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- 16 Dec 2019, 3 nights
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Ancient culture meets modern metropolis in Nanjing, set on the banks of the mighty Yangtze River. During the Ming dynasty, it was the capital of China (hence its name: literally meaning 'Southern Capital'), and you can still see imposing historic buildings from this era, including the 14th-century city wall. Today, glittering skyscrapers and nightlife districts rub shoulders with hole-in-the-wall xiaolongbao (soup dumpling) restaurants, colourful temples, and expansive green spaces and gardens, as the city thrums with a thoroughly modern energy.
You can stay in a contemporary Nanjing hostel with playful decor (think miniature indoor fountains and dorm beds made to look like tiny traditional houses), spacious accommodation close to the airport or a refurbished heritage house in the heart of the city's historic district. Nanjing hostels tend to be stylish, and often have extra features like musical instruments for guests to play or on-site bars and cafés. Private rooms tend to come with free breakfast and airport pick-up.
Central Nanjing is encircled by the old city walls. It's home to several characterful areas, including neon-lit Xinjiekou fashion district in the downtown and upscale shopping along Hunan Road. Head to pedestrianised Shiziqiao for street food galore or the leafy 1912 district for bars and nightlife. Zijin Shan (Purple Mountain) is home to historic tombs, and it's especially beautiful in autumn, when its trees turn gold. Nestled in forest nearby, Tangshan town is known for its natural hot springs.
Top sights in Nanjing include Zifeng Tower, a 450-metre-tall skyscraper with an observation deck where you can see the city from above, and Purple Mountain, where you'll find the Zijinshan Observatory and the Míng Xiào Líng Tomb, known for the giant elephant and camel statues that line its walkways. The city's ancient Confucius Temple is surrounded by a maze of tiny alleys, packed full of souvenir stalls (where haggling is encouraged!) and street food. For something a little more relaxing, take a paddle boat around scenic Xuanwu Lake.
Nanjing Lukou International Airport is 45 minutes away from the city centre by bus or around an hour by subway. If you're coming from Shanghai, you can take a bullet train (around 1-3 hours' journey), and from Beijing it's 3 hours 40 minutes on the fast train. Getting around Nanjing is easy on the city's extensive public transport system, which includes nine metro lines, local buses and bike lanes.