Discover a side of Suzhou you never knew

There's a lot more to see in the city

Photographs: ATRAILS (Suzhou Canal)
In association with Suzhou Municipal Bureau of Culture, Radio, Television and Tourism

Known as the 'Venice of China', Suzhou is one of the top weekend staycation destinations for people living in Shanghai. But apart from the UNESCO-listed ancient gardens, the sleek Suzhou Museum (designed by IM Pei), bustling Shantang Street and the China–Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park that the locals can't stop bragging about, there's a lot more to the city.

Temple of Confucius

Photograph: Yu Zhiming (Temple of Confucius & Suzhou Museum of Inscribed Stone Tablets)

Anyone interested in Chinese culture knows that Confucius is a big deal. All across China, Confucian temples are considered a sacred place and Suzhou is no exception. Said to be the largest Temple of Confucius outside the sage’s hometown Qufu in Shandong Province, this 980-year Confucian temple has more than 1,300 cultural relics that can be traced back to the Song Dynasty (420-479 AD).

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Photographs: Hua Xuegen (Ancient coin rubbing experience)

Want to take home a tiny piece of history? Join the ancient coin rubbing workshop while you are there. Under the guidance of the museum staff, you'll learn how to make a clear rubbing out of coins of various shapes that were used in different dynasties.

📍Suzhou Museum of Inscribed Stone Tablets, 795 Renmin Lu, near Canglangting Jie.

Suzhou canal cruise

Photograph: ATRAILS (Suzhou canal)

Downtown Suzhou has nine east-west canals and 12 north-south canals and the best way to visit the canals – you've guessed it – is to take the canal cruise. Hop on one of the dining cruises, sip fresh green tea and sample Suzhou snacks while listening to a pipa performance and singing in the local dialect.


Photographs: Yu Zhiming

The hour-long cruise serves fried buns, fried spring rolls, date cakes, lotus seed soup, wontons, red-bean porridge and many more specialities. It's worth spending a late afternoon on the cruise, especially after wandering lively Shantang Street for some shopping and haggling.

📍Baijuyi Wharf, 58 Shantang Jie, near Fangji Xiang.

Master of the Nets Garden

Photograph: courtesy The Master of the Nets Garden

You likely already know that Suzhou is famous for its gardens, nine of which have made it on to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Visit the heavy-hitters like Canglang Pavilion, Humble Administrator’s Garden and Lion Forest if it's your first time visiting Suzhou. But, if you're looking for something new, check out Master of the Nets Garden in the evening from 7:30 to 10pm.


Photograph: courtesy The Master of the Nets Garden

Master of the Nets Garden may be smaller than some of the city's more famous examples, but this 12th-century garden brings excerpts of classic kunqu opera, pingtan (Suzhou-style ballad singing), folk dance, traditional Chinese instrumental music and comedy theatre inside the gorgeously landscaped grounds, creating an immersive experience in a lush setting, available only in the evenings.

📍Master of the Nets Garden, 11 Daichengqiao Lu, near Shiquan Jie.

The ancient trail of Dongshan

Photograph: ATRAILS

If you have one more day to kill and are craving some wilderness, go hiking in Dongshan. About 50km southwest from the centre of Suzhou, after passing acres and acres of orchards, you'll arrive at the Suzhou suburb by Taihu Lake.

Photographs: Yu Zhiming (Diaohua Lou)

Stop by Diaohua Lou ('Carved Building') before hitting the trail. Made by 250 craftsmen over three years, the extravagant 1922 building cost 117kg of gold to build. The mansion shows the artful combination of traditional Chinese architecture with western designs. Don't miss the beautiful stained glass that adorns most of its rooms.

Get your walking shoes ready and follow the ancient walkway through acres of tangerine trees, tea bushes and fruit trees towards the expansive Taihu Lake. You will be rewarded by even more beautiful scenes upon arrival at the quaint ancient village of Luxiang set on the shore of the lake.

📍Diaohua Lou, 58 Zijin Lu, near Dongting Lu, Dongshan.

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