Exploring Nanjing, southern capital of China

China was the first destination of our trip around the world. But we obviously couldn’t visit the whole country, it’s huge! When we were preparing our itinerary for China, we decided to concentrate on the East area, between Beijing and Shanghai. Nanjing is a city located just between the two, and we’d heard good things about it from some friends, so we decided to explore it and spend two nights there! Nanjing means “the Southern Capital” – as opposed to Beijing, which was the Northern capital – and is the capital of the Jiangsu province. Continue reading to discover the most interesting places in the city!

Where to sleep in Nanjing ?

We decided to find a place to stay near the subway, in an area with a lot of little restaurants and big skyscrapers. Our hostel was the Nanjing Fleeting Time Youth Hostel, a fairly modern place – though we admit it wasn’t our favorite place to sleep in China. The rooms don’t have windows but they have air conditioning. The decoration of the common areas is very nice, though. If you’re looking for a cheap place to stay in Nanjing, it’s not bad, though we wouldn’t stay there again.

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What we visited in Nanjing

We had a whole day to visit and explore the city of Nanjing. Here you’ll find the places we saw and our impressions. Keep reading!

Walking the streets and the university

As we usually do, we started our day taking the pulse of the city by walking the streets, from the tiniest alleys to the great avenues. Nanjing is very different from Beijing! Here it’s a lot nosier, there are many more scooters and the streets are not as well taken care of as they are in the capital. We were a little shocked to see how the locals hang their clothes in the middle of the streets to make them dry! We also saw some teams of workers doing tai chi and exercise before starting their working day. However, we walked through the university gardens and we loved it! It’s actually a big park full of trees – we saw children playing with their grandmothers, people reading and studying under the trees…). If you’re going to walk your way through Nanjing, the little streets are not as charming as they are in Beijing, though.

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The Buddhist Jiming Temple

With its funny translation (“the screaming chicken”), it was one of the places we preferred in Nanjing. It’s located in the north of the city, next to the Xuanwu lake, and the entry ticket costs 15 yuan (about 2€). With the ticket you’ll also be given three sticks of incense so you can offer them to the Buddha. The legend goes that a terrible beast was frightening the inhabitants of the area and attacking their cattle, spitting fire and poison. It was hidden in a mountain next to the lake. The rooster (or the chicken, depending on the translations), came down from heaven and after a big fight it finally killed the beast. The rooster liberated the locals and provided peace to the area. That’s why they built a temple to honor the “screaming chicken”.

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We loved the Buddhist atmosphere, with all the incense and the respect of locals to the temple. And since it’s situated on top of a hill, the views from the top are magnificent! You’ll also find a vegetarian restaurant inside the compound.

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The City Wall

From Jiming Temple, at the back of the restaurant, there’s a big terrace with lovely views over the lake and the wall. The height of the wall is impressive! You’ll be able to walk on top of the wall if you buy a ticket, but we were happy to contemplate the views from the restaurant. Over the wall there’s a big symbol of the Olympic Games that were held in China in 2008.

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Fuzimiao

After the temple, we took the subway and headed towards the historic center, the Fuzimiao area. What a lovely surprise! Everything here is perfectly remodeled. After the G20 summit in the area in September 2016, the cities of Nanjing, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Shanghai have received lots of improvement in terms of transportation, landscaping and even citizen “education” (yep, we mean it! We saw signals inviting Chinese citizens to treat tourists well, not to spit on the bus, not to climb on the subway…).

The central street in Fuzimiao spreads along the river and is a nice commercial area that combines old buildings and modern shops. It was very nice to spend some hours there, just walking around! Between canals and temples, little streets and food stalls, the historical quarter of Nanjing deserves t least 3 hours of visit.

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In the busiest area of the street you’ll find little boats that offer tours on the river Qinhuai. It’s a very nice spot for a picture! Get lost in the streets, let your intuition guide you and you’ll discover fun things! We spent some time just contemplating the people come and go, it was such a fun experience

The Qinhuai is an affluent of the famous Yangtze river, and the boats in Nanjing usually go for tours during the night under the light of Chinese lanterns. It was so famous in the past that even poems were written about these famous “floating lights”.

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Confucius Temple

Confucius Temple is one of the main attractions of the historical center. We decided to keep walking and visit it from the outside (honestly, we were a little tired of paying for visiting temples!). Although the exterior of the temple is nice (as most temples in China), we preferred Jiming Temple, which we think was much more original and authentic! There is a labyrinth of little streets surrounding the temple where you’ll find lots of tiny shops offering souvenirs and trifles of any kind. It was a very nice moment where we absolutely felt in China!

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Zhonghua Gate

After exploring Fuzimiao at our own rhythm, we continued our walk towards Zhonghua gate. It’s a huge section of the old defensive wall of the city. In the old times, they called this gate the “Gate of China”, such was its importance!

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Our visit to Nanjing was intense! And you, do you know Nanjing? Have you been to China before? What would you like to visit if you went there?