Visiting China soon? Start here

Visiting China soon? Start here

Nanning Travel Guide

Province

Guangxi

Location

Southern China

Population

4 million

w

Language

Local Dialects

Welcome to Nanning!

On the surface, Nanning seems like an ordinary, non-touristy city which is home to over seven million people. But once you arrive there, you’ll find a city that’s become famous for its greenery and relaxing, friendly vibe.

Nicknamed the ‘Green City’, Nanning is the capital of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China.

Nanning is filled with trees, and even has streets dedicated to different varieties of trees. This gives a natural and vibrant atmosphere to the entire city.

It also has a humid, subtropical climate with reasonably warm winters, so it’s the ideal escape if you get tired of the icy cold back home.

Nanning is China’s gateway to Vietnam, offering you the chance to take a quick trip over the border – just remember to get a visa! You should really take advantage of this opportunity if you want to make the most of your time in this part of the world.

Pagodas at Mount Qingxiu Nanning

Relax at Mount Qingxiu in the city. Image by Gyn9037 on Shutterstock.

Nanhu Lake Park

Nanhu is a huge park and lake. Image by Frankie WO on Shutterstock.

The best things do in Nanning

Nanning isn’t that popular among foreign tourists, so the best things to do in the city are the things that the locals love to do as well.

1. Relax in South Lake Park

South Lake Park or Nanhu Park (南湖公园) is huge – it covers about 200 hectares (500 acres) and is located in Nanning’s southeast.

It has a lake in the center that was once a brook, but the area was flooded during the Tang Dynasty, creating a serene water feature in the city’s center.

Enjoy local delicacy, fried tilapia fish, by the lake. Image by HiTecherZ on Shutterstock.

Nanhu Lake is a good place for a picnic or a relaxing walk on a warm afternoon. It’s particularly good in spring, when the park’s flora and fauna come out to play, so make sure you take plenty of photographs during your visit.

And, when you get hungry, head to one of the park’s fish restaurants for some delicious seafood dishes.

2. Explore the museums

The Guangxi Museum of Nationalities is Nanning’s most popular museum.

The exhibits inside this museum explore the history of the Guangxi region with a particular focus on the region’s ethnic minority groups.

You’ll find a range of art, ceramics, and calligraphy as well as information on the customs of the region’s minorities. This includes a collection of ancient copper drums, an important relic of China’s history.

When you travel to Nanning, you need to learn more about the city and its history. And you can do just that at Nanning Museum.

Nanning Museum

Nanning Museum from above. Image by Weiming Xie on Shutterstock.

Housed within an enormous contemporary building, the museum takes you through the city’s history from AD318 in the form of ancient art, ceramics and relics.

There isn’t much English at the museum, but you’ll still enjoy the window into the city’s past and present.

3. See Detian Waterfall

Detian Waterfall is the largest waterfall in Asia, standing at 70 m (230 ft). It straddles the border between China and Vietnam.

The waterfall is absolutely stunning and there’s something new to see in every season. In spring, you can see the waterfall surrounded by bright red flowers and in winter, the lower water will expose more of the cliff side.

Detian Waterfall

Detian is really picturesque. Image by Dietercn on Pixabay.

No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll get the chance to see the waterfall surrounded by the absolutely stunning natural landscape of the area.

Detian Waterfall is about a two-hour drive from downtown Nanning. Consider booking a private driver as the shuttle bus may take three hours.

4. Climb Qingxiu Mountain

Qingxiu Mountain isn’t really a mountain. It’s just under 289 m (950 ft) tall.

However, with lush tropical greenery, crystal clear lakes and stylistically unique architecture, Qingxiu Mountain is worth visiting.

Mount Qingxiu

The pagoda at the top of Mount Qingxiu. Image by Weiming Xie on Shutterstock.

Plus, it’s located just 5 km (3 mi) from downtown Nanning.

The area around the mountain is big and hilly, so hop on the little tourist bus for a few yuan and save your feet.

5. Buy some souvenirs and local products

Like most of China, Nanning has been experiencing an economic boom lately, and there’s no better way to experience this than by doing some shopping. Nanning boasts numerous malls and popular shopping areas including:

  • Qixing Street for shopping malls and street vendors
  • Xinning Street for gold and silver jewelry
  • Chaoyang Road for large malls and retailers.
Chaoyang Road Nanning

There are plenty of shops on Chaoyang Road. Image by StreetVJ on Shutterstock.

Nanning is also famous for some of its local products like:

  • Zhuang Jin, a kind of brocade
  • Fresh fruit such as mango, pineapple and longan (which is kind of like lychee)
  • Leather goods
  • Gold and silver jewelry.

The Cultural Innovation Space of the Museum of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region Store offers traditional Zhuang embroidery and gift boxes filled with tea, wine and food from across the province.

If you’re looking for an unusual Chinese souvenir to take home with you, then you’ll definitely find it in this store.

6. Clamber through Yiling Cave

Located about 18 km (11 mi) from the center of Nanning in Wuming County, this cave is said to be millions of years ago.

It’s filled with a range of stalagmite and stalactites, many of them naturally curved into interesting shapes.

The visual impact of the cave is stunning and it’s well worth getting a little damp and cramped to experience.

Where to eat in Nanning

Because of its location in China’s southwest, Nanning offers a tantalizing mix of cuisines.

The traditional local food tends to be spicy and similar to Cantonese food, but you’ll also find amazing Vietnamese food as well as dishes from other provinces in China.

Some of the most famous dishes in Nanning are:

  • Laoyou (‘old friend’) rice noodle soup
  • Dumplings
  • Fish head porridge
  • Ba Zhen rice noodles
  • Roast duck
  • Rolled rice pancakes
  • Fermented vegetables.

You can read more about the most popular dishes in China here.

Ganjiajie Lemon Duck

This is a branch restaurant that serves delicious duck dishes that locals and tourists absolutely love. Try the lemon duck or the tender cherry duck for a delicious and amazingly intricate treat.

Address: 12-2 Yuanhu Lu 园湖路12-2号

Líyŭ Cūn

Nanning is famous for its culinary variety and this restaurant is a good example of that. It serves specialities from Guilin including the famous Yangshuo beer fish, which is just as good as it sounds.

Address: 131 Minsheng Lu, near junction with Jiefang Lu 民生路131号

Guilin beer fish

Guilin beer fish with braised tomato. Image by HiTecherZ on Shutterstock.

Amou Delicious Eats

This restaurant is truly unique. It serves flavorful ethnic dishes with a choice of two dining options. You can either eat in the dining area or out on the Wind and Rain Bridge for a meal with a view.

There’s also a picture menu so that you know what you’re ordering even if you don’t speak the local language.

Address: Gucheng Lu 古城路

Ban Xian Residence 半闲居

This restaurant serves tea snacks, a popular trend in Nanning and one that you should really be a part of!

There are lots of different snacks on offer at this restaurant, but the most popular is their steamed creamy custard bun with bamboo shoot juice. It’s really worth trying for yourself.

Address: Floor 2, Yangzhong Ting Plaza, 63 Minzu Avenue, Qingxiu District (青秀区民族大道63号阳中庭广场2楼)

Xiangshui Yuan Chongqing Hot Pot 乡水源重庆火锅

This is probably the most popular hot pot restaurant in the city and it’s the ideal place to have a meal when the weather is cooler.

They serve chili and non-chili hot pots (the chili version is much tastier if you can stand it).

Address: Room 105, Floor2, Junshi Mansion, Dongge Ge Village Crossing, Qingxiu District (青秀区东葛葛村路口俊世大厦2楼105号)

The best food markets in Nanning

Markets are amazing places in China. They’re full of noise, life and color, as well as some of the best and freshest foods you’ll ever taste.

Zhongshan Lu Market

This is one of the most popular night markets in the city and it gets amazingly crowded. But you probably won’t notice that once you try some of the local street food.

(Discover more of China’s street food here.)

Try the snacks on skewers but make sure you know what you’re eating as some of the stalls offers spiders and scorpions!

Address: Zhongshan Lu 中山路

spiders on skewers

Critters on skewers are made for tourists. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

Three Streets and Two Lanes

This area comprises three old streets named Xingning Road, Jiefang Road and Minsheng Road, and two ancient lanes named Silver Lion Lane and Golden Lion Lane.

Here, you’ll find lots of historical complexes and houses. Many of the buildings in this area date back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties and it’s a popular place at night among the locals and tourists.

In this area, you’ll find a range of traditional foods as well as local restaurants nestled in ancient buildings. All of this makes this street one of the best places to eat in Nanning if you want a bit of atmosphere with your delicious food.

Where to stay in Nanning

The best Nanning accommodation is modern, comfortable, and close to public transport and places to eat and shop.

Budget

The Zijinghua Chain Hotel Xiuling Road is close to the local metro station and Guangxi University.

The rooms are simple but clean and come in a variety of sizes to suit all travel groups. The hotel also has its own restaurant in case you don’t feel like going out for a meal.

Mid range

Xiaduo Hotel opened in 2019, so you know that everything in the hotel is modern and new.

It’s within walking distance of the metro and close to Jinhua Tea Garden and Binhu Square, so you shouldn’t have to go far for a meal or some entertainment!

With a restaurant and a café at the hotel, you’ll never be short of things to eat or drink and everything at the hotel is very clean.

Luxury

K International Hotel is close to the Folk Song Lake Scenic Area and shopping malls like Wanda Plaza. It’s also just a short walk from the local metro station, so you can explore the rest of the city without too much trouble!

With a café, restaurant and bar, this hotel has everything you’ll need to stay fed and entertained throughout the day and evening. It also has large, modern rooms with bathtubs for a little extra luxury.

Transport in Nanning

Well developed and modern, Nanning’s transport system will make exploring the city simple and cheap.

Air travel

The easiest way to get to Nanning is by plane.

The Nanning Wuxu International Airport is 32 km (20 mi) from the city center and offers direct routes to domestic cities as well as to nearby international cities like Hanoi and Bangkok.

You can get to the airport by shuttle bus, which runs regularly from the airport to the downtown area for around 15 yuan per person. You can also take a taxi to the airport, after discussing the fare with your driver, or local bus No. 301.

Check out our list of Chinese airlines.

Long distance bus

The highways around Nanning are well developed, making long-distance buses a popular choice for travelers who have a little more time and want to save money.

There are five main bus stations in the city offering buses throughout the province as well as to major cities in China like Beijing and Chengdu.

The bus stations are:

  • Langdong
  • Jiangnan
  • Anji
  • Xixiangtang
  • Jinqiao.

You can also get to Detian Waterfall or Vietnam from Langdong Bus Station.

Long distance rail

There are two main railway stations in the city: the Nanning Railway Station and the East Railway Station. You can catch trains from one of these stations to cities throughout China.

The Nanning Railway Station mostly offers normal-speed trains as well as overnight trains to Hanoi in Vietnam.

At the East Railway Station, you’ll find mostly high-speed trains, which are a very convenient way to explore China.

Metro

The city has plans to build eight metro lines but only four are in operation at the moment with Line 5 under construction.

Nanning isn’t a huge city though, so the four metro lines cover a fair expanse of the city, making them a fast and convenient way to get around.

Nanning Metro

Take the Nanning Metro to Chaoyang Square Station for shopping. Image by Stephen Mark Dunmore.

Local bus

The local buses are plentiful, cheap and easy to use. They run from around 6 am to 11 pm and usually cost CNY1, or CNY2 for a bus with air conditioning.

Many of the buses don’t have conductors, so you’ll need to have the correct change before getting on.

You’ll also need to map out your route before getting on the bus, as there isn’t a lot of English at the bus stops.

Sightseeing bus

Nanning has a sightseeing bus which takes tourists to the top attractions in the city. You can buy two-day tickets for the bus which will allow you to make four trips over those two days.

Here are some of the places that these buses go past:

  • Sightseeing Bus Line A goes to Nanhu Rare Tree Exposition Garden, Jinhu Square, Southeast Asia Food Street, Guangxi Museum of Nationalities and Mt Qingxiu
  • Sightseeing Bus Line B goes to Guangxi Science and Technology Museum, Ethnic Square, and the Flower and Bird Market.

Taxis

There are lots of taxis in Nanning and they can take you almost anywhere. They are more expensive than the buses or metro, but you won’t have to walk as far, so it evens out.

Just make sure that you have your destination and hotel written down in Chinese as your driver probably won’t speak English.

Traveling outside of Nanning

Some of Nanning’s best features can be found outside of the city limits, particularly if you enjoy getting out into nature!

Vietnam

Vietnam is such a short distance from Nanning that it would be a waste not to visit while you’re in the area.

You’ll need a visa to cross the border though – you can get your visa here.

The largest city close to the border is Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam and one of the most exhilarating and interesting Asian cities you’ll experience.

Hanoi tourist bike transport

Experience new things in Vietnam. Image by Xuan Duong on Pixabay.

The bus from Nanning to Hanoi takes about nine hours but is quite cheap. Jump on a plane if you want to save time.

If you’re not keen on crossing the border but still want to travel a bit, then head north to scenic Guilin with its world-famous hilly landscape.

You can get there by bullet train in under three hours. And you’ll still be in Guangxi.

Daming Mountain

Daming Mountain is the highest mountain in south Guangxi and a first-class natural reserve. It’s also a beautiful scenic spot with peaceful valleys, soaring cliffs, lush forests, and trickling streams.

This is one of the rare places in the south where you can see frost on the trees and the mountain peaks in winter, but this definitely isn’t a skiing destination.

Instead, it’s a place where you can enjoy flowers in spring, fire-red trees in autumn, and mountain peaks cloaked in white in winter. There’s also a waterfall where you can cool yourself off in summer.

Yangmei Ancient Town

This town is about a one-hour drive from the center of Nanning at the lower reach of the Zuo River.

It’s the most well-preserved complex from the Ming and Qing Dynasties in the province, and a good place to visit if you want to feel China’s real age.

Yangmei Ancient Town

Discover the China of old at Yangmei Ancient Town. Image by Liu Ying Wen on Shutterstock.

The town also boasts beautiful scenery that looks just likes scenes you’ll find on Chinese ink paintings. It also offers some tasty and unique local snacks that you won’t find anywhere else.

The trip from Nanning to Yangmei Ancient Town takes around 1.5 hours by bus or 1 hour by boat.

Videos about Nanning

Get a visual taste of Nanning before you visit!

Here’s a two-day itinerary for the city, including places like Mt Qingxiu. The videography is beautiful and showcases the city well.

And if you’re a foodie, you’ll love Nanning’s street food as seen in this video.

You can also explore more of the best China YouTube channels with some recommendations here.

Don’t forget…

 

It’s easy to forget a thing or two before you head to China.

So, here are a few reminders for you:

  • The right visa – if you’re only staying for a quick trip, you may be eligible for visa-free travel.
  • Cash or Alipay – your credit card may not be accepted, so bring yuan or use Alipay (instructions here).
  • VPN app – if you want access to all your favorite websites and apps in China, you’ll need to download a VPN before you leave your country. Get a VPN that works in China.

Have a wonderful time in Nanning. And don’t forget your VPN!

Questions and comments

Let’s chat about Nanning!

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Page last updated 11 February 2022. Main image credit: Weiming Xie on Shutterstock. Commercial relationship disclosure: The Helpful Panda has commercial arrangements with organizations that may appear on this page, such as affiliate links. See our terms for more info.

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