Everyone in the world knows Beijing was the capital city of China in history, but many do not know Nanjing was chosen as an ancient capital earlier than Beijing. Nanjing has a history of more than 2,500 years, and a history as a capital of nearly 500 years. For a long period in history, Nanjing was the political and cultural center of southern China. As one of the four major ancient capitals of China, Nanjing is reputed as the “Ancient Capital of Six Dynasties”.
One Day in Nanjing
Start your day with a breakfast at Yinnianjin, one of the locals’ favorites for steamed dumplings. Breakfast’s calories can be burned off with a stroll to nearby Xuanwu Lake. The massive park has a breathtaking landscape and a buzzing morning exercise scene.
With a history of more than 1,500, Xuanwu Lake Park is the only royal garden in south China and one of the three famed lakes in the South of Yangtze River.
There is a section of well-protected Ming City Wall next to the lake. At Taicheng, you can walk atop the 600-year-old fortification and gain an impressive perspective over Xuanwu Lake or a striking view of Nanjing’s growing skyline.
The City Wall of Nanjing, built around the ancient city of Nanjing during the reign of Emperor Hongwu of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), is the longest remaining city wall in China.
The Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum is just a subway ride away from Xuanwu Lake. The metro station is right outside the main park gate, and the Muxuyuan (苜蓿园) Station on Line 2 is the nearest stop to the spectacular memorial. Alternatively, a metered taxi ride will cost around RMB 30 (US$4.8).
A shuttle bus links the metro station to the mausoleum, which is set in an incredible natural environment. You can enjoy lush forest on the way up, and after climbing the 392 stairs leading to the coffin chamber at the top, you will be rewarded with a stunning view over the Zijin Mountain.
The Nanjing Impressions restaurant near the Muxuyuan Station is a great pit stop to build energy for the long walk ahead. The Republic of China-themed space features staff in period costume, an open kitchen and mouth-watering fare.
Another major Republican attraction is the President Palace, which is a 10-minute walk from Daxinggong Station (大行宫) on Metro Line 2.
The Presidential Palace (Nanjing) was the former government office of the Republic of China. After the revolution of 1911, Sun Yat-sen was elected as the Provisional President and the swearing-in ceremony was held here.
To dig deeper into the city’s dramatic history, you can walk westwards to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall. Take a moment to commemorate the 300,000 victims of a six-week killing spree by the Japanese soldiers in December 1937.
The Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall was built on the ruins of a burial ground for over 10,000 people (called a “pit of ten thousand corpses”) near Jiangdong Gate, to remember this terrible period of history and to educate people through history.
Xinjiekou, the city’s equivalent to Times Square, is surrounded by luxury brand stores, gigantic shopping malls and towering five-star hotels. It is a perfect spot to feel the glitz and glamour of modern Nanjing when the night falls. Underneath, there is another labyrinth of subway stalls stretching for miles, selling the hottest eats and knick-knacks.
One of the best places to dine in Xinjiekou is the Plum Garden Restaurant in Jinling Hotel. The elegant space serves the city’s best salted duck.
The night market at Nanjing Fuzimiao, or the Confucius Temple, provides the ultimate experience of Chinese folklore, especially around any Chinese festivals. It’s a great choice for an after-dinner walk with mind-blowing neon signs, local crafts and a never-ending sea of tourists.
As the Fuzimiao bustle dies down, nightlife on Shanghai Road or in the 1912 complex is just beginning. These are the two main bar areas – the Shanghai Road neighborhood has a variety of venues from sports bar to underground live house while Nanjing 1912 leans towards disco clubbing.