As we sat at Daga Brewpub’s rooftop terrace on a warm and sunny afternoon two weekends ago, we decided to make the most of the spring weather and spend the weekend in Suzhou. While enjoying our iced coffee, we quickly decided to book Garden Hotel Suzhou due to its prime location in the heart of Suzhou and excellent reviews.
After a short 25 minute ride on Shanghai’s fast train and an early check-in, we decided to visit Lion Forest Garden, the old city center dotted with canal alleyways and the Dongyuan Park area in the northeast of the old town.
I’d already visited the historic canal alleyways when my friend came to visit us last November and I have to say, coming back on a weekend, it was unfortunately much more busy (as anywhere popular in China on a weekend). If you’ve been to Shanghai, then I would say Suzhou’s old town reminds me of Shanghai’s Tianzifang, just along canals. Would you agree?
Northwest of the old town, we visited the Lion Grove Garden (aka Lion Forest Garden), which is one of Suzhou’s classical gardens and top sights. Let me put it this way: it would have been an outstanding experience in a zen landscape with tranquil surroundings… if it hadn’t been for all the people! Walking along tiny pathways below ancient rock formations along a small lake with way too many tourists pushing past was not one of our most treasured China moments and we were glad to leave the park once we’ve seen everything.
20,000 steps later, we decided to call it a day with all the sightseeing and to just have a quick look at the Dongyuan Park amidst the ‘Couple’s Garden Retreat’ area, which was not only a world heritage site, but also conveniently located by the old town. We actually found this place on Apple Maps and not on Tripadvisor or other review websites and were fortunate to have stumbled upon it as we ended up spending another hour or two there until sunset. We entered the park and found ourselves in an oasis of spring flowers, river walks and canoes in quiet, vast surroundings. We really took our time walking along the river path admiring blossoming trees and exploring part of Suzhou’s ancient city wall at the end of the park.
This experience tells us again, that it’s worth looking beyond Tripadvisor reviews and ‘the best things to do in…’ results on Google. Soon this week, I’ll also write about our visit to Tiger Hill in Suzhou, which is quite a touristy attraction as well, but so spread out that we still found many scenic quiet spots.