Nanjing is a rarity in China: the ten- times Chinese capital is one of the very few cities where history, urbanization and nature can be captured simultaneously in one photograph. Yet it remains relatively unexplored by international travellers.
Here are the bare basics of this fast-growing second-tier city.
Nanjing is a commercial, political and cultural centre in east China, and the capital of Jiangsu Province. Yangtze River, China’s longest river and several of its branches flow through Nanjing.
The 6,600-square-kilometre city is a 3 hour drive or 90 minute bullet-train ride from Shanghai in the northwest.
Three train stations connect Nanjing to all major domestic cities - Nanjing Railway Station, Nanjing South Railway Station and Nanjing West Railway Station and Nanjing Lukou International Airport which is 36 kilometres southeast of the city centre and 40 minutes by car.
The airport also hosts a few direct international flights, mostly with nearby Asian cities like Seoul, Singapore and Tokyo.
The city of eight million is a stop on the five-hour high-speed rail route between Beijing and Shanghai.
Due to its strategic location along the Yangtze River and at the halfway mark on China’s coastline, Nanjing served as the capital of ten Chinese political regimes for 1,800 years.
Historical relics and sites, many restored, dot the city. Symbolic remains include the Ming Dynasty City Wall, the Presidential Palace of the Republic of China and Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum.
Nanjingers cook excellent duck dishes. A signature course is duck soaked in brine (盐水鸭). Peking Duck is said to have originated here.
The local fare is an offshoot of Huaiyang cai (???), a regional cuisine from southern Jiangsu Province stressing the use of fresh ingredients and fine presentation. Dishes are salty and a bit spicy.
Nanjing foods are mostly safe (no freakish eats like dog meat or insect kebabs), but beware that local chefs like adding duck guts to soups. The city's iconic snack, duck blood soup with fried tofu and vermicelli (鸭血粉丝汤), contains slices of duck liver and gizzard.
Life in Nanjing is much slower and more relaxed than in Beijing or Shanghai. It is common to see senior citizens playing chess in the sun or enjoying a radio show next to a busy thoroughfare.
Parks are found all around the city. Most are free and well-maintained. Locals love strolling and picnicking in the green at leisure.
Nanjingers are chatty and friendly. Pedestrians are willing and helpful in giving directions, though most don’t speak English. English is better understood in high-end hotels and restaurants or international hostels.
Two subway lines stitch the city together with more than 50 stations. Trains are new and clean. A subway ride costs RMB 2-4 (US$0.3-0.6).
It is generally easy to find an empty taxi downtown but avoid rush hours (6:30-8:00 a.m., 5:00-7:00 p.m.). Drivers available for hire light their taxi lamps red (while green means the taxi is not available).The flag-down rate is RMB 9 (US$ 1.4) plus RMB 2 (US$0.3) fuel surcharge.
The 5-minute Nanjing travel guide
Learn the ins and outs of this rapidly-growing city in the time it takes to have a cup of tea