Nanjing means "southern capital" (versus Beijing meaning "northern capital".) It is a renowned historical and cultural city and was the capital of several dynasties over the course of Chinese history. It has many historical sites including Ming tombs that are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It was most recently the capital of China under the Kuomintang, from 1927 until their retreat to Taiwan in 1949, and is still officially the capital of Republic of China (Taiwan), which retreated to Taiwan but still declares itself the sole legitimate government of China. With a current urban population of approximately 5 million people, Nanjing is an important centre for commerce and trade in Eastern China.
The city pass can be bought for ¥230 ( or ¥220 if you have a Nanking social security card) at the entrance to any of the big parks in the city, such as the zoo or Yuhuatai Memorial Park and provides you with free entry to 21 different locations including Purple Mountain but excluding the Confucius Temple and some other temples. You need to provide a passport photo for each pass and they are valid for one calendar year.
- Qin Huai River (秦淮河). Qin Huai River, a branch of the great Yangtze River, is 110 kilometers (about 68 miles) in length and covers a drainage area of 2,631 square kilometers (about 1,016 square miles). The river was originally called Huai River, and it is said that the river was channeled to the city of Nanjing during the reign of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, so it was named Qin Huai River from then on. Qin Huai River is the largest river in the Nanjing City area and is the 'lifeblood' of the city. Qin Huai River is so fascinating that it captures the imaginations of people both at home and abroad. There are many famous sites of interest along the banks of the Qin Huai River, including Confucius Temple just 5 minutes away, Zhanyuan Garden, Zhonghua Gate, and the sights along the Taoye Ferry journey to Zhenhuai Bridge. Taking the painted boats to cruise on the Qinhuai River, visitors can not only admire the sights along the river but can also experience the traditional culture of Nanjing. Visitors can take boats at different wharves to admire the scenery along the river.
- City Wall of Nanjing (城墙). The City Wall of Nanjing was designed by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (r. 1368-1398) after he founded the Ming Dynasty(1368-1644) and established Nanjing as the capital 600 years ago. To consolidate his sovereignty and keep out invaders, he adopted the suggestions of advisor Zhu Sheng to build a higher city wall, to collect grains and to postpone the coronation. Then, he started to build the city wall. It took 21 years for the project, which involved 200,000 laborers to move 7 million cubic meters of earth.
- Confucius Temple (夫子/夫子廟). Once an imperial examination testing center for the entire Jiangsu region, this museum comprises a tiny fraction of the once-massive original buildings. The rest of the site is a massive, labyrinthine market; a top tourist attraction and a place where you can get all your haggling out of your system. Get your picture taken with the Confucius sculpture and grab some tea on one of the gondolas on the canal. On the southern side of town next to Zhonghua Gate and the Taiping Museum.
- The Gate of China (Zhonghuamen) (中华门), Zhonghuanan Lu (Take subway line 1 to Zhonghuamen station and get out at exit #2, cross the highway and turn right, keep walking till you get to Yuhua lu, turn left and head straight to the gate). The southern gate of Nanjing's city wall; this massive gate is one of the best-preserved parts of Nanjing's city wall, and one of the best remaining examples of early Ming defensive architecture extant anywhere. The wooden castle at the top was destroyed by fire, but the immense masonry (each complete with the mason's name and home province by order of the emperor) substructure remains. Two courtyards contain an archery range and vegetable gardens. The main gate has three immense depots within where long emptied of provisions, you can find some scale models and exhibits about the gate. In one depot you can find an air raid siren used during the Japanese attack on the city. Free to look. ¥30 to climb.
- Ruins of the Ming Dynasty Imperial Palace (明故宫遗址), ZhongshanDong Lu (Directly above Minggugong subway station on line 2). The palace was built by the first Ming Emperor in 1366 and originally stretched 2.5km in length. It was completely destroyed in the Qing Dynasty and what remains today barely hints at its size. In the tree-shaded southern half are the small section of the wall holding the huge arches of the Meridian Gate, five stone 'Outer Dragon' bridges and an array of megaliths, some baring fragments of carvings. The site was effectively a prototype of Beijing's Forbidden City as the layout was copied by the first Ming Emperor's son when he moved the capital northwards in 1421. Free.
- Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall (侵華日軍南京大屠殺遇難同胞紀念館), 418 Shuiximen DaJie (Next to YunJinLu Subway station), 08:30-16:30; Closed Mondays. A memorial for the hundreds of thousands of Chinese who died at the hands of Japanese troops in Nanjing during World War II. Two partially excavated mass-burial sites reveal victims remain in situ, accompanied by insightful information boards around the walkway. The elongated sites sympathetically restrained architecture and beautifully maintained gardens are interspersed with sculptures, murals and other artworks that inspire solemn meditations. Close to the entrance is the recently opened museum exhibiting multitudes of photos, videos, and objects to tell the full story, somewhat even-handedly, that can easily occupy you for hours. Captions are in English, Chinese and Japanese. Entrance queues can be long, so plan accordingly. Free.
- Nanjing Museum (南京博物院), 321 ZhongshanDong Lu (Next to Zhongshan Gate), 830-1700. Eleven exhibition halls display a mixture of poetry, bronze and silk artifacts interspersed with cultural displays. Worth pondering over are a jade burial suit and an arched door from the Ming era Porcelain Pagoda. A great place to spend humid or rainy days. Free.
- Presidential Palace (总统府), 292 Changjiang Lu, 830-18. Spend a day exploring the headquarters of past emperors and the Nationalist government. The Palace includes the former offices of many top governmental officials, including Chiang Kai-shek and Sun Yat-sen, as well as the former residence of Sun Yat-sen. It is one of the few places in mainland China where the flag of the Republic of China still flies. Informational placards around the palace are printed in four languages. ¥40.
- Taiping Kingdom History Museum (太平天国历史博物馆). A small museum focusing on a little-known historical event in the West (1843-68), the Taiping Rebellion. In addition to being one of the most sanguinary episodes in recorded history (some estimates put the loss of life higher than the dead from World War I), it was a crucial moment in China's relationship with the West, modernity, and its relationship to its own imperial history. The quasi-Christian, peasant-lead rebellion overran an area greater than France which it ruled, at one point threatening the Qing government in Beijing, from the old Ming capital of Nanjing. On exhibit are documents relating to the Taiping history and the grinding reduction of their movement by enterprising Qing generals and their European auxiliaries, culminating in the siege of Nanjing. The next-door is the beautiful Zhanyuan Gardens.、
- Jiangsu Province Kunqu Theatre. This highly-regarded theater company in Nanjing will give you a chance to see Kunqu Opera, a traditional Chinese art form, firsthand. Expect the dialogue to be sung in ancient Chinese, but LED subtitling in English and contemporary Chinese characters is provided.
- Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge (南京长江大桥). This 6km bridge over the Yangtze has sculptures that are classics of Chinese socialist art; with workers and farmers carrying tools, soldiers carrying weapons, and all of them holding books, most likely Quotations of Chairman Mao Zedong (better known as The Little Red Book). The bridge was built after Soviet advisors left China during the Sino-Soviet Split of the 1960s, and is, therefore, the first major, modern project built entirely by Chinese. A new town is currently being constructed on the other side, which may include a direct metro connection in the future.
- Jiming Temple, No.1 Ji Ming Si Road, ☎ 025-57715595. Jiming Temple is the most popular temple in Nanjing and it is located convenient to downtown. Near Xuanwu Lake, there are several bus stops nearby. Tickets are ¥5, which includes 3 free incense with every ticket.
- Zifeng Tower (紫峰大厦), (Gulou metro station), ☎ 025-83280777, The tallest (450-metre, 89-story) building in the city and the seventh tallest building in the world. Hosts an expensive restaurant and a bar at 78th floor. Also there is a public observatory at the 72nd floor, entrance costs ¥80 (Nov 2012).