When you are in Suzhou, you can’t miss out on the old pedestrian street called Shantang Street and Pingjiang Road. Both are quite similar to old city narrow streets, boats ride in canals, street food, drinks, and souvenirs.
In case your time is limited, choose either one. Pingjiang Road is less commercialize and longer compared to Shantang Street where it has more lights and great vibes for tourists. This post is about Shantang Street.
How far is Shantang Street from Suzhou city?
Shantang Street is about 15 to 20 mins by taxi from Suzhou Guan Qian Shopping Street (Where we stay). We took a taxi from our hotel and it didn’t cost a lot, pretty cheap. It runs by meter so it is pretty safe.
Admission is Free
There are no admission fees and open all day long.
A taste of Old Suzhou
Shantang Street is 360 meters long and it is a commercial and cultural street during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. If you want to see the old Suzhou, this is the place to come to experience.
The Great Poet – Bai Juyi 白居易
You are also able to spot the famous poet Bai Juyi statue and a little memorial park dedicated to him in Shantang Street. Bai Juyi falls in love with Shantang Street when he visited Suzhou and called to repair roads and building bridges in this area. Hence it is no surprise to find Bai Juyi memorial park here.
How long do you need?
3 hours at least or half a day.
I am sure you will enjoy the old architectures here used for shops and restaurants.
Let’s explore things to do in Shantang Street!
The boat ride is one of the highlights here, the queue is long so be prepared to wait.
Hand-painted Chinese paintings can be spotted in Shantang Street. You can witness the artist draws the Chinese painting in front of you.
There are several bridges in Shantang riverbanks and the most famous one is Tonggui Bridge, a single arch stone bridge. This bridge contains an auspicious meaning “leading you to the riches and honor”
Day and night views are totally different.
Watch Kunqu 崑曲 Opera or Pingtan 评弹
When you are in Suzhou, one of the cultural performance you needed to experience is Kunqu or Pingtan 评弹. Pingtan dates back to the Song dynasty and enjoys great popularity in the Jiangnan region. It is more like storytelling, joke-cracking, music playing and singing. We wanted to see Kunqu but it only started quite late so I choose to watch Pingtan. A man and a lady sitting in front of the stage and sings with Suzhou local dialect and play with the traditional instruments. Even if you don’t understand, you will still enjoy the vibes.
If possible, do Kunqu Operas as it is originated from Suzhou, an old drama style of performance. Kunqu is over 600 years old and is reputed as the “ancestor of Chinese dramas” and the “mother of Chinese opera”. The ticket for Kunqu is also cost much more as the show takes longer, more than an hour. Kunqu is listed by the UNESCO in 2001 as the “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”. I highly recommend anyone visit Suzhou to watch the original Kunqu Opera show.
We had our dinner in Shantang Street, ordered stir-fried beef noodles and a hong Sao beef noodles soup.
Best time to visit
Go there before sunset is the best, that way you could check out both the day view and night view. The night view is certainly the highlight when all the lanterns are lit up. The whole area looks super spectacular in the evening!
There are over 50 kinds of alcohol with different flavors in the traditional bottles. You are welcome to taste them for free and if you like it, you can order per pound. The percentage of alcohol is quite high for Chinese alcohol. I asked for the Chinese Rose wine also known as Mei Kuei Lu 玫瑰酒 in Chinese, highly aromatic!
Giant Tang Bao
Giant Tang bao is so popular in Shanghai, we had them there and since it tastes so good, we ordered again here in Shantang Street Suzhou. The price is the same as Shanghai, SGD 5.00 each. First, you drink it with a straw, suck up the crab soup then eat the meat and the skin of the bun together. Best is to dip with some ginger slice and vinegar.
Fairy Bean Cake 仙豆糕
It has many kinds of Fairy Bean cake sold in Shantang Street. You can choose and mix with them. The seller will fry the surface of the fairy bean cake so when you eat them are crispy and the filling is soft. The fillings are red bean, yum, cheese and many more.
Chicken feet are well like in China and you can’t miss this delicacy in Shantang. There are several flavors to choose from, sweet flavor, hot flavor or pepper flavor. The good thing is they will give you some plastic gloves to eat with the chicken feet and that way it won’t be too messy.
Coffee bar & Pub
Bar and pubs line up both sides of the river. Pretty amazing atmosphere for couples.
CCP (Chinese Communist Party) Souvenirs shop
There are lots of shops selling interesting thing but I like the CCP souvenirs shop. The bag with Mao’s face printed on it makes a good souvenir.
If you are in Suzhou, Shantang Street is a must-visit. The best time to visit is during the evening and check out the light-up of the lanterns along the canals. Boat rides, snacks hunting and watching Kunqu opera or Pingtan performances are some of the things you can do in Shantang Street Suzhou. This will give you some taste of old Suzhou.