Top 8 Classical Gardens of Suzhou

Suzhou gardens enjoy a worldwide reputation for the intricate layout and perfect miniature landscape in a limited space. Strolling inside, visitors can not only experience an elegant and tranquil cultural atmosphere, but also a delicate combination of Chinese architecture and natural scenery.

Most of the classical gardens of Suzhou were built for private use by aristocrats and rich businessmen, and it was not until the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties that Suzhou garden construction gradually reached a quite active period. Until now, some classical gardens are still very well preserved, most of which have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Humble Administrator’s Garden, Lingering Garden and Master of Nets Garden.



Humble Administrator’s Garden (Zhuo Zheng Yuan)

As the largest classical garden of Suzhou, Humble Administrator’s Garden was first built in the early 16th century, which is the prototype of classical garden design. Considered as one of China’s four most famous gardens, it boasts the elegant layout that the whole garden with water as the center, and it is surrounded by mountains and rivers, luxuriant flowers and trees. The garden consists of Eastern, Central and Western parts as well as some residences of the former owners. The Central Garden is the highlight of your garden tour, where you can appreciate a large-scale lake filled with lotuses and a large number of elaborate scenic pavilions. Besides, if you are interested, the Suzhou Garden Museum, the only garden museum in China is located in the south of the garden.

 Recommended Tour to the Garden:  One Day Suzhou Tour from $140

Lingering Garden (Liu Yuan)

As the most exquisite classical garden of Suzhou, Lingering Garden is also one of the four most famous gardens in China. With the Qing Dynasty style, it is famous for its fabulous architectural art: spacious and gorgeous halls and various-style buildings. The whole garden is roughly divided into four parts. The east is dominated by well-designed buildings; the middle is dotted with ponds and plants; the west is the towering rockeries interlaced with earth and stone, and the north is picturesque idyllic scenery. In addition, the over 700-meter-long (765.5 yards) corridor is one of the major attractions of Lingering Garden. The winding corridor is lined with colorful plants and lake stones of various shapes, which adds a more poetic garden landscape.

Master of Nets Garden (Wang Shi Yuan)

Master of Nets Garden was built in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) and is the smallest one in the classical gardens of Suzhou. However, its ingenious design that arranging rockery, pavilions, pastoral and residence reasonably in a limited space brings visitors an illusion of a larger garden. The Master of Nets Garden is a typical private garden integrated with the house, which consists of three parts: residential area, central main garden and inner garden. Waterscape can be appreciated everywhere throughout the garden, and a variety of buildings with compact layout are quite exquisite. Also, the traditional Night Garden Performance will bring you a unique experience of landscape with folk music.

 Recommended Tour with Master of Nets Garden:  2 Full Days Private Suzhou Tour from $279

Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty (Huanxiu Mountain Villa)

Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty covers an area of only 0.5 acre, but it integrates traditional arts of architecture, garden, sculpture, ancient literature and lime-carving. The rockery is the highlight of the Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty. With lifelike caves, canyons and cliffs, the whole rockery shapes as a natural mountain. The massive rockery surrounded by streams on three sides occupies a half of the garden. It fully reflects the amazing skills of rockery construction, which can be regarded as the best Lake Stone Rockery in China.

Lion Grove Garden (Shizilin)

Lion Grove Garden is one of the four most famous classical gardens of Suzhou. It was built in 1342 by a Buddhist disciple in memory of his master. In this garden, visitors can not only enjoy the classical style of Suzhou pavilions, but also appreciate the limpid lake and grotesque rocks. Most of these rocks look like lions in different postures, such as roaring, sleeping and playing. Thus, the garden is also known as the “Kingdom of Rockery”. The rockeries are just like a maze, and visitors can even play hide-and-seek with their children. Also, the garden is covered with dense bamboo forest, under the bamboo dotted with lots of lion-shape stones. Visitors can walk through the bamboo and appreciate the exquisite stones up close.

Canglang Pavilion (Blue Wave Pavilion)

Located in the southern part of Suzhou, the Canglang Pavilion is the oldest garden in Suzhou. Different from other gardens, visitors can see a pool of green water around Canglang Pavilion before entering the garden. Inside the garden, the amazing man-made rockeries are the main landscape and above them, there is a stone pavilion named Canglang Pavilion. Standing there, you can enjoy an amazing panoramic view of the garden. There are also double verandas connecting the rockeries inside and the waterscape outside. The double verandas are lined with colorful flowers and dotted with lattice windows. Besides, the whole garden is planted with green trees and viridian bamboo, so that you can stroll along the paths to feel a dreamland of the primitive forest.
Located in the northwest corner of the Suzhou Old Town, Tiger Hill has a long history of more than 2,500 years. Tiger Hill is 34.3 meters (112.5 feet) high and covers an area of 0.19 square kilometers (near 47 acres). However, within such a small area, it integrates the natural landscape and cultural landscape perfectly, showing visitors hills, bizarre rocks, cliffs, spring water, streams, ancient trees, stone carvings, ancient bridges as well as Neolithic cultural relics. In addition, Tiger Hill holds Temple Fair from the first day to the 15th day of the Lunar New Year, and Flower Show from March to May every year, displaying a large number of famous flowers and plants, such as tulip, narcissus and azalea.
Located in the Xiaoxinqiao Lane of Pingjiang Road, the Couple’s Retreat Garden was built in the early Qing Dynasty, and surrounded by water. The name of Couple’s Retreat Garden is to express the idea of a couple living in seclusion. The distinctive layout that one residence with two gardens - East Garden and West Garden is absolutely rare in other gardens. The Yellow Stone Rockeries surrounded by water are the highlights of your garden tour. There are docks inside the garden where you can enjoy a carefree boat trip. Compared with many famous gardens such as Humble Administrator’s Garden, it is more restful and less-crowded, very suitable for exploring at a very leisurely pace. Due to the small space, visitors can finish the tour within 1 hour. Moreover, the garden is only 500 meters (547 yards) away from the famous Pingjiang Road, so tourists can visit there by the way.

- Last updated on May. 25, 2023 by Catherine He -
Questions & Answers on Top 8 Classical Gardens of Suzhou
Asked by Gina Holley from AUSTRALIA | Feb. 24, 2018 20:20Reply
I love gardens and plants and don't want to rush around. No. of days in Suzhou?
I want to "absorb" the atmosphere of the gardens and attractions of the city. How many days would you recommend?
Thanks Gina
Answers (1)
Answered by Liela from USA | Feb. 25, 2018 21:08

4-5 days is enough for your SZ tour! Attractions like Humble Administrator’s Garden, Tiger Hill, Lingering Garden, Lion Grove Garden, SZ Museum, Hanshan Temple… are recommended! Since you love gardens, you can roam around as long as you wish.
Asked by P AKERS from CANADA | Feb. 08, 2017 23:30Reply
How long does it take to get from near Fuxing park shanghai to Suzhou gardens?
how long should I allow to visit the gardens? is it possible to see SZ & Hangzhou in a single day & get back to Shanghai for the night?
Answers (3)
Answered by Sally from CANADA | Feb. 09, 2017 03:19

These three cities have been connected by bullet train and there are many of them each day. It takes about an hour from Shanghai to SZ and 1.5 hours from SZ to Hangzhou, so touring them in a single day is possible. However, if you do so, you won't have much time to enjoy the attractions, which is not recommended. For the exact train schedules, you may search the train page on the website you are visiting.
Answered by P AKERS from CANADA | Feb. 09, 2017 11:09

Denise I see there are a number of gardens & have been told not to miss the Humble Administrators; are there closing times for the gardens or are they open during the evening? I will take the full day (go to Hangzhou on a separate day) - what ones do you recommend I see?
Answered by Joyce from BELGIUM | Feb. 18, 2017 20:21

Besides the Humble Administrator's Garden, you are also advised to visit the Lingering Garden, but I remember both gardens will be closed by 17:00 or so. Make sure you well arrange yout time.
In addition, you can also go to the Tiger Hill.
Asked by Pramono J from ID | Jan. 13, 2015 09:12Reply
I plan go to Suzhou for one day visit, which attractions that close to subway
Answers (3)
Answered by Nadia from RUSSIA | Jan. 13, 2015 19:53

There are not many attractions along the subway line in SZ. SZ Amusement Park is One, but it is not famous. Couple's Retreat Garden is relatively closer, but you still need to walk about 950 yards from subway station.

Actually, SZ is not a big city. The transportation is convenient. And those well-known attractions are distributed not far from each other. So city bus is also a good choice.
Answered by Pramono J from ID | Jan. 14, 2015 00:33

Thanks Nadia,

I see from the Suzhou subway map in line 5, there is Humble Administrator's Garden station, whether it is close to the Humble Administrator's Garden Area???

Answered by Nadia | Jan. 14, 2015 00:45

Only line 1 and line 2 are in service. Other lines are still under construction, including line 5.
Asked by Ms. Sharon from USA | May. 01, 2014 09:09Reply
Visisting gardens in Suzhou
My husband and I are staying in Shanghai for a few days in May. We are interested in hiring an English speaking guide to go with us to SZ Gardens for the day. Could someone make recommendations of a guide? How much should we expect to pay?
Answers (2)
Answered by Joan from ITALY | May. 07, 2014 02:45

I don't know such a tour guide either, but I know many resources are available at the community of Travel China Guide. You may try to search. Or you can post your demand at that forum. People who are interested in the service will contact you!

I heard the English speaking private tour guide charges CNY500-600 per day there for your reference!
Answered by SK from GERMANY | Dec. 28, 2014 20:23

you can get even at a 5-star hotel like kempinski a tour guide for 300 per day.
Asked by Lily | Mar. 12, 2014 07:58Reply
How far is the Humble Administrator’s Garden from the Suzhou Railway station?

Is it too much to walk this distance?
Answers (2)
Answered by Harry from USA | Mar. 13, 2014 03:51

It is around 3.5km, so I think it is too much for walking.
It is suggested to take a taxi to reach directly and the taxi fare is around 13RMB.
Answered by Sadhwi from INDIA | Oct. 19, 2018 06:55

Nice talk about the garden
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