Eco-friendly travel guide to Suzhou advises how to be a responsible tourist. Learn how to explore the attractions in a sustainable way and how to respect the local people and culture. Make your trip green by supporting locally owned hotels, organic restaurants and other businesses. Read more on how to protect the environment by making conscientious choices and how to travel green in Suzhou, China.
- Air quality: 3.5 / 5
- Exploring by foot: 3.5 / 5
- Exploring by bicycle: 4.0 / 5
- Public transportation: 4.0 / 5
- Parks: 3.5 / 5
- Outdoor activities: 4.0 / 5
- Locals' English level: 2.5 / 5
- Safety: 3.0 / 5
- Accommodation: US$20 - $100
- Budget per day: US$50 - $XX150
- 1 Responsible Travel
- 2 Air Quality and Pollution
- 3 Respect the Culture
- 4 Top 10 Places to Visit
- 5 Explore
- 6 Eat
- 7 Drink
- 8 Activities
- 9 Accommodation
- 10 How to Get There
- 11 Moving Around
- 12 Sustainable Shopping
- 13 Recycling
- 14 Work and Study Abroad
- 15 See Also
Responsible travel has become a buzzing idea in the field of tourism. This is paralleled with a number of concepts like sustainable travel, eco-friendly travel, and so on. Responsible travel refers to certain moral and ethical guidelines that help to protect the tourist destinations. It also aims at increasing awareness about the heritage and culture of a place.
Situated towards the west of Shanghai, Suzhou is a city that is known for its beauty and magnificence. It is extremely well-decorated and attracts millions of tourists from all across the globe every year. Home to many gardens and beautiful canals, Suzhou offers many bewitching sights to its tourists. Therefore, when one visits a place like it, he should try his best to safeguard the place's beauty and integrity.
The tips to responsible travel state a few guidelines that will help maintain the beauty of a place. In the wake of the environmental crisis that the whole world is facing right now, it is of the utmost importance to follow responsible travel steps. In this manner, travelers can prevent overexploiting the resources that are available in Suzhou. Some of the steps that will make a tourist a responsible traveler are as follows:
- Support the local businesses: While big restaurants may be great to dine in, sometimes small local food joints may be fine too! While a top-ranking restaurant may serve you a bowl of steaming hot noodles that taste like heaven, nothing compares to the authenticity of the mandarin fish that a local outlet will serve. In this manner, tourists can also economically contribute to small businesses in Suzhou instead of restaurants already crammed with visitors. Similarly, if you plan to take a few souvenirs back home, make sure you get them from a local craftsman or businessman instead of a big emporium. You may be surprised to know that some of these local businesses also function as non-profit organizations. They use the money that they earn for charitable purposes. Therefore, make it a point to lend them a helping hand. Giving shout outs to these local joints will also fetch them more customers! So let the world know and let everyone find cheap and best goods.
- Do not harm flora and fauna: If you come across a place that uses animals for recreational purposes, before paying a visit to that place, make sure that the attraction is not harming the flora or fauna of Suzhou in any way.
- Ditch the use of plastic: Plastic is a non-biodegradable element that poses a severe threat to the environment. Therefore, when you are in Suzhou, make sure that you limit the use of plastic as much as possible. If you are going to a market, it is ideal to carry your reusable bag where you can stuff all your belongings. Along with this, avoid buying plastic water bottles. Once the bottle is empty, people tend to litter it here and there. Therefore, avoid using plastic bottles. Try to drink water from taps as much as possible, or carry your own water bottle. Although you are a tourist and you should not have to worry about so many things, try to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible.
- Avail public transport: When different people headed to the same destination travel in different vehicles, they automatically vent to the unnecessary emission of smoke caused due to the burning of fuels. Public transport is an eco-friendly option. All you have to do is hop onto a bus or train whenever possible. This will help to curb the harmful impact on the environment. There are many stores that encourage tourists to travel on bicycle by lending bicycles for rent. Therefore if you are traveling a short distance that is too far for foot but too near for bus, rent a cycle instead.
- Spend time amidst nature: If you take good care of nature, it will pay you back in the best possible way. Try spending some time in close association with nature. Visit national parks and gardens and spend some quality time with your friends and family. However, make sure you do not litter the national park or garden that you are visiting.
- Learn more about the culture of the place: While we get engrossed in the pleasures of visiting a new place, we often forget to learn about the place's cultures. As a guest, a traveler needs to respect the culture of the place that he is visiting. As the tourist destination tries to play a good host and make the trip memorable for you, it is important to make sure that a tourist is also a good guest who respects the culture of the natives.
Air Quality and Pollution
AQI or Air Quality Index refers to the protocol used by government agencies to determine the level of pollution in the air of a place. The air quality of a place affects the health of the residents as well as tourists who pay a visit to the place. The AQI is measured on a scale of 1 to 500, where 1 denotes the least danger, and 500 denotes the most polluted air. Based on the AQI of a place, the agencies intimate the people about the health risk associated with the level of pollution in the air.
Suzhou has moderate to hazardous air. The AQI of Suzhou is approximately between 80-170. This means that the air is harmful especially for sensitive groups. If you have issues like Asthma etc make sure to wear a mask especially in winter because of smog and extra pollutants in the air.
Respect the Culture
One of the most important aspects of responsible travel is that tourists should respect the local culture of the place they are visiting. While you are in Suzhou, there are certain Chinese cultural norms that a tourist should abide by. Learning the etiquettes and cultures of a place also helps tourists put their best foot forward as they know what to do and how to act.
When you visit Suzhou, you will be greeted with a warm and welcoming “ni hao.” As a tourist, if you are greeting someone, take note that elderly people are greeted first. While in Suzhou, you may face some difficulty with their level of spoken English. Chinese locals love to invite guests to their homes. If you are ever invited to one, make sure that you play a good guest. As a good guest, you are expected to carry a small gift for your host. You should also complement them about something that you find alluring in the house. Take your shoes off before entering the house. Sometimes, the host might offer you a pair of slippers inside the house. In such a case, be polite and accept the slippers, even if it is not your size.
Chinese people are quite curious. If you befriend a few Chinese locals in the course of your tour, they may sometimes get over-friendly and as you questions that are too personal. If you do not wish to answer a certain question that may be invading your privacy too much, do not answer it. Not only this, but when you visit Suzhou, you are likely to come across a lot of compliments. This is because Chinese people know how to please their guests. Although some of the compliments may seem fake, be pleased. Chinese people want their guests to feel comfortable and at home.
Top 10 Places to Visit
Suzhou is known for its classical gardens. It is the beauty of these gardens that fetch the most number of tourists. Usually, tourists come here for a day to stroll around the gardens and spend some time amidst nature's beauty. However, if you have plans for a longer stay, given below is the topmost ten places that are worth stopping by:
- Shantang Street: This ancient pedestrian path in Suzhou dates back as much as 1200 years. This street stretches from the Shantaing river to the Tiger Hills. The street is 2.38 miles long. It is lined with eateries and other shops where tourists can stop by for a haul. The place is lively and always buzzing with people. The street is bifurcated into two sections. While one half of the street has many traditional Chinese shops where locals conduct their daily business, the street's tourist section has many restaurants, boutiques, and souvenir shops for the tourists.
- Chaozong Pavilion: This is another picturesque canal that has been attracting tourists' attention since time immemorial. On one side of the canal is a magnificent pagoda. On the other side of the canal is an array of motorcyclists and pedestrians who gather to enjoy some nice food or spend time at the restaurants or shopping centers. On visiting this place, tourists will receive a warm welcome. In a nutshell, this place is very bewitching in all aspects.
- Pungjiang Road: This is another pedestrian street located along a stretch of the canal. There are many street vendors, souvenir shops, and cafes that are always buzzing with people. The place becomes even more magnificent at night as it is lit up with many lights. The neon lights and lanterns decorate the place and make it worth a million stars.
- Chinese Kun Opera: This is eye-catching in multiple ways. More than the opera, what is more, attractive is the makeup of the opera performer. The performer applies the makeup in front of the audience, which itself is a show! The performer applies makeup in the Fuxi Tea House. She also talks to the tourists about how the makeup is applied and how the makeup can take around an hour to finish.
- Lion Grove Gardens: This beautiful art of work was built in the year 1342. The place derives its name from the rocks that resemble a lion. The rock formation of this garden is unique. The rocks culminate to form pathways and decorative rock figures throughout the place. The ambiance is very soothing. Visitors can experience a sense of serenity when they visit here. Therefore, if you are looking for a place where you can take a break from the hustle and monotony of everyday life, this place is an ideal choice.
- Panmen City Gate: To enter this historic edifice, the visitors have to walk a long distance. It is almost 2500 years old. This is the only city gate in Suzhou that is well-preserved. This is both a land and a city gate. If one reaches a height of 16 feet, he can experience spellbinding views.
- Walk Along Waterfront: Along the waterfront, the visitors can enjoy a light show that is arranged till 10 pm. The light show is organized on a building named “The Gate of the Orient.” This building resembles a pair of trousers. The light show is extremely spellbinding to look at and will remain etched in your mind forever.
- Suzhou Centre Mall: The Suzhou Centre Mall won the title of the Best Shopping Centre in the year 2018. The Mall is so fantastic that it can very well compete with the Dubai Mall. The Mall also has ample options for tourists who are willing to indulge in some physical activity. For example, tourists can go to the ice skating rink, an arena for pony riding, Snowboard Park, etc.
- Leaning Tower at Tiger Hill Scenic Area: This is the oldest pagoda in Suzhou. The tower has a lean of nearly 5 degrees. It is 48 feet high. Therefore, standing at the foot of the tower, visitors have an illusion that the tower might fall at any moment. The whole tourist spot spreads across an area of 3.5 acres.
- Tongli Watertown: Suzhou is known as the Venice of the East, and this tourist destination truly lives up to the title that the city has acquired. This place is a one-hour drive from Suzhou. Canals run through the town, and there are bridges and pavements for pedestrians. This is one of the most photogenic places in Suzhou.
While in Suzhou, you will never run out of things to do. There is so much to explore all over the city. It goes without saying that in Suzhou, tourists can bask in the richness of nature. With canals and bridges all over the city, it is a perfect amalgamation of beauty, serenity, and environment-friendliness. The place also has many national parks and city parks where families and friends can spend time together. One can also satiate his thirst for beautiful birds and wildlife as these national parks shelter an exorbitant range of flora and fauna.
City parks are nice places for family outings and picnics. However, as a responsible traveler, one should make it a point not to litter the parks and ruin nature's beauty.
- Humble Administrator’s Garden: This area is spread over an area of 5.6 hectares. It was constructed in the year 1509. The architecture of the garden is a perfect example of the garden landscaping technique that was used in the era of Ming. The garden has three parts: the eastern part, the western part, and the central part. The garden has many ponds that flow under bridges. The garden is beautifully ornamented with ancient trees, pavilions, and many more, all of which instill a very aesthetic vibe to the garden.
- The Lingering Garden: This is one of the most-visited gardens of Suzhou. This garden used to be one of the first places of importance that hold a cultural significance. The place has been on the list of World Cultural Heritage Sites since the year 1997. It covers a distance of nearly 23000 sq km. The eastern part of the garden has many limestone rock figures and architectural beauties. There is a bonsai garden in the northern part of the garden. You can also witness wilderness in the mountain forest present in the western part of the garden. Here, one can not only soothe his eyes but also learn a lot about Chinese culture.
- Master of the Nets: This is the smallest garden in Suzhou. In this park, residential places and majestic gardens coexist together. Every nook of the garden has surprises waiting. People are allowed to enter the garden during the evening between March and November.
If you are fond of animals and birds, these national parks are a must-go-to place for you:
- Dayangshan National Park: Satisfy your adventurous spirit by planning a visit to the Dayangshan National Park. The place is impregnated with the greenery and freshness of the air. One can climb on top of the hill to have a beautiful view of Suzhou. Although it takes nearly an hour to reach the top of the hill, the view it offers is worth all the effort.
- Suzhou Shangfangshan National Forest Park: This place shelters real natural ecology. There are peacock gardens inside the national park. There is also provision for many adventure sports like boating, mountaineering, etc.; the flowers also deserve a notable mention. There are also many ancient temples and pagodas, all of which impart a strong Buddhist influence.
- Suzhou Taihu National Wetland Park: This wetland park has restaurants, walkways, cafes, etc. Here, tourists can enjoy carnivals and other activities like horse rides, camels, etc.
Suzhou is a small district that is located close to Shanghai. It does not have beaches, but you may come across hotels that have swimming pool facility.
The landmarks of a place are its real essence. They help in easy navigation throughout the city. Landmarks are places of importance that have stood as an edifice holding historical and cultural significance since time immemorial. Some important landmarks of Suzhou are as follows:
- Panmen Gate: This city gate is old in Suzhou. It is located on a corner that is towards the south-western part of Main Canal Suzhou. There are two water passages. Within this Gate's vicinity is the Ruiguang Pagoda, which is a thousand-year-old pagoda and the first pagoda in Suzhou. The Wu Bridge is also located close to the Panmen Gate. The Wu Bridge is presently the highest in Suzhou.
- Zhouzhuang Water Town: Lakes surround this place on all four sides. It lies between Suzhou and Shanghai. This ancient town has a 900-year-old history associated with it. One hundred houses in the town have courtyards, and nearly 60 houses have gateways constructed with the help of carved bricks.
Apart from these places, the Tiger hill, the Humble Administrator Garden, and the Lingering Garden also serve as significant landmarks.
You would be astonished to know that Suzhou also harbors an array of museums, all of which impart some significant information about the history or the various aspects of Suzhou and China.
- Suzhou Museum: This museum is not only a great place to learn about the history and culture of Suzhou, but the architecture is also spellbinding. The architecture is a perfect blend of modernism, traditional Chinese, and local Suzhou style.
- Suzhou Silk Museum: Want to learn about the discovery of silk and the history associated with it? Pay a visit to this silk museum. The place also sells silk.
- Suzhou Embroidery Research Institute: The government has taken the initiative to bring to light the art of embroidery, which has nearly lost significance in recent times.
- Six Arts Museum: This place is very emotionally stirring as visitors can actually touch artifacts that date back to ancient times.
- The Kun Opera Museum: The Kun Opera Museum also offers a different kind of experience as visitors see the performer applying makeup on herself and pushing herself to the extremes. All these places uphold the culture and history of Suzhou in front of the tourists.
Suzhou is often believed to be a paradise for foodies and gourmets. Vegetable dishes and fishes are quite popular among the people of Suzhou. The cuisines of Suzhou have a distinct sweetness of flavor. Be it a traditional food joint or a vegan restaurant, Suzhou food joints and stalls have many offers.
Traditional Local Restaurants
Here are some of the food outlets in Suzhou that offer traditional Chinese food:
- L’Arome: If you are craving some lamb and beef, this is where you need to drop by. They also specialize in chocolate and blueberry-flavored desserts. The staff is attentive and friendly. Although the service is a little slow, the restaurant offers great quality food. They do not have much on their list of drinks.
- The Kitchen Table: This restaurant offers a vast array of Chinese, Italian, Western, and many other kinds of breakfast choices. The food is served in buffet style. They have everything ranging from noodles to congee, kinds of bacon, dim sums, sausage, and many more. They are also great with drinks like smoothies, coffees, etc.
- Mariana at Crowne Plaza: What can be a better combination than food and some old music? This place is more than a restaurant. People come here not just to eat but to relax and unwind.
Vegetarian and Vegan
Suzhou also makes sure that the vegetarians and vegans are not left out. The people of Suzhou incorporate the use of vegetables, both cooked and raw, in their meals. This means that there are ample options for vegans.
- RONG Vietnamese Cuisine: A perfect blend of good food and serene atmosphere, the RONG Vietnamese Cuisine is a food joint that is popular among vegans.
- Sunseeker at Crowne Plaza: An ideal place for lunch or breakfast, the Sunseeker is a luxurious restaurant with many items in their menu card that are great for vegans.
Walking the streets of Suzhou, with the beautiful aroma of street food hitting your nostrils, itself is a wholesome experience. The nightlife of Suzhou is pretty happening. They have a vast range of street food that you should not miss when you visit Suzhou. They have food items that are fried, steamed, or wrapped in banana leaf. People are usually seen scurrying with their favorite items like tofu, soup, rice, or seafood. Suzhou also has a variety of desserts.
The Chinese cannot go a day without drinking. Baiju is inarguably the most popular drink among the people of Suzhou. This liquor is available in almost all the restaurants, bars, and food joints in Suzhou and all across China. Apart from that, China is also fond of fermented rice wine and pearl milk tea.
The ethics of responsible tourism encourages drinking water from taps so as to curb the unnecessary use and littering of plastic water bottles. However, surveys have found out that tap water is not suitable for drinking in Suzhou. However, people can use it for other purposes like washing mouth, etc. However, if boiled, the tap water is deemed safe for drinking.
Some organic cafes in Suzhou are as follows:
- Toro Loco @ W Hotel Suzhou
- Finland Home Café
- Café Soo
Some popular breweries in Suzhou are:
- Zhangmen Breweries
- Birdland Craft Beer Bar
People usually come to Suzhou for a one-day stay. However, the canals and bridges that enhance the ornamental value of the place are not the only things worth watching in Suzhou. If you plan a visit to Suzhou, you can get an opportunity to indulge in multiple activities and feed your adventurous soul. For example, some parks have the provision for boating and mountaineering. If you are not looking forward to something that will require a lot of physical labor, you can stop by at a museum or simply hunt through the markets of Suzhou and explore its wonders.
Yoga and Retreats
Yoga is believed to bring about a holistic development in an individual by opening all the body's seven chakras. While you are staying in Suzhou, you may consider the Sangha Retreat that is located in Shanghai. Yoga enriches your spiritual awareness and presence and calms your mind, body, and soul.
Suzhou is now supporting eco-friendly tourism. Keeping this in mind, tourists can choose to put up some of the best accommodations in Suzhou.
Some Green hotels are:
- Starwood Hotels and Resorts: This hotel has accommodation of nearly 188 guests. All the guestrooms are equipped with the best eco-friendly facilities. The faucets are water-efficient, which helps to prevent the unnecessary wastage of water. All the appliances are star rated, which keeps a check on energy consumption. The carpets are made of recycled materials. They harness silver and glassware instead of paper and plastic cups so that waste generation can be minimized. The guestrooms also have recycling bins where the guests can throw all the glass, paper, and plastic that can later be recycled.
- Suzhou Green South Hotel: Looking for the best green hotel to stay in Suzhou? The Green South Hotel in Suzhou is the best hotel that brings all the environment-friendly options. Apart from maintaining all the guidelines that will help the waste generation, they also offer top-notch quality amenities to the guests. There is a parking spot for tourists who come here by car. This is also located close to some of the best tourist destinations like the Classical Gardens of Suzhou, The Tiger Hill, and so on.
Hostels and Guest Houses
- Suzhou Houlishenghuo Guesthouse: This guest house is located close to the Lingering Garden. It has all the facilities for guests. The rooms are allergy-free. There is also a free WiFi facility for the guests and a garden for them to relax in. The hotel has a barbecue facility for the guests. Every room in this guest house has a desk and is fully air-conditioned. They have provision for Asian breakfast.
- Begonia Flowers Guesthouse: If you are looking for the best guesthouse that has a restaurant facility, a shared lounge, and free bikes, you should definitely put up in this guesthouse. The front-desk is open 24 hours. They also have accommodation for an entertaining evening show. Every room in the guesthouse has a patio that offers a magnificent view of Suzhou's spellbinding scenic beauty. There is a drink vending machine from where people can fetch drinks at their own convenience. If you want some idea about the accessibility of this area, you would be pleased to know that the guesthouse is located close to the Sunan Shuofang International Airport, at a distance of 59 km. Some other tourist areas that are close to this guesthouse are Hanshan Temple and Jinji Lake.
- Tingyu Apartment: This place is located in the Gu Su district of Suzhou. It is at a distance of 7km from the Lingering Garden. Both the Hansan Temple and the Tiger Hill are at a distance of 8 km from the Tingyu Apartment. The guesthouse has a proper air-conditioned facility and free WiFi. The rooms also have wardrobes where guest can keep their clothes and other belongings. All the toiletries offered in the bathroom of this guesthouse come for free. They also give hair dryers.
Some people also let their apartments for rent. These have a more personal ambiance as compared to the hotels and other guesthouses. The best thing about living in an apartment when you visit a new place is that you learn all the new cultures and traditions of the family you are staying with.
This refers to the idea of a homestay in which tourists can stay with families.
If you wish to stray from the conventional idea of staying in brick and concrete-walled structures, you can choose to put up a camp and stay underneath the sky. The Taihu No. 1 RV Camping Park attracts a large number of tourists from all across the globe every year. The western gate of Suzhou Park also has camping facilities. Therefore, enjoy your stay in Suzhou!
How to Get There
Although Suzhou is a small place, it has great connectivity in terms of the means of conveyance.
You can travel to Suzhou via air. The Shanghai Hongqiao Airport (SHA) is the airport that is closest to Suzhou. Once you reach the Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, you can take a bus. You can also land at the Sunan Shuofang Airport with a bus service operated by the Wuxi Sunan International Airport Group Company. The bus operates between the Sunan Shuofang Airport and the Suzhou train station four times a day. The journey takes approximately forty-five minutes.
Suzhou has buses that can take tourists to popular tourist destinations. These buses depart from the Suzhou Railway Station. They are very comfortable and affordable.
Suzhou has a railway station that operates under the supervision of the Shanghai Railway Bureau. Therefore, Suzhou has a well-connected network of trains.
Despite the spooky urban legends associated with China, nothing can stop the adventurous souls from indulging in some sporty hitchhiking.
There are many stores that give a bicycle for rent. They are a great option for traveling short distances. You can also use ferries etc.
Most of the transportation facilities within Suzhou abide by the eco-friendly norms of responsible tourism. They focus on the ways that will encourage minimum emission of burnt fuel.
Nothing compares to the joy of walking! It doesn’t only give you time to bond and chit-chat with your companion but is also a great cardio exercise. If you are planning to travel a short distance, try to avoid hopping onto a bus or any other vehicle.
Bicycles are great eco-friendly options that prevent air pollution through the emission of harmful gases caused by gases' burning.
Electronic vehicles are those which run on battery or other eco-friendly means. They do not harness the use of fuel.
Public buses, or any other mode of public transport, can carry many people at a time, reducing the unnecessary emission of gases.
Tram, Train and Subway
As has already been mentioned above, Suzhou has great connectivity of trains. Suzhou also has a metro rail facility. The tram facility in Suzhou is another object of tourist attraction. In a nutshell, moving around in Suzhou is extremely convenient, affordable, and hassle-free.
If you are a shopaholic, you probably cannot imagine leaving a place without picking a handful of souvenirs. There are many options for sustainable shopping in Suzhou. As a responsible traveler, it is one’s duty to support and encourage local artists. Some popular options are mentioned below.
No amount of five-star restaurant can match the lip-smacking factor that street-vendors offer. Be it numnums or some preparation of fish, street food vendors do it way better!
- Euro Mart
- Suzhou Yangyangyou Food Store
- Suzhou Taihu Hairy Crab Transaction Market
Some famous flea markets in Suzhou that attract the most crowd are:
- Mudu Flea Market
- Nanxun Flea Market
- Zhenxun Flea Market Salesroom
- East Street Flea Market
Second Hand Stores
Thrift stores are an emerging concept in the wake of eco-friendly tourism. Some second-hand stores in Suzhou are:
- Dongsheng Second-Hand Goods Tiaoji Firm
- Jingying Second-Hand Goods Firm
- Dahua Tiaoji Market
Some eco-friendly fashion markets in Suwon are:
- Metro Shopping Center
- Pearl Market
- Jade Market
- Bargain Silk
When we visit a new place, we often forget about waste management. As a responsible tourist, one should try to encourage recycling waste as much as possible. This is the first step to effective waste management. Some hotels and guest houses in Suzhou also have recycling bins where tourists are expected to throw papers, plastics, and glasses that can further be recycled.
Tourists should also try to put a check on waste generation. They should carry their own reusable bags, water bottles, etc.
Work and Study Abroad
Many people come to Suzhou every year for work and studies. Suzhou is home to the Suzhou Singapore International School that receives thousands of applications from students as well as job aspirants throughout the year.
Students who wish to study in Suzhou enroll themselves in exchange companies, which later provide them with the most appropriate opportunity based on their preferences, requirements, and eligibility.
This is another popular concept in Suzhou and many other places of tourist interest. Couchsurfing refers to the idea in which a person is allowed to stay with a family and has to offer some service to the family in exchange for the food and lodging facilities they receive. This concept is mainly popular among students who come to Suzhou to study and cannot afford to stay in expensive hotels or guesthouses.
There are also many volunteering opportunities in Suzhou, which can help students change their lives!