Xuanwu Lake Park (玄武湖公园)
Just a few steps away from commercial thoroughfares, this former imperial lake garden ushers city dwellers from the urban hustle and bustle into a peaceful haven of weeping willows, arch bridges, paddle boats and visually stunning flowers.
Whatever the season, the 4.4 square-kilometre park showcases a distinctive colour: pink cherry blossoms in spring, emerald lotus leaves in summer, golden ginkgos and red maples in autumn, and snow-covered pines in winter.
Much of Nanjing’s downtown is built around this massive, smooth body of water. A casual stroll around the lake and through its five islands – all connected by bridges — can take up to five hours.
Various gates. The main one is Xuanwu Gate, near Metro Line 1 Xuanwumen Station; free; open daily 6.00 a.m.-8.00 p.m.; round-the-lake sightseeing bus RMB 30 (US$4.80) per person per trip
Wuchaomen Park (午朝门公园)
Every morning, retired locals practice tai chi, sing opera and walk backwards in circles in what was once the forbidden grounds of the Ming Palace.
Inside the park stands Wumen, one of Nanjing’s few remaining palace gates, dating back to 1367. Visitors can climb the grey-bricked structure to experience a good view over Yudao to the south, the straight and tree-lined former imperial road.