We know. Shanghai beats this city hands down with the range of posh, fashionable clubs that line its glamorous streets.
Suzhou can’t compete with Shanghai chic; the city’s night scene is more laidback. Suzhou’s many casual bars and clubs are unpretentious, homey and down-to-earth. Turn up alone at a casual beer bar, an upmarket whiskey lounge, or one of the city’s rare party clubs and you’ll find that people are friendly and welcoming.
So maybe Suzhou doesn’t quite have the party glitter, but it more than makes up for it with heart and soul.
Since opening in June 2016, newbie bar Birdland - named after the anthemic track by rock icon Patti Smith – is already pulling in a loyal fanbase of serious imbibers, evidently tiring of the city’s cookie-cutter bars and their almost identical drinks lists. And with a choice of 12 beers on draught, all sourced from regional microbreweries (two in Suzhou), plus another 100 craft ales, porters and stouts from all over the world, it’s little wonder there’s standing room only on weekends.
This bar’s may have confused Blussel for Brussels, and we can’t speak for the language skills here. But if you’re looking for a better variety of beers than just Tsingtao or Suntory, this tiny bar in the middle of Ligongdi offers you some of the best options in Suzhou.
Shelves are stacked high from floor to ceiling with bottles of hard-to-find Belgian brews, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better beer menu in the city. We like that our drinks here are always served cold and in appropriate glassware.
Don’t come expecting hard drinks and wild parties at Blussel; this is more of a chill-out spot for casual evenings and easy after-work drinks. During the cooler months, we think it’s an ideal spot to kick back and relax with a few choice beers.
Best known for its live telecasts of popular sports events, the Camel Bar is also a favorite for its daily food specials. We love Burger Night Wednesdays, which gets you a bacon cheeseburger and a pint of Carlsberg beer for RMB 50.
The bar also has a welcoming casual vibe that makes it a great place to chill and hang out. Live telecasts of sports events include F1 races, football and hockey games. There are many large screens so you’ll easily catch the action from wherever you’re seated. We also like the regular special events at the bar. It’s quiz night every second Tuesday of the month, and Thursdays are comedy nights with visiting acts from around the region.
The name of this bar alone is enough to suggest an uninhibited evening of raucous fun. The reality is perhaps not that far off. One of the more established watering holes since it first opened its doors to Suzhou partygoers in 2010, Carumba is famous among expat crowds for its creative event nights.
There have been salsa parties, DJ parties, and even couple’s movie nights in celebration of Valentine’s Day. Most popular, however, are the bar's New Year's Eve parties, which pack in crowds to capacity. Carumba constantly reinvents itself to draw in the party-goers.
Located on Moon Harbor, along the east side of the lake, CHI Whisky Oyster Bar and Restaurant exudes an upscale yet unpretentious vibe. This is not the place for wild parties and drunken nights; the lounge attracts a substantially more sophisticated crowd of beautiful people.
There is an extensive drink list of beers and whiskies, but if you like your poison sweet and pretty, there’s also quite a selection of cocktails available. Expect to find the usual suspects; margaritas, martinis and mojitos are par for the course. For some nibbles to go with your drink, the restaurant on the first floor serves up some classic Japanese teppanyaki.
The owners of this newly-opened bar and restaurant are an expat and Chinese couple who recently moved to Suzhou from Guangzhou. The couple now call Suzhou home, and many of their staff have also relocated to this city to help the new bar.
Located in the vicinity of Dushu Lake (Dushu Hu), Coconut is one of the best-looking new drinking establishments to open in the area. The premises are large with a pool table, and the bar area stretches across the whole length of the restaurant. The drinks menu is pretty standard, but we recommend the classic cocktails and German draft beers.
Suzhou’s not big on jazz and blues. In this city, we think that Feeling Bar Global 188 has the best music to fit the genre. That's probably why the Western-style jazz lounge also attracts a predominantly foreign crowd.
We think service standards are above average. Waiters are smartly-dressed, fully conversant in English, and seem to boast some good product knowledge, offering savvy recommendations whenever needed. The biggest draw at Feeling has to be its resident band, Too Match. Fronted by Robert Campillo on the guitar, the band is popular in Suzhou for its bold, confident covers of popular hits. Check out other locations downtown.
Our favourite joint on Pingjiang Lu has got to be the Locke Pub, located in a traditional Suzhounese building and surrounded by a Suzhou classical garden. The owner is the ever-affable Fannings Harte, a vivacious twenty-something Cantonese girl with a great sense of humour and a big laugh.
She might be barely out of college, but Fannings runs the pub like a seasoned pro, chatting with regulars and making newbies feeling right at home. Variety is the spice of life, and Fannings delights in dishing out unexpected surprises. The pub hosts regular special events, and there have been solo concerts by cellists, performances by jazz bands, movie nights and plays by theatre troupes.
There is no lack of casual bars in Suzhou, but wine lovers too have their own special place to imbibe. Le Parisien is a casual wine bistro located a short walk away from Ligongdi. The premises are small, but the cozy interiors make it feel like we've stumbled upon an intimate gathering among friends in someone’s home.
No surprise, then, that the owner is a Parisian, and she prides herself on offering a selection of the finest vintage wines from France. Red wines are the specialty here, but the bar also offers a good range of white wines and champagnes. If it takes more than wine to get your into the mood, the bar also offers a selection of more traditional beers, cocktails and spirits.
This is one of our favorite hangouts in the Rong Creative Park, a downtown hipster area of Suzhou that's crowded with artists, musicians and other boho, creative sorts. Housed in an old warehouse building, Mofun Loft is a popular destination in Suzhou for its regular live music events.
This is also a good place to gain an introduction to Chinese musical perspectives. The lounge hosts many budding local bands, and if you're lucky, you'll even catch some bigger names in action. Plan your visits to the lounge to suit the kind of music you like. It's folk blues on Tuesdays, and jazz on Saturdays; Mondays sees special beer deals, and Thursdays caters to whiskey lovers. Check out the website for more details.
We'll be the first to alert you to the fact that Pandora doesn't really have an open dance floor. The tables are packed closely together, and your jiving's probably restricted to the empty spaces in between.
In China, this is pretty much how they party—exclusive gatherings of friends at a loud club. If there's any dancing, it all happens within private spaces.
It's a great peek into the Chinese psyche and introduction to the club scene in Suzhou. We also think that despite the lack of space to boom and shake the room, if you're into electro and house music, and you like a mix of foreign DJs, dancers and emcees in the house, Pandora's got a good mix of everything.
The Japanese owner of this lounge and bar also owns Shanghai's Papaya. Papaya and Haven is his third venture, and when it first opened, was the first bar in Suzhou to focus specifically on the art of cocktail creation. If you're adventurous, ask the mixologists behind the bar to fix you something that tickles your fancy.
Cocktails are well-made; these drinks have a good kick, which is brought to life with other fruity flavors, juices and fresh ingredients. Besides cocktails, you'll also find a variety of whiskies and wines. In total, there is an incredible selection of drinks options numbering in the hundreds, if you count the spirits and other liqueurs.
We concede that Suzhou may not quite boast the party scene that Shanghai does. Nonetheless, it's got a few clubbing venues to call its own. S Muse is one of those clubs that you can't miss. The exteriors boasts loud, neon signage and a see through façade of glass panels framed by an interlacing pattern of shiny metal bars offering peeks into the action inside. The bartenders are friendly and obliging, and they'll gladly recommend and mix up a cocktail upon request. To further pump up the mood on the dance floor, the club brings in foreign DJs on occasion.
Views of Jinji Lake from the shore, beautiful as they are, are even more so if you can enjoy them suspended high above ground. The few patrons to this lounge, however, belong to a select group. Instead of potbellied beer guzzlers or giggling college students, you're more likely to find a crowd who prefer whiskeys and cigars, and are content to sit and sip on cocktails while enjoying the view in silent contemplation. The inside of the lounge is equipped with several private rooms for exclusive parties and gatherings, and there is also an outdoor terrace with 360-degree views of the lake.
If you're sick of senseless alcohol imbibing, we think this is the perfect antidote for your wild party ways. This quiet lounge on the 55th floor of Fraser Suites Suzhou has a mellow character and atmosphere. The bar has a small selection of cocktails, spirits and beers, and together with the intimate surroundings, we think The Pinnacle is best suited for a relaxed night out with a close group of friends. The lounge also boasts incredible views of the surrounding city; on a clear day, it's possible to look right across the three Suzhou lakes.
This beautiful bar and lounge is nestled squarely in the middle of the small park located just opposite the Suzhou Culture and Arts Center. The bar offers a range of blended drinks, including coffee concoctions and fruity blends crafted from real fruit. Fresh fruit is pounded first into a jam, then whizzed together with ice, lemon juice, fresh mint and your choice of booze to create a delicious customized cocktail. Live music is yet another one of UNDA's special highlights. Weekends often see local and foreign singers and artists performing back to back on stage.
Wave Livehouse is technically a concert venue and not actually a bar. But we think it would be remiss to exclude it from any list of evening entertainment destinations. Right from the get go, it's obvious that this spot was created out of a love of music and community rather than purely as a profit-making venture.
We think Wave is no less than a haven for music lovers. It's got a huge stage and a terrific sound system that booms the bass to the crowds, getting them quickly up on their feet and grooving to the beats. So let there be slow nights no more.
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