Incentive groups can step back in time in China's charming canal city. Here are our top picks:

Classical gardens

Suzhou’s gardens are designated Unesco World Heritage sites and a haven for those seeking a relaxing stroll. The Humble Administrator’s Garden is the biggest in the city, set around a picturesque lake and located within the ancient city walls. Groups can view and admire many of the features representative of Chinese classical gardens in one place, including lotus ponds, a teahouse, bamboo groves, zigzagging bridges and pavilions.

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For a different take on a classical-styled garden, Robby Gu, deputy director corporate division at MCI Shanghai, recommends Lion Grove Garden. Alongside ornamental pavilions, the garden’s standout feature are rock formations resembling lions. The garden has hosted many famous guests. “Built during the Yuan Dynasty, it was visited by Qianlong Emperor six times,” he says.

Tea time and Kun Opera

Take a stroll along the atmospheric, bustling canal-side Pingjiang Road. Stretching for 1,600 metres, it is lined with quaint bookshops, cafes, temples and traditional Suzhou buildings—whitewashed houses with distinctive black-tile roofs, offering a fascinating insight into the city’s history.

Make a stop at Fu Xi Tea House—as well as tasting tea, guests can indulge in a Kun Opera performance—combining dancing and singing, it is one of the oldest surviving versions of Chinese opera. Enthusiastic groups can catch another opera performance and learn more about the art at the Suzhou Kunqu Museum.


Silk experience

Suzhou is known for its silk—it was the centre of silk production during the Tang and Song dynasties. For a comprehensive insight into the history, uses and manufacture of silk, head to the Silk Museum, which opened in 1991.

Highlights include live silkworm displays in the silkworm ‘rearing room’, where you can view silkworms chewing on mulberry leaves and the silk machinery showroom, which focuses on different ways to produce silk, from traditional weaving looms to more modern technology. The museum also houses traditional and modern crafts, clothing and embroidery made from silk.

Floating tours

For an evening tour with a difference and to experience Suzhou at night, opt for a cruise along the city moat. Take in sights including ancient city gates and traditional bridges, such as Xinshi Bridge and Renmin Bridge, with illuminated buildings along the canal providing stunning panoramic views. “Sit on the boat and enjoy the lights of ancient houses,” says MCI’s Gu.

For another water-themed experience, Gu also recommends a visit to the nearby water town of Tongli, around a 30-minute drive away. Surrounded by five lakes, Tongli is lined with streets and lanes and is best appreciated with a canal boat ride through its narrow waterways.