The Grand Canal is the world’s longest and oldest man-made canal, stretching 1,794 kilometres, with a history of over 2,500 years. Starting at Beijing in the north and ending at Hangzhou in the south, it runs through Tianjin, Hebei Province, Shandong Province, Jiangsu Province and Zhejiang Province. In 2014 the Grand Canal was listed by UNESCO as China’s 46th World Heritage Site.
The Grand Canal links five majestic rivers, the Hai, Huai, Yangtze, Yellow and the Qiantang. Taking a hydro-bus or boat cruise is a good way of enjoying the Grand Canal, with the Suzhou Grand Canal route showcasing the ancient folk customs of the southern Yangtze River Delta. The cruise is about a 40-minute journey, passing several ancient city gates and bridges along its journey with storytelling and ballad singing in Suzhou dialect, a Chinese ancient talking-singing art. Night cruises are also popular.
Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport and Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport are the two airports most convenient to Grand Canal. Taxis are available from Suzhou Railway Station when travelling by train and from Hangzhou Mansion Station if arriving by bus.
The Grand Canal was built in 468 BC with restorations and repairs made over the years including the Sui Dynasty and the Yuan Dynasty. The first cruise line on the canal was launched in Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province in the early 1980s, and has since attracted numerous local and international visitors.