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Home Suzhou Travel Guide Suzhou Grand Canal: Take A Boat Ride Around Suzhou Old Town

Suzhou Grand Canal: Take A Boat Ride Around Suzhou Old Town

Suzhou Grand Canal is an important part of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, the ancient man-made wonder with a history of over 1,400 years. Encircling Suzhou Old Town, Suzhou Grand Canal serves as a protective moat to the city, an indispensable channel for transportation, and a cultural relic.

The best way to get to know the city during your Suzhou tour, is to board a canal cruise. It’ll take you around the city and back in time to when life was simpler. Journey past ancient structures, stone bridges, and see a tapestry of local life unfolding along the banks.

Fast Facts about Suzhou Grand Canal

  • Location: It makes a circuit around Suzhou Old Town in Gusu District, Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China.
  • Hours: The canal is open all day, but the cruise service operates from 9:00 to 20:30.
  • Ticket price: CNY 120 each
  • Visit time: 40 minutes to 1 hour for the cruise ride
  • Best time to visit: March to November
  • Suited to: history lovers, photographers, solo travelers, couples, families with kids

 

Suzhou Grand Canal Cruise
Suzhou Grand Canal

History and Overview of the Grand Canal

The Grand Canal in China is the earliest and longest manmade watercourse in the world. Stretching from Hangzhou to Beijing, it has an overall length of 1115 miles (1794 kilometers), runs through 4 provinces, Hebei Province, Shandong Province, Jiangsu Province, and Zhejiang Province.

The construction of the Grand Canal dates back to Sui Dynasty, from 581 to 618 AD, which means it has a history of over 1,400 years. It has made great contributions to the economic and cultural communication between North and South China.

Suzhou Grand Canal made the ancient city of Suzhou a paradise for merchants. The city’s population were dependent on the canal for the resources, especially rice, that traveled on it. Even to this day, over 6000 ships, carrying about half of the volume of goods, travel on Suzhou Grand Canal, making it the busiest section of the whole Grand Canal.

What to See and Do at Suzhou Grand Canal

Take a cruise on the canal

Take a boat ride on Suzhou Grand Canal. It’ll be like journeying through a massive outdoor museum. You’ll see 10 ancient city gates, more than 20 stone bridges, and Suzhou’s ancient city wall built 2,500 years ago. You can fully appreciate the intricate carvings and patterns of the bridges from the water.

There are various routes and boats to choose from, like the Guyunhe Cruise, Shantang Street Cruise, Panmen Cruise, and more. These cruises typically take 40 minutes to 1 hour both in the day and at nights. The price range is around $6-20 (CNY 40-140).

Enjoy Cruise Performances

On the cruise boats, you’ll see performances such as storytelling and Pingtan (评弹). Pingtan is an ancient talking-singing art in China, ballad singing in Suzhou dialect. The performer dressed in Qipao will play the Pipa (Chinese lute) and sing songs. It is a fascinating form of art to witness.

Visit the Pan Gate

Pan Gate is a historical landmark of Suzhou. It was built during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) and is the only well-preserved water-and-land city gate in the world today. Pan Gate consists elements of a water gate, land gate, and city gate. At this attraction, you’ll also see Ruiguang Pagoda, the oldest pagoda in Suzhou, as well as a charming garden and a museum.

Explore Shantang Street

Shantang Street is known as the “miniature of old Suzhou.” It was built in 852 AD and was one of the best developed street blocks in the whole China in Ming and Qing dynasties. People came here to do business, trade, live, and travel. It flows along Suzhou Grand Canal for 2.5 miles (4 kilometers). From your boat or walking down the street, you’ll see old Jiangnan houses, shops, temples, and bridges.

Admire Hanshan Temple

Hanshan Temple is a Buddhist temple constructed during Liang Dynasty (502-557 AD). It is most famous for its bell-ringing ceremony on New Year’s Eve depicted by Zhang Ji in a poem. Within the temple grounds, you can see historical relics and amazing artworks.

 

Suzhou Grand Canal Cruise
Take a cruise on the canal

Best Time to Visit Suzhou Grand Canal

The best time to travel to Suzhou and visit Suzhou Grand Canal is during March and November. The weather is nice, and the water town scenery is at its best. To avoid large crowds and long lines for the cruise, stay clear of China public holidays and weekends.

How to Get to Suzhou Grand Canal

By bus: Take bus NO. 40, 55, 178, 202, 309, 313, 518, 529, 811, or 923 to Shizilin Station, which is right by Suzhou Grand Canal.

By metro: Take metro line 4 to Beisita Station. Then walk along Renmin Road for about 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) to reach the canal.

By taxi: Hail a taxi from anywhere in Suzhou directly to Suzhou Grand Canal (Suzhou Guyunhe). The fare varies based on distance and traffic conditions.

Attractions nearby Suzhou Grand Canal

  • Suzhou Museumis designed by the well-known Chinese American architect Mr. Ieoh Ming Pei (贝聿铭). Pei lived in Suzhou during his childhood, so you’ll find many typical elements of Suzhou gardens and Jiangnan architecture at the museum.

With an area of 12,797 square yards (10,700 square meters), Suzhou Museum is home to over 40,000 historical and cultural, including jade, ceramics, bronze, stone, ivory. It is 8.7 miles (14 kilometers) from Suzhou Grand Canal.

  • Lion Grove Gardenis a renowned classical garden with a history dating back to Yuan Dynasty in 1342. It stands among the four most celebrated Chinese gardens in Suzhou, is famous for its amazing collections of rocks. Lion Grove Garden is 8.7 miles (14 kilometers) from Suzhou Grand Canal.
  • Pingjiang Roadis the most remarkable ancient block in Suzhou with quintessential features of a Jiangnan water town. You’ll see traditional houses with whitewalls and gray-tiled roofs, stone bridges, and winding alleyways. The street is 11 miles (18 kilometers) from Suzhou Grand Canal.

Suzhou Tours to Suzhou Grand Canal

 

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