Suzhou has long been considered a very refined town in China for at least the past 500 years, so most of the worthy souvenirs from here are very traditional. This is a list of what the city is known for:
- Songjin Silk Fabric (宋锦): the city's top export in the imperial times, and even today it's still a sizeable industry. It's the birthplace of Songjin (宋锦), a type of silk fabric that's used for expensive formalwear in the past. The silk produced here, along with that of Hangzhou's, is considered to be among the best in China. There is a silk museum in Suzhou where you buy some silk products, but for better prices there are lots of shops all around the city
- Suzhou Embroidery (苏绣): in China, we have 4 regional embroideries that since the 19th century have become the "big four": Hunan Embroidery (湘绣), Guangdong Embroidery (粤绣), Sichuan Embroidery (蜀绣 or 川绣), and of course Suzhou Embroidery(苏绣). The best place in the city to get emboidery is Xiupin Road (绣品街, or colloquially known as 苏绣一条街), located here. The more expensive ones here tend to be made by local craftsmen, while the cheaper shops here tend to be run by out of town businessmen.
- Biluochun Tea (碧螺春): Suzhou is home to one of the most famous and premium varieties of tea in the world called Biluochun, which was usually offered to the imperial family back in the days. Biluochun and Hangzhou's Dragon Well are two varieties that's usually considered #1 and #2 in China. It's worth getting some in Suzhou (note that in China traditional teas are only sold in loose leaf). It's not cheap, the lowest graded ones starting at $100USD per 500 grams, and can go up to $600USD per 500 grams. Best time to buy this tea is around Qingming festival (1st week of April). The best place to buy is the Suzhou Tea Market, located here south of the old town.
- Sandalwood Fans (檀香扇): fans are produced all in many parts of southern China from the imperial times, but this sandalwood fan is unique to Suzhou and the manufacturing dates all the way to Ming dynasty. Although it started mostly with bamboo, but the material changed to sandalwood in more recent centuries. It's also an evolving art, with rising competition from Japan in the 20th century leading to smaller designs. The issue though is a lot of the fans sold in Suzhou are targeted at tourists and are either of lower quality or fake. So you really need to know someone to know where to buy good quality ones. I've heard that there's a shop on 227 Ganjiang Road (干将路227号), located here. I'm not sure if it's still in business, but worth checkin gout
- Sweet Dried Fruit (苏式蜜饯): it's a traditional dessert from Suzhou, made from all kinds of plums and other fruit. There are a lot of varieties so it's hard to describe what they all are. It's best to just try different ones and see which ones you like. There will be a lot of shops everywhere in the old town selling this. One of the more famous ones is Caizhizhai(采芝斋), located here close to the Pedestrian Street. But I recommend walking around this area and see what other options you have