History of Suzhou Grand Canal
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 in 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 was listed in the World Heritage Site 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 here, which shows the unique flavor of Suzhou in different times.
What to See along Suzhou Grand Canal
Pan Gate Scenic Area
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 on building 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 (干将门), later became Xiang Gate for the influence of Suzhou accent.
Best Way to Travel - Cruise on Suzhou Grand Canal
Appreciate Great Scenery Along the Grand Canal
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 admire not only the super old city gate towers of ancient Suzhou, but also the prosperous ancient Shantang Street and the weathered old buildings along the bank. 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.
Enjoy Traditional & Melodious Pingtan of Old Suzhou
Most of the cruise boats will supply storytelling and ballad singing in Suzhou dialect, an ancient talking-singing art called Pingtan (评弹) in China, very interesting. The performer dressed in chi-pao will play the Pipa (Chinese lute) and sing 2-3 songs. 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.
Suzhou Grand Canal Cruise Information
Tickets: Different docks have different ticket prices. Usually, for one person, the price is about CNY 120 (reference price). There are three docks where you can take the cruise, which are Xinshiqiao Dock (新市桥码头), Wanren Dock (万人码头), Miduqiao Dock (觅渡桥码头). Xinshiqiao Dock is the most chosen one.
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
Route (Xinshiqiao Dock):
Xinshiqiao Dock – Xu Gate – Jin Gate (金门) – Wanren Dock (万人码头) – Chang Gate – Shantang Street – Turn Back
Note: The above information is for reference only and may change due to various factors. You can contact our professional travel consultant for more details.
Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal
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.
Suzhou Grand Canal Travel Tips
How to get to Xinshiqiao Dock: the dock is only about 7 km from Suzhou Railway Station, you can take bus, subway 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 >
2. Weather & Best Time to Travel
Featured 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 (Sept. - Nov.): in March, the wind is strong and it rains sometimes, so woolen sweater and thick coat are suitable. As for other time, long-sleeved shirt and light coat will be enough, or you can prepare a knitted sweater in case it gets cold at night.
Summer (Jun. - Aug.): this is a rainy and hot season, make sure you take sunblock and umbrella with you.
Winter (Dec. - Feb.): winter is dry and cold, so down jacket and sweater are suggested.
How to Plan Your Travel in Suzhou
How to Get to Suzhou: You can easily get to Suzhou by high speed train from Shanghai (about 0.5 hour), Hangzhou (about 1.5 hours), Nanjing (about 1 hour), Beijing (about 4.5 hours), etc.
Best Time to Visit Suzhou: April to October, especially April and May in spring and September and October in autumn
Generally, a classic Suzhou tour takes about 1~2 days. Visiting Suzhou, you can't miss elegant Suzhou gardens, like Humble Administrator's Garden, Lingering Garden, Master of the Nets Garden, etc. You can choose one or two of them for a great garden delight. Other must-be-visited sights in Suzhou City include Suzhou No.1 Silk Factory from which you can watch the process of silk making from silkworms to elegant products, Tiger Hill which is known as the first sight in Suzhou, Suzhou Museum which is designed by I. M. Pei and Suzhou's old canalside roads (like Pingjaing Road and Shantang Street), etc. If you like Jiangnan watertowns, you can visit Tongli, Zhouzhuang or Luzhi to have a wonderful time.
If you want to explore more about Jiangsu Province, you can travel to Nanjing - the old capital city of 6 ancient dynasties, Wuxi - a beautiful lakeshore city, Yangzhou - old culture center of southern China, etc. Check more about Jiangsu Tours>
☛ 5 Days Jiangsu Tour (Suzhou, Wuxi & Nanjing)
In fact, most people travel Suzhou with Shanghai - the best gateway city to Suzhou, and Hangzhou which has long been on a par with Suzhou since ancient times. Generally, it needs 2~3 days enjoying Shanghai's highlights and another 2~3 days appreciating the poetic beauty. Check more about Shanghai Suzhou Hangzhou Tours>
Get Inspired by Real Travel Stories of Our Customers
Since 2012, we have helped numerous customers visit Suzhou and surroundings. With our fully-inclusive private tour packages, all of our customers enjoyed their trips to the exquisite gardens, peaceful watertowns, informative silk factory or museum, old Suzhou streets, etc. Some of them kindly shared their precious photos and stories about their Suzhou journey, just get inspired now.
"We were lucky for being able to watch Chinese dancers at the Lingering Garden at the time of visit…" - shared by Nguyen (Check her The Pursuit of Natural Beauty with the Beloved one - 14 Days Beautiful China Exploring Tour>)
"Suzhou was the real treat at the end of the trip! Everything about Suzhou was perfect…" - shared by Elizabeth from Britain (Check her Long-lasting Memory brought by First Trip to China - 16 Days well-Organized and Wonderful First Visit to China>
Besides the wonderful travel stories, many customers who visited Suzhou with China Discovery also send us their first-hand feedbacks about their trip, feel free to read the Suzhou Reviews and learn what they say about their experience. If you want to start your Suzhou tour now, don't hesitate to contact us.
- Suzhou City Tours
- Shanghai Suzhou Tours
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- Yangtze Delta Tours
- Humble Administrator’s Garden
- Lingering Garden
- Tiger Hill
- Suzhou Museum
- Suzhou No.1 Silk Factory
- Zhouzhuang Water Town
- Tongli Water Town
- Master of the Nets Garden
- Lion Grove Garden
- Shantang Street
- Pingjiang Road
- Suzhou Silk Museum
- Hanshan Temple
- Luzhi Water Town
- Classical Gardens of Suzhou
- Kunqu Opera
- Things to do & Top Attractions
- Get There & Around
- Weather & Seasons
- Suzhou Maps
- Suzhou Metro
- How to Plan A Suzhou Tour
- More Suzhou Travel Guide
Suzhou Travel Guide
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Recommended Suzhou Tours
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.
Shanghai / Hangzhou / Suzhou / Shanghai
Hangzhou / Suzhou
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