Just a short train journey away from Shanghai, Suzhou is a city that is popular with tourists and it has many gardens to visit. Known as the Venice of the East because of its winding waterways and tranquil walking streets, Suzhou is a breath of fresh air after the cosmopolitan vibes of Shanghai. There are plenty of gardens to choose from – don’t just go for the most popular, as the smaller ones are well worth considering!
The Humble Administrator’s Garden
This is one of the most popular attractions in Suzhou and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Frequented by both local tourists and foreigners, the garden is a sprawling medley of flowers, water, sweeping trees and rockeries. Most Chinese gardens are small so, by comparison, this one is quite unique. Sample the green tea in the waterside tea house here, and take a walk around the generous paths. In high season, expect queues here. The garden is named after a famous administrator in the city who was famous for not accepting bribes.
The Garden of the Master of the Nets
This garden is tucked away down winding streets and can be a little difficult to find, but the Master of Nets Garden is well worth the effort. In the middle of the garden is a pond that’s home to giant carp, and it is edged with delicate walkways. Around the garden, you’ll see stunning rock formations, and there are plenty of pavilions and dark wood chambers for you to relax in or find shade from the sun. At certain times of the year, there are special night-time opening hours, where you can attend a special musical event. If you’re looking for souvenirs, there is a street by the entrance that is jam-packed full of little stalls.
Lion Grove Garden
Sometimes known as Lion Forest and sometimes as Grove Garden, this lovely garden is near to Pingjiang Lu – the main tourist street in the city where you can find dozens of shops, restaurants, cafes and other attractions. Named after its famous rocks which are supposed to look like lions, the rockeries come from Taihu, a local lake. This site is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Lingering Garden
Becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, the garden is split into 4 district sections. Work started on the garden in the late 1500s, and while it fell into disrepair in the earlier 1900s, it has since been restored to its former beauty. Check out the ancient bonsai trees, and relax in the tranquil surroundings. As with many of the smaller gardens in Suzhou, here you can enjoy smaller crowds with fewer people getting in your way as you try to take a selfie!
Ouyuan Garden or the Couple’s Retreat Garden
Also known as the Couple’s Retreat Garden, Ouyuan is a small place but pretty to visit. The circular doorway into the garden perfectly frames a sculpted tree, and the rusty red colour of the painted wood offsets the grey stones of the rockeries and the leaves on the trees. If you’re looking for a quiet excursion away from the crowds, this little garden is a top choice because it’s not a top choice for visitors.
Did you know that Suzhou is surrounded by an ancient city wall, built in the year 514 BC? Pan Men gate is a landmark on the city wall which runs alongside the canal. If you’re looking for a free way to see the city at a leisurely pace, it’s possible to walk the entirety of the wall and see the whole city! As well as seeing the best in the city, you’ll also get to take a look at the impressive architecture of ancient structures like Pan Men, which is over 2,500 years old.
Jin Ji Lake
Walking through the cosmopolitan SIP area (Suzhou Industrial Park) with all the skyscrapers and architectural wonders, there are also green spaces to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. Jin Ji Lake is stunning, particularly at night when the lights from dazzling buildings sparkle on the water. If you’re going to SIP to do some shopping or are planning a meal out at a foreign restaurant, take time to appreciate the park areas by the water.
Other public parks
Other public parks and outdoor areas in Suzhou include Central Park, Big Park, Ferris Wheel Park, Suzhou Amusement Park and Gui Hua Park. For an upcoming city, Suzhou still retains a lot of its green space and has retained its traditional gardens, many of which are top attractions in the city. Which of these beautiful places piques your interest?
The contributor of this blog, Celia Jenkins, is a travel writer and blogger based in the UK.