Nanjing is a beautiful city not far from Shanghai in China. The city itself is stunning not to mention the mountains on the outskirts. I would highly recommend a visit here to anyone. Here are the top things to do in Nanjing
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Where to stay
|Accommodation||Price-range||Why stay here?|
|Young Hostel||Budget||Basic clean hostel with dorms and private rooms. Central location.|
|Floral Joy Hotel||Mid-range||Modern rooms offering included breakfast. Located in the centre of Nanjing.|
|Hilton Nanjing Riverside||Luxury||On-site fitness centre and pool. Beautiful restaurant and optional breakfast.|
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Things to do in Nanjing
1 Yejiang Tower
This tower is perched on top of a hill on the outskirts of the city. We walked the 20 minutes uphill to reach the top and were greeted by lovely views out over the city. It also started to snow pretty heavy on the way up – I’m definitely feeling really Christmassy since!
The tower inside has some artefacts and photos although everything is in Chinese so we were mostly there for the view. This was my favourite thing to do in Nanjing.
How to get there: Take a taxi or Didi to the attraction. There isn’t a close metro station.
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2 Memorial of Nanjing Massacre
This covers a very valuable and infamous part of Nanjing’s history. In 1937, many innocent civilians were massacred. This site displays some remains and information about the civilians. It is a very big part of Nanjing that you should not miss on a visit here.
How to get there: Take the metro to Yunjin Road. Alternatively, take a taxi or Didi straight to the attraction.
3 Yangtze River Bridge
We got dropped off by our taxi in what looked like the middle of a building site, we were pretty confused! But we followed a group of people who looked like tourists, and it turned out the bridge itself was shut for works at the time.
However, they led us up and over a wall, through the undergrowth until we came out on the beach at the edge of the Yangtze river. I felt so small next to the bridge! While many people skip this thing to do in Nanjing, I highly recommend that you don’t.
How to get there: Take a taxi/Didi. The closest metro station (Shangyuanmen) is a 1 hour walk from the bridge.
4 Nanjing City Wall
Take a stroll along Nanjing’s ancient city wall. It’s a great way to while away an afternoon. I recommend visiting the part by Zhongua gate. Alternatively, you can visit by Fugui mountain.
Cost: 10 – 50 CNY ($1.5/£1 – $7/£5.5)
How to get there: This depends on which portion you choose to visit. I recommend taking a taxi or Didi around Nanjing as it is cheap.
5 Zhanyuan Gardens
So we definitely mistimed our day and arrived at these gardens just as it got dark. The museum seemed pretty interesting…. Until the security guard told us it was shutting and we needed to leave it! We headed into the gardens which stay open all night.
They’re a huge maze and we got pretty lost trying to get out… we even made friends with a cat who insisted on following us all the way around them for a solid half an hour. If you go definitely visit in the day. Especially if you haven’t visited a Chinese garden in another city – this is a definitive thing to do in Nanjing.
Cost: 30 CNY ($4/£3)
How to get there: Take the metro to Sanshanjie or Fuzimao, which are a 2 or 10 minute walk respectively. Alternatively, take a Didi or taxi straight to the site.
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6 Nanjing Museum
This museum is located close to Purple Mountain. It covers many parts of Nanjing, from art to history and culture. This museum is also free, so a great way to spend a couple of hours.
How to get there: Take the metro to Minggugong. A taxi or Didi is the other option.
7 Confucian Temple
The Confucian temple was recommended to us by multiple people in China. It was another lovely temple and you could even pay to hit a giant bell! We visited at night and it was very scenic.
Cost: 30 CNY ($4/£3)
How to get there: Take the metro to Fuzimao or a taxi/Didi straight to the site.
8 Nanjing Eye
A great photography spot in Nanjing. The eye is a more modern part of Nanjing. It is located next door to the olympic museum. Tie the two together for a great evening in Nanjing. I loved this thing to do in Nanjing.
How to get there: Take the metro to Yuantong. Alternatively, take a taxi or Didi straight to the attraction.
9 Qinhuai River Area
Next to the Confucian temple was this gorgeous riverside area, lit up by so many different lights. It was pretty touristy with expensive food but still worth a visit.
How to get there: Take the metro to Fuzimao. Alternatively, take a taxi/Didi straight to the area.
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10 Purple Mountain
We set aside a whole day to see the sites on the purple mountain. There are three main attractions: Sun Yatsen museum, Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum and the Linggu Temple spread out over the side of the mountain. Unfortunately, the pretty snow had turned to torrential rain on this day!
The attractions were busy with tourists, but we were the only people hiking in between attractions. The tourists were dressed in pretty nice clothes with umbrellas, and there we were in full hiking boots and waterproofs! Every time we headed down a path towards the next attraction, we were left completely alone and it made the day so special despite the rain!
As it got dark so early we ran out of time to hike to the top and the cable car was shut… Although as the weather was so bad I doubt we would have had any views from the top!
We had so much we wanted to see on our third day, but so much relied on good clear weather…. We had fog and heavy rain! We were pretty knackered from our training and sightseeing so decided to take the cable car to the top of purple mountain even though the weather was so bad… as you can see there were no views from the top! There was, however, a KFC, only the Chinese would put a KFC at the top of a mountain! This was a great thing to do in Nanjing to finish our weekend off.
Cost: 100 CNY ($14/£11) for all attractions.
How to get there: Purple mountain covers a huge area. See here for further details on the area itself.Booking.com
Where to eat
- Go here for: Salted duck or roast duck (served cold)
- Estimated cost: 100 CNY ($14/£10)
- How to get here: Take the metro to Xinjiekou
- Address: 18 Zhongshan Road, Xuanwu District, Deji Shopping mall
- Go here for: Hotpot
- Estimated cost: 100 CNY ($14/£10)
- How to get here: Take the metro to Daxinggong
Finnegan’s Irish Bar
- Go here for: Western food and drinks
- Estimated Cost: 100 CNY ($14/£10)
- How to get here: 6 Xinanli street, 400 Zhongshan south road, Qinhuai district, Nanjing
What to eat in Nanjing
The food in Nanjing was actually pretty different to Chengdu (Read about Chengdu’s food here). It was pretty naïve of me to think it would be the same considering the distance we had flown from Chengdu (well over 1,500 km!). My boyfriend is always adamant at trying the weirdest food they have so he went for duck blood soup. It actually didn’t come out red (as I was expecting!) so that was reassuring and he did enjoy it so maybe it wasn’t such a bad option!
Another speciality here is salted duck, this was a tasty dish they serve cold. I would recommend trying this or the roasted duck if you visit.
What I didn’t expect to find in Nanjing were some foods similar to what we call Chinese food in the UK. I had spring rolls, special fried rice and a beef curry that tasted like Katsu. It was sooo scrummy!
Money saving tips in Nanjing
- Walk between sights: If you don’t mind a long walk, you can save money on transport by walking.
- Eat local food: By avoiding Western food you will save yourself $$$
- Visit free attractions: Avoid paid attractions and stick to the free ones. Although please don’t skip Purple mountain!
Read more budget travel tips here.
How to get to Nanjing
- By Air: Nanjing has its own airport. It has services from around China and limited international flights.
- By train: You can also take the train to Nanjing from major cities in China. Nanjing is located just two to three hours from Shanghai.
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How to get around Nanjing
- By metro: The metro is the cheapest and best way to get around. Expect to pay just 2 CNY ($0.3/£0.2) per journey.
- By bus: I don’t recommend as it’s hard to navigate in China.
- By taxi or Didi: I highly recommend this option. Didi can be used on your phone, and has an auto-translation service so you can speak with the driver. Fares start at just 9 CNY ($1.3/£1). Read here for other useful apps for travelling in China.
When to visit Nanjing
The weather in Nanjing in winter is freeezing! I arrived without anywhere near enough layers and had to invest in a good wooly hat, gloves and a scarf.
In summer, the temperatures can get very high. Be prepared for this and the humidity.
The best times to visit are autumn and spring. Here the weather is a good temperature and comfortable for sightseeing.
China is relatively safe, however, there are still some local tips you can follow.
- Take Didi’s instead of taxis, especially if travelling alone. This way you have a picture and the drivers information.
- Take taxis instead of walking at night – many of the roads are big main roads and so aren’t great to be a pedestrian on.
- Wear a money belt if you would like to keep some cash hidden.
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It’s always important to have travel insurance when you visit other countries. I recommend World Nomads if you are not suffering from any pre-existing conditions.
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As most of China’s society relies on internet connection, I highly recommend purchasing a SIM card once you arrive. Head to your closest China Unicom store. Here expect to pay 200 CNY ($28/£22) for 20 GB of data.
China Telecom and China Mobile don’t work on most foreign phones, therefore make sure you get a China Unicom card!
If it still doesn’t work – just make sure your phone is unlocked.
Overall, we had the the best three days in Nanjing and I would definitely recommend a visit for anyone who is nearby. If you want to know more about China read about my first impressions here!
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