Experience more than 2,500 years of history in this modern “Venice of the East.” Step out of W Suzhou into Suzhou Industrial Park, the bustling central business district that is home to numerous Fortune 500 companies and Suzhou International Expo Center. Revel at the Suzhou Culture and Arts Center, the entertainment and shopping hub of Times Square, Ferris Wheel Park, and Li Gong Di, the heart of the city’s hottest clubs, trendy restaurants and luxurious spas around Jinji Lake.
Lose track of time in this picturesque garden city, framed by canals lined with residences and teahouses and populated with gondola-like boats. Wander intricately woven pathways and marvel at the resplendent pagodas on Tiger Hill. A standout is the Yunyan Pagoda, built in 961. Its faulty foundation has left it off-kilter by three degrees, resulting in the nickname “the Leaning Tower of China.” At the foot of the hill, watch as brides-to-be browse more than 1,000 boutiques in the wedding market. Dress styles range from traditional and Victorian to punk rock and designer knockoffs.
Delight in UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are renowned as two of China’s best classical gardens. The sprawling 52,000-square-meter Humble Administrator’s Garden was built in the Ming Dynasty, with an expansive lotus-covered lake as its centerpiece. Bridges, pavilions, islands, and architecture reflect the Lower Yangtze region’s landscapes. Meanwhile, the Lingering Garden dates from the late 16th century and features spectacular mountain and lake scenery laced with buildings. A narrow, winding path takes you through unexpected turns that produce stunning vistas.
Get some retail therapy at Guanqian Jie, where modern superstores and traditional shops alternate with restaurants and snack stalls specializing in local dishes. Discover quirky souvenirs and artsy mementos at Pingjiang Lu, a pedestrian-only cobblestone street lined with antique alcoves and cafés, as guitars and opera are heard from open windows.
Light up your night on Shiquan Jie for hipster happenings sparked by students from nearby Suzhou University. Make a pilgrimage into Suzhou’s cultural mecca of opera houses, where pintan (a unique style sung in the local dialect) and kunqu (one of the performance art’s oldest forms) take center stage.
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