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Shanghai To Suzhou Day Trip? Why You Should Plan Longer In Suzhou


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Benny Gunter



Shanghai and Suzhou are two of China’s most captivating cities, each with its own unique charm and attractions. While a day trip from Shanghai to Suzhou is a popular option, it often leaves travelers wanting more. With its rich history, picturesque gardens, traditional water towns, and vibrant cultural scene, Suzhou offers a wealth of experiences that make it worth planning a longer stay.


As one of China’s largest cities, Shanghai is a bustling metropolis that seamlessly blends modernity with traditional Chinese culture. Skyscrapers, shopping malls, and a vibrant nightlife define Shanghai’s landscape, while historic districts like The Bund and Yu Garden showcase its rich heritage.


Suzhou, on the other hand, is a city known for its classical gardens, picturesque canals, and elegantly designed bridges. Considered the “Venice of the East,” the city provides a serene escape from the fast-paced energy of Shanghai. With its well-preserved ancient architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation, Suzhou offers a glimpse into China’s storied past.


While a day trip to Suzhou can be a tantalizing teaser of the city’s beauty, it often leaves visitors yearning for more time to explore. By extending your stay, you can truly immerse yourself in all that Suzhou has to offer. Whether you’re a lover of history, a fan of beautiful gardens, or a seeker of authentic cultural experiences, Suzhou has something to captivate every traveler.


The Charm of Shanghai

Shanghai, the cosmopolitan powerhouse of China, exudes an irresistible charm that draws millions of visitors each year. The city’s modern skyline, dominated by architectural marvels like the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower, is a sight to behold. Walking along The Bund, a waterfront promenade lined with majestic colonial-era buildings, provides a stunning contrast between the past and the present.


Shanghai’s allure extends beyond its skyline. The city is a shopping paradise, with trendy boutiques, luxury malls, and bustling markets offering everything from high-end fashion to unique local handicrafts. Nanjing Road, one of the world’s busiest shopping streets, is a haven for fashion lovers and bargain hunters alike.


For history enthusiasts, Shanghai offers a glimpse into its past through its well-preserved heritage sites. The Yuyuan Garden, an exquisite traditional Chinese garden, transports visitors back to the Ming Dynasty with its picturesque pavilions, winding corridors, and tranquil ponds. The Shanghai Museum showcases a vast collection of ancient Chinese art, including jade artifacts, intricate ceramics, and priceless bronzes.


In the evenings, Shanghai comes alive with its vibrant nightlife. From trendy rooftop bars offering panoramic views of the city to traditional tea houses where you can enjoy a cup of fragrant tea, the options are endless. The French Concession area is a popular nightlife hub, with its charming tree-lined streets dotted with hip bars, cozy cafes, and live music venues.


Whether you’re exploring its historical sites, indulging in retail therapy, or immersing yourself in its energetic nightlife, Shanghai’s allure lies in its ability to seamlessly blend old-world charm with modern dynamism.


The Beauty of Suzhou

Nestled just a short distance from Shanghai, Suzhou is a city renowned for its timeless beauty and enchanting landscapes. Often referred to as the “Venice of the East,” Suzhou’s intricate network of canals, serene gardens, and elegant bridges make it a popular destination for those seeking tranquility and natural splendor.


One of the highlights of Suzhou is its exquisite classical gardens. These meticulously designed green spaces are a fusion of art, nature, and culture. The Humble Administrator’s Garden, with its meandering streams, delicate pavilions, and lush plantings, is a masterpiece of Ming Dynasty landscaping. The Lingering Garden, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, captivates visitors with its harmonious blending of architecture and nature.


Suzhou is also home to a number of charming water towns, such as Zhouzhuang and Tongli. These ancient towns are characterized by their picturesque canals, stone bridges, and traditional white-washed houses. Exploring their narrow alleyways, visitors can get a glimpse of a bygone era and experience the timeless beauty of rural China.


The city’s cultural heritage is evident in its well-preserved historic districts, such as Pingjiang Road and Shantang Street. These atmospheric streets are lined with traditional shops, teahouses, and art galleries, offering glimpses into Suzhou’s rich artistic traditions. Strolling through these historic neighborhoods is like stepping back in time, with their preserved architecture and charming ambiance.


Suzhou is also renowned for its silk industry, with a history dating back to ancient times. A visit to the Suzhou Silk Museum provides insight into the intricate process of silk production and offers the opportunity to purchase high-quality silk products as souvenirs.


Whether it’s admiring the beauty of the classical gardens, exploring the traditional water towns, or immersing oneself in the city’s rich cultural heritage, Suzhou offers a captivating experience that will leave a lasting impression on visitors.


Exploring the Historic Gardens

One of the highlights of Suzhou is its collection of historic gardens, which are considered some of the finest in China. These meticulously planned green spaces showcase the deep appreciation that the Chinese have for nature and aesthetics.


One must-visit garden is the Humble Administrator’s Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spanning over 50,000 square meters, it is the largest and most renowned garden in Suzhou. The garden is a harmonious blend of pavilions, winding pathways, sweet-scented flowers, and peaceful water features. It offers visitors a serene escape from the bustling city and provides a glimpse into the classical garden design of the Ming Dynasty.


Another notable garden is the Lingering Garden, recognized as one of the four most famous gardens in China. This garden is renowned for its stunning architecture, exquisite rock formations, and delicate water landscapes. It is a true oasis of tranquility, where visitors can wander through picturesque scenes and appreciate the impeccable craftsmanship that went into its creation.


The Master of the Nets Garden is another gem in Suzhou’s garden collection. This garden, known for its small size but immense charm, showcases the essence of Suzhou’s classical garden style. Its harmonious blend of space, architecture, rockwork, and water features creates a serene and inviting atmosphere that transports visitors to a bygone era.


Apart from these must-see gardens, Suzhou offers a plethora of other smaller, yet equally beautiful, private gardens. These hidden gems provide a more intimate and personal experience, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the tranquility and beauty of ancient Chinese garden design.


Exploring Suzhou’s historic gardens is not only a feast for the eyes but also a journey into China’s rich cultural heritage. These gardens are a testament to the skill and artistry of ancient craftsmen and provide valuable insight into the appreciation of nature and aesthetics in traditional Chinese culture.


Discovering the Traditional Water Towns

Just a short distance away from Suzhou, visitors have the opportunity to explore the enchanting traditional water towns that dot the region. These ancient towns, with their picturesque canals, charming stone bridges, and well-preserved architecture, offer a glimpse into the past and a chance to experience the timeless beauty of rural China.


Zhouzhuang is one of the most famous water towns in the Suzhou area. Often referred to as the “Venice of the East,” it is known for its tranquil canals, quaint alleyways, and traditional white-washed houses. Visitors can take a leisurely boat ride along the canals, admiring the scenic views and gaining a unique perspective of the town. The Twin Bridges, Sheng Mansion, and Zhang Hall are among the must-visit attractions in Zhouzhuang.


Tongli is another water town that should not be missed. This ancient town, with its well-preserved architecture dating back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties, exudes an old-world charm. It is often referred to as a living museum due to its rich cultural heritage. Visitors can explore its narrow alleyways, visit historic sites such as the Tuisi Garden and the Pearl Tower, and witness traditional activities like the art of woodblock printing.


Wuzhen is another popular water town in the region, offering a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Its picturesque canals, stone bridges, and ancient houses create a postcard-worthy setting that transports visitors back in time. Wuzhen is also known for its traditional arts and crafts, such as indigo dyeing, silk weaving, and wood carving. Exploring the town’s workshops and museums provides a fascinating insight into these traditional crafts.


These traditional water towns provide a refreshing contrast to the bustling cities of Shanghai and Suzhou. Their peaceful atmosphere, stunning scenery, and rich cultural heritage make them an essential part of any visit to the region. Whether you choose to take a leisurely boat ride, stroll along the canal-side streets, or simply immerse yourself in the charm of these ancient towns, a visit to the traditional water towns is an unforgettable experience that transports you to a different time and place.


Experiencing Suzhou’s Cultural Delights

Suzhou, with its rich history and vibrant cultural scene, offers a plethora of experiences that allow visitors to delve into the city’s cultural heritage and immerse themselves in its unique atmosphere.


One of the highlights of Suzhou’s cultural scene is its traditional performing arts. The Suzhou Kun Opera, one of China’s oldest opera forms, showcases the city’s rich theatrical traditions. The elaborate costumes, intricate makeup, and melodic tunes transport audiences to a world of grace and elegance. Attending a Kun Opera performance provides a unique opportunity to witness this traditional art form in its birthplace.


Suzhou is also renowned for its silk industry, with a history spanning over 4,000 years. A visit to the Suzhou Silk Museum allows visitors to learn about the intricate process of silk production, from silkworm rearing to the delicate art of silk weaving. The museum offers demonstrations and workshops where visitors can try their hand at silk spinning and learn about the cultural significance of silk in Chinese history.


For art enthusiasts, the Suzhou Museum is a must-visit. Designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, the museum houses a vast collection of ancient Chinese art and artifacts. From delicate calligraphy and paintings to exquisite ceramics and sculptures, the museum showcases the rich artistic traditions of Suzhou and its surrounding regions.


Suzhou is also home to a number of traditional artisans and craftsmen whose skills have been passed down through generations. Visiting their workshops provides the opportunity to witness the creation of intricate woodcarvings, delicate embroidered silk, and masterfully crafted pottery. Engaging with these artisans allows visitors to gain a deeper appreciation for the meticulous craftsmanship and ancient techniques that go into these handmade treasures.


Experiencing Suzhou’s cultural delights not only offers a chance to appreciate its rich heritage but also allows visitors to connect with the city on a deeper level. Whether through witnessing traditional performances, exploring museums, or engaging with local artisans, Suzhou immerses visitors in a world of artistic expression and cultural significance.


Indulging in Suzhou’s Culinary Scene

Suzhou’s culinary scene is a gastronomic delight, offering a variety of delectable dishes that showcase the region’s rich culinary heritage. Known for its delicate flavors, fine ingredients, and elegant presentation, Suzhou cuisine is a testament to the city’s refined tastes and appreciation for the art of dining.


One of the signature dishes of Suzhou is the “Squirrel-Shaped Mandarin Fish.” This intricately prepared dish features a whole fish, delicately deboned and fried to perfection. The crispy exterior and tender flesh, served with a sweet and tangy sauce, create a delightful culinary experience that exemplifies the artistry of Suzhou’s cuisine.


Another must-try dish is “Biluochun Tea Smoked Duck.” This succulent duck is marinated in a fragrant blend of spices and then smoked with biluochun tea leaves, infusing it with an aromatic flavor. The result is a tender and flavorful meat with a unique smoky undertone that tantalizes the taste buds.


Suzhou is also famous for its delicate pastries and sweets. The “Mooncakes” of Suzhou are a must during the Mid-Autumn Festival. These flaky pastries come in various flavors, such as lotus seed paste, red bean paste, and salted egg yolk, and are beautifully decorated with intricate patterns. Along with mooncakes, the city is known for its “Songzi Cake,” a sweet rice cake filled with fragrant osmanthus flowers, and “Suzhou-style Squirrel-Shaped Pastry,” a crispy pastry filled with red bean paste or other sweet fillings.


To fully indulge in Suzhou’s culinary delights, one cannot miss a visit to the city’s bustling food streets and local markets. Shantang Street and Guanqian Street are two popular destinations where vendors offer a wide array of street food, from savory dumplings and steamed buns to delicate pastries and refreshing sweet soups. Exploring these lively food streets allows visitors to experience the vibrant food culture of Suzhou firsthand.


Immersing yourself in Suzhou’s culinary scene is a feast for the senses, offering a tantalizing blend of flavors, textures, and aromas. Whether you’re savoring the delicate dishes of Suzhou cuisine, indulging in the city’s famous pastries, or exploring the bustling food streets, Suzhou’s culinary offerings are sure to leave a lasting impression on your taste buds.



Shanghai and Suzhou are two captivating cities in China that offer unique experiences for travelers. While a day trip from Shanghai to Suzhou may provide a taste of the city’s beauty and charm, taking the time to plan a longer stay in Suzhou is highly recommended. From the modern skyline and vibrant nightlife of Shanghai to the classical gardens, traditional water towns, and rich cultural heritage of Suzhou, each city has its own distinct appeal.


Shanghai dazzles with its towering skyscrapers, bustling shopping streets, and vibrant atmosphere. Its blend of modernity and history creates a captivating backdrop for exploration. On the other hand, Suzhou transports visitors to a world of traditional Chinese charm, with its meticulously designed gardens, picturesque canals, and well-preserved ancient architecture. The city’s cultural offerings, such as Kun Opera, silk production, and traditional crafts, provide a deeper understanding of its rich heritage.


By extending your stay in Suzhou, you can fully immerse yourself in the city’s beauty and cultural delights. Explore the historic gardens, where the appreciation for nature and aesthetics is evident in every corner. Wander through the traditional water towns, where time seems to stand still as you soak in the serene atmosphere. Indulge in the flavors of Suzhou’s cuisine, savoring its signature dishes and delicate pastries.


Whether you’re captivated by the modern skyline of Shanghai or enchanted by the traditional charm of Suzhou, combining these two cities into your itinerary allows you to experience the best of both worlds. From the dynamic energy of Shanghai to the exquisite beauty of Suzhou, this journey will leave you with unforgettable memories and a deeper appreciation for China’s rich history and cultural heritage.