Xian City Wall
Xian City Wall

What are 5 of the Best Things to See in Xian

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Visiting Xian is so much more than the Terracotta Warriors.

“Did I hear you correctly?”

I know, I know, even for us, the Xian Terracotta Warriors was a big must-see place on our bucket list of China.

But what we didn’t realise until we started researching more, was why we also needed to visit the city of Xian.

Xian city is in the Shaanxi province of China and is one of the four ancient Capitals of China:

  • Beijing
  • Nanjing
  • Luoyang
  • Xian

We would have to say now, that Xian city was one of the highlights on our visit to China.

Where else is it possible to stay in a hotel within an ancient city wall or go shopping in a Muslim Quarter. Xian is one of the best places to visit in China.

Related Post: Discover Unique Things to See in Nanjing

Related Post: 10 Best Things to See When Staying in Beijing


1. Take a Cycling Tour of Xian City Wall

Xian City Wall

The city wall of Xi’an dates to 1374 and is an impressive structure at 12 metres high, 18 metres wide at the base and 15 metres wide at the top with four gates.

Once inside the main gate, you can read the history of this amazing structure, still intact today.

Taking a bike tour is one of the best things in Xian city.

There are bikes for hire at the top of the wall, and while the bikes are new, they don’t have any suspension, so your “bum” may be in for a rocky ride on the brick surface of the wall.

Allow 1.5 to 2 hours for the 14 km round trip, as there is plenty to see on the bike tour.

  • Views of the moat
  • Xian city market
  • Temples
  • Wedding party groups
  • Dressing in Traditional costume
  • Bike races with the locals

Tip: Depending on the weather, a mask can help if smog levels are high

GateHouse along the Xian city wall
GateHouse along the Xian city wall
People on bicycles
Cycling Tour on Xian city wall in China
Wedding on Xian city wall
Wedding on Xian city wall
wearing a mask riding a bike
Smog levels are a little high, so wear your mask

Have fun on Xian City Wall

Tara and Maura on the Xian City Wall
Tara and Maura on the Xian City Wall

One of the stops along the cycle tour was a shop where you could dress up in a traditional costume.

It was a lot of fun choosing the colour and headdress for photos.

Large group of Chinese tourists on Xian City Wall
Smile, say Cheese

Cycling, cycling, and more cycling. “Are we there yet?”

But wait, we look up, and at the West Gate, we see a massive throng of Chinese tourists.

What to do?

Terry being the quick thinker, jumped off his bike and stood at the front with the camera held high and shouted: “smile, everyone.”

To their amazement, giggles and laughter, we got a great photograph.

Take in the Views from Xian City Wall

Temple inside the Xian City Wall
Temple inside the Xian City Wall

As you continue your cycle tour, stop and peek over the side of the wall.

Here you can see temples, local markets and the day-to-day life of Xian city.

Looking for a place to stay inside the city wall of Xian. Book HNA Hotel or the Sofitel.

Use a favourite of ours to get a 10% discount. Just click here on Booking.com Yes, it’s worth it.

2. Try a Chinese Sandwich

Two ladies at a table with food
Trying a Chinese Pulled Pork Sandwich

Before your next stop in Xian city, try a local dish, the “Chinese sandwich.”

It is the size of a large bun, the size and shape of an English muffin filled with pulled pork and is best accompanied by milky rice wine.

The sandwich is made fresh while you wait, and sometimes there is a queue.

A meal deal for only CNY15 (USD1)

3. Find the Bell Tower and Drum Tower of Xian

Bell Tower in Xian
Bell Tower, Xian

At first glance, the building called the Bell Tower, with its Drum Tower nearby, makes an imposing pair of beautiful Chinese architecture.

The towers were built in 1384 during the Ming Dynasty. But with the growth of the city, the Bell Tower was moved in 1582 to be 1,000 meters away from the Drum Tower.

The height of both towers makes them easy to find in the city of Xian.

Both Xian towers can be climbed for views over Xian. Make sure to allow at least an hour or more in the summer months and on national Chinese holidays.

4. Shopping in the Muslim Quarter

Toffee being stretched and pulled
Toffee being stretched and pulled
Trimming meat for buyers
Trimming meat for buyers
Shopping in Xian city Muslim Quarter
Shopping in Xian city Muslim Quarter

To find the Muslim Quarter in Xian city, just look for the Bell Tower and Drum Tower.

It’s here you will find the entrance to a very busy Muslim quarter with souvenir and food shops. At times you feel you are in a Turkish Bazaar with lots of wonderful smells and activity.

Who would have thought we would find a Muslim Quarter in the middle of a Chinese city.

We found it is easy to spend a few hours here, to enjoy a delicious meal and then return in the evening.

Muslim Culture and History Museum of Xian is also a must-see when in Xian city.


5. What to Expect When Visiting the Terracotta Warriors

Up Close with a Terracotta Warrior, Xian
Up Close with a Terracotta Warrior, Xian

The Terracotta Warriors is about an hour’s travel from Xian city.

And with the airport being closer to the Terracotta Warriors than Xian city is probably one of the main reasons tour groups do not include Xian city on their tour itinerary.

(We think tourists are missing out on what Xian city has to offer.)

Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor

However, it is the mausoleum constructed and protected by the Terracotta Warriors for Emperor Qin Shi Huang, which makes a visit here so worthwhile.

Visiting the site of the Terracotta Warriors shows not only the detail but the volume of dedication by the craftsman to build and complete warriors, horses and weapons to guard the Qin Emperor.

It is easy to see why the Terracotta Warriors are one of the most popular tourist destinations in China.

Because the area caters for tourists, allow time for the walk from the carpark to the entrance ticket gate. From here, you will then walk a garden pathway leading to another checkpoint before you can enter this UNESCO area.

Within the grounds, you have plenty of choices to shop and eat at one of the many tourist shops.

1. View the Terracotta Cinema first

While the cinema is a good place to start giving you a history of how the terracotta warriors were discovered, reading up on Google first would be just as good.

The quick 10-minute movie seriously needs updating along with some technological advancements. Luckily we had previously watched a documentary in New Zealand.

Let’s get to Pit One before the crowds finish their lunch.

2. Visit Terracotta Warriors Pit One

Terracotta Warriors Pit One

What we loved about Pit One, the largest pit, was the original well where the local farmers first discovered the Warriors in 1974.

Continued excavation has revealed the many soldiers and horses, gated entrances and the collapsed roofs surrounding the Mausoleum of the first Qin Emperor.

Today, work still continues each day in this pit.

3. Visit Terracotta Warriors Pit Two

Horses of the Terracotta Warriors
Horses of the Terracotta Warriors

Pit Two, although smaller, holds cabinets showing the various warriors, horsemen, archers, and officers, along with their weapons.

This Pit has a lot more variety of items to read about, especially the technology used back in 210 BC.

The Chinese used a thin coating of chromium to keep their weapons sharp. A process thought to be a discovery in the 1950s by the Americans.


4. Visit Terracotta Warriors Pit Three and the Warriors Museum

Pit 3 has even more of the Warriors, plus an on-site museum providing more information.

5. Have some fun as a Terracotta Warrior

Terry dressing up as a Terracotta Warrior
Terry dressing up as a Terracotta Warrior

But wait, who is this warrior?

One of the fun things we love at tourist centres is participating in the interactive art on display.

And it is always a great travel photo memory.


Did you know there was more to see in Xian?