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Long ago, Xi'an marked the end point of the famous Silk Road, and as such is today a melting pot of religions and cultures. Although its heyday ended early in the 10th century, modern Xi'an still showcases some of the best relics from its ancient past, and is top of the list of the six ancient cities of China. From Ming era city walls to crowded markets in the Muslim Quarter, this is a place bustling with history, and yet boasts all the modern conveniences that will make your trip most pleasant.

Tours and activities in Xi'an

Taking a tour while you’re in Xi’an can help to take all the guess work out of your trip. With many of our tours offering flexible itineraries, you can arrange exactly what you need with no unwanted extras.

Tour guides can help you get the most out of the temples, pagodas and historical sites, and can help you find the best food and drink as well as arrange classes, tickets and more. See our selection of tours below, or get in touch to find out more.

Best time to visit

Xi’an has a pleasant climate in spring and autumn, when the weather tends to be dryer and not as blisteringly hot as it can be in the summer months. March to May is a great time to visit, as is September and October, although any later than this and it will start to get very cold.

Top Attractions in Xi'an

What to see and do
The Bell Tower
1. The Bell Tower
Landmarks and icons

Xi’an boasts enough historical sites and relics to keep any history buff amused for many days. Among these are 72 imperial tombs and more than 700 different sites of historical significance ranging from ancient walls to immaculately preserved pagodas.

The Bell Tower is a great spot from which to orientate yourself, and is also a gorgeously constructed landmark in itself. Take a hike to the top of the 36m tower for a wonderful view across this busy city.

Drum Tower
2. Drum Tower
Landmarks and icons

Just across from this is the Drum Tower, another symbol of the city and a wonderful architectural treasure.  Combined tickets for both cost around ¥50.

Army of Terracotta Warriors and Horses
3. Army of Terracotta Warriors and Horses
Landmarks and icons

Although actually located in Lintong, a good 20km east of town, one of the biggest draws to Xi'an is the Army of Terracotta Warriors and Horses. Constructed more than 2,200 years ago, this amazing army of statues stands proud, guarding the tomb of emperor Qin Shi Huang. It is the largest find of its kind anywhere in the world, and is one of six sites in Xi’an which has been inscribed to the World Heritage list.

Big Wild Goose Pagoda
4. Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Landmarks and icons

Another UNESCO site is the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, built during the Tang Dynasty as a place to study Buddhist scriptures. Finished in 652 AD, this five-storeyed pagoda is an architectural wonder and an absolute must-see if you’re spending any time in Xi’an.

Shaanxi History Museum
5. Shaanxi History Museum
Museums, galleries and exhibitions

To the northwest of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, the Shaanxi History Museum is an essential visit during your trip if you have any interest in ancient China. The building covers around 70,000 square metres, and houses in excess of 37,000 relics from all over Shaanxi province. At ¥300 admission, it might be one of the most expensive museums in China, but is worth your support for all the hard work they do to preserve these important relics.

Yangling Han Dynasty Mausoleum
6. Yangling Han Dynasty Mausoleum
Museums, galleries and exhibitions

A smaller but equally important exhibition can be found at Yangling Han Dynasty Mausoleum. This underground museum is the burial place of Emperor Jing, and houses more than 50,000 miniature terracotta figures, well preserved and vividly coloured, which are viewed through a glass floor in the museum.

Xi’an’s fortifications
7. Xi’an’s fortifications
Nature, parks and outdoors

A walk (or cycle) around the ancient city walls is a great way to spend a sunny day. Xi’an’s fortifications are one of the oldest, largest and most well preserved in all of China. They run for 14km around the old city, and feature watchtowers, gate towers, drawbridges and a moat. From the vantage point of the top of the walls, you’ll get an interesting view of city life below without having to be in the throng yourself.

The Lotus Lake Park
8. The Lotus Lake Park
Nature, parks and outdoors

The Lotus Lake Park is the city’s main green area, and is the oldest park in Xi’an. During the summer, the hundreds of lotus flowers in the park all burst into bloom, splashing the park with colour and turning it into something very beautiful.

The music fountain at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda
9. The music fountain at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Things to do with kids

The music fountain at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda is sure to delight and enthral your kids, whatever their ages. Covering a massive 110,000 square metres, this is the biggest fountain show in all of Asia. Water is painted with coloured light, beautifully harmonised with music, shooting colourful jets into the air for over 60 metres. Shows take place every day at midday and 21:00, with more shows over the weekend and during public holidays. There are twenty two different shows to enjoy, so you might want to visit more than once!

Muslim Quarter
10. Muslim Quarter
Leisure and shopping

For local food and interesting souvenirs, head over to the Muslim Quarter and its bustling market traders. Stalls line the street on both sides, selling everything you could wish for from crafts to silks and snacks. Popular and affordable souvenirs include the folk style block prints and other folk art, as well as fake branded goods, but be prepared to haggle.

Calligraphy Street stalls
11. Calligraphy Street stalls
Leisure and shopping

For a less hectic shopping experience, the stalls in Calligraphy Street offer similar products but with less hard sell. Xi’an is also a great place to buy clothes, with fashion shops available on East Street, boutique clothes on South Street, fake-brands at Baihui market and a modern, luxury shopping mall at Century Ginwa.

Night at Imperial Show
12. Night at Imperial Show
Sports and leisure

To become immersed in the history of the city, consider a night out at the Imperial Show with dumpling banquet. The show replicates the singing and dancing that would have taken place at the palace during the Tang Dynasty, with glorious traditional costumes, instruments and performances. You can sample a delicious dumpling buffet while you enjoy the show too.

Getting here and getting around

Arriving at Xi'an will often be via the Xi'an Xianyang International Airport, which is an easy 40km drive away from the city centre. Flights land here from many major Chinese cities, as well as a good number of international destinations including Bangkok, San Francisco, Helsinki and Tokyo.

From the airport, you can catch a taxi into town for around ¥150 (more if you take an air conditioned black taxi), but a better value transfer will be via the regular shuttle busses that run from 06:00 until 18:00 each day. Bus tickets cost just ¥26 and the trip takes around one hour.

If you’re already in China, you may well arrive by fast train to the Xi'an North Station from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou or another major city. From this station, a cheap and efficient subway takes you into the Xi'an central area in around 30 minutes. Slow trains are also available, which will arrive at one of the three stations in the city.

The city itself is surrounded by a wall, with the Bell Tower marking the centre of the city. Most destinations can be narrowed down by deciding if they are inside or outside the city walls, and on which side of the Bell Tower you need to be. Busses will take you pretty much anywhere you need to go, but if you’re not keen on packed busses or not confident with your orientation, there are plenty of affordable taxis waiting to serve the tourist market.

There are just three subway lines in operation right now. These run north to south (line 2), east to west (line 3) and northeast to southwest (line 1). They are cheap and convenient for getting to and from the airport, but more limited when it comes to getting around the city centre.

Eating and drinking

If one particular dish could represent Xi’an, without doubt locals would vote for yangrou paomo. This aromatic, spicy bowl of mutton broth has generous helpings of flatbread soaked in it, hand teared yourself and topped with sweet pickled garlic. Try this out at the amazing 96 year old Tongshenxiang restaurant on West Street.

Dumplings are another staple here, and suantang shuijiao or hot and sour soup dumplings offer an unforgettable gastronomic experience. Mixed with sesame seeds, coriander and minced leeks, the strong flavour tends to hang around for some time after, so you’ll be able to enjoy your experience all evening!

Within the city walls, you’ll find plenty of street food after dark offering a whole host of regional and traditional dishes. Look for the food carts with the little red lights, many of which can be found in the streets running perpendicular to the Muslim Quarter.

Over in the Muslim Quarter itself, you’ll find a great variety of Muslim-Chinese delicacies, from unleavened breads to mutton stew. Street sellers also offer wonderfully aromatic fried rice, noodles and roast meats. One of the most famous snacks here is the steamed stuffed bun of Jiasan, a cheap yet filling treat to keep you going!

For a pre-or post-dinner drink, De Fu Xiang street has a good selection of bars all next door to one another. A few nightclubs are scattered around the city, but tend to be somewhat empty unless it’s a holiday or special event.

Getting a good night's sleep

There are at least six youth hostels in Xi’an, so if you’re travelling on a budget, you’ll be sure to find somewhere cheap to stay. 7 Sages Bell Tower Youth Hostel is well located for your visit, and Warriors International Youth Hostel is reputed to offer clean, quiet rooms along the western wall from just ¥35 per night.

For a five-star experience, the Easter House Boutique Hotel offers oriental style guestrooms just a few minutes from the city wall. Grand Park Xi’an is another top independent hotel, very centrally located with amazing facilities. If you prefer to stick to names you know, you’ll find Crowne Plaza, Sofitel, Hilton and Sheraton all present in the city too.