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
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.