The Pan Gate is the only remaining ancient city gate in Suzhou (others, such as the one I saw yesterday) are apparently mostly rebuilt. The Pan Gate sits within the ancient city wall which once surrounded the walled city of Suzhou – nowadays only fragments remain.
Rather than just being a gate you can look at for five minutes then move on, the Pan Gate lies within the Pan Gate Scenic Area. This complex includes the gate itself (which you can walk on top of along a small section of city wall), a small lake, several cute pavilions and bridges, and some lovely flower gardens. I took a photo of the map so you can see just how much is included in this area!
I entered the scenic area via the Pan Gate and was very impressed by the condition of such an ancient monument. Although there has obviously been some restoration to ensure the gate is safe to walk on/ under, you can still admire the original bricks. There is also some very picturesque creeping plants growing up the wall, and traditional style terraces on top.
After passing under the gate, I wandered around the gardens, enjoying the pretty ponds and flowers. Water seems to be a very common feature of the ancient Suzhou gardens and is replicated again here – with numerous small bridges and paths alongside small streams and waterfalls.
After spending 15 minutes relaxing around the park, I then headed up on top of the gate itself to a section of the city wall. They have made some effort to accommodate tourists by re-doing the paving on the wall and including some cute street lamps.
On top of the wall itself, there are a couple of small restaurants/ food stalls (which do detract a little from the history of the site, but I will admit being able to buy some cold water was very welcome!) and also interesting mock catapults for the kids. From here, we also got a much better view of the Pan Gate itself. Interestingly, the canal originally passed through this gate, whereas today it is used by tourists!
Next, I headed to the small canal inside the scenic area, where my ticket also included a free ride on a traditional gondola – much more relaxing and enjoyable than the River Cruise I went on yesterday! I did notice a few other spots around town where you could pay for such a boat trip, so if you’re planning to visit the Pan Gate remember you get a short ride for free here!
Finally, I headed towards the far end of the gardens to view the Ruiguang (auspicious light) Pagoda, which sits overlooking the main lake.
Overall, I would say that the Pan Gate is one of the best attractions I’ve visited in Suzhou – and if you’re pushed for time gives you a good taster of Suzhou’s history, canal culture and gardens.
Ticket: 40 RMB