What to do in Suzhou in the winter

This week, someone arrived to my blog because they searched for the words “suzhou what to do in winter”. I don’t have any specific post about that topic, so I thought about writing one! (Thank you for the inspiration, unknown Google searcher!). However, I am not exactly the most adventurous person in winter, when I just feel like laying on the sofa not doing much apart from reading a book or watching a movie, so I might miss some things. Suzhou dwellers/visitors, feel free to leave any suggestions and ideas in the comment section!

Winter should be a good season to be outdoors in Suzhou, as long as it doesn’t rain. You just need to wear an appropriate amount of clothes, right? Well, there’s another thing: pollution in winter is at its worst. Not sure if it’s because of the winter winds (or lack of them), the North having heating and then blowing coal smoke in our direction, or the steel factories in Hebei working at full capacity, but the air in winter is always worse than in the summer. But we still have to keep on living, so let’s list those things we can do in Suzhou in the winter! I will focus on the day time, indoor options (because I’m a grandma and I don’t know anything about nightlife, and because I care about your lungs!).

The sky today. The air quality index is currently 289, or very unhealthy.


– At home

Maybe I’m being Captain Obvious here, but there are many things you can do at home. From reading or answering the personal e-mails you were lazy to reply during the week, to cooking, cleaning or exercising, and of course everything related to screens. My personal favourite is playing Just Dance on the PS, because it doesn’t feel like I am exercising (but I am sweating profusely after 4 songs). However, if you are like me and work from home, you might feel an irresistible urge to get out of the “office” during the weekend, so let’s see what we can do outside.


– Malls

I am not a big shopper, but I can spend half a day in the mall looking and touching everything. And if there is something in Suzhou, that’s malls: Aeon, Times Square, Yuanrong, Shinkong, Eslite, Suzhou Center, In City, Link City… and these are only some of the ones in the Industrial Park! Can all of them survive? Anyway, apart from the usual shops and restaurants, Chinese malls sometimes also have entertainment options. The recently opened Suzhou Center (I was there last weekend and now the amount of people is bearable) has an ice rink, a snowboard simulator, a videogame arcade and ponies. Almost all malls have a play area for children with ball pits, carousels and soft things. And, of course, cinema (Chinese movies normally have English subtitles and foreign movies are not dubbed, except for animation) and karaoke, which brings me to the next point…


– Karaoke

I know most Western people are not too fond of karaoke and I just can’t understand why. I love it! Also, karaoke is not only a night-time activity; they are actually open from around noon and during the day, the room price is cheaper. Most of them have a wide selection of English songs, although not to much of other Western languages (they have Despacito though). My favourite KTV is the AK one in Jinghe Plaza (subway line 1, Times Square stop, exit 3), the one in the fancy new mall across the Shangri-La hotel in the New District is also good (subway line 1, Amusement Park stop). If you want to try it by yourself first before committing to a night-long event, you can check the karaoke cabins that have sprung like mushrooms in many malls. They can fit 1-2 people, you pay by time, with prices being something like 20 or 30 RMB per 15 minutes, and there are a few old English songs to choose. They come equipped with curtains if you don’t walk passersby to see your pop star efforts.

The new karaoke booths you can now find in any mall.


– Sports

Actually, I’m not sure if malls and sport courts have air filters. I kind of doubt it. But well, even if the air inside is as bad as outside, I feel a bit better about being inside (this is all in my head, of course). There are many options for indoors sports in Suzhou, and you’ll pardon me for focusing on the Industrial Park side of the city, but that’s what I know best. There’s the Xinghai swimming pool and the sports centre upstairs where you can play badminton and squash, there’s another centre with swimming pool called Teenagers Activity Center close to Nanshi Jie subway stop, and another big sports centre with basketball and badminton courts in the Dushuhu campus of Suzhou university. There are many, many more inside ex-factories that closed along Suhong Rd. There are also several bowling courts. Looks like the two I’ve been to in Suzhou have closed, but Dianping (a very useful app/website if you read Chinese) says there is one in Ligongdi and another in the Aeon mall, among others.


– Museums

I haven’t been to many museums in Suzhou, but there are a lot. In the Culture and Arts Centre there are always free exhibitions, normally about modern art. The Suzhou Museum is quite interesting and the building itself is beautiful, but on the weekends there are always long queues of tourists. I’ve heard the Silk Museum is nice but I haven’t been yet. And there is some place called Suzhou Revolution Museum in the west side of the old town, in front of the Carrefour that is close to the Xihuan subway stop, that I’ve wanting to go for a while. Maybe I’ll finally visit it this winter!

The garden of the Suzhou Museum.


– Books

Me in a bookstore.

A few years ago there was a notorious lack of bookstores in Suzhou, but luckily we don’t need to complain about it anymore as we got two big bookstores: the Fenghuang bookstore right next to Xinghai Square, and Eslite on the other side of the lake. Maybe I’m weird, but I can spend hours walking around the bookshelves just looking at the books. I haven’t been to Fenghuang in quite some time, but Eslite has a lot of books in English. And, like any bookstore in China, no one will bat an eye if you sit there with a book in hand like if it was the public library (with books that were not shrink-filmed, of course).


How you do spend your free time in the winter?