Here are some of the prettiest outdoor places to explore during ‘sakura’ season.
IF YOU’RE VISITING SHANGHAI…
Shanghai Botanical Garden, Longwu Road, Shanghai
Spring blossom is a seasonal highlight in China’s largest botanical garden, when the grounds are overrun with cherry, peach and plum blossom. At 240 acres there’s plenty of ground to cover but there’s a charming electric train if you run out of time – or energy. If you’re visiting outside of blossom time, enjoy the bonsai garden, medicinal garden and the huge tropical glasshouse with its aerial walkway.
Yuyuan Garden, Anren Street, Huangpu District, Shanghai
A lovely example of a classical Chinese garden, Yuyuan dates back 400 years to the Ming dynasty. There’s interest at every turn in a five-acre plot that’s resplendent with historic pines, ginkgos and bamboos, as well as architecturally distinguished pavilions and covered bridges that span pools brimming with golden carp. Admire a bird’s-eye view of the garden from the top of the 50-foot high rockery, and in spring, savour the sight and scent of blossom.
Gucun Forest Park, near Gucun Park station
Home to more than 12,000 cherry trees, this 1,000-acre park becomes a sakura seekers’ paradise during its annual blossom festival – which takes place from mid-March to mid-April – when thousands of visitors descend on it to admire the candyfloss clouds of pink and white blossom.
IF YOU’RE VISITING SUZHOU…
Humble Administrator’s Garden, Northeastern Street, Gusu District, Suzhou
Extending to 138 acres, this World Heritage Site garden is the largest in Suzhou. Built in 1509, its classic design with ponds, bamboo-dotted islands, bridges and streams has earned it the title of ‘the mother of Chinese gardens’. Winding paths lead the visitor around the site, with something new to see at every turn. While it’s truly divine in blossom time, it’s a must-see at any time of year.
Lingering Garden, Liuyuan Road, Suzhou
With its origins dating back to the sixteenth century, this World Heritage Site garden is laid out into four themed areas, each featuring traditional buildings, lotus ponds, bamboo groves and bonsai. Its unusual rock formations and stone inscriptions are a wonderful extra – the legacy of one of its previous owners in the Qing dynasty, who collected them. Lovely in blossom time, the garden also hosts demonstrations of traditional Pingtan and Guqin music.
Master of the Nets Garden, Kuo JIa Tou Lane, Suzhou
A small but exquisite classic Qing dynasty garden, this site’s origins go back to the twelfth century Song dynasty. Stroll from pavilion to pavilion through intimate courtyards and over bridges, past trees, rockeries and ponds, with each view revealing nature reordered in miniature. Lantern-lit at night from mid-March to November, the garden is a magical place in which to see performances of traditional song and dance.
Tiger Hill, Huqiu Square, Suzhou
Home to temples and the tombs of ancient kings, this scenic hill park is steeped in history. Its famous leaning pagoda towers 154 feet and dates back more than 1,000 years, and there is also an extensive collection of bonsai trees. Spring is an ideal time to visit when the park bursts into blossom.