You may have already caught previous China post about 5 Things to do in Bejing, but today I bring to you 5 Things to do in Xi’an, China.
This vast and ancient city is the capital within the Shaanxi province in central China. Once the Silk Road terminal where traders would trade far and wide, Xi’an is beaming with history waiting to be explored from its +3000 year existence.
So with that, let’s get into the 5 Things to Do in Xi’an.
1. Terracotta Warriors
Now, if you have heard of Xi’an previously, it is most likely down to the impressive Terracotta Warriors. Watching a documentary close to 10 years ago about the Terracotta Warriors, it sparked an interest in me and began my daydreaming of the possibility of one day travelling to China. So, with that in mind, it was obviously high on our Xi’an to-do list and we had to make the trip to this ancient burial site to witness the wonder ourselves.
The Terracotta Warriors, for those who don’t know, are a substantial collection of life-sized soldiers made from terracotta that are lined in battle formations on the burial site of Chinese Emperor, Qin Shi Huang and are over 2,200 years old. The warriors are thought to have been designed as a reproduction of the emperor’s own guards to protect him in his afterlife. These figures stand tall within trenches, some with horses, each with different attributes and facial expressions. The workmanship of the carvings is just as impressive as the magnitude of the environment.
When I walked into the first pit, I was overwhelmed almost to the point of tears that I finally could tick this memorable experience off of my bucket list after so many years of longing to see the site.
The site is still being excavated to this day so some pits are not completely finished and some trenches remain empty or showcase warriors with missing heads, but the figures that are completed and standing tall in their multitudes are quite something to witness.
Just like most tourist attractions in China, this attraction is busy, maybe busier than most, but with viewpoints completely surrounding the warriors, you are guaranteed a perfect view within the different pits.
2. Cycle Xi’an City Wall
A must-do activity in Xi’an is to cycle the city wall, the most preserved city wall in China. The Xi’an city wall was built in 1370 and is 13.7 kilometres long so it makes for an enjoyable 2-hour bike ride around the city centre, taking in the views and history.
Throughout the cycle, you will come across several city gates and watchtowers, as well as brilliant views of the surrounding landscapes.
3. Bell and Drum Towers
Located close by to each other are the two sister towers in Xi’an, Bell and Drum Towers with history aplenty.
The Drum Tower, originally built in 1380 during the Ming Dynasty, is a two-storey building where you can learn about the history of drum culture and view some of the drums that would’ve been used to signal the time and alert in emergency circumstances.
The exhibition is interesting and the views of the city are beautiful.
The Bell Tower, built in 1384, marks the centre of Xi’an, and was built to warn the city of attacks early from rivals.
It’s a popular excursion and entry to the tower is through a large pedestrian walkway underneath the city.
Again, the views are spectacular and you are really given a sense of Xi’an history during your visit.
4. Small Wild Goose Pagoda and Jianfu Temple
Of the two Wild goose pagodas available to visit in Xi’an, we opted to check out the Small Wild Goode Pagoda, mainly because it was the closest to where we were at the time and the day was wearing on.
This free-entry pagoda is situated inside the Jianfu Temple site and makes for a lovely afternoon walk-around. The temple was first built in 684 in honour of the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty, with the pagoda itself being constructed in 707.
The impressive pagoda isn’t so ‘small’ either, measuring 13 storeys high.
Jianfu Temple itself has much to view with the South Gate of the Temple and Mahavira Hall.
5. The Muslim Quarter
The Muslin Quarter is an area we found ourselves in quite regularly whilst in Xi’an.
It’s located just to the side of Drum Tower, making it the perfect stop for a bite to eat after a day of exploring the history of Xi’an.
The Quarter is a hub full of delicious Muslim street food where you can try all of the weird and wonderful delicacies on offer, as well as pick up souvenirs for loved ones.
If you’re a vegetarian, this street may not be for you! It’s a meat lover’s paradise with meat dishes galore.
As you wander around, you’ll notice the same types of foods popping up – whether that be Chinese hamburgers or rouijiamo, which is a marinated pork-filled bun, or liangpi which is a cold noodle dish. Or my favourite – biang biang mian! This is thick, hand made noodles served with a sauce. They are perfectly chewy, stretchy and flavoursome. I want some now!
Another food type you’ll see everywhere is skewered meats, with everything you can imagine, propped onto long wooden sticks which are grilled in front of you.
It’s definitely worth a visit to try some traditional Chinese cuisine. My top tip is to pick the busy places that locals gravitate towards so you avoid getting food poisoning from undercooked meat or poor cleanliness conditions. We never had a dodgy stomach once from sticking to this throughout our China travels!
So there are my 5 top picks for a trip to Xi’an! It’s a bustling city with plenty to do and I’m sure these will not disappoint you if you make the travel.
If you have any other places to visit or activities to take part in, please leave them below for others to explore!
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