This post was last updated on May 25th, 2020 at 08:29 am
Traveling to a country like China is on the bucket list of many people. You will find several large cities in China that are worth visiting, where nature is also breathtaking. One of the most famous cities in China is Xi’an. The reason for this is that Xi’an is the place to visit the Terracotta Army.
Xi’an, the Old Capital of China
What many people don’t know is that Xi’an has been the capital of China for 12 centuries. Thanks to its important historical function, you will find countless sights around this city. You have probably heard of the Terracotta Army, the highlight of this city.
Yet there is much more to do here. The city has a beautiful park; you will find pagodas and an impressive old city wall where you can cycle over. This city is definitely worth a visit.
We also had Xi’an on our to-do list because of the Terracotta Army, but once it turned out that there is much more to do here than the travel guides make you believe, we stayed for an extra day. There’s not just more to do in the city, but also in the immediate vicinity. You can clearly see that this was once one of China’s most important cities.
History of Xi’an
According to Chinese standards, Xi’an is not a very big city. It “only” has about 4 million inhabitants. Under the reign of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, Xi’an was, next to the capital of China, even the largest city in the world. In its better years, the city grew into an important trading center, largely due to its favorable location on the silk route.
The Silk Route
The silk route was an important connection between the east and west. More than 2,000 years ago, silk was one of the most valuable materials there was. The fabric was produced in China and over the years there was increasing demand for this product from the West.
The silk route is, therefore, the unofficial name for the route that was taken to transport silk. This route often changed, but Xi’an has remained an important stopping point in China. Today you can see several reminders of this in the city.
TIP – Read more about the silk route.
7 Fun Things to Do in and Around Xi’an
The Terracotta Army is the highlight of this city, but there is much more to see and do. Of course, the famous army is the biggest reason to go here, but if you are here anyway, include the following in your to-do list.
1. Visit the Terracotta Army
If the name doesn’t ring a bell, the photos will probably give more recognition. The Terracotta Army is a collection of more than 9,000 statues that together represent an army. The statues were buried next to the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China.
The army was meant to serve the emperor in his life after death. A special aspect of this Terracotta Army is that each statue is unique in itself. They are made in lifelike format and they all have their own shaped face and personal clothing. They are also divided into different classes with their own weapons.
After Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi died, the complex was destroyed by subsequent revolts. The statues were found again by accident in 1974. Since then it has been one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the last century.
To this day, work is still being done on excavating and restoring the statues. The Terracotta Army is undoubtedly a must-see when you visit Xi’an.
TIP – Read more about the Terracotta Army.
2. Go to the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower
Xi’an may be known as a city for its Terracotta Army, but it has much more to offer than just that. In the middle of the center, you will find the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower. These are bells that they sounded at sunrise and sunset.
In the meantime, they no longer do this, but the clocks have a more symbolic function. With its round shapes, the Bell Tower is the best-preserved bell tower in China! And that is quite special since the tower was built in 1348.
You should not miss a visit to both the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower during your visit to Xi’an. From the highest point, you have a beautiful view of the city at both towers!
TIP – Admission is 30 Chinese Yuan (US$4.25) per person per tower.
3. Visit the Great Wild Goose Pagoda
Located in southern Xi’an you will find a popular landmark called the Great Wild Goose Pagoda. This is one of the largest Buddhist pagodas in China. You can also find the smaller version here: the Small Wild Goose Pagoda.
These two pagodas are from the Tang Dynasty and are more than 1,000 years old! The Great Wild Goose Pagoda is 64 meters (about 210 feet) high and has seven floors; these are all set up for visitors. Both pagodas are easily accessible by bus! It is a beautiful sight to visit after the Bell Tower.
TIP – Entrance is 40 Chinese Yuan (US$5.70) p.p.
4. Visit the Muslim Neighborhood
The Muslim Quarter in Xi’an is very centrally located, so it is perfect for a visit to this interesting area. The atmosphere is very friendly and at a busy time of the day, you can look your eyes out. The Muslim quarter is an attraction, especially in the evening.
You will find countless food stalls here that make your stomach growl. Please note: the majority of the neighborhood is car-free. It is, therefore, a great place to take a walk. The center of the Muslim quarter is formed by an important mosque: The Great Mosque.
You will also find a nice bazaar in the neighborhood. Whether you are looking for souvenirs or just want to roam around, here you are at the right place. The Muslim Quarter in Xi’an is very popular with both tourists and locals. Therefore, try to avoid the (local) holiday periods. This can sometimes cause it to be incredibly busy here.
5. The Great Mosque
When you think of China, you probably don’t expect to see many mosques on your tour. The Great Mosque in Xi’an is one of the largest and most important mosques in China. This is because the mosque consists of a combination of Chinese and Islamic influences, this ensures a unique design.
From the outside, there is little to see so it can be somewhat difficult to find. When you visit the Muslim neighborhood, you should ask the locals about The Great Mosque.
You will find it above a very narrow covered market where there is a small sign that shows you the way. The mosque is still used by local Muslims.
TIP – As a tourist, you do have the option to visit the mosque, just bear in mind that you have to pay a (small) entrance fee for this.
6. Cycle Across the City Wall of Xi’an
The city wall of Xi’an is well preserved. This is quite unique for a city wall that basically no longer has a real function. This well-preserved old city wall surrounds the old center of Xi’an. In total, the wall is more than 13 kilometers (8 miles) long and around 12 meters (40 feet) high and you can cycle over it!
The thickness of the wall is also special since this is on average 14 meters (46 feet). You can rent a bicycle on top of the wall or board a bicycle taxi. Such a trip provides a beautiful view, especially if you are here at sunrise or sunset.
When you stand on the wall you have a beautiful view of the city, where the distinction between the old and the new part is very clear. The wall is one of the longest defenses in the world.
TIP – Renting a bike costs around 45 Chinese Yuan (US$6.40) for 2 hours. Deposit is 200 Chinese Yuan (US$28.35).
7. Visit Tang Paradise
Tang Paradise is located near the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda just outside the city of Xi’an, Shaanxi Province. Tang Paradise is a huge park with temples, pagodas, and lots of water. It is actually a theme park.
It is even the largest cultural theme park in northwest China. You will find royal gardens that give the park the appearance of the well-known Tang dynasty (618-907). You can easily walk around here for a day and admire everything, which is quite a lot!
TIP – Entry fee is 120 Chinese Yuan (US$17).
Xi’an is a big city and that is not very surprising in China. But what is the best place to spend the night? It is best to spend the night near the center which is also close to a giant shopping mall.
You will then be close to Xi’an’s best attractions, and there’s plenty of public transportation to remote areas. There are many hotels and restaurants in Xi’an. Attractions in this neighborhood are the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower, some of the city’s most famous sights.
Akisoto’s Favorite Hotel & Hostel Picks in Xi’an
- Eastern House Boutique Hotel Xi’an: This modern and stylish hotel is close to a bus stop and the bell tower. You can also enjoy delicious food at two famous restaurants which are nearby.
- Somerset Aparthotel Xindicheng Xi’an: This is a perfect stay for families with kids. It is very close to two museums and it has great sports and play facilities on the top roof.
- Xi’an Xiangzimen Youth Hostel: The Chinese cultural theme of the interior of this hostel and the authentic items placed around, will make you believe you are walking in China’s past.
We always use booking.com for our travels because it’s very easy to use and you can cancel your booking at any time, up to 24/48 hours before the first night. Here’s a list for all the available accommodations in Xi’an.
How Do I Get to Xi’an?
The best way to travel here is by train. The night train from Beijing is very comfortable and ensures that you arrive fully rested at your destination. This journey takes 12 to 13 hours. Nowadays it is also possible to travel on the faster train, it only takes 6 hours.
Xi’an is also easily accessible by plane. From various larger Chinese cities, you have various domestic flights that fly here. Xi’an is often planned as an interesting and logical stop during the train journey from Beijing to Chengdu.
What is the Best Time to Visit Xi’an?
The best time to visit Xi’an in China is from April to October, in which you have a pleasant to hot temperature and low to moderate rainfall. The highest average temperature in Xi’an is 32°C (90°F) in July and the lowest is 10°C (50°F) in January. The weather and climate of Xi’an are suitable for a sunny vacation.
Xi’an has a maritime climate. Rain falls in all months of the year. Below you can find the average climate of Xi’an, the monthly temperature, or when the most rain falls. This way you are well prepared for your next trip or holiday.