travelling around nanjing

Before Travelling to Nanjing

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Nanjing offers a wealth of wonderful attractions for visitors. Each of the 11 districts of Nanjing plus the national-level Jiangbei New Area are unique in their own right, displaying their own special kind of charm. From city scapes showcasing some of the 21st century's most engaging modern architecture to antiquities literally thousands of years old, Nanjing really has it all.

When to Visit Nanjing

Most people will tell you that Nanjing is at her best in autumn. March can also be a good time to visit for botany fans, when the various shades of pink and purple plum blossoms come to life. Summer in Nanjing is hot but also a special time to visit since for Xuanwu Lake’s blossoming of lotus flowers. A visit in winter may be a good choice for those who want to avoid crowds at attractions.

Nanjing Zones

Nanjing is a big city, but one with a small town feel, with a number of distinct zones in which most activities, aside from residential and industrial, can be found. These areas each offer their own unique glimpse into life in one of the world's most ancient metropolises.

Hanzhong Men is an ideal place from which to start a relaxing walk along the Qinhuai river that divides Nanjing, by and large, into east and west. Such a walk takes one past Stone City, the site of Nanjing’s beginnings 2,500 years ago. Visitors come to witness the giant face carved into all that remains, a massive stone edifice that was latterly and ingeniously incorporated into the city wall. To the south west of the gate itself, Mochou Lake is the venue for the city’s annual Dragon Boat race, one of the top such events in the country, as thousands gather on the lake banks in the hope of seeing local companies, many of whom have trained hard all year, either sink or swim! From water to wheels, a little further south is the smaller Nanhu (South lake) where some of the city’s enthusiastic skateboarders congregate.

1912 1912 was the year in which Dr. Sun Yatsen founded the Republic of China, here in Nanjing. Hardly a fitting name for the city’s premier destination for hedonism. Yet, there is more to the area than mere nightclubs; curious offerings are to be found in the alleyways to the west of the main entertainment complex that also reveal a glimpse into the Nanjing of old. Diagonally across the street to the south west, one finds the Jiangning Imperial Silk Weaving Museum with a host of exhibits not only limited to the garment industry. Immediately to the east, the Presidential Palace is one of China’s top tourist attractions, although the outsider may find it a little difficult to understand why, while a little further is the slightly more modern Six Dynasties Museum. Up north are some of the finest up-close-and-personal views of the city atop Jiuhua Shan and the gem that is the city wall overlooking Xuanwu Lake at Jiming Temple.

Shanghai Lu Shanghai Lu and its environs are a major draw for Nanjing’s international community, particularly the younger crowd who may be students at one of the nearby universities, or simply in need of weekend beverages. A simple walk around the campus of either Nanjing University or Nanjing Normal University is a metaphorical breath of fresh air that leaves one feeling at peace, while the area also offers international restaurants, delis, shopping and business opportunities aplenty. Shanghai Lu also skirts past Wutaishan, a multi-purpose sports centre that dates back to the 1950s and around which today are a good mix of interesting local shops, restaurants and bars. The northern end of Ninghai Lu is more than worth a look around, along with Yihe Lu and Guling Lu that lie off it, for their being the homes of the powerful elite in former times.

Olympia Nanjing’s Olympic area is thus named as the venue for the 2005 National Games that saw a purpose built sports centre constructed. Nowadays, it plays host to concerts, restaurants, sports shops and, naturally, an Olympic size pool. The Youth Olympics of 2014 left a condserable footprint on the area; not least the Nanjing International Youth Culture Centre housing the Poly Grand Theatre that puts on high class visiting shows; everything from opera to Shakespeare. To the east, find a good selection of shopping and international cuisine as one proceeds towards Fuchunjiang Dong Jie. In the south west, head to the Nanjing Eye and cross the river by foot to the idyllic island of Jiangxin Zhou that lies in the Yangtze.

Purple Mountain By the time you read this, the Purple Mountain will likely need little introduction. Our insider advice to stay well clear at weekends and holidays. The national park, however, is also home to scores of other attractions; near the top of our list would be the "cradle of Chinese astronomy" that is the Purple Mountain Observatory (take the cable car but again, avoid the crowds), and around the mountain’s base, Nanjing’s botanical gardens and aquarium. The gem of Purple Mountain however, remains Purple Cloud Lake, a popular destination for picnicing and swimming during the warmer months.

Hexi While meaning “west of the river”, the Qinhuai, that is, Hexi usually more accurately refers to a second Central Business District that is rapidly developing. Here, no visit to our city would be complete without bearing witness to the atrocities on display at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial. Proceeding westwards, the area starts to resemble many of the quieter suburbs in Shanghai while there is plenty of offer in terms of quality food and shopping in and around both New City Mall, Wanda Hexi and further south in The Central.

Jiangning Central The downtown of Jiangning is the most commercially developed area of the sprawling district where unspoiled flora and fauna seem to go on forever. Many an international family chooses to live here, the area offering plenty space for their employer’s factory, while more than 400 children attend the British School of Nanjing with a premier location, sitting snugly into the side of Cuiping Mountain. Heading eastwards, Kingmo and Golden Eagle are the places to head for quality imports and a good selection of restaurants and shops, while the Wanda Jiangning Mall has more of the same in what was once the village of Dongshan, before progress invaded.

Xianlin Central Xianlin is also one of Nanjing’s three university towns, and here, as in the others, many of the city's premier universities have set up fancy new campuses that put other countries to shame. Look for several excellent western eateries, delis, bakeries etc., while it is impossible not to notice a large foreign population concentrated around Nanjing International School, with its enrollment going on 700. Xianlin is also the jumping off point for a trip to Qixia Mountain and the accompanying buddhist temple. As the city’s biggest temple that is also almost 1,500 years old, a pilgrimage to it in October when the Maple trees are ablaze is a must for any visit to Nanjing. Best done on a weekday and by starting very early in the morning.

Xinjiekou For a city of ten million, Nanjing’s centre that is Xinjiekou is in fact rather small, centred above the metro station with its 24 exits that efficiently place one almost anywhere in the CBD. At its northern end, shopping for only the uber rich in Deji Plaza plus a great selection of international dining options in IST Mall. Smack bang in the middle, the Jinling Hotel might be China’s oldest 5 star hotel but even in 2017 it is still home to many of Nanjing’s top facilities. Contrast this with its southern periphery where there is still a chance for a final glimpse at a Nanjing of a hundred plus years ago. Lying adjacent to the Cinna Lane complex above Sanshanjie metro station that also houses Ganxi’s Villa with its 99 and a half rooms (go figure), these few blocks are home to much of the city’s most interesting history. Dating from the early Ming dynasty when General Zhu Yuanjiang made Nanjing the Chinese capital, here were to be found tea houses, inns, restaurants, workshops, mosques plus taoist and buddhist temples. Pingshi Jie (“to settle matters”) was even home to a court with trial by public. Qijiawan was traditionally where lived the Hui, China’s original Muslims. Some of their descendants can still be seen today, serving up the traditional beef noodles and dumplings amid the alleyways.

Top Destinations

Jiangsu Provincial Art Museum

Founded in 1936, Jiangsu Provincial Art Museum was the first National Art Museum of modern China. With its original and new incarnation both located on Changjiang Road, collections mainly comprise modern and contemporary art works, as well as ancient and modern Chinese and foreign works. There are also a large number of prints, Chinese oil paintings, Chinese watercolour paintings, contemporary calligraphy, folk art and other works.

Nanjing City Museum

Founded in the largest, most complete group of official ancient buildings in Southern Jiangsu in 1978, Nanjing Museum is a comprehensive national key museum of history and art, with a collection of more than 100,000 cultural relics.

Taiping Heavenly Kingdom History Museum

An historical exhibition of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, together with the cultural relics and historical materials of General Xu Da, of the Ming Dynasty, that also houses an exhibition of cultural relics and historical materials of the Qing Dynasty’s Jiangning government office.

Meiyuan New Village Memorial Hall

Exhibition hall of historical materials relating to negotiations between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China that took place between May, 1946, and March, 1947, headed by first Premier of China, Zhou Enlai.

Jinling Art Museum

Built on the former site of Nanjing Dyed Yarn Weaving Factory, Jinling Art Museum consists of the Nanjing Painting and Calligraphy Academy, Jinling Art Museum and the Old Southern City Memory Museum. An important cultural landmark in Nanjing and Jiangsu Province.

Nanjing Folk Customs Museum

A professional museum for studying, displaying, protecting and inheriting Nanjing folk culture, together intangible cultural heritage. The site of the museum is a national key cultural relics protection unit known as "the former residence of Ganxi”. A large-scale and well-preserved residential complex dating from the Jiaqing period of the Qing Dynasty.

Jiangning Weaving Museum

Formerly specialised in producing satin for imperial and official use in the Qing Dynasty, the Jiangning Weaving Museum has four major permanent exhibitions; Jiangning Weaving, Yunjin Tianyi, Dream of Red Mansions and Chinese Cheongsam.

Six Dynasties’ Museum

Acknowledges the great significance of Nanjing as capital of the Six Dynasties, displaying the great achievements in history and culture during the times, and highlighting the important historical role of Nanjing in Chinese history. Another landmark building on the cultural street that is Changjiang Road.

Nanjing City Wall Museum

The Ming city wall of Nanjing was built in 1366, the 26th year of the reign of Emperor Zhi Zheng of the Yuan Dynasty. With 13 gates and a length of 35.267 kilometres, it is the longest city wall in the world.

(Contents and Pictures from Nanjing Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism)

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