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Suzhou Grand Canal is located at the Taihu Lake Basin in the downstream of Yangtze River and belongs to Jiangnan Grand Canal which starts from Zhenjiang in the north and ends at Hangzhou in the south, and it’s an important part of Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. Today’s Suzhou Grand Canal crosses the city center of Suzhou, and accounts for 4.5% of Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. In 2014, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, including Suzhou Grand Canal section has being listed in the World Heritage Site List by UNESCO. (China's World Heritage Site Lists)
Constructed from Spring and Autumn period (770 BC – 453 BC) and basically completed in mid-Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), Suzhou Grand Canal has been the golden waterway for thousands of years and prospered the economy of Suzhou. Nowadays, there are over 6000 ships sailing by Suzhou Grand Canal, which makes Suzhou section the busiest section of the whole Grand Canal. Connecting Pan Gate, Xu Gate, Jin Gate, Chang Gate, Ping Gate, Lou Gate, Xiang Gate, She Gate, etc., Suzhou Grand Canal has protected the ancient Suzou people in their own country. On the two banks of the Canal, one is spreading of High-rise buildings and another is full of antique buildings. Modern and ancient have joined together in here, which shows the unique flavor of Suzhou in different times.
Recommended Suzhou Grand Canal Tour Packages
Pan Gate Scenic Area (盘门景区) from 514 BC is a very famous site in Suzhou for its rich culture and long history. The Ruiguang Pagoda (瑞光塔) within is a holy Buddhist land where abundant historic and cultural relics have been extravagated from, like the “Pearl Pillar of the Buddhist Shrine”, the most treasurable exhibition of Suzhou Museum. Panmen Gate Tower (盘门城楼) is the world only one with both water and land gate in the ancient Suzhou city. Also, Wumen Bridge (吴门桥) of nearly 1,000 years old is a great place to appreciate Suzhou Canal and feel the past history.
Xu Gate (胥门) was rebuilt in 1351 AD under the suggestion of Wu Zixu (伍子胥) who insisted to build city walls to safeguard Wu Kingdom. Later, people renamed it Xu Gate to memorize the great person.
Chang Gate (阊门) was the west gate of ancient Suzhou city and the most prosperous area in the old city in Ming and Qing dynasties.
Shantang Street (山塘街) or called Seven-li Shantang was built 852 AD and one of the best developed street blocks in the whole China in Ming and Qing dynasties with numerous people coming to do business, trade, live, travel, etc. Enjoying good location and various hundreds-year old houses off the river, Shantang Street is reputed as “miniature of old Suzhou” and is one of the must-see attractions in Suzhou to savor the authentic taste of old Suzhou and Wu culture.
Xiang Gate (相门) was previously called Jiang Gate since it was the center for many craftsmen gathering together. And later after the Wu King let Gan Jiang (干将) forge excellent swords there, it was also called Ganjiang Gate (干将们), later became Xiang Gate for the influence of Suzhou accent.
Suzhou Grand Canal is the only canal where you can travel by a cruise boat. Cruising on the Grand Canal is very popular among tourists. At present, the permitted cruising section of the Canal is the ancient city moat. The cruise from Xinshiqiao Dock (新市桥码头) to Shantang Street is the essence of the whole canal, because you can not only admire the super old city gate towers of ancient Suzhou, prosperous ancient Shantang Street and the weathered old buildings along the bank.
The cruise on Suzhou Grand Canal is about 40 to 60 min, and you will pass several ancient city gates and ancient bridges on the cruise. Most of the cruise boats will supply storytelling and ballad singing in Suzhou dialect, an ancient talking-singing arts in China, very interesting. On the ancient painted sightseeing boat, comfortable seats are provided for you to enjoy the performance and the beautiful scenery of the ancient canal and the buildings along outside the glass window, which is the best time to feel antique Suzhou beauty and press your shutter. Apart from the unique bright and antique flavored scenery in a day tour, cruising at night is particularly unforgettable, since the colorful lights as well as the songful singing and tweedle on the painted boat and the shining flashes of the old constructions on the banks are too romantic to calm you into the elegant Suzhou city.
Tickets: different docks have different ticket prices. Normally, for one person, the price is about RMB 120 (reference price).
Day tour: 9:00 – 16:30, about 40-50 min, start with at least 5 tourists
Night tour: 18:30-20:30, about 1 hour, start with full tourists
Xinshiqiao Dock – Xu Gate – Jin Gate (金门) – Wanren Dock (万人码头) – Chang Gate – Shantang Street – Turn Back
Temporary Close of Xinshiqiao Dock – Shantang Street route: this boating route is temporarily not available, and if you want to enjoy the old appearance of Suzhou Grand Canal, we recommend the route of Tiger Hill – Shantang Street, along which the boats run from Hufu Bridge (虎阜大桥) about 5 mins’ driving from Tiger Hill to Xinqiao (新桥) about 8 mins’ walking to Shantang Street. On this old canal, historical residences on both banks could also take you back to the past dynasties to savor the tranquil and old Suzhou on the antique boat. As this boat experience needs previously booking, if you are interested in that, please feel free to tell us in advance. (duration: 25 minutes; available during about: 09:30-16:00)
Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal is the longest and oldest ancient canal in the world. The Canal, together with the Great Wall and Karez, are called the Three Great Project in ancient China. With a history over 2500, it is the second important golden waterway in China, behind the Yangtze River. On this great Grand Canal, ancient people communicated each other and did trading frequently to promote the economy and benefit their life. As time goes flying, it is still in use today. The overall length of the Canal is about 1797 km, crossing Zhejiang Province, Jiangsu Province, Shandong Province, Hebei Province and Beijing and Tianjin, connecting Hai River, Yellow River, Huai River, Yangtze River and Qiantang River. Listed as the 46th World Heritage Sites in China in 2014 by UNESCO, the Grand Canal promotes the economy and culture communication between the southern district and northern district, especially having a great influence for the industrial and agricultural economy along the canal. Moreover, it shows the world-superb waterway engineer technology of the ancient Chinese people.
If you want to get rid of all the hustle of public transportation and troublesome navigation, you can book a private Suzhou tour package which covers sightseeing, dining and transfer from us. Our local tour guide and driver will escort you to Suzhou No. 1 Silk Factory with speed and convenience, and take care of all the details. You just need to focus on sightseeing. If you have other ideas or questions about your Suzhou tour, please feel free to contact us, we will provide you with tailor-made tours according to your own interests and requirements.
How to get to Xinshiqiao Dock: the dock is only about 7 km from Suzhou Railway Station, you can take public transportation to get there (need a transfer) or take a taxi or private car to get there, only about 20 minutes’ drive. Learn more about Suzhou transportation >
Feature in subtropical monsoon climate, Suzhou is suitable to travel all year round. Spring and autumn have a more comfortable weather than other seasons, not cold or hot, thus, are more popular than other seasons. Learn more about Suzhou weather and climate >
Spring (Mar – May) and autumn (Oct – Nov): in March, the wind is strong and it rains some time, so woolen sweater + thick coat is suitable. As for other time, long sleeve + normal coat will be enough. If you get cold easily, you can prepare a knitted sweater in case.
Summer (Jun – Sep): this is a rainy and hot season, make sure you take sunblock and umbrella with you.
Winter (Dec – Feb): winter is a damp and cold, so down jacket + sweater is suggested.
Top 3 Suzhou tours chosen by most customers to explore Suzhou in the best way. Check the detailed itinerary, or tailor your own trip now with us.
Suzhou / Zhouzhuang
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[Important] Travel News for Expats: China travel is reopening now! Travel with China Discovery and learn about where to visit & requirements for each destination! Read Details >