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Situated a few hours from Shanghai, encircled by a moat, Suzhou's stately Old Town is China's premier repository of classical gardens and canals. The canals that interlace Old Town are remnants of the ancient Grand Canal, which can still be viewed from the arched bridge at Panmen Gate. Nearby, boats can be hired to explore these waters. The cobblestone lanes of the inner city are especially appealing for romantic strolls, with stops along the way at the Silk Museum, the Museum of Embroidery, the new Suzhou Museum designed by I. M. Pei, the quaint Twin Pagodas, and the lively Temple of Mystery, a Daoist complex that flourished when Suzhou ...

Situated a few hours from Shanghai, encircled by a moat, Suzhou's stately Old Town is China's premier repository of classical gardens and canals. The canals that interlace Old Town are remnants of the ancient Grand Canal, which can still be viewed from the arched bridge at Panmen Gate. Nearby, boats can be hired to explore these waters. The cobblestone lanes of the inner city are especially appealing for romantic strolls, with stops along the way at the Silk Museum, the Museum of Embroidery, the new Suzhou Museum designed by I. M. Pei, the quaint Twin Pagodas, and the lively Temple of Mystery, a Daoist complex that flourished when Suzhou reached its zenith as China's capital of silk and poetry during the Song Dynasty. Suzhou's chief attractions today are the wonderful old gardens on the UNESCO World Heritage List, perfect specimens of Chinese garden art. Three of the best of nearly a dozen major gardens are the Master of the Nets Garden, the Humble Administrator's Garden, and the Forest of Lions Garden, each a masterpiece of landscape design. Northwest of town is another treasure, Tiger Hill, capped by a 10th-century leaning brick tower, Cloud Rock Pagoda. While Suzhou has become a fully developed high-tech and modern industrial center and its attractions are often inundated with tourists and tourist traps, the gardens and canals preserve enough of their former essence to make Suzhou China's "Venice of the East."

J.D. Brown
About the Expert

J.D. Brown is a contributor to Frommer's China and Frommer's Beijing, coauthor of Frommer's China: The 50 Most Memorable Trips, Berlitz Shanghai, Berlitz Singapore, and other books.

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J.D. Brown for Triporati

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Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Any season except summer