The majestic capital of eastern China’s Jiangsu province is a rich trove of vibrant culture, fascinating cuisine, colourful markets and verdant natural reserves. A day in Nanjing provides a compelling glimpse of the city’s staggering cultural offerings, from the bustling markets surrounding the Confucius Temple to the fresh eats served from its many street-food vendors. Here’s how to make the most of 24 hours in Nanjing.
A good portion of Nanjing’s health-conscious inhabitants descend on Xuanwu Lake Park in the early hours for a scenic jog or a serene session of Tai Chi on the grass. Follow their lead and start a 24-hour tour of Nanjing with a stroll in the immaculate grounds. The park is the largest imperial lake garden in China’s history, and it encompasses a section of the 14th-century Ming City Wall. Enter through its imposing Xuanwu Gate and climb up onto the ramparts. The panoramic views take in the lake as well as Nanjing’s morning skyline.
Refuel with authentic Jiangsu cuisine. A 15-minute walk from Xuanwu Lake Park, the pedestrianised Shiziqiao Street is peppered with bustling eateries, serving traditional rice dishes, noodles and steamed xiao long bao dumplings filled with hot, meaty broth. For something sweet or a refreshing digestif, tea houses and dessert parlours spill out along this street, as well as on the busy Hunan Road.
With its rich history serving as the capital of 10 Chinese dynasties, Nanjing houses numerous noteworthy sites. The lusciously forested Mount Zijin (Purple Mountain) is home to the founding father of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum. The hefty ascent up the 392 marble stairs that lead to his burial chamber is rewarded with striking panoramas across the city.
The founder of the Ming Dynasty, Ming Xiaoling’s stately tomb reclines on the southern foot of the mountain. Navigate its atmospheric Spirit Way, lined with a sculpted menagerie of creatures, both real and imaginary, to reach his final resting place. Those seeking a longer hike should seek out the tranquil waters of Zixia Lake.
The bustling Confucius Temple area on the Qinhuai River hosts a thronging night market that articulately captures the city’s local vibrancy. Bright neon lights, crowded souvenir stalls and the savoury aroma of sizzling street food provide atmospheric surrounds for an evening stroll. Pick up a local snack such as sesame pancakes or dumplings. For a more sophisticated dive into Chinese cuisine, head to Lu Chao. Its seasonal menus, complete with local favourites such as Cantonese roasted duck, are immaculately served in a sumptuous setting alongside elegant Chinese spirits and teas.
Nightlife in the former imperial capital easily competes with Shanghai’s. The thrumming Nanjing 1912 district is where to round up 24 hours in Nanjing. Lined with bars, discos, nightclubs and teahouses, there’s plenty here to entertain. End a good night out as locals do, in a lively karaoke bar.
Explore Nanjing in 24 hours or longer at Jumeirah Nanjing on the south bank of the Yangtze River.