Top 5 Things to Do in Xi’an

In which I name my Top 5 things to do in Xi’an

Xi’an, another ancient capital in China that is high on the “must-see” list in China. Some of these “must-sees” are on my list, but I’ve also got a couple of other things too.

Here are my 5 favourite things to do in Xi’an:

1. Climb Mount Huashan Huashan Xi'an

A huge mountain in Shaanxi famous for its four peaks. Many Chinese like to climb the mountain early in the morning to reach the East Peak in time for sunrise. I wasn’t able to be  that athletic because going in winter, the first path up is closed off.

The only way up is by cable car and then climbing more. The cable car is not for the faint hearted – the drops are terrifying, however the view from the mountain is fantastic. You definitely feel like you deserve your bowl of noodles in the evening after climbing up all the steps.

2. Walk around Xi’an city walls xi'an city walls

This sounds like an easy task compared to Huashan as there are not so many steps. In some ways you are correct, however the walls are very lengthy! I went from the South Gate to the North Gate where the railway station is and that took a while. I cheated on the way back by just walking back through the centre. 😉 Xi'an city walls You get to see a lot from the walls, there are plenty of wonderful old buildlings and guardposts dotted around, as well as various displays for festivals throughout the year. You can rent a bike in the summer to make it easier.

3. Muslim Quarter

This is just off the Drum Tower and a very interesting part of Xi’an. If you’re looking to bargain and buy souvenirs it’s a good place to go. I bought my sister a Chinese style dress here for peanuts and some beautiful wall decorations. There’s always a lovely smell of food to tempt you as well.

4. Big Goose Pagoda and fountains

The Big Goose Pagoda is one of the main attractions in the city centre, but it’s outside the city walls. It’s really easy to get a bus there, which only costs ¥1, although, if you’re like me, you’ll make a stupid comment “oh, I haven’t seen the city walls yet” to which my travel buddy said “we walked through them to catch the bus…” Ooops!
The day I went to the Big Goose Pagoda, I went with a guy from the hostel, Max, from Chile. He’d been travelling around solo so we took photos of each other and then sent them via email a few days later.

The Big Goose Pagoda is certainly worth a climb, although it’s quite a climb! If you were unlucky, like we were, you won’t have such a good view from the top, but I’m sure on a better day it would be fantastic! Xi'an big goose pagoda view

During the evening, there is a fountain show with lights and music at 8pm every night which goes on in the grounds outside the walls of the Big Goose Pagoda. There are often a lot of people watching, but it’s definitely worth taking in there is a very high spout at one end of the square. It’s also fun to laugh at everyone ignoring the signs not to through the fountains whilst they are on.

xi'an fountain show

The fountains fairly low…

xi'an fountain show

The fountains a little higher!

It’s a free event – your only cost being the bus – my favourite kind of attraction!

5. Terracotta Army

It would be remiss of me not to mention the Terracotta Warriors in a post about Xi’an for they are an impressive sight. I do have to admit, the facts and figures are slightly more impressive, especially that it could take over 70 years to reconstruct everything that they’ve found so far…but they are still worth a good look. terracotta army xi'an Our guide showed us the least impressive stuff first, and worked up to the famous hall full of them, so at least that was a good way to see them!

xi'an terracotta warriors

Wearing my Swindon shirt (February 2012)

I think Xi’an is a fantastic place to go for first time visits to China. Here you can find a lot of ancient Chinese things to see, as well as being in a city which can be a little more westernised for the uninitiated.

What are your impressions of Xi’an? Or if you haven’t gone, would you like to go?

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Author: Bennett

2 years as an expat in China and now doing the same in New Zealand, Bennett sure likes to experience "slow travel!"

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  1. I love reading your posts! How far away is Xi’an from Beijing?

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    • Hi Luci! Thanks for the lovely words about my posts 🙂
      From Xi’an to Beijing you can take a flight in less than 2 hours, or a train which takes anywhere from 5 hours to 13 hours! The distance is 568 miles (914km).

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    • Thank you! I’ll pass this info on to my family living in Beijing for the past 8 months. They are still finding their way! Good luck to you as you start a new adventure!

      Post a Reply
      • More than welcome Luci. If there’s anything I may be able to help with, just drop me a line!:)

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  2. I remember my first visit to Xi’an. I met a Russian couple there and we explored the Terracotta Warriors together. Amazing experience. We were standing in front of these awesome dudes crying out loud !!

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    • I just can’t believe that every one is an individual, created by an individual who died for the cause!

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  3. It’s so funny, I lived in Xi’an for 6 months and never saw the Terracotta Warriors. I’m a bad foreigner!

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    • No, I don’t think so – everyone has their own wants and desires! To be honest, I preferred all the food to the warriors 😉

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