Hands down, Xi’an is one of my favorite places I’ve traveled to in China. The city has something so unique and special about it that you simply cannot find anywhere else! Due to its boom in the Tang Dynasty, when Arabian and Persian traders carried on business and settled in the city, the Muslim influence is still visible today in the architecture, lifestyle and food culture of Xi’an. Therefore, every traveler should save this Xi’an itinerary and put the city on their bucket list!
Here’s my Xi’an itinerary if you want to experience everything with only a limited time frame!
Start your journey at the famous Muslim Quarter of Xi’an. I find this part of the city’s history the most intriguing since this quarter was established by Muslim merchants from the Middle East who came to Xi’an, then called Chang’an, and stayed there. It was the first city in China to be introduced to Islam. Today Xi’an’s Muslim community is referred to as the “Hui” minority group with around 50,000 estimated members in Xi’an alone.
How to get there: Get off at subway station Bell Tower Station.
Why visit the Muslim Quarter? It’s a bustling hub with Muslim food and souvenir markets! It’s the perfect place to get lost and try street food, buy the greatest souvenirs or simply people-watch and take photos! Come here during the day and in the evenings – it’s always lively and lots of fun!
The Great Mosque
There are about ten mosques in this area, the Great Mosque being the oldest and largest. It’s a fascinating clash with the usually so Buddhist China or Confucius temples you see in other cities. Just like in other mosques there are gender segregated areas and some where you need to take your shoes off. Always be respectful!
How to get there: Take bus Take bus 4, 7, 32, 201, 215, 222, 251, 252 or Tourism Bus No. 8 (610) and get off at Zhonglou (Bell Tower) Station.
Xi’an City Wall
Xi’an’s city wall is one of the most famous in the country since it is the most complete city wall that has survived in China. It was built during the old Tang Dynasty (618-907). Today, you can rent bicycles and ride on top of the walls or simply take a relaxed stroll. At the south gate, you get to see the changing of the guards at 09:30, 15:30, and 18:40 daily. The wall is not only breathtaking during the day but turns into a real gem during nighttime. If you want to walk the entire city wall circle, plan at least 3.5 hours on foot.
Start your journey at the South Gate: Subway Line 2, get off at Yongningmen
Drum Tower 鼓楼 & Bell Tower 钟楼
Both towers had significant roles back in the day when Xi’an was the capital of the Chinese empire. The Bell Tower marks the center of the ancient capital, whereas the Drum Tower is located just northwest of the Bell Tower. The Drum Tower was used to tell the time as well as for emergency situations. Furthermore, the Drum Tower is home to the largest drum in China and also holds musical performances with musicians dressed up in traditional clothes playing traditional instruments. It’s an absolutely amazing experience! Since the Bell Tower marks the center of the city, you have spectacular 360-views from the top!
How to get there: Take Subway Line 2 and get off at Bell Tower Station.
Big Goose Pagoda
This pagoda was one of my favorite parts of Xi’an! It’s an important place for Buddhists and also includes the Da Ci’en Temple complex. The pagoda itself was built in 652 and used to collect Buddhist relics and scripts from India. I loved wandering around this beautiful area and especially enjoyed the numerous bronze statues depicting what life was like during the famous Tang Dynasty when Xi’an was one of the most prosperous cities of its time.
How to get there: Take Subway Line 2 to Xiaozhai Station (Exit C) and walk eastward for 10 minutes.
A visit to Xi’an wouldn’t be a true visit if you don’t get a chance to see the world-famous Terracotta Warriors! To date, over 7,000 pottery soldiers, horses, chariots, and even weapons have been unearthed here with excavations still ongoing and new relics found regularly! Being all hyped up, this site left me a little disappointed. However, it’s still a fascinating attraction and should absolutely not be missed when in Xi’an!
How to get there: Since this site is a little outside of Xi’an, I decided to take a taxi from downtown to the site which costs around 200 RMB. However, there are also buses going there for much cheaper but you need to change buses – not ideal if you cannot speak Chinese!
Since the Banpo Museum is located in the same area as the Terracotta Warriors, I advise you to visit the both locations on the same day – saves you cab money! This museum was built at the base of the excavations of the Banpo site, where the Yangshao Culture lived about 6,000 years ago. That’s why Banpo is also referred to as the “birthplace of Chinese civilization”. If you are interested in Chinese culture and history, this is a site you must absolutely visit since it features ancient relics and a replica of a Yangshuo village.
How to get there: Take Subway Line 1 to get off at Banpo Station, get out from Exit A, keep walking 984 feet (360 meters)
Bonus: Xi’an Foodporn
I would go back to Xi’an just for the food! The Muslim Quarter will be your best friend when you’re looking for lip-smackin’ street food at any time during the day or night! Be sure to try lamp kebab sticks as well as “Liangpi” noodles!
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