Once hailed as China’s leading silk-producing city, Suzhou, a more than 2,500-year-old town in the Yangtze River Basin known as the “Venice of China,” has partnered with the “Venice of America,” Fort Lauderdale, and other U.S. cities to connect North American travelers with the Far East destination.
Located less than an hour west of Shanghai by train, Suzhou, is resplendent in grand canals, classic gardens and museums. Ideal as a destination on its own, or as an add-on to a China tour package, the storied city of Suzhou has been able to retain its traditional charm despite its status as one of the most developed cities in China.
To begin, suggest your clients head straight for the city’s precisely landscaped gardens, which reflect the Chinese sense of balance and harmony in a blend of rocks, water, trees and quiet pavilions. These gardens, once enjoyed by aristocrats, scholars and writers for their beauty, are now on the top of every visitor’s must-see list, so make sure your clients arrive early to beat the crowds.
The largest of all of Suzhou’s gardens, the majestic Humble Administrators Garden, first built in 1509, features 559,723 sq. ft. of bamboo groves, lotus ponds, water features, tea houses, numerous pavilions and a museum. Other gardens to keep in mind are the Lingering Garden and the Garden of the Master of the Nets, with the former boasting winding corridors decorated with calligraphy and the latter offering a labyrinth of courtyards and a nightly orchestral performance.
Cultural and historical attractions abound in Suzhou, from museums and monuments to temples and boat rides along the Grand Canal by Shantang Street. At Tiger Hill, visitors find the final resting place of Suzhou’s founding father Hu Lu. The octagonal 7-story pagoda was built in the 10th century and is made entirely of brick. Another arichtectural triumph, the Suzhou Museum, was designed by Chinese American architect I.M. Pei, who took inspiration from a Suzhou garden to create a whitewashed building that houses more than 15,000 pieces including ancient paintings and calligraphy, ceramics, crafts, books and documents.
At the Hanshan Temple, visitors can catch breaktaking views of the city, while the West Garden Temple features rows of 500 near life-size Arhat (monks who have achieved enlightenment) statues. Lake Jinji, a small freshwater lake in Suzhou Industrial Park, offers a bit of diversion in the city’s modern district as it is home to China’s largest Ferris wheel, restaurants and shops. Travel Suzhou offers more than 30 tours of China and Suzhou, including the 8-day A Taste of China itinerary and the 14-day Mystery of Tibet itinerary.
Suzhou’s robust hotel landscape offers plenty of hotel options for travelers staying in the city. The Suzhou Marriott Hotel, a posh high-rise hotel situated three miles west of downtown, features 293 guestrooms, a lounge, a fitness center and an indoor pool, plus several dining venues such as the Asia Bistro, Alto Vino Italian restaurant, and the Man Ho Chinese Restaurant, which serves traditional Cantonese cuisine and Suzhou specialties. Rates start at $136 per night. For more information, visit marriott.com/hotels/travel/szvmc-suzhou-marriott-hotel.
Meanwhile, the luxurious InterContinental Suzhou is the perfect jumping-off point for guests looking to delve into the city’s arts, shopping and entertainment centers. The 423-guestroom property is nestled on Jinji Lake’s waterfront promenade and features a range of upscale amenities, including a full-service spa, an infinity pool overlooking Jinji Lake, a fitness center and five restaurants featuring everything from Chinese and Spanish to Mediterranean cuisine. For more information, visit ihg.com/intercontinental/hotels/gb/en/suzhou/suzha/hoteldetail.
For more information on Suzhou, visit traveltosuzhou.com/index, the official website for Suzhou Tourism, which enables travelers to virtually experience the destination through vivid imagery, detailed travel information, tour packages, attraction highlights, and integrated social content.