Suzhou Street in Beijing:

Travel Back in Time at the Summer Palace

By Marianne Schwab | Best Travel Deals Tips Blog

I have to confess, I never thought I’d ever want to travel to China, but when my friend, Sara, moved there with her husband, Karl-Ulrich, several years ago, Beijing became a travel crime of opportunity and I couldn’t pass it up.

No trip to Beijing would be complete without a visit to the Summer Palace, the largest and best-preserved imperial garden in China. This was the first stop on my Beijing tour and the weather was gorgeous on a day in early May. Its natural landscape of hills and waterways is peppered with traditional pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges that are a Chinese cultural delight. Go behind Longevity Hill and you’ll find the enchanting Suzhou Street in the middle section of the Back Lake.

Suzhou Street was built originally during the reign of Emperor Qianglong (1711-1799) to give the emperor and his empress and concubines the experience of shopping in the water town since they would never shop among the common people. When the royals strolled the streets, eunuchs and maids of honor would take on the roles of shopkeepers and even peddlers to impersonate market activities.

This small tourist attraction is set along a river that winds through the park and features many crafts people selling their traditional Chinese style wares.

You’ll find over sixty old-styled stores, including restaurants, tea houses, and clothing shops lining the narrow walkways and banks of the river that runs through Suzhou Street. The storekeepers, shop assistants, boaters, policemen on patrol, calligraphy artists and musicians are also all dressed in costumes of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

I loved this ancient-style Suzhou Street in Beijing because it’s probably the closest thing to getting into a time machine to travel back to the mid-18th century of China. I really enjoyed the recreation of this unique period in history although jaded travelers might find it too touristy. You do need to pay a small additional admission price to stroll the very narrow walkways, but this is a must do attraction if you’re at the Summer Palace as far as I’m concerned.

Finally, one of the most striking memories I have of my visit to Suzhou Street at the Summer Palace is that there was such a vibe of happiness in the air that day. It was a holiday so the park was crowded but everyone seemed to be smiling or laughing and just filled with joy.

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Producer’s Note: I’m a big movie location vacation fan and if a trip to China is in your travel plans or even on your bucket list, I highly recommend watching these wonderful movies shot in China before you go: The Joy Luck Club, The Last Emperor, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

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