Nearly 1,000 years before Venice became a bustling metropolis on water, another city in China sprung up along canals. Suzhou, China has earned the nickname Venice Of The East, and the parallels between the two cities are clear: each city was formed around waterways, each has a specialty item they produce, and today, each combines their ancient history with modern amenities.
But we wouldn’t be giving it due credit if we only talked about it in terms of comparison.
Without a doubt, Suzhou is one of China’s most beloved cities. It’s inviting, peaceful, and absolutely stunning. It’s less polluted than many of China’s other cities and historically has been home to a wealthy population. All of this creates a most inviting atmosphere for tourists, but even so, Suzhou hasn’t lost its charm.
Lush greenery and water go hand in hand, so it’s not surprising that this water-laden city is famous for its Chinese gardens. True to typical Chinese garden style, Suzhou’s 60 classic gardens are filled with manicured flowers, ponds, temples, and winding pathways. Of them all, the one not to miss is the Lingering Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors will find that this garden actually stands out for its pagodas and maze-like gardens-within-a-garden more than the flora itself. The entire garden complex is made from four distinct parts from different dynasties, but they're connected in harmony by a wall of calligraphy. In a word, the garden is mesmerising.
As clean and refreshing as the architecture is, so is the cuisine. Suzhou is located in the Jiangsu province, so the food in this city reflects the cuisine of the region: high quality and healthful ingredients. Most of the city’s most renowned dishes are filled with fish and vegetables. Visitors might recognise snacks like wontons, spring rolls, and fried steamed buns. Other specialty dishes are fresh meat moon cakes, aozao noodle soup, squirrel-shaped mandarin fish. Tongli, the most famous of Suzhou's water towns, has been standing for a staggering 1100 years as a fishing village. Still to this day, it is to be one of the best areas to get fresh, specialty seafood dishes.
But when it comes to specialty items to take home, there is no question that Suzhou’s most luxurious offering is silk. For hundreds of years, the city has been the centre of silk production for the entire country. Today, the Suzhou Silk Museum connects the history with weaving techniques and, of course, a display of intricate silk garments. Look out for the exquisite brocades - these are the signature style of the city!
Sailing along the Grand Canal or even through the smaller canals, ducking beneath bridges and passing by streets that open right onto waterway, you’ll see quickly that Suzhou is comparable to other cities of the world, but there really is nowhere just like it.