SuZhou Market Street
The Summer Palace has two main entrances, one is the East Palace Gate and the other is the North Palace Gate. We recommend starting your visit from the North Palace gate and arriving at the lakes by a climb over Longevity Hill. When you buy your entrance ticket, ask also for a guide map (low cost) with which you can trace your journey.
From the north gate, proceed straight ahead to SuZhou Market Street. It is modelled on the town of SuZhou in ZheJiang Province, south China - the 'Venice of the East'.
This is well worth visiting in the summer when more of its shops are open; otherwise, or if short of time, you can get good views of it from the bridge that passes over the center.
Over 60 stores extend along the street of about 300 meters in length, running along the banks in the middle section of the 'Back Lake'.
This area served as an entertainment place where Emperors and concubines could feel as if they were strolling on a commercial street, like the world outside. When the royals went there, eunuchs and maids of honor would playact as peddlers, customers and shop assistants to mimic real market activities.
Built during the reign of Emperor QianLong (1711-1799), it was burned down by the anglo-french allied force in 1860. In 1986 it was rebuilt and in 1990 opened to the public. Today's market includes stores such include souvenir shops of various types and teashops; the clerks are dressed in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) costumes.
SuZhuo Street is a good place to dress up as an emperor or empress and have your photo taken, shop and relax.