Situated along the Yangtze River, on the route connecting Shanghai and Beijing, Nanjing is a popular stopping point for many travellers. But the capital of Jiangsu province should be seen as a destination in its own right.
A thriving university town, Nanjing bridges old and new. Ming dynasty-era architecture and age-old landscapes exist alongside neon nightscapes and modern urban greenery – most notably, a pioneering vertical forest. From day to night, and concrete jungle to leafy suburb, there’s something for every type of traveller to enjoy. Here are five of the coolest things to do in Nanjing.
1. Immerse Yourself in the Arts
Museums are cultural treasure troves – and some are works of art in themselves. Sifang Art Museum is both. Designed by American architect Steven Holl, the angular structure sits atop the Laoshan National Park in the city’s western reaches. The private museum, which is owned by Chinese entrepreneur Lu Jun, stretches across more than 115 acres and houses a wide range of international and Chinese contemporary art. The museum even features a boutique hotel on its grounds.
2. Reimagine Your Experiences in Nature
Green spaces are often scarce in cities. But in 2018, the city of Nanjing opted for a novel approach to bring nature back into the city, with a vertical forest created by Stefano Boeri Architetti. Over 800 trees and 2,500 shrubs have been planted across two towers in Pukou district, adding a dazzling splash of greenery to the cityscape while helping to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the area and improve the local air quality.
3. Try Nanjing-Style Duck
Beijing may claim the nation’s best-known duck dish, but Nanjing’s delicacy is also famed within the country, with a history that dates back more than 1,000 years. Classic Nanjing salted duck is a tender, fragrant marinated meat that packs a serious flavour punch. Delve into a classic version from Nanjing Impressions, a restaurant chain with several branches around the city, or opt for a more refined approach at Meiyuan Restaurant in the Jinling Hotel.
4. Take the Plunge at Gravity-Defying Theme Parks
Happy Valley – a theme park with outposts across the country – unveiled its Nanjing park in 2020. With everything from gravity-defying roller coasters to a multi-sensory wave pool and waterslide experiences, the sprawling Qixia District adventure park is typically open day and night with free performances and attractions beyond its daring rides and family-friendly experiences. (As of fall 2020, the park had temporarily closed to make upgrades for the 2021 season.)
5. Change Your City Perspective
Sometimes, the best way to take in a city’s sights and sounds is from a distance. Purple Mountain, in Nanjing’s eastern reaches, stands nearly 450 metres high and gets its name from the tinted clouds that commonly appear at dusk and dawn. Apart from the outstanding natural beauty, the mountain also hosts a number of historic sites, including the Meiling Palace, Linggu Temple, Plum Blossom Hill and Sun Yat Sen Mausoleum.