Other than the warriors what is there to do in Xi’an China? So many people just stared at us and had no idea. It was our mission to get out there and find as many things to do in Xi’an that we possibly could when we were visiting Xi’an China. We planned on finding the most epic places to visit in Xian and we were not disappointed with what this amazing city had to offer us.
There are some places that are on the well-beaten tourist track and they certainly should not be missed when you are planning a trip to Xian but there are some that we had no idea about and really enjoyed. Here are the best things to do in Xi’an China.
Drum Tower of Xi’an
The Drum Tower in Xi’an is one place you can’t miss and is a must on any Xian itinerary. During the day you can watch the hustle and bustle of the square below and even stop for ice cream at the McDonalds there if you are struggling with food in China.
At night you can wait and watch the sun go down from the balcony at the top of the tower and then walk around it as the lights come on and light it up.
It is a stunning way to see the Drum Tower in Xian and visiting the Drum Tower at sunset has to be one of the best things to do in Xian at night.
The very busy street right near it is a top Xian attraction that leads into the Xi’an Muslim Quarter. The Xi’an street food there is amazing and you can find some great bargains if you are looking for souvenirs. If you go at night it will be a fight to make your way down it but if you can go in the morning it will be much better for you with hardly any tourists there.
The Beiyuanmen Muslim Market
If you have just visited the Drum Tower on the left side down the busy Xian Muslim Quarter Street is there is the Beiyuanmen Muslim Market. It is easy to see as there are t-shirts and souvenirs hanging on the outside of the entrance of this fun Xian tourist attraction.
I found this market really good for souvenirs and other things like a North Face bag and some LV. If you are planning on doing any shopping in Xi’an you should plan to go here.
I bought a few things there when we visited. We had originally seen it at night and the number of people there was crazy so we returned during the morning when it was just getting started.
It is a long very narrow street with a cover that makes it extremely hot even at the start of the day! I could not have thought about walking through this street shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of others at night in the Xi’an heat.
Here are a couple of examples of things I bought there and an idea of what I paid.
|Item||Original price||What I paid|
|North Face Backpack||650RMB||55RMB|
|LV coin purse||450RMB||55RMB|
*I actually bartered the price of the 2 LV items to 110RMB for the both of them.
I loved this market the most in my time in China. It was the typical market that I was used to and found to it be a heap of fun. I made plenty of the stallholders mad with my bartering there too. Barter hard where ever you are. Know your conversion rate and pay what you think is a fair price in your currency. If you are doing any Xi’an shopping, do it here.
The Xi’an Bell Tower
In the middle of a roundabout is the amazing Bell Tower Xian. Another beautiful building that is a highlight of Xian. You can climb to the top and have a look over the square to the Drum Tower.
You have to take a pedestrian underpass to the Bell Tower as crossing the road would be too hard. Make sure you get the correct exit or you end up on corners of the roundabout and not the Bell Tower.
You can get a combined ticket to the Drum Tower and Bell Tower when you purchase your ticket at the Drum Tower. We suggest you do this as the ticket office at the Bell Tower can be hard to get to if it is busy then you can accidentally skip it and get straight in line for the Bell Tower where the scanners are. You won’t realise until you are trying to get into the Bell Tower and don’t have the right ticket.
Top tips for the Xi’an Bell Tower:
- You have to have your bag scanned to get entry
- If you have a lighter it will be taken off you and put into a container. People will check them and take the fullest one with them when they collect!
- There are security guards manning the entrance. If you are unsure if you have a combined ticket ask them. You don’t want to line up to be denied entry when you finally get to the Tower entrance
- If you go to the left just after you have your ticket scanned it takes you out the front for a great photo opportunity
The Xi’an Muslim Quarter
WOW! This was an epic place to stay in Xian and we had the best time there. It is an absolute hive of activity all day every day with stalls, markets, tiny tuk-tuks, food and drinks. People yell their wares and some just know what they sell is good and have no need to.
In the morning you will find the butchers cutting the meat to sell right on the street in their stall. As the day passes you will see the streets become more busy with fresh food being cooked on the street all the way into the night.
If you find a good spot that has good food (there are so many) know when they are open and go back to get their food whenever you can. This has to be one of the best places to stay in Xian just for the activity!
Top tips for the Muslim Quarter:
- Try Chinese pie. They are a round pastry with meat on the inside and they are sold until around lunchtime
- You may not be able to get a Didi into or out of the Muslim Quarter as there are not too many cars allowed in the streets
- You can always get something amazing to eat. Don’t be afraid to try something
- If there are a lot of locals eating in one place, they are definitely eating something good
- Get off the big, bright tourist strip and have a look in some of the smaller streets for food
- Some shops have a large drink dispenser with a juice inside. Get a cup and enjoy it. We can’t tell you exactly what it was but it was amazing
Thursday and Sunday Market in the Muslim Quarter
The streets are already narrow in the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an but on a Sunday and a Thursday, they get smaller with many of the streets extra crowded with market stalls. From fresh fruit to bric-a-brac you can find anything there.
*Just a warning that there are turtles, crickets, birds, kittens and other animals on sale there too.
Go on a food tour of the Muslim Quarter
Going on a good food tour in any city will give you the confidence to order and know what you are eating. There are many myths regarding food in China and thankfully Michelle from Lost Plate Food Tours was able to show us some of the best food to have while we were staying in the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an.
It is also a great way to try some food you would normally have the courage in trying. This was where we tried the Chinese Pie and the wraps that became our stable for when we were wandering the city of Xi’an. It was great to learn some phrases too to help with ordering food that is not as spicy!
Giant Wild Goose Pagoda
As you are walking towards the Wild Goose Pagoda it just keeps getting bigger and bigger. If you are visiting Xi’an it has to be on your list of things to see in Xi’an.
*Around the outside of the Pagoda area (before you actually go inside) there are fountains, murals, statues and shaded areas to sit and take in the area around you. On a hot day, it is also a great place to get a drink and stop for a rest.
Grand Tang Mall
After you have had your time in the Wild Goose Pagoda head up to the Grand Tang Mall. It is a beautiful walk and there are so many places to sit and have a nice drink on a hot day or an ice cream. There are also some small souvenir shops for you to have a look at as well.
You will also find many artworks, huge monuments and some amazing buildings that are just stunning. It is definitely a top spot for Xi’an sightseeing, especially for travelling families.
Other places on Tang Mall:
- Xi’anTourist Information Office
- Shopping Centres
This was one of the best places we visited in Xi’an and we are so glad we did. It is not well known to visit for foreigners and it is such a shame.
Danfeng Gate was originally one of the gates leading to the Daming Palace. Over the years it was destroyed and over time it was lost. In 2008 excavation started at the site and the original foundations of the gate were unearthed.
What you see now, the large brown gate is a recreation of what the original gate would have looked like. Under this building now are the foundations of the original gate which you can go in and see. While there is a lot of information about the gate and how it is being preserved for future generations it is the short video that you must stay to see.
There are English subtitles so you can all of the information on the gate and what the history is behind it.
After you have finished your visit to Danfeng Gate you can walk over the large square towards Daming Palace. It is a large open space where the Royalty of the Tang Dynasty called home. Now mainly in ruins but with large stunning gardens for you to wander, it is a beautiful place to see. There is a large scale model of what the Palace would have looked like back before it was destroyed.
The complex is so large there are golf carts that you can buy a ticket for and they will late you around to all the site that you will need to see.
Banpo Village and Museum
Now, this is a place we had not heard of at all and have found very little information about it on the internet after we left China. It is only because one of the guys in our Lost Plate Food Tour was a history student that we knew about it. It has to be one of the most unusual things to do in Xi’an because there are so many people who don’t know about it
Banpo Village is a historical site just out if Xi’an city. Any person who has an interest in ancient China times and how man developed would love the place. It has excavated townsites from 6000 years ago and there are burial sites there as well.
There is not a lot of information in English but there is enough for you to understand what was found here and why it is being worked on to preserve the site. If history is your thing, this must be one your Xi’an itinerary.
*One section of the Banpo Museum was closed on the day we went and is still under some renovation. We are unable to tell you what is in that section or what will be in the future
Xian City Walls
This is a complete must and one of the top places to visit in Xi’an. For us riding the length of the Xi’an city wall was high on our list of things to do in Xi’an. There are 13.7k’m of the Xi’an city wall in which you can ride or walk around.
Top tips for the Xi’an City Wall:
- The bikes aren’t in great condition but they are ride-able. They are also not changed to suit your body so test it out and if it is no good swap it for another before you go too far
- When you hire the bikes you will need I.D or a credit card
- If it is raining they will give you disposable raincoats
- Your bike has to be returned to the place you started
- Go as early as you can. The crowds can get crazy there
- Take plenty of water with you
|Bike Hire (per bike)||45RMB|
|Deposit for bikes||100RMB|
It is a brilliant experience but as you can imagine with the city walls age it is uneven, bumpy and in some places hard to navigate. Please take this into consideration if you are planning on visiting the Xi’an city walls on your Xi’an trip.
If you want to see just how much the Chinese people love nature and how well they plan out a park then Tang Paradise is the place for you. Tang Paradise is a park that is constructed on how the traditional Chinese gardens would have looked back in the time if the Tang Dynasty.
You would not even realise that many busy roads run right up against the sides of the park once you are inside it is just that beautiful.
From large traditional buildings, small traditional gardens and so many loti you can get totally lost in the beauty here. If you need to relax during your Xi’an trip this is it.
If you are able to I would see if there is a performance on when you are visiting Xi’an and I would go. Even if it is in Chinese I still think that it would be a sight to see while you are visiting Xi’an.
Another beautiful park where you can join in aerobics, singing and dancing or enjoy a walk around the lake. But Xingqinggong Park is also home to a small amusement park that would make any kid happy after a few weeks without some fun. It is a brilliant place in Xi’an for families.
While there are no extra huge and scary rollercoasters there are some dodgem cars, a Ferris wheel, a haunted house and a few other rides that our kids liked. There were also plenty of rides for much smaller kids and an in build climbing course. If you are visiting Xi’an with kids this has to be on your places to visit in Xi’an.
*Rides are very cheap there and they start at 4RMB per ride
Visiting the Xi’an Terracotta Warriors has to be the most popular of the Xi’an tourist attractions and I can guarantee you they are at the top of every Xi’an itinerary on the planet.
YOU MUST arrive early if you want to enjoy your time there. We spent 2 hours at the Terracotta Warriors and we were some of the first to get to the pit. By the time we came back after wandering the park, we couldn’t get in the door.
Top tips for visiting the Terracotta Warriors:
- Be there well before opening time
- Go straight to pit 3 when you get there
- Later on, after you have wandered and seen the pit lookout for volunteers in lime green shirts who will give you a free tour. Their information is so good
- Take water with you as it can get crazy hot out there
Emperor Qing Shihuang’s Mausoleum site park
What a lot of people don’t know is that with your Xi’an Terracotta Warrior ticket you are also entitled to go to the Mausoleum of the First Qing Emperor. This is the Emperor’s tomb that the warriors are protecting.
How do I get to the Mausoleum?
Once you have done all that you want at the Terracotta warriors site you go back to the place where you bought your ticket. Behind the giant warrior monument in the main entry square is a bus station. There you line up and get the free bus that will take you to the mausoleum site.
*With your ticket, you are allowed to ride the bus and get entry so you must keep it.
What is at the Mausoleum site?
This is the site where the Emperor is buried. It was under heavy renovations when we visited so there was not much to see. The mound where the Emperor is buried is what you really come to see and there is only really a small plaque there for it.
You can catch a small cart around to some of the other excavation sites that are there too. It is an extremely large area so please make sure you have lots of water with you if you plan on walking around. The commentary in the cart is only in Chinese.
The mound is yet to be opened as there is not a great amount of knowledge on how to best preserve it so the Chinese Government has decided not to open it until they can be certain that it will be well preserved when they do.
Some other places you may consider when you are visiting Xian:
- Xi’an Great Mosque
- Huaqing Pool
- Guanzhong Folk Art Museum
Day trips from Xi’an
- Mt Huashan
- Qianling Mausoleum
- Louguantai Temple
- Taiping National Forest Park
We had 8 nights in Xi’an and stayed in two very different accommodation styles while we were there. Both were amazing places.
Where are some great places to stay in Xi’an?
Here are recommendations for accommodation in Xi’an.
Tryp by Wyndham
Rating an 8.8 from 48 reviews and starting at $US75.00 per night for a family room. Tryp by Wyndham has a location score of 8.5 and offers guests in-house dining, breakfast, kids playground, free wi-fi and an on-site bar.
*We spent 3 nights at Tryp by Wyndham and it was fantastic. It is extremely clean and spacious. Some of the fronts of house staff had a little issue with communicating with us but it wasn’t anything google translate couldn’t fix!
You can read our review on Tryp By Wyndham here
Alley Youth Hostel
Rating an 8.6 from 797 reviews and starting at $US35.00 per night for a family room for 4 with private bathroom. The Alley Youth Hostel has a location score of 8.8 and offers guests breakfast, washing facilities, organised group activities, English speakers and large family rooms.
*We spent 5 nights here and we absolutely loved it. It was right in the heart of the Muslim Quarter and the staff were so helpful. The kids did a dumpling-making class and got to practice their Chinese.
If you are looking for more Xian accommodation alternatives please check the booking.com map below for more options.
You can read our review of Alley Youth Hostel Here
Internet and phones in China
We were all prepared for no internet for the month we would be travelling in China for. We knew we would need some for our work but at the same time knew it may have been an issue as we had been told that the internet in China for tourists was hard to get even in hotels.
We decided to purchase Chinese sim cards from home in Australia before we left and had them in our luggage to put in our phones when we arrived in China.
This is one of the essential things you need for traveling to China. If you are unable to do that we have some great deals here for you to check out.
Using a VPN in China
We downloaded Express VPN in Australia before we left and we have not had a problem with it while traveling in China. It does reconnect some times but we have not had any other issues. This is an essential tool if you want to use the internet in China. If you plan on using the internet this is one of the top things you need for traveling to China.
Using ATM’s in Xi’an
You will find many ATM’s around the cities in China. They dispense anywhere up to 20000 yuan at a time sometimes higher in the tourist areas. They are normally very secure with your own little booth to withdraw money from but you must take all of the usual precautions when you are carrying money. We found the ICBC bank in China to be the best as it had an English menu that was easy to use.
Like most major cities you need to be aware of your surroundings and be careful of skimmers on the machine. We used numerous ATM’s in China and we had no issues. You should probably alert you bank as well if you are travelling to China to make sure they are aware and do not see your transactions as fraudulent and possibly cut off access to your money.
Money in China
The official National Currency in China is the rénmínbì (RMB) or some call it the Yuan. They come in 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, and 1 RMB bank notes as well as 1 yuan, 5 jiao, and 1 jiao coins. We found for tourists you needed cash and smaller notes were better to have. Many Chinese pay through Wechat or Alipay. The ICBC bank was the easiest to use with an English language option and less fees than other banks for withdrawals.
How to get to Xian China
Xi’an Xianyang International Airport is Xians main airport. The airport covers an area of 5 square kilometres, it is the largest airport in Northwest China. It is 41 kilometres (25 mi) northwest of Xi’an city centre.
Xian North railway station is one of the largest hubs for high-speed rail in the north of China. The station has 34 platforms and is located 10 kilometres from the city centre. You can book your china trains here.
Long-distance buses arrive and depart from Xian Fangzhicheng Bus Station. It is serviced by Xian metro line 1.
The main highways in China are fine for travelling by car. Pick up a rental car at any main airport and travel around China by car.
Please stop by our China Travel page for more China content
Our time in Xi’an was amazing and we absolutely loved it there, it was a highlight of our China trip. It was a city that so many people know because of the Terracotta Warriors but there are so many other historical places in the city to be discovered. We did as much as we possibly could and we still didn’t get to see it all while we were there.
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More about the Author
Bec Wyld is a mother, wife and once reluctant traveller. Bec has been to over 30 countries across the globe. I have planned and stressed in all of these places. Becs writing can be found on Wyld Family Travel and as a guest poster and contributor on many other travel websites including Lonely Planet Kids