Tranquil, classical Chinese gardens; the majestic Grand Canal; and a myriad of sacred historic landmarks – these are just samples of what the ancient Chinese city of Suzhou has to offer.
Aptly described as where “China’s past meets its future,” Suzhou is a thriving metropolis built around a labyrinth of canals. With a history that dates back more than 2,500 years, Suzhou is one of the oldest cities in the region. The birthplace of some of the greatest writers and thinkers in China, the city is renowned for its elaborate silk and wood-block carvings.
Flaunting ethereal landscapes which look like they are lifted off a traditional scroll painting, Suzhou beguiles you with her historic and cultural charm. One of the most senior-friendly cities in China, it is ideal for a restful trip with your elderly parents and relatives.
Read on to find out how to make the most of an intergenerational vacation in Suzhou.
What to see and do in Suzhou
Topping the list is the Humble Administrator’s Garden. Recognised as one of China’s ‘famous four’, it is defined by a pristine collection of small forests, elegant lotus ponds, and immaculate bonsai trees. Do not be surprised if you feel like you are off the grid here; just relish this meditative retreat, and wind your way slowly through the gardens.
Insider tip: Try to visit early on a weekday morning to avoid the crowds. For seniors, allocate at least 2-3 hours to fully savour the experience at a relaxed pace. For more on Suzhou’s famous gardens, read this guide.
Wish to bring back an exquisite silk brocade? Thread your way to the Suzhou Silk Museum and glimpse the time-honoured silk production methods that earned the city its name as the ‘silk capital’. You can experience the step-by-step silk-making process—from peeking at the lifecycle of the silkworm, harvesting the silk, to weaving the threads into finished products. An extensive selection of bedding, clothing, and gifts are sold in the museum; prices are said to be competitive here.
Suzhou is predominantly a Buddhist city, and Hanshan Temple is a living testament to its religious leanings. Founded in 502 A.D. during the Liang Dynasty, the temple was destroyed in the time of the Yuan Dynasty, rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty, but destroyed again later. Its final form was rebuilt during the reign of Emperor Xuantong of the Qing Dynasty.
Here, locals and tourists alike write their wishes on red ribbons and toss them onto tree branches in the temple courtyard. Aim carefully: your wish may just come true if your ribbon hangs on any of the branches.
Insider tip: Plan on spending 1-2 hours here; more if you wish to browse the handicraft shops in the historic neighborhood on the other side of Maple Bridge.
The ancient poet Su Dongpo once said, “To visit Suzhou and not see Tiger Hill would lead to a lifetime of regret.” If your elderly parents are up for it, embark on a slow and easy hike up Tiger Hill. With canals meandering through embankments of leafy trees and flowering shrubs, everything here is breathtaking and otherworldly. Look out for the regal Yunyuan Temple—its Leaning Pagoda was built 1,000 years ago, beating the Leaning Tower of Pisa by some 150 years.
Insider tip: Bring along a good pair of shoes, walking sticks, water, and hats. Senior travellers may want to prepare themselves for the trip by taking short, frequent walks around the park or estate.
What to eat in Suzhou
Gourmet travellers young and old will enjoy the splendid variety of good eats in Suzhou. Local chefs are quick to say that the flavours of “su bang cai” (Suzhou cuisine) are delicate, and they change with the seasons.
A perennial favourite, however, is the ubiquitous bowl of soup noodles. Even then, its tastes may vary from season to season. Yang Jianhua, a Suzhou native, describes in Shanghai Daily, “We prefer white noodle soups in summer to wake up the appetite, and red soups in winter to warm up the body.” The former refers to soups with lightly coloured broth, typically stewed with chicken, shrimp, or eel, while the latter are seasoned with soy sauce. Whatever the season, there is always a reason to head to Tong De Xing or Yu Xing Ji for the best noodles in town.
A visit to Suzhou in Autumn would mean only one thing: hairy crabs. Also called Da Zha Xie 大闸蟹, these crustaceans are known for their furry claws, tender meat, and sweet orange roe. One of the best restaurants to savour them is the 400-year-old De Yue Lou Restaurant—perhaps the oldest eating establishment in the city.
The ancient Chinese tradition of the tea ceremony lives on in Suzhou, and one of the world’s best tea experiences can be found at the 130-year old Pin Von Teahouse. It serves a wide variety of tea, including Wuyishan, Oolong, Pu’er, and Biluochun teas. You can also sample some Suzhou-style dim sum such as the Shengjian Mantou (soup dumplings) here, while enjoying canal views.
Find out more about Suzhou cuisine and dining options here.
Where to stay in Suzhou
Reliable Wi-Fi and scenic views might be high on your priority list. However, your elderly parents or friends may have other ideas. Often, they include a comfortable bed, friendly and professional service, lush hotel grounds, and blackout curtains.
All of this is possible when you plan a trip to Suzhou. Simply check in to Pan Pacific Suzhou. The hotel is directly connected to Panmen Gate; entrance to the Suzhou attraction for hotel guests is free.
Pan Pacific Suzhou also boasts of the award-winning St. Gregory’s Spa. An oasis in a garden, our Suzhou spa offers therapeutic Tui Na massage treatments that uses rhythmic compression techniques to restore balance and positive energy flow.
Welcome to Suzhou! For your accommodation and travel planning needs on your Suzhou holidays, speak to our team at Pan Pacific Suzhou.