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Nanjing Travel Guide

  • Chinese: 南京 Nánjīng 'South Capital'
  • Location: East China
  • Population: 6.5 million (urban)
  • Major highlights: historical sites

As one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, Nanjing offers visitors a chance to delve into its complex and unique history. As you plan your trip to the 'Southern Capital', we provide you with helpful information in regards to Nanjing's top sights to see, as well as the best times to visit.

Navigating your way around a big city like Nanjing can be a tricky task, but with our help you will be on your way to a rewarding trip.

Nanjing's Location in China

Nanjing: China's Historical Southern Capital

Nanjing in Chinese quite literally means 'Southern Capital'. It has alternated with Beijing as the capital of big empires and modern governments throughout history. Today, Nanjing stands as one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, along with Beijing, Xi'an, and Luoyang.

Nanjing confucius temple Confucius Temple, Nanjing

During the Ming Empire, Nanjing was the largest city in China. The remains of the empires of the past can be toured all over the city and the nearby Purple Mountain (Zijinshan) area has many historical, cultural, and religious sites to visit.

As the city that once fell defenseless to the Nanjing Massacre in 1937, the government has since built museums and memorials to commemorate Sun Yat-Sen and his revolution and the Chinese who died during the Japanese occupation. There is also a memorial for the thousands of American airmen who died defending China.

Location: On the Yangtze River near the western border of Jiangsu Province, Nanjing is about 300 kilometers (200 miles) from the sea and Shanghai. It is on the southern side of the Yangtze that protected the city from enemies in the north.

Top Things to Do in Nanjing

Nanjing Xuanwu Lake and Zifeng TowerNanjing's Xuanwu Lake and Zifeng Tower

Although its past is vast and complex, Nanjing offers far more to its visitors than its history. In Nanjing you will find the Zifeng Tower, which is currently the 7th tallest building in the world, as well as Xinjiekou, the shopping hub of Nanjing.

  • Visit the Nanjing Massacre Memorial: Pay tribute to those who lost their lives during the Nanjing Massacre in 1937. The memorial commemorates the hundreds of thousands Chinese civilians who were murdered and today stands as a symbol of peace and hope against war.
  • Walk around Xuanwu Lake: On TripAdvisor in 2019, the #3 thing to do in Nanjing is take a leisurely stroll around Xuanwu Lake.
  • Shop at Xinjiekou: Known as the shopping hub of Nanjing, here you will find brand-name stores, countless shopping centers and restaurants, as well as a Foreign Languages Bookstore.
Nanjing Purple MountainNanjing's Purple Mountain
  • Explore Purple Mountain: One simply cannot visit Nanjing without seeing the majestic Purple Mountain where many ancient historical sites including Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, Sun Yat-Sen's Mausoleum and Linggu Temple, are preserved and developed for visitors.
  • Zifeng Tower Observation Deck: The 89-story building is hard to miss, especially at night as it glows different hues of blue that can be seen from several blocks away. Currently standing as the 7th tallest building in the world, you will have the unique opportunity to view Nanjing from high up above.
  • Confucius Temple: Also known as Fuzi Miao, is an all-in-one experience as it offers tourists unique gift shops, tasty Chinese Street Food, and the chance to walk along the famous Qinhuai River.

Nanjing Nightlife

With a rich heritage and exciting nightlife, Nanjing has earned itself a reputation for being more on the stimulating side of Jiangsu province.

  • Nanjing 1912 is an area where most expats and Chinese youth go to for a night on the town. With bars, live music, nightclubs, and tea houses, this westernized area is home to the city's most fascinating nightlife.
  • A recent renovation to a mediocre park in Nanjing has brought to life the swankier and more stylish, Catherine Park. Although not as buzzing as 1912, Catherine Park offers cocktails and themed nights at Revolucion and Cherry, as well as a dozen other restaurants and bars that feature cuisine from Italy, Vietnam, New Zealand and many different parts of the world.
  • The beautifully decorated street, Hunan Lu, features hundreds of clothing shops, department stores and restaurants. It is a good place for both shopping and taking guests out for dinner.

The Best Times to Visit Nanjing

Ming xiaoling mausoleum Fall colors at the Ming Tombs Mausoleum, Nanjing

On balance, fall is best in Nanjing. March is also a good time to visit Nanjing if you want to experience the different shades of pink and purple plum blossoms coming to life at Purple Mountain. July is also a special time to visit since it is when the blossoming of lotus flowers take place at Xuanwu Lake.

Nanjing's weather is seasonally distinct with hot summers and cold winters.

  • Spring is from March to May and although it is a time of humidity, the weather may fluctuate between warm and cold.
  • Summer is from June to September, with extremely hot and humid weather, when Nanjing becomes one of the three "furnace cities" along the Yangtze River.
  • Autumn is from October to November and is the best time to visit Nanjing since the weather is cool and dry.
  • Winter is from December to February, the coldest month being January. Snow can fall.


Whether you want to stay in the Xinjiekou shopping district or near the adventurous Purple Mountain, Nanjing has a vast range of options to suit every budget from luxurious hotels to holiday apartments on Blossom Hill.


Nanjing Salted DuckNanjing Salted Duck

One of Nanjing's most loved dishes is the Jinling duck, also known as Nanjing Salted Duck. Although it is not as widely known as Beijing Duck, it is far from inferior. Crispy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside, pair it with a side of white rice and you will be in duck heaven.

Nanjing style is famous for its fine cutting and preparation techniques. The dishes are not only fine-tasting, but also very good-looking. It features freshness, fragrance, crispness and tenderness. Like the rest of the Jiangsu cuisine styles, the dishes tend to be mildly sweet in taste. They excel at seasonal vegetables, freshwater fish and seafood.

Whether you're craving local Chinese food or international cuisine, Nanjing offers a vast array of dining options in every price range. It is easy to find Chinese restaurants, Western food, as well as International dishes from different parts of Asia and Europe.


The subway, also known as the Nanjing Metro, is the cheapest and easiest way to get around the city. There are currently nine metro lines in Nanjing and depending on where you are going the ticket prices can range from ¥2 to ¥9. If you are planning on staying in Nanjing for more than a week, it would be cost efficient to purchase a Nanjing Metro Card, which can be found at most metro stations.

From Nanjing, it is easy to travel to by plane or direct bullet train to most major China destinations and other popular cities in the Jiangsu province, such as Shanghai, Suzhou and Wuxi.

See more on Nanjing Transportation.

Travel Nanjing Your Way

Nanjing Lotus PondNanjing's Lotus Pond

Nanjing is a compelling city with much to do, so much so that at times it can be overwhelming. Going with a tour guide and driver helps make your visit less stressful and more rewarding.

Our well-designed tour plans cover the highlights of Nanjing in ways that experience and customer feedback shows are best. They can all be customized to your interests and travel style.

Fill out a 4-minute Create-My-Trip form with your interests and requirements, and we will send you a quote and proposed itinerary within 24 hours.

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