Xi’an, the old capital of China under three dynasties, is a cultural, historical and now also a commercial center. The most famous attraction in Xi’an is the Terracotta worriers, but the city has a lot more to offer.
Most travel advisers will recommend 1-2 days in Xi’an, to see it’s major and most important sites, but if you are not planning to hire a guide, we recommend you dedicate 3 days to make the most out of your trip.
Check out the list below of all Must do in Xi’an. plus some travel tips from our team:
Terracotta Worriers and the Mausoleum of Qinshi Huangdi
Did you know that this is the #1 most visited site in China? Even more than the Great Wall!
The army is a collection of real-size soldiers, each hand-carved by local craftsmen, some 2200 years ago, and no one soldier matches another. The army was made to protect the grave of the first emperor of China – Qin Shi Huang Di, the Yellow emperor and later serve him in the after-life world.
For more than 2000 years, the massive grave was buried underground and was only discovered in 1974, by a local farmer. The man tried to dig a wale and stumbled upon one of the soldiers. Not all pits were unearthed, to protect what is believed to be a huge hidden treasure, but many of the soldiers – troops, officers, carriages and horses – can be seen in an open display.
The site is recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site and is a 2-3 hours trip north to Xi’an.
Our Tip: we recommend you hire a local guide or the audio guide to get a better understanding of the history behind this site.
Name in Chinese: 秦兵马俑和秦始皇陵墓
The existing walls you can see today, were built in the 14th century and marked the ancient city area.
You can walk around and circle the entire old city of Xi’an, having a bird’s eye-view of the ancient alleys and roof-tops.
For the more adventurous among you, you can also rent bicycles and ride on the wall!
The Muslim Market
As one of the main cities on the ancient Silk Road, Xi’an became a meeting point of cultures, traditions and religions. Travelers to the city back then, could enjoy the massive market, offering goods from distant places.
Today’s market is much smaller, but no-less vibrant and colorful. The Muslim traders that came with their caravans to the city, influenced it’s people and a local minority decided to convert to Islam. They are the Hui people, and you can find them in the Muslim market, selling traditional snacks and food.
Our Tip: Go visit the Great Mosque within the Muslim quarter. It is an impressive place and combines Chinese and Arab motifs in the architecture. Check operation hours in advance.
The Big and Small Wild Goose Pagodas
As an important Buddhist temple in China, Big Wild Goose Pagoda, was built to house the first translated scriptures brought from India to China. The pagoda was built in the 8th century and managed to stay almost in-tact until today. Entrance is allowed for extra fee.
Not far from the Big Pagoda, lies the Small Wild Goose pagoda, built to commemorate one of Tang dynasty’s emperors. This Pagoda, slightly smaller than the “Big” one, also manged to survive wars and earthquakes, and you can climb it all the way to the top.
Our Tip: The largest fountain in China is just in-front of the Big wild goose pagoda temple and every evening, there is a light and water show. Go check it out!
Shaanxi Provincial History Museum
Known as the best provincial history museum in China and even better, entrance is for free. The museum exhibits historical and cultural relics of Xi’an and Chang’an (the capital’s name before it moved to Beijing).
If you love art, the museum also has changing art exhibitions worth checking, from traditional Chinese art to modern and contemporary exhibitions as well.
Our Tip: Entrance is free, but there is still a limit for number of visitors per day. Better arrive there earlier in the day.
If you didn’t have a chance to visit the Ming Tombs in Beijing, Han Yang Ling Mausoleum is an interesting alternative, and much less crowded.
Dated back to the 2nd century AC, this mausoleum is the tomb of the Han dynasty emperors, the second dynasty to rule China. It is a less known site and tourist attraction, which makes it nicer to tour, and it has an interesting history.
Our Tip: Hanyangling is on the way to the airport so you can combine a visit there before your flight.
Dafu Xiang – Bar Street
We couldn’t leave you without a recommendation for what to do in the evening in Xi’an. Dafu is not a long street but is home to many local bars and clubs.
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