Nanjing, literally meaning "the southern capital" and acting as an old capital of 6 dynasties, holds a significant status in the long history of China. Among China's several old capitals, Nanjing is often overlooked by tourists. It is widely recognized that Nanjing is a huge informative museum to show you something if you are interested in Chinese ancient history and the rise of modern China. However, Nanjing is far beyond that. There is so much more to discover, something old, something new, something to feast your eyes, something to stretch your legs, something to relax your mind, something to provoke your thought, etc.
Your Nanjing tours can be totally different as you add different attractions and experiences into your itinerary. Here we list you the top things to do and recommended attractions in Nanjing to inspire you. If you want to have some of them or some other experience, feel free to tell us. We can customize a private Nanjing tour according to your own ideas and needs.
Wondering Nanjing City Wall
Zhonghua Gate of Nanjing City Wall
• Type: Historic Sites, Sights & Landmarks
• Recommended Length of Visit: 2 hours
Almost every city was encompassed by high walls and most of them fell one by one. Nowadays the best-preserved ancient city walls are in Nanjing and Xian. Covering a length of 25.1 km, Nanjing City Wall is the largest and longest city wall preserved in the world. It was firstly built in 1366 by Zhu Yuanzhang - the first emperor in Ming Dynasty to consolidate his sovereignty and keep out invaders. 27 years later, this consummate city wall was finished. Nanjing City Wall is the best place to appreciate Nanjing's antique flavor. Standing on the wall, you can imagine how flourishing Nanjing could be in one thousand years ago. In daytime, you can also have great views of the Xuanwu Lake, Purple Mountain and the tower of Jiming Temple. When the night falls, the wall is nicely lit-up.
There are many gates of Nanjing City Wall preserved, including Xuanwu Gate, Zhonghua Gate, Drum Gate Heping Gate, etc. Among these gates, Zhonghua Gate, also known as Zhonghua Castle, is the biggest castle-style gate tower in China. Today the gate's impressive remains are open to visitors and an interesting museum has been built into the battlement.
Autumn View of Purple Mountain
Spring View of Purple Mountain
• Type: Mountains, Nature & Parks
• Recommended Length of Visit: 4-5 hours
• Address: Purple Mountain, Xuanwu District, Nanjing City (江苏省南京市玄武区)
Known as one of the Four Famed Mountains in South China, Purple Mountain perches in the east side of Nanjing City like a tortuous dragon. Its peaks are often found enveloped in mysterious purple and golden clouds at dawn and dusk, hence it gets name. The main peak of this mountain reaches to about 450 meters high. No matter when you visit Purple Mountain, you can enjoy a great natural view. In spring, you can see many beautiful flowers in blossom, like orchids, sakuras, begonias, etc. In autumn, the whole mountain will be dyed into various colors from yellow to scarlate. When it snows in winter, the Purple Mountain is one of the best places of Nanjing to see snow view. Great scenic areas to enjoy natural beauty include Zixia Cave, Zixia Lake and Plum Blossom Hill.
In addition to the spectacular natural landscape, you can see an assembly of historic sites (more than 200 attractions), including Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, Meiling Palace etc.
Front Gate of Confucius Temple
Gongyuan - Old Imperial Examination Hall
• Type: Landmarks, Points of Interest
• Recommended Length of Visit: 2 hours
• Address: Gongyuan West Street, Qinhuai District, Nanjing (南京市秦淮区贡院西街)
Nanjing Confucius Temple, built in the year of 1034 during the Song Dynasty, has a history of about 1000 years. It was built consecrating and worshipping Confucius, who is the great thinker and educator of ancient China. The whole temple covers a huge area, mainly consisting of Confucius Temple, Studying Hall and Gongyuan. Gongyuan is the largest imperial examination hall in the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368~1912), so you can take a glimpse of Chinese imperial examination system.
Because of the location of Confucius Temple at the north bank of Qinhuai River, the cultural charm, the architectural feature and the beautiful river view make this area a popular place to wander. Around Confucius Temple, you can find busy pedestrian shopping streets with famous coffee stores and nice snack stands.
First Sight of Presidential Palace
Beautiful Garden in Presidential Palace
• Type: Museums, Buildings, Historical Sites
• Recommended Length of Visit: 1-2 hours
• Address: No. 292, Changjiang Road, Xuanwu District, Nanjing (南京市玄武区长江路292号)
Presidential Palace, during the period from 1840 to 1949, was the backbone of Chinese military and politics. Now it is a historic site with great importance in modern history of China, also becoming the biggest modern history museum in China.
Walk into the palace, you'll see the classic style of architectures as well as the Chinese and western style architectures. Covering an area of 90000 square meters, it could be divided into three parts, namely the central part, the western part and the eastern parts. There are sites like Nationalist Government and the Presidential Palace in the central part, the Office of the Provisional President in the western part and East Garden in the eastern part. Elaborately-desigin with a feature of Suzhou Classical Gardens, the East Garden provides you an amazing sight of lakes, pavilions, windows, rockeries, etc.
Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall
• Type: Historic Sites, History Museums
• Recommended Length of Visit: 1~2 hours
• Address: NO. 418 Shuiximen Road, Jianye District, Nanjing (南京市建邺区水西门大街418号)
The Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall was built by the Nanjing Municipal Government in 1985 to memorialize the over 300, 000 victims slaughtered in Nanjing Massacre, an episode of mass murder and mass rape committed by Imperial Japanese troops against the residents of Nanjing. On Dec.13, 1937, the Japanese army occupied Nanjing and during the following six weeks bore witness to the inhumane disgrace and bloody massacre exerted on the city. From 1937.12.13 to 1938.1, no less than 300,000 innocent civilians and unarmed Chinese soldiers were brutally slaughtered in mass and individual beheadings, burying alive, burning, and killing races.
There are four different functional zones - Outdoor Exhibition, Jiangdongmen Site Sqaure Museum and Peace Park in the memorial hall. Visiting them would be a deppressing experience, but it allows better understand how cruel the war is and how treasurable the peace is.
Featured Architecture of Niushou Mountain
Panoramic View of Hefang Street
• Type: Mountains, Cultural Sites
• Recommended Length of Visit: 3~4 hours
• Address: Niushou Mountain, Jiangning District, Nanjing (南京市江宁区牛首山)
Niushou Mountain, translated as Ox Head Mountain, gets its name from its two peaks which look like two ox horns. Now, it is famous for the Foding Palace where the world's only parietal bone relics of Sakyamuni is cherished. As you enter the cultural park of Niushou Mountain, your eyes will be caught by Foding Palace and Foding Tower. The dome of Foding Palace has small domes which resemble the cassock of the Buddha and symbolize the endless blessings from the buddha. Entering the palace, you get amazed by that how the architectures well combined with Buddhism.
Apart from the cultural importance, the natural scenery of Niushou Mountain is fantastic as well. Seeing quite a lot springs, pools, caves, forests, etc., you can get the answer to why Emperor Qianlong list this mountain in Top 48 Scenes in Jinling (old name of Nanjing).
Peaceful Xuanwu Lake in Spring
Xuanwu Lake and Nanjing City View
• Type: Bodies of Water, Nature & Parks
• Recommended Length of Visit: Half a Day
• Address: Xuanwu District, Nanjing (南京市玄武区)
Xuanwu Lake is a lake located in Xuanwu Park which is the only survival royal garden in the regions south of the Yangtze River and referred as "Pearl in Nanjing". Tracing back to 2,300 years ago, Xuanwu Lake has enjoyed a good fame from ancient times to present days. Numerous great men of literature and writings as well as dignitaries and celebrates have been attracted by Xuan Lake.
Five islands within the lake are interconnected by arched bridges. There are also some temples, pavilions, gardens and pagodas to enjoy. In addition, entertainment venues, teahouses, restaurants, a small zoo etc. are also available for you to have a good time. Apart from a wonderful city view from here, you can see a lot of local people singing, playing, dancing or flying kites.
Beautiful Night View of Qinhuai River
Qinhuai Lantern Festival
• Type: Lakes, Nightlives
• Recommended Length of Visit: 1-2 hours
Qin Huai River, a branch of the great Yangtze, is 110 kilometers in length and pass through the urban area of Nanjing. As the largest river in the area around Nanjing, Qin Huai River is called the "lifeblood" of the city.
The Qin Huai River can be divided into two parts, the inner river and the outer river. As the largest city door in China, Zhonghua Gate can also be found along the inner river. It is also praised as the most intricate and the best-preserved city door in the world. Other interesting sites such as Confucius Temple, Zhan's Garden and the sights along the Taoye Ferry ride to Zhenhuai Bridge spread along the bank of Qin Huai River. Usually an outing to the Qinhuai River would be combined with a walk around the local market along the bank. When the night falls, all the buildings along the river are lit, showing the visitors its most beautiful appearance. The night view is a big highlight of Nanjing City
Beautiful Mochou Lake in Spring
Jiming Temple Snowscape
Apart from the above attractions, you have many other choices. If you want to learn more history and culture about Nanjing and China, you can go to Nanjing Museum and Nanjing Folk Museum. The Main Hall and Art Exhibition Hall of Nanjing Museum well exhibit the finest arts and culture of the ancient dynasties which established a capital in Nanjing. In Nanjing Folk Museum, you can see the traditional daily life of Nanjing people and many interesting handicrafts. For travelers who are interested in Buddhism, Don't miss Jiming Temple, which is the oldest temple and the most important imperial temple in Nanjing. It is also one of the most beautiful sites in Nanjing, especially in spring when the cherry blossoms can be appreciated. If you like lakes, you can also pay a visit to Mochu Lake which is featured with the rock display as well as the pond, fountains and pavilions. If you like mountains, you can visit Qixia Mountain which was reputed as "the first bright and elegant mountain of Jinling" by Emperor Qianlong.
How to Get to Nanjing: You can easily get to Nanjing by high speed train from Beijing (about 3-5h), Shanghai (about 1-2.5h), Hangzhou (about 1.5-5.5h), Suzhou (about 45min-2.5h), etc. and flight from Beijing (2h), Guangzhou (2h15min), Chengdu (2.5h), Xian (2h), etc.
Best Time to Visit Nanjing: March to June and September to November, especially in late October and early November.
Generally, to explore the cultural and natural highlights of Nanjing, 2 ~ 3 days are needed. You can pay a visit to Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum (the tomb of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the Father of Modern China), take a walk in Confucius Temple Area along the Qinhuai River, climb up the ancient City Wall, and know a part of heavy history and cherish peace in the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre.
If you want to explore more about Jiangsu Province, you can travel to Suzhou - the city of classical gardens and silk, Wuxi - a beautiful lakeshore city, Yangzhou - old culture center of southern China, etc. Check more about Jiangsu Tours>
☛ 5 Days Jiangsu Tour (Suzhou, Wuxi & Nanjing)
If you have more days, you can expand your Nanjing trip to Shanghai - modernest metropolis in China, Hangzhou - home to picturesque West Lake, and Huangshan - magnificent Yellow Mountain and Hui-style ancient villages. Or you can contact us to customize a trip according to your own itinerary and interests. Just tell us your needs and we will take care of everything, you just need to focus on sightseeing!
Since 2012, we have helped numerous customers visit Nanjing and surroundings. With our fully-inclusive private tour packages, all of our customers enjoyed their trips to the ancient city wall, beautiful Purple Mountain, informative Nanjing Museum, charming Qinhuai River, etc. Some of them kindly shared their precious photos and stories about their Nanjing journey, just get inspired now.
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