12 Best Places to Visit in Nanjing for First-time Visitors

In the Yangtze River Delta in east China, Nanjing is a large tourist city with a profound history in both ancient and modern times. The historical remains hidden in the modern cityscapes make this city charming. Then what to visit there? Let’s have a look of the top 12 places to visit in Nanjing one by one.

Qinhuai River, and Confucius Temple by the river are the must Nanjing places to visit. The Nanjing Confucius Temple, a large ancient architectural complex, is the first highest educational institution in China with a history of about 1,000 years. And Qinhuai River, the mother river of Nanjing, has been always a highlight in the city. The two sites make up a large scenic area that attracts endless visitors to appreciate ancient Chinese buildings and learn Chinese culture and folk customs. In addition, you can find diverse local snacks around. A cruise on the archaistic boat along Qinhuai River is a good way to get immersed in the old-timey vibes, especially a night cruise.

Qinhuai River Cruise
Presidential Palace is the best among places to see in Nanjing, to learn the Chinese modern history from the late Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 AD) to the eve of the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949. It was the site of the central China government back then. In addition to western style buildings, there are also ancient Chinese style garden. You can enjoy the western style office buildings in the central area, the classical Chinese garden in the west, and the exhibitions of historical relics in the eastern area.
Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum, located on lush Purple Mountain, is the rest place of Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925), a great pioneer of Chinese democracy and the father of modern China. The mausoleum was well laid out and delicately built in combined Chinese and western style, so recommended as one of the best places to visit in Nanjing. Along the central axis, you can see high archway and majestic gate. After climbing up the 392 steps, you would get to the worship hall. The marble statue of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, and the coffin in the tomb chamber, his handwritten fundamentals of constitution, etc. show his contributions to the country.
Purple Mountain is a famous mountain in not only Nanjing but also southern China, hence one of the popular Nanjing tourist places. The scenery there is very beautiful, especially the spring flowers and autumn leaves. On the lush mountain, scatter many historical sites and remains. In addition to the above mentioned Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum, visitors are advised to pay a visit to the Xiaoling Mausoleum of Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 AD). It’s the tomb of the first emperor of Ming Dynasty, built in traditional Chinese style. On the way there, you would go through a sacred avenue lined with stone animal sculptures who are considered the guards of the tomb in Chinese culture.

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Nanjing Massacre was a disaster happened during World War Ⅱ, which turned Nanjing to be a hell. More than 300,000 victims were slaughtered by Japanese troops in various ways within one month. The memorial hall, a depressing site out of places to go in Nanjing, shows the dark moments of the city with historical pictures, recorded testimonies, documents, the human remains, etc. By learning the unbearable history and the fascist facts about comfort women there, people will definitely cherish the peace more.

 Nanjing Massacre Pictures
Nanjing Museum is one of the best museums in China as well as a worthy Nanjing place to visit. It shows the regional history and folk customs with more than 430,000 pieces of collections. It is divided into six galleries. At History Gallery, the local regional history from the prehistoric time to Qing Dynasty is shown with stone wares, bronzes, potteries, porcelains, etc. At Special Exhibitions Gallery, you would see the relics from Qing court, old clocks, Buddhist statues and wares. At Digital Gallery, you could glance over the local history with the help of multimedia. Arts Gallery mainly displays paintings, textiles, sculptures and so on. Republic of China Gallery has the reproduced scenes of the modern time. And the Intangible Cultural Heritage Gallery gives folk performances.

Ancient Jiming Temple

Constructed over 700 years ago, Jiming Temple is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Nanjing. Many Buddhists go there to worship the Buddha and pray for blessings. The statues of Buddha and Bodhisattva, and the ancient buildings with fine carvings and couplets are masterworks. Jiming Temple is also a beautiful place to see in Nanjing China. In early April of spring, the oriental cherry blossoms make the road to the temple a pink flower sea. In summer, you can overlook the lotus flowers in neighboring Xuanwu Lake on the pagoda of Jiming Temple.

Yuejiang Tower

Standing on the Lion Hill by Yangtze River, Yuejiang Tower is eye-catching with red pillars and golden glazed tiles, in the imperial architecture style of Ming Dynasty. It is so splendid and brilliant that it’s counted in the four most famous towers in the south of China and Nanjing best places to visit. On the tower, you could get a bird’s eye view of the Yangtze River, Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge, Purple Mountain and the cityscapes of Nanjing, which is its name origin, “seeing the river” literally. It’s also the best site to enjoy the sunset, while the river water turns to be golden red under evening glows.
To the east side of the Xiaoling Mausoleum of Ming Dynasty on Purple Mountain, there is a three-storey villa called Meiling Palace, which is also one of the well-known tourist places in Nanjing China. It was the president’s palace built from 1931 to 1934 for the then China president Chiang Kai-shek and his wife Song Meiling. The villa is surrounded by rows of oriental plane trees looking like a necklace from a bird’s eye view and the villa is like a diamond hung on the necklace. It’s a Chinese-style building, but the interior decoration is in western style. The rooms are all arranged as they were, and you may image how the couple led their life. There is a painting exhibition on the ground floor of the villa, and the First Lady Café on the second floor offers you a resting place after visiting.
Linggu Temple, located to the east of the Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum on the Purple Mountain, is a very old Buddhist temple in Nanjing, which could be dated back to over 1,500 yeara ago. It was one of the largest temples in Ming Dynasty once, and now it’s a famous place to visit in Nanjing. Its Non-beam Hall, built without any beam is an architecture miracle, and the valuable Buddhist relics are preserved inside. Climbing up to the top of Linggu Pagoda, you can overlook the surroundings of Purple Mountain. In summer, the countless glowworms also draw people’s attention. The white magnolia flowers in spring and the sweet-scented osmanthus in autumn are appealing, too.
Qixia means “the glows settle here” literally. In the northwest suburb of Nanjing, Qixia Mountain by Yangtze River is one of the most beautiful Nanjing visiting places. In particular, when the maples turn to be red in autumn, Qixia Mountain becomes extremely attractive with red leaves all around, just like its name shows. There are also quite a few historical sites, such as the stupa of Sui Dynasty (581 - 618 AD), the stone-caved inscriptions, Buddhist grottoes, old pavilions hidden in the forest. Magnificent Qixia Temple is also famous and peaceful for pilgrims to worship.
Imperial Examination Museum of China, also called Jiangnan Examination Hall or Jiangnan Gongyuan, was the largest exam hall in China in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, allowing 20,644 people to attend the imperial examination at the same time. It’s now a major ancient building complex in Nanjing by Qinhuai River, with the officers’ rooms, the kitchen, storehouses, and other rooms in a total of hundreds. It is one of the most famous historical places to visit in Nanjing, providing a chance to learn the ancient Chinese exam system.

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- Last updated on Jan. 19, 2021 -
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