The Land of Classical Gardens

Jiangsu is one of China’s most prosperous, populous and fascinating provinces. With bustling cities, mouth-watering food, innumerable historic sites and a network of seemingly endless canals, Jiangsu is also one of China’s lushest destinations, boasting exquisite gardens and lakes. The list of attractions in Jiangsu goes on and on, but here are our top picks.

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Known for its many pagodas, canals and bridges, the city of Suzhou’s greatest appeal lies in its stunning gardens, which artfully combine pools, rock gardens, trees and pavilions to create oases of tranquility and beauty. Classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the nine classical gardens were constructed between the 11th and 19th centuries and are a profoundly calming place to spend an afternoon appreciating the beauty both of nature and their superb design.

Shoppers and book lovers alike should spare an hour or two in Suzhou for the Cheng Pin bookstore (also known as the Eslite bookstore), a marvellous shop that resembles a department store thanks to a huge selection of everything from stationery to raincoats and water bottles, plus an in-store café. The laid-back vibe here encourages visitors to while away an afternoon browsing and reading without feeling any pressure to buy. They have a good collection of English language books.

If you’re wondering what to do in Jiangsu for a memorable culinary experience, a visit to Suzhou should be at the top of your list. Home to China’s most distinctive regional cuisines, Suzhou’s food is its citizens’ pride and joy. Cake shops have established themselves over decades, queues outside noodle bars are a common sight, and “squirrel fish” (a delicately fried fish drizzled with sweet-and-sour sauce) is just one of the city’s numerous signature dishes.

Suzhou also has a national reputation for fabulous noodles: often eaten for breakfast, the handmade noodles swim in deeply flavourful broth and are garnished with shrimp, crab or wild duck. Head to Jiayu Fang Street, where noodle shops abound, and try as many as you can. The area’s green tea is also famous, and tea houses make a perfect spot for a mid-sightseeing break.

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