keep an eye on your bike for a small payment (typically Y0.50).
Available on most main streets and always near tourist attractions. Negotiate the price before you get in and don't allow the driver to change it once you arrive at your destination, for example, saying ¥15 and demanding ¥50. This is a slow means of travel but it allows you to actually see the city while you go somewhere. Despite what you might expect, pedicabs are often more expensive than taxis- and be warned that 99% of Suzhou pedicab drivers are notorious price-gougers, so bargain hard with these guys. Expect to pay a little more in the summer months since the driver is working hard in the heat to take you there.
Found the same places as pedicabs, and should be approached with similar caution. Suzhou motorcycle taxis are usually filthy, dangerously driven, and relentlessly uncomfortable (the seats are about 12 cm above the floor) so traumatic to your spine it would be best to consider another form of transport.
Taking a bus in Suzhou is relatively easy if you have a basic grasp of Chinese, or horribly bewildering if you don't. Though, fortunately, there are tourist routes which make this slightly easier. Buses cover the whole city, run at 10-20 minute frequencies from 5am-9pm on most routes and are a cheap way of getting around. Unfortunately all bus information boards and on-board announcements are in Chinese only, however bus route information can also be found on Google Maps.
Fares are based upon the distance between where you board and the last stop of the bus - most times you will pay ¥1 or ¥2, although some longer routes such as the #69 to Xishan charge up to 5 yuan - the fare will be displayed on the bus schedule as well as on a digital display above the driver's seat (don't get this confused with the route number!). Exact change is required, so keep plenty of ¥1 coins/notes handy. Buses displaying a green or blue 'snow-flake' symbol next to the route number have air-conditioning and a ¥1 surcharge is paid on top of the regular fare (regardless of whether the A/C is switched on or not).
There are 5 handy tourist buses numbered Y1-5 - all serve the railway station and connect most of the tourist sights within the city proper, so if you are unfamiliar with the city, they are a good way to familiarize yourself. Warning for people unable to read Chinese - as of September 2012, the tourist buses are prefixed with the Chinese character for "tour" 游 rather than "Y". Bus 游1 leaves from bus platform 4 of the Suzhou Train Station, and the station is the last stop of its return journey.
Buses are often crowded, and it's good custom to offer your seat to elderly, disabled or mothers with children.
If you are in town for a while, it's advisable to get a Suzhou-Tong card (available from several outlets around town) - it's a prepaid smart-card that gives you 10% discount on bus travel.
The Suzhou Metro has already opened in 2011. There are 2 lines - one will run east-west linking the Suzhou New District, the Old Town and the Suzhou Industrial Park and the second will run north-south linking the new Suzhou High Speed Railway station in the north, across the Old Town and into the southern suburbs. A mock-up of the new Suzhou Metro train car is on display in the Times Square (shi dai guang chang) shopping area in the Suzhou Industrial Park.
The local Suzhou dialect belongs to the Wu family of Chinese dialects, and is not mutually intelligible with standard Mandarin. As Suzhou is the traditional cradle of Wu culture, the Suzhou dialect is taken to be the prestige dialect of Wu Chinese. As such, Suzhou is the place to start for people who want to learn to speak Wu Chinese. However, as with elsewhere in China, most people are bilingual in the local dialect and Mandarin, and you should have no problem speaking Mandarin unless you are talking to the elderly.
English is not widely spoken, though staff at major hotels will likely be able to speak some basic English. Be sure to have the names of your destinations written in Chinese, so that taxi drivers can take you to where you want to go.
- The Humble Administrator's Garden (Zhuo Zheng Yuan 拙政园), Dongbei St (Located in the NE corner of the old city), ☎ +86 51267537002, . 7:30AM-5:30PM. Said to cost a boatload of silver and taken sixteen years to build. Free tours through the garden start every 5-10 minutes, though these tours are conducted only in Mandarin. Included in the tour is a "Chinese marriage", a look at carved tree roots, followed by a boat ride through the garden canals. The incredible collection of bonsai trees ('pen cai' or 'pen jing' in Chinese) at the end of the garden furthest from the main entrance is worth a trip all by itself. ¥70, ¥50 off-season.
- The Garden of the Master of the Nets (Wang Shi Yuan 网师园), (Down a small ally off of Fenghuang Rd in the south of the old town), ☎ +86 512 65293190. 7:30AM-5PM. Originally created in 1140, and recreated in 1770 by the bureaucrat Song Zongyuan. The enclosed complex of house and garden is one of the smallest, most beautiful, and most perfectly proportioned in Suzhou. Don't let the small size deceive you, this garden has enough to occupy you for half a day or more. On certain evenings there are demonstrations of many traditional performing arts. ¥30.
- The Lingering Garden (Liu Yuan 留园). One of the largest and most important classical gardens in Suzhou and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.
- Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty (Huanxiu Shanzhuang 环秀山庄). Considered to be among the finest rock and water garden constructions in Suzhou.
- The Lion Forest Garden (Shi Zi Lin 狮子林), (Just off Lindun Rd, near to the Humble Administrators Garden), . 7:30AM-5:30PM. One of the four great gardens of Suzhou and is admired for the incredible collection of pitted, eroded rocks that were greatly appreciated by classical Chinese scholars. It was originally part of a Buddhist monastery. The gardens are a reminder of the Buddhist story of the lions. The layout of the garden follows many twists and turns. It is easy to get quite lost in these winding paths. ¥30.
- The Surging Wave Pavilion (Canglang Ting 沧浪亭), (Just off Renmin Rd on the S side of the old town. Near the Confucian Temple), ☎ +86 512 65293190. One of the oldest of Suzhou's wonderful collection of private or "scholar's" gardens. More densely forested than other gardens, so ideal for hot days when you want to escape the sun. This garden is best viewed from within its many pavilions, with windows framing different views. ¥20.
- The Retreat and Reflection Garden (Tui Si Yuan 退思园). Located at town of TongLi (同里), which is about 30 km away from Suzhou.
- Small Classical Gardens. Large classical gardens are great to see their majesty while small gardens are quite good for a quick look or relaxing with a cup of tea in relative quiet. Often local folks are seen enjoying their tea and chatting. The small garden is a living part of the local, yet ancient, culture.
- The Former Residence of Poet and Scholar Yu Yue in the ancient Liuhuafang Block, (Central part of the old city near Guanqian St. Cross Renmin Rd to the southwest corner, go south maybe 100 m along the west side of Renmin Rd, turn west at the KFC and you will see it on the north side of the alley). Make sure to go all the way towards the back inside the garden to see the best part. This tucked away place is a little tough to find but totally worth the effort if you want to find a quiet, unpretentious place visited mainly by locals. ¥1.5, ¥3-7 for entrance and tea.
- The Garden of Cultivation (YiPu Garden), (In the northwest corner of the old city -- inside the encircling canal. Ask local shop keepers for help since it is in an ancient block with small alleys/streets.). Make sure to go all the way towards the back inside the garden to see the best part. ¥10.
- Tarrying Garden (Wufeng Xianguan). is located outside Changmen Gate in Suzhou City was established in the Ming Dynasty and many parts of it were rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty. "Wufeng Xianguan" of the garden is also called "Nanmu Hall" in which there are different kinds of rarely seen furnishings made of nanmu. Mandarin Duck Hall is divided into two parts by a meticulously carved partition.There are varieties of doors and windows in other structures. ¥10.
- The Garden of Pleasure (Pleasence) (Yi Yuan 怡园). Very small garden located at the heart of down town area of Suzhou City. Good place to have a cup of green tea and usually visited by lots of local elder people.
- The Couple's Garden Retreat (Ou Yuan 耦园), (Quietly hidden in the small lane off of Pingjiang Rd. Not easy to find it. Alternatively find the gate at the south end of the Zoo's carpark). Built in early 20's century by a couple. Many small garden rooms lead you from view to view. Each window or hall perfectly frames a set of plants, rocks or trees. Every inch of the garden has been carefully thought out. Most of the garden consists of covered walkways, even though it may rain you will be able to enjoy this garden without getting wet. ¥20.
- Ligongdi (李公堤), Ligongdi, Suzhou Industrial Park. Li Gong Di is the only causeway seated in the Suzhou Jinji Lake, the largest inner-city lake in China. It is elegant and delicate ancient architecture with a total length of 1400 meters that built during the reign of Emperor Guangxu by Li Chaoqiong, the magistrate of Yuanhe County. Currently Harmony Group is engaged in overall planning and cascade developing for the area of the southwest bank of Jinji Lake including Li Gong Di. The top class modernized waterfront leisure and recreation spot in Suzhou has become the new landmark of amusement and commercial which covers a building area of nearly 200 thousand square meters. Li Gong Di features an International-style commercial street which integrates high-end Regalia Resort & Spa, catering, recreation, sightseeing, leisure and culture, assembling the famous brands from Denmark, Italy, German, Japan, Belgium, and Hong Kong, etc. Meanwhile Li Gong Di has kept traditional Suzhou residences. The integration of Chinese and western culture fully demonstrate the charm of a water town of South Yangtze River.
- Baita Road (BáiTǎ Lù). Starting from the Northern Pagoda, this street has been sympathetically developed and retains many old-style store fronts. On the east end huge gnarled trees arch over the street.
- Ping Jiang Road. A beautiful walk along an ancient road paved with hand-cut stones over a thousand years old and lined with shops maintaining traditional architectural styles. There are a surprising amount of western style coffee shops with full English menus, internet and English books. If you get further north on this road, but south of the museum area, the shops eventually run out and it just becomes a quiet neighbourhood again. This may be the best part of all.
- The Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) and Jinji Lake. Described by some as a masterpiece of urban planning. Jointly between the city government and a Singaporean urban planning committee, this area is characterised by wide boulevards lined with new high-rise apartments, office buildings and factories with some recreation facilities that might make it worth a visit. Shopping malls, eating and drinking streets and the large Jinji Lake draw are surrounded by some interesting contemporary parkland. Bus number 2 will get you there.
- Shan Tang Street (山塘). A recently-restored canal street running from Chang Men to Tiger Hill. The southeast end of the street may be mobbed with tourists, but as you walk further north the souvenir shops and restaurants disappear, and you can take a leisurely stroll along the canal through a quiet residential neighborhood.
- Ding Hui Temple (DingHui Si), DingHui Temple Lane (Off Fenghuang St). A recently constructed temple on the site of a Tang Dynasty temple. Little more than two huge 300 year-old Ginkgo trees and some stone pillar bases remain from the original complex after it was demolished and a factory built atop in 1949. Free.
- Cold Mountain Temple (HanShan Si), (South of the Grand Canal). Established in the Liang dynasty (502-557AD), most of the buildings date from the Tang Dynasty except for the recently built 5 story pagoda.
- North Temple Pagoda (Beisi Ta), Renmin Lu (Bus #4 from train station, second stop). Viewable from the train station, the peak of the pagoda is Suzhou's most famous. A garden and temples are on the grounds. ¥25.
- Panmen city gates, DongDa Jie. 7:30AM-5:30PM. Built 2,500 years old by the state of Wu in the Warring States Period. It is renowned for its unique structure as a combined water and land gate. The remaining wall is 300m long and 5m high. Visiting Pan Men includes access to a large and rather lovely garden with ponds and pavilions (feed the koi for ¥¥2), a boat ride, the city water and land gate, and an original foot bridge over the grand canal. You can also climb the 2-storey, 53-m high Auspicious Light Pagoda which was built in 1004 B.C. This however is for an extra fee of ¥12 (Entrance ¥40, entry to the pagoda ¥6) ¥25.
- Twin Pagodas (双塔), DingHui Temple Lane. 8AM-5PM. A pair of brick Northern Song Dynasty pagodas stand sentinel over the stark remains of an Arhat Temple from the same era. Mostly intact stone pillars, gracefully carved with floral designs, at the corners of the foundation give a sense the invisible halls size and a stone etching at the rear of the garden helps you fill in the rest. An Octagonal The temple was damaged in the Qing dynasty and abandoned totally at the onset of Chinas republic. The grounds are peaceful but feel like stone graveyard with fragments of carvings displayed around the outer wall or otherwise used as stands for bonsai plants. ¥8.
- Temple of Mystery ("Xuán), Guanqian Jie. 7:30-5PM. A large Taoist hall perpetually obscured by a curtain of joss smoke of devotes eager to placate the gods inside. The temple was established in the 3rd century and broadened to its present size in the Song Dynasty, where it became a popular spot for travelling magicians and acrobats. The erstwhile performers have given way to a multitude of stalls selling meretricious worldly goods on which you can easily make your money disappear. The main Sanxing Dian hall was rebuilt in 1811 to hold Song Dynasty deity statues, later destroyed by Red Guards they occupied the hall during the cultural revolution. The present sculptures are modern reproductions. Of greater antiquity is a stone impressed with the footprints of a Taoist god, found in the Ming dynasty. The stone is genuine, but the origins of the feet less certain. ¥10.
- Confucian Temple (孔庙), (Located in the south west of the old town, near to Canglang Pavilion garden.). First established in the Northern Song Dynasty (1035 CE), the Confucian Temple has continually been one of the most important institutes for higher studies in the country. Much of its ground today is still occupied by Suzhou Middle School. Flanked by trees of hundreds of years of age, the main hall includes an impressive portrait of Confucius made of lacquer, and various ceremonial instruments. Ask the guard for the four Song Dynasty Steles(四大宋碑), each standing more than 15 feet tall, which include a Song dynasty map of the city (much of it still works today), a map of China, a sky map, and a lineage of all chinese emperors till the 13th century when these steles were carved. free.
- Huqiu Tower (虎丘塔; Hǔqiūtǎ; also known as Yunyan Pagoda or Tiger Hill Pagoda). Built during the Song dynasty from 959 to 961. Previously a Buddhist temple, the site was burned during the cultural revolution. Some buildings have been reconstructed and the is a 48-m tall brick pagoda with seven stories and eight sides remains, though now shy of its wooden outer skin. The pagoda one of the few remaining examples of pagodas of this type. Tiger Hill is of enormous importance historically and culturally, but much of its significance will likely be lost on foreign visitors. ¥60, tours from ¥60-100 are negotiable. Also for those less able to climb the hill, electric carts make the journey for ¥20 per person..
- Burghardt tower Ruiguang Pagoda has the longest history. It is said that during the Three Kingdoms period Sun Quan, the king of Wu, ordered the Puji Temple constructed for a monk, Xing Kang, from the state of Kangju when he went to Suzhou in 240.
- Suzhou Museum (Sūzhōu Bówùguǎn). 9AM-5PM, Mondays closed. Designed by I.M. Pei, whose family came from Suzhou. Pei lived most of his life in the US and was a very successful architect there. Perhaps his best-known work is the glass pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris. He has also designed a number of museums including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. He came out of retirement in his 80s to return to Suzhou to create a museum that married his modernist sensibility with his sense of the Jiangnan home where he was born. South of the Yangzi was an area (Jiangnan) distinguished by the sophistication of its intellectual classes and aesthetic sensibilities. Do not miss the recreation of the Ming Dynasty scholar's study. Free.
- Suzhou Opera Museum (苏州戏曲博物馆), . Suzhou is not only famous for its elegant classical gardens and traditional culture but also famous for its gorgeous operas. Suzhou Opera Museum is the best place for those who want to learn about operas in Suzhou. The Suzhou Opera Museum, located in Suzhou of Jiangsu Province, is a special museum of Chinese local art history. The Museum, prepared in 1982 and completed and opened to the public on October 14, 1986, is one of the major historical sites under the protection of the province. Inside the Local Opera Museum is a Tower for Music Makers, a building showing courtesy left from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The main building is a classical stage with the arched roof and caisson ceiling so designed that a very good sound effect is produced. The boxes on the east and west sides and the great hall in the rear form a theater with the oriental classical beauty. In the west compound of the Museum are the Nanmu (Phoebe nanmu) Hall, the Mandarin Duck Hall, pavilions, corridors, a courtyard, houses, ponds and rockeries. An orchestra of painted sculptures playing the courtesy music is arrayed according to the traditional form in the Tower for Music Makers to show the grand occasion of welcoming the guest in those years. On the classical stage the Kunqu (a local opera in Suzhou area) opera, the Suqu opera (a local opera of Suzhou) and Pingtan (storytelling and ballad singing in Suzhou dialect) are irregularly staged in a traditional way. Performances are held inside the classical building around 2 p.m. on Sundays (¥30, ca. 1.5 h). Tickets can be acquired ca. 15 minutes before the beginning of the performance at the door on the left of the outside stage. It will be easy to find by observing where the crowds gather. The performance itself is very professional and can be enjoyed even by non-Chinese speakers. In the Mandarin Duck Hall is a teahouse Shuchang (a place of entertainment where Pingtan performance is given) in imitation of the Qing Dynasty. Three special exhibition rooms are arranged for the Kunqu opera, the Suqu opera and Pingtan respectively in addition to the display of the Suzhou national musical instruments. The display integrates the architectural relics with the historical relics, movement with standstill, audio effects with visual effects, and the past with the present. The Museum has collected several block-printed editions of the Kunqu opera left from the Ming Dynasty, the original rubbings of the local opera scripts, the rare handwritten copies of the Kunqu opera, the Suqu opera and Pingtan left from the Qing Dynasty, the original handwritings and things left behind by the well-known deceased singers such as Ma Rufei, Wu Mei, Yu Sulu and Wang Jili.
- Suzhou Silk Museum (Sūzhōu Sīchǒw Bówùguǎn), 2001 Renmin Rd. 9AM-5PM. Most of the artefacts are faded and rather plain looking, but the live silk worms are quite a sight. A great place to bring the kids ¥15.
- Cycle. Suzhou is relatively flat, and once past the ring-road, traffic is light and easy-going enough to enable a pleasant ride about town. Jinji Lake, Dushu Lake and a few outlying temples are within casual cycling distance. Many hostels rent bikes for around ¥25 a day.
- Take a boat ride through the city's canals, Renmin Bridge. An interesting way to see the city low down in the network of canals.
- Explore GuanQian Street (观前街). The street itself is a rather uninspiring shopping street, however the backstreets off it harbor many small shops selling local crafts and some interesting restaurants serving local cuisine.
BYOB Weekend cycle rides
Rides to nearby attractions such as Tai Lake (30km one way), Yangcheng Lake (40km around the lake), Tongli (20km one way) and Zhouzhuang (40km one way), there are a couple of unofficial cycle clubs run by local cycle shops who run 1 and 2 day rides off the beaten path. Pace is normally relaxed with regular stops for photos and taking a rest. Joining the tour is free, although you have to bring your own bike (BYOB), although you may be able to rent a bike from the store for a deposit and small charge - costs such as meals and accommodation is split between group members. Although most of the riders are locals, foreigners are always welcomed and most members will speak English, and will ride in a safe manner. The following places will have regular rides for most of the year :-
- Specialized Bicycles - Ganjiang Dong Lu, close to Pingjiang Lu (next to the China Merchants Bank)
- Trek Cycles - New City Plaza, Xiandai Dadao, close to Xinghai Jie.
If you consider buying arts and craft items, teas, silks, or other items that are somewhat costly, it would be advantageous to get the help of a Chinese-speaking person, preferably a Suzhou local who knows the products and markets. Many more upscale hotels will offer the services of a personal assistant, or you can try asking around in one of the local expat hangouts to get connected to a friendly local person with some free time. Informed Chinese assistance can make a huge difference in the price and quality of the things you buy. As with anywhere in China, bargaining is the norm.
As a city famed through the ages for its silk embroidery, Suzhou is one of the best places to pick up silk handicrafts. Shopping is good along Shi Quan St, especially for many souvenirs. The Silk Embroidery Institute is a lively enterprise producing high quality work which you can see on a tour of the facility. The gift shop has prices a little higher than at the street stalls but they will bargain and the quality is much better.
Suzhou embroidery, silk fans, musical instruments, scroll mounting, lanterns, mahogany furniture and jade carving are available at discount prices since they are made or created within the city. Suzhou double-sided embroidery, in which the same picture is rendered in great detail on both sides of a silk screen and the knots are tied in the middle, is a traditional Suzhou speciality and is absolutely amazing. The needles used for this work are finer than a human hair. Be aware that the lower-priced examples of Suzhou embroidery sold to many tourists are probably made by machines.
Freshwater pearls – The Suzhou area is part of the largest freshwater pearl-producing region in the world. Pearls can be bought in every conceivable price and quality range, either singly or as strings or jewellery.
Sandalwood fans – folding fans made from thin ornately-stamped sheets of sandalwood- are another very old Suzhou craft and widely sold around the city. The scent of the breeze they generate while fanning is heavenly. Cheap versions are probably more mundane wood dipped in sandalwood oil, and will lose their scent rather quickly.
Tea is produced in Suzhou; the most famous locally-produced green tea is called 'Biluochun'. Large shops with endless varieties of tea can be found all around the city, and some have seating where you will be encouraged to come sit and sample a pot.
Snuff bottles are a long-standing Suzhou craft that remains popular today. Tiny glass bottles are delicately painted on the inside with elaborate and beautiful pictures. The best ones are truly incredible works of art.
Supermarkets & Department Stores
- InCity Plaza (Ying Xiang Cheng), Xiandai Dadao/Sujiahang Xian. One of Suzhou's most popular shopping malls, with a WalMart, chain fashion stores such as Next, H&M and Uniqlo.
- Times Square & Modern Plaza. A suburban shopping area on the east side of Jinji Lake. Times Square is an open pedestrian area situated alongside a canal with many restaurants and shops, whilst Modern Plaza is a large mall selling many luxury brands. Buses 2 and 47 will get you close - get off at the International Expo Centre and walk 10 minutes to the east. Buses 219 and 168 will also stop by Times Square & Modern Plaza.
Suzhou has its own unique, slightly sweet cuisine that tends to have very light and delicate flavors. Locals are very fond of freshwater fish and shellfish. Sweets made from glutinous rice paste are an old tradition here; these will generally baffle most Western palates. A Suzhou specialty popular with many visitors is Song Shu Gui Yu, often rendered in English something like "Squirrel-Shaped Mandarin Fish": the meat of a large fish is delicately cut into strips, breaded in flour, fried, and served covered with pine nuts and a sweet-and-sour sauce. It looks a little like a squirrel's tail...if you've drunk enough of the local rice wine.
- A Bing Cangshu Mutton Soup, 332 Pi Shi St. People in Suzhou like the soup very much. ¥20.
- Harbin Dumplings, Shizi Jie. The dumplings are much cheaper than the better-known Yang Yang Dumplings, and just as good.
- Let's Rock Hong Kong Restaurant (Hǎo Yuè), 403 Shi Quan St. A fun, modern little restaurant with great Hong Kong/Cantonese food. Good dim sum- these folks make a serious Barbecued Pork Bun (Cha Shao Bao). The menu offers lots of quick, inexpensive dishes. - recent name change but same owners & chef
- Nanjing Duck Noodle, 95 GongXiang. Traditional duck noodle where the more you pay, the more body parts you get. Some of the non-duck part dishes are worth a bite too. ¥7-12.
- Sicily, Guanqian Lu (near Renmin Rd and Ganjing Rd). Ok Italian food at near Chinese prices.
- Vegetarian Food, corner of Gong Xiang and Furenfang Xiang (Opposite Christian church). Vegetarian menu with relatively low prices
- Xi Sheng Yuan, 43, Fenghuang Jie ((on the west side of the street, approx halfway along - wooden facade, next to a spicy meat snack shop.).). 10am-7pm.. Bowls of wontons in soup (kai yang huntun) for ¥6 or wontons in a sweet sauce (ban huntun) for ¥9. Both delicious. This place is more widely known for its Xiao Long Bao (on sale to eat in or take away) in the steamed baskets to the right of the entrance. At lunch/dinner time it gets very crowded but tables are vacated quickly. A popular light meal with locals. ¥6-9. &ten;10.
- Song He Lou (松鶴楼), 141 Guanqian Jie, ☎ 67700688 ([email protected]). The "Pine and Crane" is not just the most famous restaurant in town, but reputedly the oldest in all of China (about 250 years old).
- Da Mario, Global 188 Building in SIP. Good Italian food. There really is a Mario, and he really is Italian. The pasta dish "Rosetta Della Mamma" is a Mario's original and absolutely not to be missed.
- Yun-Gei (Ren Ji) Cantonese Restaurant, intersection of Fenghuang Street and Shi Quan Street. A sometimes-raucous local favorite for great Cantonese food.
- The Southern Cross Restaurant, in the Guan Qian area facing Lin Dun Road, has very respectable Tex-Mex food, steaks, and a wide range of Belgian ales as well as some Belgian food specialties.
- Casa Zoe Tex-Mex Restaurant 河畔爱舍墨西哥餐厅, Building 22 Xindu Plaza,#38Xinghan St,S.I.P,Suzhou. 0512-62534118 Great Tex-Mex: Nachos, enchiladas, fajitas。。。Family Friendly. English Menu available.
- Tomato Kitchen Cafe (番茄主意), at 李公提, near Haagen Daz. Fantastic ambience, very value-for-money set meals, international cuisine. Make reservations if you want a window seat.
- DainTi Hill (代官山), at 李公提 and 观前街, fusion food, very interesting dishes at affordable prices. Highly recommended.
- Rendezvous Restaurant & Lounge (人得福综合软西餐), No. 102 Zhong Hui Lu 钟慧路, ☎ 69367770 ([email protected]). http://www.myrendezvous.com/ Located East of Jinji Hu lake, on Jin Hu Wan business street, Rendezvous brings Western food, comfort and service to Eastern Suzhou. The outdoor patio is the perfect place to enjoy their cold beers and cocktails while nibbling on authentic western snacks.
- Lotus (莲轩), 2 Ligongdi, ☎ +86 512 6295 0888 (toll free: 400 115 3388, [email protected], fax: +86 512 6295 0260), . Lotus restaurant, located in Regalia Resort & Spa, offers a uniquely satisfying combination of authentic Thai, Chinese and Western cuisine. As an award winning restaurant for its palatable cuisine and spectacular infinity pool and lakeview, Lotus caters to the most discerning tastes.
Shiquan Street (十全街)is the main bar area. It is also the entertainment district for guys looking for a little conversation with gals. A number of the bars on this street are thinly-veiled fronts for the world's oldest profession; numbers of very friendly young ladies sitting around the bar or standing in doorways to tempt in passers-by are easily recognized. Those wishing to avail themselves of such diversions are encouraged to exercise extreme caution, not overdo the drinking, ask the cost of everything (including the room you are taken to) before accepting it, and never pay anything in advance.
Some of the better known ones (safer?) are "The Moon Bar" aka 'The Danish Embassy", known for its regular crowd of locals, The Blue Lady Bar and The Red Lion Bar - all within the block between FengHuangJie and Suzhou Hotel. All offer drinks without other services and they won't bother you if you are not partaking further!
- Luoke Bar & Luoke Mini. If staying in Ming Town Hostel on Ping Jiang Lu Luoke Bar is quite close. It's an ice cream shop by day but bar by night. The owners, Howard and Fannings are very friendly and Fannings speaks very good English. The also run Luoke 'mini' a one minute walk away, billed as the smallest bar in Suzhou. If you ask them to open this place up they will. Tremendous fun and some local expats will often stop in especially at the weekends. Head north along Ping Jiang Lu from the Hostel. Watch out for the stone bridge with steps on the left side over the canal. On the right side opposite and a few doors further up is Luoke. There's usually a sign outside advertising the ice cream. Recommended. * <drink name="The Pub Bar" alt="酒吧" address="ShiQuan St" directions="" phone="" email="" fax="" url="" hours="" price="">Supports a large crowd of 'expat locals' and 'repeat visitors' in it's small but friendly interior with more than ten years of photographs and business-cards pasted on the roof and walls. It's a good point to catch up on local gossip and enjoy a drink with 'expat locals'. WiFi Internet, snacks and clean toilets keep the patrons happy.
- Pulp Fiction Bar (纸浆小说吧), 169 ShiQuan St. Happy hour till 8:30PM. This Australian bar is a great place to meet Westerners and English speaking Chinese people, shoot some American Pool and play a game of darts. It is fairly quiet until 10PM, then it comes to life.
- Zapata's, Rainbowalk, Jinji Lake. Margaritas and view over the lake. Western DJ plays happy tunes from last 4 decades and free tequila pouring on the bar every night.
- Pandora (潘多拉酒吧), 1755 Renmin Rd (200 meters south of North Temple Pagoda), ☎ 0512-8666-2888, . 9-Late. Suzhou's newest club playing the latest in Progressive, Dubstep, Electro, and House. Amazing drink specials for foreigners almost every night of the week. Wednesday night is Ladies' Night, ladies' drink select cocktails(including Mojitos) all night for free. Saturday bring a friend and pay 100rmb total for all you can drink whiskey, vodka, beer, and mixers. Normal price during non-event days is 100rmb all you can drink whiskey, vodka, beer, and mixers.
Coffee Shops and Book Bars
- The Bookworm, ShiQuan St (near The Shamrock), . Good coffee and food. Free wireless Internet. Good selection of English books to read in the shop or to borrow if you get a membership. A very nice alternative to relaxing at a bar. This place has become a major focal point for the resident expat community.
- The Minghantang Cafe, Santang St, ☎ +86 512-65833331/655565221, . In an old traditional house that is more than 400 years old. Good coffee and food. Free wireless Internet.
- SoloCafe, ShiQuan St (Cross the bridge over the canal across the street from the Suzhou Hotel and it is next to the north side of the bridge on your left.), ☎ +86 512-6572-0696, . 10:00-23:00. Good coffee and food with a Lotus theme running right through to the shape of the milk in a mocha.
- Suzhou Joya Youth Hostel, 21-1 Daxingial Lane, Pingjiang District, Suzhou, China (On a tiny alley paralleling a small river off of the main Pingjiang street/river. You wouldn't think there'd be a hostel there, but there is.), ☎ 86-512-67551752, . checkout: 12:00. A very nice hostel with a much more peaceful ambiance than Watertown or Mingtown. A perfect location and very well spoken English. Free wifi and luggage storage. All other standard services--laundry, phone calls etc--provided for a small fee. Discounts for youth hostel members and you can become a member there if you'd like. Nearly all the guests are Chinese. If you're looking for somewhere to meet young western travelers, this is NOT the place. 55 RMB and up. (31.318448,120.635519)
- 100 Happy Hotel, 201 Shiquan St, Canglang District, ☎ +86 512-68017999, 65600796, 68017788 or 6137-7646, . Few English-speaking staff.
- Dongwu Hotel Wuyachang (新东吴珍珠大酒店), 200 Shi Quan St, ☎ +86 512-65193681, .
- Hengdeli Hotel, ☎ +86 512-65115788, . Offers small but clean rooms at cheap rates. Also unadvertised is the fact that all standard rooms are equipped with (extremely slow, but free) "broadband" access for laptop users. Breakfast is included. Staff are very friendly and speak English well enough to take a telephone reservation or give directions. A short walk from central Suzhou, but still very quiet.
- Mingtown-Suzhou Youth Hostel, No.28 Pingjiang Rd, ☎ +86 0512-65816869. In the most ancient block in Suzhou downtown area. Ping Jiang Rd keeps the old pattern of road paralleling to canal on its original site Town giving you aboriginal water town feeling, which makes it the most attractive ancient block in old Suzhou Town. Hostel is rebuilt based on an old building and have a nice garden with fish in the pool. 10-min walk to Humble Administrator's Garden, Suzhou Museum, Lion Forest Garden, Shan Xi Assembly Hall, Couple Garden, Guan Qian St and there are also many buses to other sight-seeing spots in Suzhou city from here. Weirdly enough, their lounge(Mingtown cafe) is not inside nor adjacent to the hostel - you'd have to go out and walk 10 meters to go to the lounge. Perhaps as a result, you won't meet as many travelers as in most other hostels. The staff were friendly, but did not know bus routes to even the most popular destinations. They also have a lot of bicycles at their courtyard, but do not rent them out. All ten-something were "broken", and they refer you to go to some other hostels to rent bikes. Other hostels would rather rent out their bicycles to their own guests. If you want to bike around the city, book with another hostel.Hot water available only between 7-10 am, and 7-10pm. Bed Price:¥40-200.
- Noahs Hotel Suzhou, ☎ 86-512-62397999, . It offers air-conditioned rooms and suites, all of which have satellite TV, IDD phone, safe, and a choice of Chinese or Western breakfast. Some of its amenities include massage service, gym/health club, and beauty salon.) Best rates on official website start at CNY 290++.
- Suzhou Hostel, 186 Zhuhui Rd, ☎ +86 512-65180266. Beds from ¥45.
- Suzhou Minghantang Youth Hostel (广济路新民桥,山塘街口), 61 Tongguiqiao, Xiatang, Shantang St Guangji Rd, ☎ +86 512-65833331, . Centrally located, in a traditional Suzhou block-house more than 400 years old in Shantang St, Internet access, WiFi, coffee shop. From ¥40.
- Suzhou Watertown Youth Hostel, 27 Dashitou Ln 大石头巷27号 (1 block from Renmin Rd), ☎ +86 512-65218885, . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. Centrally located in a traditional Suzhou block-house with all the modern conveniences, including free Internet access & WiFi, DVDs, bicycle renting (25/15¥ full/half day). From ¥40. (31.30618,120.61642)
- Suzhou Youth Hostel, 178 Xiangwang Ln (Next to Shiquan St and the Dong Wu & 100 Happy Hotels), ☎ +86 512-65109418 or 65188734, . beds from ¥40-50.
- Citadines Xinghai Suzhou (苏州馨乐庭星海服务公寓), Block 27, Jiacheng Gardens, 58 Xinghai Street, SIP, ☎ +86 512 8885-8288 ([email protected], fax: +86 512 8885-8200), . The residence in Suzhou Industrial Park offers apartments that each has a living/dining area, home entertainment system with cable TV and kitchen. Broadband is available in each room and wireless internet Wi-Fi) zones are available in the lobby and business areas. Daily rates starts from ¥450.
- Bamboo Grove Hotel, 168 Zhuhui Rd, ☎ +86-512-65205601, . Comfortable rooms, lots of smokers. Rates are reasonable. The internet connection is serviceable. Bamboo Grove is an older and more 'Chinese hotel' than other places. It is still very clean and comfortable and has plenty of character. English is spoken well by staff. It is within easy walking distance from Shi Quan St, Guihua Park, 'Master of Nets' garden and 'Jack's Place' Italian restaurant.
- Gloria Plaza Hotel, 535 Ganjiang E Rd, ☎ +86 512-65218855, . Nice hotel. Decent restaurant, clean rooms. Close to the center of the city and a short walk to the pedestrian mall area. Good internet connections, cost is reasonable.
- Guibinlou Hotel, No. 888 East Ganjiang Rd, Pingjiang District, ☎ +86 512-65217888, . Located in the Guanqian Commercial Area, 3 km from railway station. Rooms have en-suite bathrooms, cable TV and free Internet. ¥400.
- Mercure Suzhou Park Hotel (苏州商旅美居酒店), 336 Feng Li St (In Suzhou Industrial Park), ☎ (+86)512 62967888, .
- Suzhou Nanlin Hotel, No. 20 Gunxiufang, Shiquan St, Canglang District, ☎ +86 512-68017888, . Located in the Shiquan St bar strip. 210 rooms with safe, toilet and TV. Gym, pool, sauna and, alas, karaoke. ¥500.
- Wealth Center Hotel, 938 Ganjiang E Rd, Pingjiang District, ☎ +86 512-65091688, . A 4-star-quality hotel right inside the Guanqian Business Center.
- Regalia Resort & Spa, 2 Li Gong Di, Suzhou SIP, ☎ 86 512 6295 0888 (toll free: 400 115 3388, [email protected], fax: +86 512 6295 0260), . Regalia Resort and Spa, a member of the SMALL LUXURY HOTELS OF THE WORLD, brings a new dimension in luxury and leisure with its distinctive architecture and lush tropical gardens abounding with exotic foliage and secluded lotus ponds. Regalia Resort & Spa is a boutique resort offering 44 rooms and suites and is well loved for its timeless appeal, blending into the serene ambiance of Suzhou’s famous Jinji Lake.
- Noahs Hotel Suzhou, No. 58 Shishan Road, Suzhou New District, Suzhou, Jiangsu, China, ☎ 86-512-62397999, . Air-conditioned rooms with satellite TV, IDD phone, safe, and a choice of Chinese or Western breakfast. Amenities include massage service, gym/health club, and beauty salon. Best rates on official website start at CNY 290.
- Somerset Emerald City Suzhou (苏州盛捷绿宝广场服务公寓), No 436 Changjiang Road, Suzhou New District (SND), ☎ (86-512) 6818 6611 ([email protected], fax: (86-512) 6818 6622), . Situated on top of The Emerald City shopping mall, the residence offers travellers instant access to international fashion, dining and entertainment. Each serviced apartment is stylishly furnished and contemporary with a modern fully-equipped kitchen, home entertainment system, broadband internet service, and a private telephone number with IDD service upon request. Daily rates starts from 680¥.
- Aster Hotel Suzho, 156 Sanxiang Rd, ☎ +86 512-68291888, . Nice hotel, but a bit out of the way of the old town. Claims to be either 4- or 5-star depending where you look. Perfect for the business traveller, except that the in-room internet connection is only 10Mbps. There is an outside swimming pool that is not heated so is closed in the colder months. The ground floor restaurant 'Venice Cafe', serves really good breakfasts. Good level of English.
- Holiday Inn Jasmine, 345 Changxu Rd, ☎ +86 512-65588888, . Western-style hotel with excellent amenities in-room that rival amenities in other countries (of any price). While somewhat out of the way of nightlife, the Holiday Inn would probably suit business travelers well. Free Internet in-room.
- Renaissance Suzhou Hotel, 229 Suhua Rd, Suzhou Industrial Park, ☎ +86 512-67618888 (fax: +86 512-6767 1888), . checkin: 2PM; checkout: noon.
- Garden Hotel Suzhou, 99 Dai Cheng Qiao Road, Suzhou, ☎ +86 757-88286768, . checkin: 12AM; checkout: noon. Garden Hotel Suzhou occupies an historic walled garden compound covering 48,000 square metres of traditional Suzhou gardens. The luxury hotel offers 235 rooms, including presidential suites, deluxe suites, standard suites and standard rooms, housed in elegantly styled heritage villas and contemporary wings. A range of restaurants and lounges offer the finest Chinese and western cuisines.
- Pan Pacific Suzhou (Suzhou Wu Gong), 259 Xin Shi Rd, ☎ +86 512-65103388, . Nice western style hotel, pool, gym, old restaurant, but somewhat expensive. The tap water is filtered and drinkable. Good internet connections. There is a large and very nice garden right behind the Sheraton which is nice to visit (Staying at the hotel allows free access to the Pan Men Garden). Previously the "Sheraton Suzhou Hotel and Towers"
Suzhou is a safe place on the whole but there are a few things to watch out for. Pickpocketing is common on crowded buses around the north bus station and the train station. Pan-handlers and beggars around the old town can become a real nuisance although they are not dangerous. Watch out for incredibly pushy hawkers operating on Guanqian Jie shopping street - they generally charge ridiculous prices for counterfeit goods.
Taxis are generally safe although it's advisable not to follow touts operating around tourist sights or the train station. Also be aware that pedicab and 3-wheel tuk-tuk drivers are known to overcharge.
Probably the biggest safety risk in Suzhou are the electric scooters. These cheap, plastic, battery powered 2-wheel vehicles swarm around the city like ninjas and are renowned for driving anywhere possible - the wrong side of the road, the pavement, tiny alleyways and across crowded pedestrian crossings. They are almost silent and riders generally don't use headlights at night to save battery power - the only giveaway is their squeaky electric horns. Don't be surprised when you're walking down a busy pavement and one of these pocket-rockets whizzes past at 50 km/h without warning so always keep an eye and an ear out for them, particularly at night and at rush hour when the designated bike lanes become too crowded so the riders take alternate means.
Remember that in China it's LEGAL for car drivers to make a right turn against a red light - albeit they ignore the latter part of the rule 'turn with caution' - it's all too common for cars, and more notoriously, trucks, to fly round an intersection too fast and unfortunately accidents involving pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are too common. Always keep an eye out in both directions when crossing the street.
Breathing may be difficulty for some travelers
Some travelers may need to heed the air quality in Suzhou, although the problem is not as bad as in Shanghai or Nanjing, for example.
Like in most of China, tap water is not safe for drinking, but ok for washing and cleaning teeth, and safe if boiled.
As Suzhou is a water-town, there is a high presence of mosquitoes in the summer - luckily repellant can be found in every convenience store and they don't carry any known diseases so they're more of an annoyance than a hazard.
Suzhou has many free WiFi access points as well as pay (¥2.5 per hour) Internet cafes.
The biggest concentration of Internet Cafes are located along Moye Road just east of Shiquan Street. Most are about ¥2.50 per hour and have fast internet, headphones, webcam etc and also serve hot and cold drinks, and cigarettes (smoking is permitted inside). Note that Chinese customers will use their ID card to access the computer - foreigners should either bring their passport to register onto the computer, although if this facility is not provided the cashier will use his/her card to sign you in, although police will occasionally check in which case it may be harder for you to use.
- New Island Cafe many locations throughout Suzhou and China. Free WiFi.
- Starbucks and Costa Coffee have several branches in Suzhou, both offering free WiFi.
- Fisher coffee 25-1 Wuyachang Lane, Shiquan Street. Across the canal from Shiquan street. Free WiFi.
- Zhen Ze – A historical and authentic town with a river running through the center. The old buildings are still occupied by residents. 1 hour walk from the East end to the West end of town. Things to see are the Ci Yun Pagoda and temple ¥10, Shi Jian Tang, Yu Ji Bridge (qiao), and Shi Fan Bridge (qiao). The tomb of famous astronomer Wang Xiao An is located in a musuem in Zhen Ze Middle School at the West End of town. Entrance fee is ¥5. 
- Mudu – Slighty shabby town with many lanes flanked by crumbling traditional homes to explore.
- Tong Li – A smaller canal town with a many sightly crumbling old buildings.
- Zhouzhuang – A relatively new town at only 900 years old.
|This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!