Suzhou may boast a high-profile new museum, but this city of canals and walled gardens still feels ages removed from the bustle of nearby Shanghai.

Sheridan Prasso
April 03, 2009

Star Attraction

The I.M. Pei-designed Suzhou Museum (204 Dong Bei St.; 86-512/6757-5666; szmuseum.com), an angular masterpiece of skylights and white polygons, is the city's newest draw. Completed last October, it houses a collection of 30,000 Chinese artifacts, including 18th-century porcelain vases, silk tapestries, and Ming dynasty landscape paintings. Take a break from art viewing in the museum's teahouse, then stroll through the garden, a contemporary take on the manicured oases for which Suzhou has long been known.

Getting There

Take a 90-minute train ride from Shanghai. Nanjing-bound trains depart every hour—more frequently during rush hour.

What to Do

The 16th-century Garden for Lingering In (near Changmen Gate; 86-512/6510-6462; suzhou.gov.cn) lives up to its name: a covered walkway meanders through ginkgo groves, bursts of wisteria, and traditional pavilions surrounding a pond that has inspired some of China's most famous poets. Silk production has defined Suzhou since before Marco Polo's day; English-language guided tours at Suzhou Kaidi Silk Co. (1965 Renmin Rd.; 86-512/6753-2809) demonstrate how the fabric goes from silkworm cocoon to the thick duvets ($45) on sale in the factory's gift shop.

Where to Eat

As many as 2,000 people a day pack the eight dining halls of Songhelou Restaurant (18 Taijian Lane, Guanqiang St.; 86-512/6523-3270; lunch for two $20) for dishes such as Squirrel Mandarin Fish, a fancifully filleted fried carp in sweet sauce that is a hallmark of the local cuisine. For a smaller-scale venue, try Deyuelou Restaurant (27 Taijian Lane, Guanqiang St.; 86-512/6522-6969; lunch for two $20), a 400-year-old institution on the same pedestrian thoroughfare, where the specialty is a rich braised ham with honey glaze.

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