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Nanjing (also, historically, known as Nanking) is one of China’s most popular tourist destinations. Its’ name means “Southern Capital as opposed to Beijing, which means “Northern Capital”. Unsurprisingly, both of them have been the capital of China at various points in the country’s turbulent history. As such, Nanjing has a wealth of historical and cultural sites that draw tourists from around the globe.
It is unfortunate that Nanjing is best known for its most tragic place in the annals of Chinese and world history. In December 1937, the Japanese army swept into Nanjing and over the course of three weeks slaughtered 300,000 civilians. Today, the city’s most popular tourist site commemorates that awful chapter in history with what is probably China’s finest museum – the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall. It is located next to the Yunjinglu subway station, so it’s easy to find and, unusually, entrance is free. Expect long queues on weekends, but they move quickly.
There is also the Confucius Temple in the south of the city, the City Wall, the China Gate, the Presidential Palace, the ruins of the Imperial Palace, Jiming Temple, and countless museums. For a history or culture buff, there are few better places in China than Nanjing. All of these are easily accessible by subway, bus, and taxi, and set-up to deal with the city’s large number of foreign visitors.
But it’s not just history that draws the tourists. Nanjing is a bustling, modern city. It has developed to elegantly blend old and new, and is certainly among China’s most attractive urban areas. Thanks to the influx of tourists, and the large number of foreigner who settle here to work as teachers, there is an unusual wealth of foreign restaurants and Western-style bars, and the city is China’s second best shopping location after Shanghai.
Nanjing is a short ride by train from Shanghai, and has connections to Beijing, Hefei, and many other cities around China, making it easily accessible, and a popular day- or weekend-trip for expats and English teachers. For visitors there are numerous hotels and some really highly regarded hostels that house a vibrant backpacker community. All in all, it is no surprise Nanjing has risen to be one of China’s prime tourist destinations.