things to do in Nanjing

The 22 Best Things to Do in Nanjing in 2024

Nanjing, a city steeped in history and culture, offers a wealth of experiences for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in the heart of China. As the ancient capital of several dynasties, including the Ming and Qing, Nanjing boasts a rich heritage that is palpable as you wander through its historic streets and landmarks.

From the majestic City Wall, which offers panoramic views of the city, to the solemn Memorial Hall to the Victims in the Nanjing Massacre, which serves as a poignant reminder of the city’s tumultuous past, Nanjing is a city that tells a story at every turn.

Join me as we explore the 22 best things to do in Nanjing in 2024, and discover why this city should be at the top of your travel list.

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🌟 Nanjing Travel Planning Guide

Considering a last-minute trip to Nanjing?

🇨🇳 Top Activities and Tours in Nanjing:

1. Half Day Nanjing City Private Flexible Tour with Night River Cruise
2. Nanjing City Private Customized Day Tour with Lunch
3. Nanjing Self-Guided Day Tour with Private Car and Driver Service


🏨Top Hotels in Nanjing:

Crystal Orange Hotel (⭐️ 4.7 budget-friendly)
Jinling Hotel (⭐️ 4.7 mid-range)
The Ritz-Carlton (⭐️ 4.7 luxury)
The Lalu Nanjing (⭐️ 4.7 luxury)

🌐Make sure to install ExpressVPN in advance for unrestricted internet access during your stay in China!

🌏 Where is Nanjing Located

Nanjing is located in eastern China, in Jiangsu Province. It lies on the south bank of the Yangtze River, approximately 300 kilometers (186 miles) west of Shanghai. As the provincial capital, Nanjing is one of China’s most important cities, both historically and culturally. It has served as the capital during various dynasties, most notably during the Ming Dynasty and the Republic of China era before the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

Nanjing is a major cultural and economic hub, renowned for its rich history, cultural sites, and beautiful landscapes. Its strategic location on the Yangtze River has made it an important port city throughout history.

👑 Best Things to Do in Nanjing

1. Nanjing Confucius Temple (夫子庙)

The Confucius Temple in Nanjing served as a cultural and educational hub during the Ming and Qing dynasties, weathering many changes over time. It has been a site for honoring Confucius and is one of China’s four major Confucian temples.

The temple’s ancient architectural complex comprises three main sections: the Confucius Temple, the Imperial Academy (Xue Gong), and the Examination Hall (Gong Yuan), spanning a large area.

Currently, the scenic area of the Confucius Temple includes a food street, where the buildings are designed in a traditional style that complements the temple’s architecture.

The temple offers unique experiences both day and night, always bustling with visitors, making it one of the liveliest places in Nanjing.

To thoroughly explore the temple’s architecture, learn about its history, and enjoy the local delicacies, you should allocate three to four hours. Entrance to the scenic area is free, but there is a charge to enter the buildings.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: 09:00-22:00
🚗How to get there: Take Metro line 3 to Fuzimiao (Nanjing Confucius Temple) Station.

2. Qinhuai River (秦淮河)

The Qinhuai River, a tributary of the Yangtze River flowing primarily through Nanjing, is known as the city’s mother river. It’s one of Nanjing’s busiest and most popular tourist attractions.

The river spans a considerable length, with the area around the Confucius Temple being the most lively, featuring numerous food streets. Both sides of the river are lined with outdoor cafes and bars, often with live singers. You can sit and enjoy the illuminated view of the Qinhuai River.

The river’s true beauty shines at night when the area is illuminated, and red lanterns are hung along the banks. Traditional boats sail along the river, offering a unique nighttime experience.

Near the Confucius Temple dock, you can purchase tickets for a night cruise. There are various types of boats; visitors can take an elaborately decorated one that accommodates 20 people and includes a guided tour. However, the boat moves quickly, making it challenging to take photos. Photography enthusiasts might prefer the slower hand-rowed boats, although these require a longer wait.

A night cruise on the Qinhuai River allows you to admire its stunning nighttime scenery and experience the local culture from a different perspective.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: all-day
🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 3 to Fuzimiao (Confucius Temple) Station.

👉 Book The Qinghuai River Cruise Tour on Viator

3. Imperial Examination Museum of China (中国科举博物馆)

The Imperial Examination Museum of China, is built and expanded from the original Jiangnan Examination Hall. This hall is one of the main architectural complexes in the Confucius Temple area and is the largest imperial examination site in China.

The exhibition halls are all underground, with pools of water on the surface. The museum spans four underground levels, with the tour starting from the fourth basement floor. The entrance features a dynamic wall displaying animations of what examinees did in their rooms during the exams. Each examinee is different, reflecting the diversity of individuals.

On the fourth basement level, visitors are greeted by a surrounding meteor wall, creating a stunning starry sky effect. Beneath this starry sky are neatly arranged books, symbolizing the vast and enchanting nature of knowledge.

From the underground, visitors can proceed to the Mingyuan Tower, where they can see the examination cells, which are particularly elegant and serene under the nighttime lights.

This museum is fascinating because it feels more like a contemporary art gallery than a traditional museum. Through various engaging installations, it provides an immersive way for people to understand history.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 50
⏰Opening hours: 09:00-21:30
🚗How to get there: Take Metro line 3 to Fuzimiao (Nanjing Confucius Temple) Station.

4. Zhanyuan Garden (瞻园)

Zhanyuan Garden, built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), is the oldest surviving garden in Nanjing.

Unlike the bustling Confucius Temple and nearby attractions, Zhanyuan Garden is notably quiet and sparsely visited.

The garden’s design is highly elegant and detailed, featuring impressive Ming and Qing dynasty architecture, towering rockeries, tranquil pavilions, and numerous bonsai. The garden exudes a delicate charm, especially in spring.

Though not very large, the garden offers scenic views throughout. It is divided into several small, charming sections. Walking through corridors and doors leads you to different areas, each with its own unique yet similar scenery.

The only downside is the garden’s intricate, maze-like layout, which can make it difficult to navigate without modern technology. You often find yourself circling back to where you started.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 30
⏰Opening hours: 08:30-17:00
🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 1 to Sanshanjie Station.

5. Laomendong (老门东)

To the east of the Confucius Temple is Nanjing’s Laomendong district. Originally filled with old houses, the current residents have relocated, and the old houses have been renovated or rebuilt into an antique, elegant street.

This street features ancient architectural styles, with staggered horsehead walls, stone-paved roads, and wooden doors with lattice windows. There are various sculptures along the street, small rock gardens with water features, and pavilions for resting.

The street is not crowded, with shops mainly selling antique-style goods. The coffee shops have a literary and romantic feel, and there are many artistic and quaint stores in the deeper alleys.

Deeper into Laomendong, you will find a variety of delicious foods like steamed cakes, plum blossom cakes, soup dumplings, and wontons, all very tempting.

At night, Laomendong transforms with decorative lights, presenting a different atmosphere. While the snack shops remain lively, some areas are very peaceful. Visiting a bar in the evening, enjoying a drink, and listening to live music can be a delightful experience.

🎫Entrance fee: free
⏰Opening hours: all-day
🚗How to get there: Take bus 14 or 46 to Gutongxiang Stop.

6. Nanjing Presidential Palace (总统府)

One of the must-see attractions in Nanjing is a palace with over 600 years of history, which was once the residence of royal princes. This site encapsulates modern history, showcasing a mix of architectural styles: Ming and Qing from the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom period (1851-1864), and Western styles from the Republic of China period. From a historical and cultural perspective, it is definitely worth visiting.

The Republic-era Western-style buildings are set amidst trees, harmoniously blending with the grandeur of Suzhou-style gardens and European palace architecture. The buildings, painted pale yellow with black-tiled roofs and red beams. The garden features stone boats, pavilions, lakes, and rockeries. The Nanjing Presidential Palace itself is a work of art.

The Nanjing Presidential Palace also serves as a record of China’s modern history. The exhibition halls display precious historical images, preserved interior designs, and various artifacts from the Republic era. Standing outside the Presidential Reception Hall, with its neatly arranged furniture, the solemn and serious atmosphere transports you back in time.

📕 Notes: In the early Qing Dynasty, this site housed the Jiangning Weaving Bureau, later becoming the residence of the Viceroy of Liangjiang. During the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom period, it was expanded into the Palace of the Heavenly King by Hong Xiuquan. After the fall of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in 1870, the palace was partially burned and later rebuilt as the Viceroy's office. During the Revolution of 1911, it became the "Provisional Government" headquarters of the southern government, where Sun Yat-sen took office as provisional president. Over the centuries, the palace witnessed many changes in power, now standing as a museum that chronicles a century of history.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 40
⏰Opening hours: 08:30-18:00 (closed on Monday)
🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 2 or Metro Line 3 to Daxinggong Station.

7. Nanjing Six Dynasties Museum (南京六朝博物馆)

The Nanjing Six Dynasties Museum, constructed directly atop Six Dynasties ruins, beautifully blends geometric designs, light, shadows, and fabric elements into its interior, making it one of the most unique and visually stunning museums in Nanjing.

On the second floor, the “Style of the Six Dynasties” exhibit showcases the art of that era with a creative layout featuring bamboo, gauzy curtains, and screens that smartly divide the space.

The third floor’s “Celebrities of the Six Dynasties” section uses contemporary methods to highlight notable historical figures from that period. Though the number of artifacts is limited, the thematic displays and well-designed exhibition boards are impressive. Visitors can also enjoy a panoramic view of Nanjing from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

In the basement, the “Capital of the Six Dynasties” hall primarily features the remains of the eastern wall, moat, and drainage system of Jiankang Palace City, supplemented by various artifacts. The emphasis here is on the archaeological site and the construction techniques of Jiankang City, which is why the museum was built at this particular location, making it the museum’s essence.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 30
⏰Opening hours: 09:00-17:30
🚗How to get there: Take bus 29, 44, 95, or 65 to Zongtongfu Stop.

8. Jiming Temple (鸡鸣寺)

Jiming Temple, established during the Western Jin Dynasty, boasts a history spanning over 1700 years, making it one of Nanjing’s oldest Buddhist and royal temples. It is also one of the most historically significant and popular temples in the city.

The temple has retained its unique atmosphere, characterized by its iconic yellow walls and distinctive southern Chinese architecture, which contribute to the peaceful and serene ambiance.

Inside the temple, incense smoke fills the air. On the left is the offering platform, with the Maitreya Hall in front, the Mahavira Hall above, and the Guanyin Hall further up. The back gate leads directly to the Ming City Wall, making it an excellent spot to view Xuanwu Lake.

For locals, Jiming Temple is a revered place to pray for love, drawing many visitors who burn incense and wish for an ideal relationship. After buying a ticket at the entrance, visitors are given incense and can proceed to the incense burner to make their wishes.

In April, the roadsides in front of Jiming Temple are adorned with blooming cherry blossoms, creating a spectacular and picturesque scene that attracts numerous tourists who come to enjoy and photograph the blossoms.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: 07:30-17:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus 304 to Jimingsi Stop.

9. Xuanwu Lake (玄武湖)

Xuanwu Lake, celebrated as China’s largest imperial garden lake and often referred to as the “green lung” of Nanjing, features several interconnected isles—Huan Isle, Ying Isle, Liang Isle, Cui Isle, and Ling Isle—linked by bridges and causeways, with picturesque landscapes throughout.

Covering a vast area, Xuanwu Lake Park takes several hours to explore fully. You can tailor your visit to your schedule, combining it with a tour of the city wall to see part of the park. There are multiple entrances to the park, such as Xuanwu Gate, Jiefang Gate, Taiping Gate, and Heping Gate.

The park is popular with locals, whether it’s elderly folks taking leisurely strolls, young people camping on the lawns, or children playing, providing a vivid glimpse into the everyday life of Nanjing’s residents.

Ying Isle is especially recommended, particularly in April when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The cherry blossoms, predominantly Japanese varieties, are stunning, with fewer leaves and abundant flowers that create a romantic setting.

You can explore the park on foot, but for a longer visit, renting a bicycle or taking the electric shuttle is a convenient option.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: 05:00 – 22:00
🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 1 to Xuanwumen Station.

10. Nanjing City Wall (南京明城墙)

The Nanjing City Wall, dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), is one of the most significant historical and cultural landmarks in China and is the country’s largest city wall.

The wall isn’t fully connected, and only certain gates are accessible. Visitors can choose various segments to walk and enjoy Nanjing’s historical charm from the ancient city wall.

For those interested in a walking tour, you can start at Xuanwu Gate, pass through Zhongshan Gate, East Water Pass, Jiqing Gate, Stone Beacon, Yifeng Gate, Shence Gate, and loop back to Xuanwu Gate. Since not all sections are open to the public and the route isn’t continuous, the circular path combines sections on the wall and routes within the city. Enthusiasts can plan their route to complete this 35-kilometer circuit around the city.

If you only have two hours to explore, the southern section and the Xuanwu Lake section are highly recommended.

The southern section starts at West Water Pass and goes through Jiqing Gate, Changgan Gate, Zhonghua Gate, Yuhua Gate, Wuding Gate, and ends at East Water Pass. This route offers views of ancient streets and the old charm of Nanjing, capturing the southern city’s essence. Touching the weathered bricks and tiles of the wall provides a tactile connection to history.

The Xuanwu Lake section starts at Shence Gate, passes through Xuanwu Gate and Jiefang Gate, and ends at Taiping Gate. This part of the wall offers scenic views of Xuanwu Lake, an elevated view of Jiming Temple, the clear waters of Xuanwu Lake, lush Chinese parasol trees, and seasonal flowers.

🎫Admission ticket: the Xuanwu Lake section: CNY 20; the southern section: CNY 50
⏰Opening hours: 08:30-17:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus 1, 25, 28, 30, 33, 35, 47, or 56 to Xuanwuhu Gongyuan.

11. Xinjiekou (新街口)

Xinjiekou in Nanjing is a lively hub well-known to the city’s residents. The maze-like underground passages of Xinjiekou Metro Station make it easy for people to get lost.

This area is where two major metro lines intersect, resulting in over 30 exits, each leading to a bustling part of Nanjing. Xinjiekou serves as both the geographical center and a popular gathering spot for young people. Almost anything you want to buy, eat, or experience in the city can be found here.

Xinjiekou is the premier shopping destination in Nanjing, featuring the nationally renowned Deji Plaza and numerous other shopping malls and department stores. It also boasts famous food streets, offering a variety of trendy spots and authentic Nanjing cuisine for a comprehensive dining experience.

As night falls, Nantai Lane comes to life with various bars and pubs, providing an exciting nightlife scene for visitors.

🚗How to get there: Take Metro 1 or 2 to Xinjiekou Station.

12. Yihe Road (颐和路)

Yihe Road is famous for its numerous Western-style buildings from the Republic of China period. This historic street once housed foreign embassies and the homes of many cultural figures, giving it a distinct Republic of China charm.

Since most of these are private homes, they are typically closed to the public, so visitors can only read the plaques and introductions from outside as they walk by.

The Yihe Mansion area was established in the 1930s as an upscale residential district for government officials, featuring yellow walls, red roofs, and old-fashioned red shutters. The dense cluster of historic houses stands amidst a network of intersecting streets.

Yihe Road is also renowned for its dense plane trees, which were imported from Paris, adding a romantic touch to the area that makes it hard to leave.

At the roundabout at the end of Yihe Road, there’s a mansion that once served as the headquarters of the Japanese military police during their invasion of China. This building has been transformed into the Pioneer Bookstore, a well-known bookstore in Nanjing. The bookstore’s unique character and frequent author events make it a favorite among young people and a cultural icon in Nanjing.

🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 4 to Yunnan Rd Station.

13. Nanjing Museum (南京博物院)

The Nanjing Museum, China’s first national museum, has a rich history spanning over ninety years since its founding in the 1930s.

The museum now consists of six distinct halls: the Historical Hall, Art Hall, Digital Hall, Republic of China Hall, Intangible Cultural Heritage Hall, and Special Exhibition Hall. Each hall uses various exhibition styles to highlight the core of Chinese historical culture.

In the Republic of China Hall, visitors can experience a slice of old Nanjing with vintage cars, neon-lit streets, and old cinemas, all recreating the lively atmosphere of the 1930s.

The Historical Hall follows a traditional museum format, connecting time periods to tell the story of ancient Jiangsu’s civilization. Exhibits range from dinosaur fossils and early human tools to bronzes, jades, and artworks from the Zhou, Qin, Han, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties.

The Special Exhibition Hall hosts cultural exchange displays, featuring items like Napoleonic artifacts, Tsarist court decorations, and Egyptian mummies.

The Art Hall operates like an art gallery, displaying contemporary artworks, while the Digital Hall uses modern technology and new media to present historical and cultural content.

In the Intangible Cultural Heritage Hall, visitors can enjoy demonstrations of traditional crafts such as sugar painting and paper cutting, showcasing Nanjing’s intangible cultural heritage to the world.

Admission is free, but for a more comprehensive understanding of the exhibits and Nanjing’s history, it is advisable to hire a knowledgeable guide for an immersive three-hour tour. This experience will offer a deeper appreciation and unique insights into Nanjing and its cultural legacy.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: 09:00-17:00 (closed on Monday)
🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 2 to Minggugong Station.

14. Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum (中山陵)

Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum, is the resting place of the renowned democratic revolutionary Sun Yat-sen.

The buildings are predominantly topped with blue-glazed tiles, characteristic of the Republic of China era, giving the complex a dignified and solemn appearance. The sunlight enhances the brightness of the colors. The architecture integrates elements of both traditional Chinese and Western styles, creating a dignified yet innovative aesthetic.

The ascent to the mausoleum involves climbing uniquely designed steps; from the base, only the steps are visible, and from the top, only the platform can be seen, highlighting a clever design. From the top, visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of Nanjing.

At the summit of the steps is the main building, the sacrificial hall, which merges Chinese and Western architectural styles in a palace-like structure. Inside, a seated statue of Sun Yat-sen is prominently displayed.

The sacrificial hall leads to the burial chamber, a hemispherical enclosed structure. At its center is a white marble statue of Sun Yat-sen lying down, dressed in a Zhongshan suit, with his body resting about five meters below. Visitors often pause here to pay their respects.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: 08:00-17:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus 34 or 201 to Zhongshan Ling Stop.

15. Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum (明孝陵)

The Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the tomb of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, began construction in 1381 and was completed in 1405. Over 600 years later, the main structures still maintain their original grandeur, making it the premier royal mausoleum of the Ming and Qing dynasties.

One of its most renowned features is the Sacred Way, which is winding and uniquely laid out. Along the Sacred Way, pairs of stone animals—lions, xiezhi, camels, elephants, qilin, and horses—are arranged in sequence, with each type having two pairs, totaling 12 pairs or 24 statues. The lions represent imperial authority, the camels symbolize expansive territories, and the elephants signify stability.

At the end of the Sacred Way lies the Main Body of Xiaoling Mausoleum, noted for its imposing red walls and golden tiles. Further up is Bao Ding, where Emperor Chengzu and Empress Ma are said to be buried.

Autumn is the ideal time to visit this site. During late autumn, the maple leaves along the Sacred Way turn red, and the fallen leaves create a beautiful scene against the backdrop of the stone statues. This breathtaking view attracts many tourists each fall.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 70
⏰Opening hours: Mar. – Nov.: 6:30 – 18:30; Dec. – Feb. next year: 7:00 – 17:30
🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 2 to Muxuyuan Station.

16. Plum Blossom Hill (梅花山)

Plum Blossom Hill, located opposite the Xiaoling Mausoleum of the Ming Dynasty, tops the list of China’s four major plum gardens. Starting from mid-February, the hill becomes a tapestry of blooming pink and white plum blossoms.

The hill boasts over 200 varieties of plum blossoms, each with its own unique characteristics, blooming vibrantly every year. Varieties such as white plum, green plum, vermilion plum, and yellow plum bloom in succession throughout the winter.

The most precious variety is the Biejiao Wanshui tree, which has more than 45 petals per flower and emits a sweet fragrance. This tree is the only one of its kind in the country, making it especially rare and valuable.

✅Notes:

  • Plum blossoms are the city flower of Nanjing, with a cultivation history dating back 1,500 years to the Ming Dynasty. They remain as elegant as ever.
  • Blooming period of plum blossoms: December to March of the following year.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 70 (included in Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum Ticket)
⏰Opening hours: 06:30-18:30
🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 2 to Muxuyuan Station.

17. Qixia Mountain (栖霞山)

Qixia Mountain is famous for its stunning maple leaf scenery and is one of the top four spots in China for viewing maples. In late autumn, the entire mountain is ablaze with red leaves, making it the most beautiful time to visit.

With over forty varieties of red leaves, mainly sweetgum, each type changes color at different times, ensuring that the autumn scenery on Qixia Mountain is diverse and captivating.

The mountain is also home to significant historical sites, including Qixia Temple, the Thousand Buddhas Cliff from the Southern Dynasties, and the Sarira Pagoda from the Sui Dynasty, as well as the easternmost “Dunhuang relics” found in China.

The extensive scenic area of Qixia Mountain can easily fill a day’s worth of exploration. The recommended route is Mirror Lake – Qixia Temple – Peach Blossom Fan Pavilion – Peach Blossom Lake – Red Leaf Valley.

Although Qixia Mountain is not very high, with its highest peak at just 286 meters, hiking here is not strenuous. Walking is advised to fully enjoy the close-up views of the red leaves. The most spectacular spots for maple viewing are Red Leaf Valley and the mid-mountain red maple forest.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 80
⏰Opening hours: 08:00-16:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus 194, 195, 196, 197, 206, 207 or 327 to Qixiashan Stop.

18. Memorial Hall to the Victims in the Nanjing Massacre (南京大屠杀遇难者纪念馆)

The Memorial Hall to the Victims in the Nanjing Massacre is a specialized museum that comprehensively showcases the atrocities of the Nanjing Massacre through historical materials, artifacts, architecture, sculptures, and films. It is located at one of the massacre sites, a mass grave.

The memorial hall is divided into three main sections: the Outdoor Exhibits, the Exhibition Hall, and the Skeletal Remains Display Hall. The exhibits are housed in both indoor and outdoor areas.

In the flat-topped, semi-underground Exhibition Hall, you can find historical materials such as photographs of the massacre, lists and testimonies of survivors, military equipment used by the Japanese army during the massacre, and diaries and confessions from the Japanese soldiers who committed the atrocities.

In the coffin-shaped Skeletal Remains Display Hall, you can see skeletal remains excavated from the mass grave, which serve as undeniable evidence of the atrocities committed by the Japanese army during the Nanjing Massacre.

From my personal experience, the most striking part of the visit was the “12 seconds” installation in the final hall. Every 12 seconds, a drop of water falls from the ceiling, and a light on the wall, where the portraits of the victims are displayed, flickers off, symbolizing the extinguishing of a life.

Visiting the memorial hall offers a comprehensive and profound understanding of the brutal war. The documentaries shown within the memorial provide a more direct and vivid insight into the historical events.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: 08:30 – 16:30
🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 2 to Yunjin Road Station.

19. The Porcelain Tower (大报恩寺)

The Porcelain Tower of Nanjing holds a highly esteemed place in history, serving as a royal Buddhist worship site and being recognized as one of the Seven Medieval Wonders of the World. It was completely destroyed during the Taiping Rebellion (1840 – 1864).

Following archaeological excavations in 2008, a museum was built on the site, utilizing modern audiovisual technology to narrate the story and cultural significance of the Porcelain Tower.

In 2015, the Porcelain Tower Heritage Park reopened with a new tower made of glass and steel, reconstructed on the original foundation.

Unlike traditional temples, this site uses modern technology to display its scenes. It features a replica of the only complete glazed tile archway from the Porcelain Tower. Even as a replica, the ancient craftsmanship is deeply impressive. The exhibition hall showcases the grandeur of Buddhist practices in Jiankang City during the Southern Dynasties.

The new tower has a transparent roof with a floating Buddha hall suspended above a nine-story circular corridor, creating an elevated space for Buddhist worship.

This innovative display method leaves a lasting impression and is an excellent way to learn about history and experience Nanjing.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 90
⏰Opening hours: 08:30-17:30
🚗How to get there: Take bus 2/16/49/63/202/701 to Dabaoen Temple Site Park Stop.

20. Niushou Mountain (牛首山)

Niushou Mountain, located in Jiangning District of Nanjing, is actually composed of several peaks of varying sizes. As a significant Buddhist mountain in China, Niushou Mountain is the birthplace of the Niu Tou Chan (Ox-Head Zen) sect of Buddhism.

The mountain had long been forgotten until 2015, when the legendary Buddha’s Parietal Relic was discovered, a monumental find in the Buddhist world. To provide the most honorable resting place for this precious relic, a grand Buddhist-themed palace was constructed to house the Buddha’s remains. The underground palace was built from the top down, and its splendor is truly breathtaking.

Usnisa Palace is semi-circular, with its overall design resembling a giant lotus supporting the Buddha’s topknot-shaped dome, with a diameter exceeding 200 meters. The external space is divided into three parts: the large dome, the small dome, and the Buddha Grottoes. The large dome is shaped like the Buddha’s robe, covering the small dome palace, symbolizing the Buddha’s boundless blessings.

The underground palace has six levels, though currently only the first five are open to the public. The most important Buddha’s Parietal Relic is housed on the sixth level, which is only open on special occasions such as the first and fifteenth day of each lunar month.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 98
⏰Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00
🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 1 to Ruanjian Blvd, and then take bus 754 to Niushou Mount.

👉 Book a Private Day Tour to Niushoushan Cultural Park on Viator

21. Pioneer Bookstore (先锋书店)

Pioneer Bookstore, a key cultural landmark in Nanjing, is the most artistically and culturally charming bookstore in the city.

Not only is Pioneer Bookstore aesthetically pleasing, having been named one of the “Top 10 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World” by the BBC, but it also houses a comprehensive collection of literature, art, social sciences, and cultural books, embodying a rich and inclusive cultural ethos.

Currently, there are several Pioneer Bookstore locations in Nanjing, each with its unique design features. However, the most recommended one to visit is the store on Guangzhou Road.

The Guangzhou Road Pioneer Bookstore is located in a semi-underground space with a business area of over 3,000 square meters. The interior design primarily features white tones, with the sunken space divided into five main areas: the book display area at the entrance, selling various bestsellers; the ramp book display area, mainly for literary works; the main area of the bookstore, where you can find various types of literature, social science, and art books categorized by different signs.

Additionally, various cultural events are held here; the peripheral sales area offers a variety of postcards and literary souvenirs; and the bookstore also has a coffee rest area on the inside.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: 10:00 – 21:00
🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 1 to Zhujiang Rd Station.

22. Enjoy Nanjing Duck Delicacies

When in Nanjing, you must try the duck!

Nanjing people have a knack for preparing duck in every conceivable way: roasting it to make roast duck, soaking it in brine to create salted duck, using duck oil for pastries, and boiling duck blood to make duck blood soup.

If you want to experience authentic old Nanjing duck dishes, don’t go looking for comfortable restaurants; the best duck is found in the bustling streets.

The dark red roast duck, transformed in a braising oven, has an irresistible color with crispy skin and tender meat. In Nanjing, roast duck is served with a special tangy sauce, which adds layers of flavor and is the soul of Nanjing-style roast duck.

Salted duck, on the other hand, is made through marination before being cooked in brine. It emphasizes the original taste of the duck, with thin skin and tender meat, evenly seasoned, and perfectly salty and savory.

🛫 How Do I Travel to Nanjing

By Plane

Nanjing Lukou International Airport offers over 135 domestic and 23 international routes, connecting to 115 destinations. These include major cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Xi’an, Guilin, Kunming, Chongqing, Hong Kong, and international locations like Kuala Lumpur, Osaka, and Nagoya.

The airport is about an hour away from downtown Nanjing by car. Passengers can take the S1 subway line from the airport to Nanjing South Railway Station, and then switch to Line 1 to reach central locations like Xinjiekou and Confucius Temple.

By Train

Nanjing has two primary train stations: Nanjing South Railway Station and Nanjing Railway Station. Nanjing South exclusively handles high-speed trains, while Nanjing Railway Station accommodates both high-speed and regular trains. Both stations are accessible via the subway, with Nanjing Railway Station being close to Xuanwu Lake and the city center.

Nanjing South Railway Station is the largest transport hub in East China and the largest high-speed train station in Asia, servicing high-speed trains to major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Ningbo.

Nanjing Railway Station, an older station, also connects to cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Ningbo.

🚖 How to Get Around Nanjing

Metro

Nanjing boasts 10 metro lines, facilitating easy access to the city’s main tourist spots.

  • Line 1: Serves Nanjing Railway Station, Nanjing South Railway Station, Xuanwu Lake, Xinjiekou, and Confucius Temple.
  • Line 2: Reaches Zhongshan Scenic Area (Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum), Nanjing Museum, Presidential Palace, and the Memorial Hall to the Victims in the Nanjing Massacre.
  • Line 3: Covers both major train stations, Jiming Temple, and Confucius Temple, and extends to Jiangbei and Jiangning districts.

Bus

Buses are an extensively available mode of public transport, allowing you to reach almost all attractions and landmarks in Nanjing. Ticket prices are usually between CNY 1 and 2.

Taxi

You can use yellow taxis or ride-hailing apps, with a starting fare of CNY 11 for the first 3 kilometers. Taxis are relatively inexpensive within the city center, but during peak hours, heavy traffic is common, so the metro is often a better choice.

☀️ Best Time to Visit Nanjing

The best time to visit Nanjing is during the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) seasons. Here’s why:

Spring (March to May)

  • Weather: Mild and pleasant temperatures, typically ranging from 10°C to 25°C (50°F to 77°F).
  • Cherry Blossoms: The city’s cherry blossoms, especially around the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum and Xuanwu Lake, are in full bloom, making for beautiful scenery.
  • Festivals: The Qinhuai Lantern Festival, celebrated during the Chinese New Year period, is a vibrant and culturally rich event.

Autumn (September to November)

  • Weather: Comfortable temperatures, ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F), with clear skies and low humidity.
  • Foliage: The autumn foliage, especially in areas like Purple Mountain (Zijin Shan) and the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, is stunning, with leaves turning various shades of red, orange, and yellow.
  • Mid-Autumn Festival: A time to experience traditional celebrations and local mooncakes.

Avoiding Extreme Weather

Summer (June to August): It can get very hot and humid, with temperatures often exceeding 30°C (86°F). Additionally, this period is prone to heavy rains and occasional typhoons.

Winter (December to February): Winters can be cold and damp, with temperatures occasionally dropping below freezing. Snow is rare but can occur.

🏨 Where to Stay in Nanjng

Nanjing’s main tourist attractions are concentrated in the central districts of Qinhuai, Xuanwu, Jianye, and Gulou. These four districts are relatively small and close to each other.

For convenient travel, consider staying near Xinjiekou, which is the city’s commercial center. However, hotels in Xinjiekou can be expensive. For more affordable yet convenient options, look for hotels one or two subway stops away from Xinjiekou.

  • Metro Line 1: Consider staying near Zhangfuyuan Station or Sanshanjie Station, which are close to Confucius Temple. Xuanwu Lake Station is near Xuanwu Lake and Jiming Temple.
  • Metro Line 2: Mingugong and Muxuyuan Stations are close to Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum and Nanjing Museum.
  • Metro Line 3: Daxinggong Station is near Confucius Temple and Jiming Temple.
  • Metro Line 4: Jiangwang Temple Station provides direct access to the top of Purple Mountain.

For budget-friendly youth hostels, look around the Xuanwu Lake and Qinhuai River areas. The Qinhuai-Confucius Temple area, in particular, has many hostels that are just a short walk from major attractions.

Nanjing also has many high-end hotels. For river views and a skyline of Nanjing’s skyscrapers, stay in the Hexi CBD area. For a private and luxurious experience, consider staying in the Purple Mountain area.

If you want a comfortable stay without spending too much, choose some of the established star-rated hotels. These hotels are generally well-located and offer convenient access to the city’s attractions.

For a budget of CNY 300-500, you can choose from various boutique inns, B&Bs with unique designs, and hotels under well-known brands such as Atour Hotel, Crystal Orange Hotel, Floral Hotel, and Manxin Hotel.

In Nanjing, the CNY 500-1000 price range offers a wide selection of hotels.

For those interested in Nanjing’s history and culture, consider staying in some of the older star-rated hotels. While their decor may be a bit dated, these hotels are rich in cultural heritage.

  • Nanjing Zhongshan Hotel: Originally established in 1956 as the State Council Hotel, this hotel features a blend of Chinese and Western architecture, reflecting the elegance of the Republic of China era.
  • Dongjiao State Guesthouse: Located in Purple Mountain, this guesthouse is used for hosting important figures and offers a unique and prestigious experience.
  • Jinling Hotel: Some of these older state-owned hotels offer traditional Nanjing dishes that you might not find elsewhere. Like Jinling Hotel, this hotel is situated in Xinjiekou. It’s convenient for shopping and exploring, and it offers an authentic taste of local Jinling cuisine.

Staying in these hotels not only provides convenience and comfort but also allows you to fully experience the cultural and historical essence of Nanjing. You’ll also have the opportunity to savor traditional Nanjing dishes, adding a culinary dimension to your visit.

To experience the luxury side of Nanjing, consider staying at the Intercontinental Nanjing or The Ritz-Carlton. The Intercontinental Nanjing is located in the Greenland Square, the tallest building in Nanjing, while The Ritz-Carlton is situated in the Deji Plaza, known for its opulence.

Another exceptional choice is The Lalu Nanjing, often hailed as a “must-stay” hotel. One of only three in the country, The Lalu Nanjing not only boasts a top-tier status among international hotels but also offers breathtaking views of the Yangtze River from its rooms.

For a winter getaway, consider visiting Tangshan in Jiangsu Garden Expo Park. There, you can enjoy hot springs at places like Banyan Tree Nanjing Garden Expo or experience a vacation-like stay at Kayumanis Nanjing Private Villa & Spa, which offers a Phuket-like experience right in Nanjing. Keep in mind that these options are a bit far from the city center, so it may be less convenient for exploring other attractions in the city.

  • It’s not recommended to visit Nanjing in the summer, as it’s really hot and crowded.
  • For those visiting Nanjing, I highly recommend visiting the Nanjing Museum and the Memorial Hall to the Victims in the Nanjing Massacre.
  • The Confucius Temple, the Qinhuai River, and the Laomendong area are quite commercialized, but they offer a wide variety of snacks. Many places require separate tickets for admission.
  • For travel, taking a high-speed train to Nanjing Station is recommended, as it’s closer to the city center, with Xuanwu Lake right outside the station.
  • Avoid eating or drinking on the Nanjing Metro.
  • Nanjing is renowned for its local cuisine, with street-side stalls offering the best duck dishes.
  • During holidays like summer vacation, May Day, and National Day, Nanjing is particularly crowded with tourists.
  • When visiting temples or other cultural sites, it’s important to dress modestly and respect local customs.

China Travel Planning Guide&FAQ

🎫Do I need a visa for China?

Yes. Most visitors to China will need a visa to enter the country. The type of visa you need will depend on the purpose and duration of your trip, as well as your nationality. If you are a resident of the US, you must apply for a Chinese visa at the Consular Office in the country. On the other hand, inhabitants of countries like Japan, Canada, and the UK can request a visa through the Chinese Visa Application Service Center.

🤔Why is it necessary to install a VPN in China?

In China, the government has strict regulations on internet access, leading to the blocking of popular websites and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube. To access these sites, a VPN is suggested as a means of bypassing the restrictions. It is important to choose a reputable VPN provider and use caution while doing so. ExpressVPN has been historically deemed the most reliable VPN for this purpose, despite being heavily targeted by China’s censors. Nevertheless, it is still a widely preferred option owing to its ease of installation and user-friendliness.

📲Is it necessary to have a Chinese SIM card while in China?

Yes. It is crucial to acknowledge that accessing the internet in China may pose limitations due to certain websites being prohibited or filtered. To ensure uninterrupted connectivity while staying in China, purchasing a local SIM card is advisable. For optimum results, acquiring SIM cards from either China Unicom or China Mobile is recommended. While China Mobile has the most comprehensive coverage in China and is a market leader, China Unicom is more compatible with foreign phones, enabling 3G and 4G services. Or you can purchase a SIM card online.

🔮Should I buy China travel insurance?

Yes. Although China is generally a safe country for travel, it is still possible to encounter accidents or other unexpected occurrences. Therefore, obtaining travel insurance can provide a sense of security and financial protection. In my research, I have found that World Nomads is a reputable travel insurance provider that covers a wide range of activities and is recommended for the average traveler. Nevertheless, I advise you to compare insurance quotes from various providers before making a decision.

🚙Can you rent a car in China?

Unfeasible. Obtaining a Chinese driver’s license to rent a car and self-drive may seem like an option, but it is not a practical choice for most foreigners. Therefore, many prefer to opt for a driver or public transportation when navigating China, as it proves to be more convenient.

✈️What’s the best site to purchase flight tickets for China?

I suggest using Trip for affordable flights to China. As a China-based company, they often offer lower prices compared to foreign companies. Additionally, they offer English-speaking phone support in case of any issues.

🏡What is the best way to book hotels in China?

Not only does Trip offer a wider range of flight options, but it also provides a greater selection of hotels to choose from. Moreover, Agoda is a reliable resource for hotels throughout Asia.

🎒What do I pack for China?

Travel adapter and converter: China uses a different electrical system than many other countries, so it’s important to bring a travel adapter and converter if you plan to use electronic devices such as phones, cameras, and laptops.  
Sunscreen: The UV index in China can be high, particularly during the summer months, and prolonged exposure to the sun without protection can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer.
Deodorant: It should be noted that finding deodorant in China may not be a simple task.

📚Can a guidebook for traveling to China be useful?

Yes. If you’re planning to travel to China for the first time, a travel guidebook can be a valuable resource, and Lonely Planet is one of the most reputable guides available globally. Its comprehensive itineraries and recommendations take into account your personal preferences and can save you both time and money. The insider tips are also extremely helpful in navigating China’s unique cultural landscape like a local.

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