Located west of Shanghai, the pretty city of Suzhou offers a wealth of cultural refinement and far fewer crowds. Known as the Venice of the East thanks to its network of canals, the city is also celebrated for its UNESCO-designated classical gardens. Discover its key highlights all in one day—here’s how.
Morning: Visit UNESCO-Listed Gardens
Whether you’re based in Suzhou or have taken a speedy bullet train in from Shanghai, enjoy a picture-perfect introduction to the heritage city when you venture to one (or several) of its masterfully sculpted, UNESCO-listed classical gardens. The Humble Administrator’s Garden is the largest in the city and dates to the 16th century, while the Master of Nets Garden blends pretty ponds, architectural features, and charming bridges. Be sure to bring your camera with you to capture the scenery.
Afternoon: A Relaxing Canal Cruise
Break for a traditional lunch—Suzhou’s cuisine is known for its seafood dishes, as well as pan-fried dumplings and other tempting nibbles—before continuing your excursions around town. It’s no accident that Suzhou is often described as the Venice of the East: its waterways and steep bridges resemble those in the northern Italian city, and it was even visited by Marco Polo. Hop aboard a small boat and float along the Grand Canal, spying heritage architecture as you go—it’s the best way to immerse yourself in Suzhou’s scenery.
Evening: A Night at the (Chinese) Opera
Millennia-old Suzhou is renowned for its cultural riches, so an excursion to the opera is a fitting way to wind down your day in town. Kunqu opera—one of the oldest forms of Chinese opera, dating to the 16th century—is still performed regularly in Suzhou. Once the sun goes down, venture to a local theater and enjoy the unique blend of music, singing, drama, and elaborate costumes.