3 days in Nanjing – the ‘Southern Capital’ of China

China is a vast, beautiful and diverse country. Nanjing is located in Yangtze River region. It is known for its significant place in the ancient Chinese history as the capital city of ten dynasties. Some people might associate the city in the mass murder committed by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1937, but the city has since painstakingly rebuilt itself. Despite the city’s turbulent and depressing past, Nanjing is now one of the most prosperous and beautiful cities in China. And while most visitor only pass through Nanjing when traveling from Beijing and Shanghai, the “Southern Capital” of China has so much to offer – from the rich heritage sites to its impressive food scene. This 3-day suggested itinerary will lead you to the city’s famous tourist attractions and will help you make the most of your short visit. Depending on your traveling priorities, you can certainly fine tune this itinerary to suit your needs. Enjoy Nanjing!

Things to know before traveling to Nanjing, China:

Language – Standard Chinese and Mandarin Chinese are the official languages of China. Learning the language is not necessary, especially in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but speaking at least some Chinese phrases or attempting to learn is greatly appreciated by locals. In Nanjing, people speak the the Nanjing local dialect (also called Nanjing Mandarin). Although they have their own distinct language, all people in the city can speak Standard Chinese and Mandarin Chinese.

Currency exchange – Chinese Yuan (also known as Renminbi) is the official currency of China. Exchanging money is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in Asia. You can exchange currency at the airport, hotels, malls, local banks, and money changers throughout Najing. ATMs are plentiful, all accepting international credit cards and debit cards, so it’s easy to withdraw your money in CNY. Credits cards are commonly accepted in most mid-range to high-end restaurants and hotels.

Chinese Yuan currency bills
Chinese Yuan currency bills (Club4traveler/Shutterstock.com)

Tourist visa – Visitors who have a layover in some major cities in China are eligible to get a free 72-Hour Transit Visa. Nationalities from Schengen countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia,     Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland), the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Russia, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Australia and New Zealand are qualified to take advantage of 72-Hour Visa Free Transit Policy.

Getting there – Nanjing is located in China’s Eastern Jiangsu province. Its geographical location is great because of its proximity to Shanghai and the Yangtze River. Traveling by air is possible via the Nanjing Lukou International Airport, which is connected with most major cities in China. It also caters to international flights from Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand. By train, you can travel to Nanjing Railway Station or South Railway Station, which is one of the five major stops on Beijing-Shanghai High Speed Railway.

Where to stay – There are many types of holiday accommodation in China, whether you’re looking for luxury hotels to cheaper accommodation like youth hostels and bed and breakfast. In Nanjing, most hotels/hostels options are located in the Gulou District, which is located in the heart of the city. We recommend staying here since all of the main sights are so close to each other and can be easily reached on foot.

Hotels to consider in Nanjing:

Fairmont Nanjing

Jinling Hotel Nanjing

Novotel Nanjing Central Hotel

Shangri-la Hotel Nanjing

Hilton Nanjing

Detailed itinerary: 3 days in Nanjing – the ‘Southern Capital’ of China

Day 0

Assuming you have taken an afternoon or evening flight to Nanjing Lukou International Airport from any major cities in China, then you won’t be able to explore yet. Make your way to your chosen accommodation in the Downtown Area (the city center), then get a good night sleep so you have energy for a whole day of adventure the next day.

Cityscape view of Nanjing, China
Cityscape view of Nanjing (omers / Shutterstock.com)

Day 1

There is no better way to get acquainted with the city than visiting the Nanjing Museum, which is one of the most loved museums in China. A tour in this museum will give visitors insights into ancient Chinese history, specifically those that concern the Yangtze River region. Taking a guided tour is a great way to learn about the thousands of calligraphy and painting masterpieces, ancient treasures, and history and culture of China.

After your museum tour, wander around the City Wall of Nanjing. These formidable walls of the city are a testament to how great China’s ancient architecture during that time.

city wall, Nanjing, China
Sunset over Nanjing as , seen from the old city walls (Vincent St. Thomas / Shutterstock.com)

After lunch, burn those calories by walking around the Xuanwu Lake, one of the most celebrated and once the largest Imperial lake garden in China. Like the vast ensemble of lakes in the Summer Palace of Beijing, Xuanwu is also a favorite of Chinese royals because of its outstanding aesthetic value.

Xuanwu Lake and the city wall of Nanjing, China
Xuanwu Lake and Nanjing Wall (NAYUKI / Shutterstock.com)

Enjoy a nightcap or just get a delicious seafood dinner at Nanjing Fuzimiao Walking Street and Scenic Zone, home to the Confucious Temple in Nanjing.

The Confucius Temple area, Nanjing, China
The Confucius Temple area (Vincent St. Thomas / Shutterstock.com)

Day 2

Sticking with history theme, continue learning about the city of Nanjing in Ming Palace. Known as the “Forbidden City of Nanjing”, the city was the former capital of Ming Dynasty, which is the Chinese dynasty that made China a global superpower. Although the old palace was destroyed by numerous fires and enemies attacks, seeing the Ming Palace Ruins will give you insights of its impressive architecture, which is said to be the inspiration of Beijing’s Forbidden City.

Elephant Road, Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, Nanjing, China
Statues at the Elephant Road towards the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum (jorisvo / Shutterstock.com)

Visit another well-loved museum in the region, the Jiangsu Art Museum (333 Changjiang Rd). With a collection of more than a thousand works of traditional Chinese art, the museum is among the most distinguished art museums in China. The museum’s bold and innovative design is a must see.

In the evening, join a Qinhuai River cruise, one of the highlights of any Nanjing tour. Aboard a 4-star or 3-star riverboat with colorful lanterns, you will see impressive scenery and local culture. Enjoy Chinese buffet dinner and some free refreshments as you sail the largest river in Nanjing.

Day 3

On your last day, leave before dawn and wait for the sun of the new day to appear on the horizon at the riverside. Waiting for the sunrise is probably one of the most fascinating experiences you could get in Nanjing. After having a filling breakfast, make your way to the Tangshan Hot Springs, located east of Nanjing. Travel time is approximately 1 hour.

Tangshan Hot Springs is a classic hot spring town in which the waters originate from the Tangshan Mountains. With about 1,500 year long history, the hot spring in the village is popular because of their medicinal properties and rejuvenating effects.

Make your way back to the city in the afternoon, and if you still have time before departure, visit the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum. Located at the foot of Mount Zijin, the mausoleum was built in memory of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, , the founder of Republic of China.

Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, Nanjing, China
Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum (kawing921 / Shutterstock.com)

Have you been to Nanjing or anywhere else in China? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.

Featured image: The Confucius Temple in Quebec Court of light, also known as Kuixing Court, Man Star Courtin, Nanjing, China (Vincent St. Thomas / Shutterstock.com)

China, Indochina

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