Terracotta Army Xian China

14 Best Things To Do In Xi’an + Local Food

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Discover best things to do in Xi’an and find out interesting local food to enjoy. Information about trains and how many days for visiting is also provided.

Why go to Xi’an?

When my husband went to China for the first time, since we were in the east, he hesitated to go west because it would be a long journey. He wanted to visit the main cities in the east first, and then go west when he would come to China next time.

xian huaqing palace pond china

When we were having dinner with a friend in Beijing, my husband asked my friend, “Is Xi’an worth visiting?” My friend said, “If you want to know about China’s 500-year history, you can visit Beijing, if you want to understand China’s 5,000-year history, then you need to go to Xi’an.” After hearing this, my husband decided to go to Xi’an.

xian panoramic view china

Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, is one of the important central cities in western China. Shaanxi Province has produced many film celebrities. The famous director Zhang Yimou is one of the representative figures who went from Xi’an to the entire Chinese film industry and to the international film industry.

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Xi’an was the ancient capital of 13 dynasties and the starting point of the ancient Silk Road. It was listed as a world cultural heritage by UNESCO in 1981.

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The first person in history to make Xi’an a capital was King Wu of the Western Zhou Dynasty around 1100 BC. Later Xi’an is well known in the world because of the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang who unified China in 221 BC.

xian first qin emperor mausoleum

Go to Xi’an by train

My husband and I traveled from Beijing to Xi’an on a sleeper train. In China, train is one of the most convenient options for long-distance transportation. As long as there are not some very slow trains, the departure and arrival times of other trains are very punctual, and there are few delays.

xian china taiji yin yang

If you want to ensure speed and be economical and comfortable, you can choose the hard sleeper on the night express train, and you will arrive at your destination around 1000 kilometers in one night on the sleeper. In addition to saving time, you can also save an extra night of hotel expenses.

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If you want to be more comfortable, you can choose a soft sleeper. There are bunk beds in one space, with a total of 4 beds in one compartment, and the beds are more comfortable than hard sleepers. If you want to save time, you can choose the high-speed train.

xian huaqing palace leaves

We bought a lot of snacks to take with us and eat on the train. On the way, my husband found that so many people were eating instant noodles with boiled water on the train. He thought it was very interesting and really convenient. He wanted to make instant noodles once on the train next time.

xian huaqing palace pond

Best things to do in Xi’an

Terracotta Army

Built from 246 to 208 BC, the Terracotta Army are funerary objects in the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang. They were first accidentally discovered by a farmer in 1974. More than 8,000 terracotta warriors and horses have been excavated so far in three tunnels. The details of each terracotta warrior are different and lifelike.

terracotta army xian china tunnel

Big Wild Goose Tower

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda was built in 652 AD during the Tang Dynasty. The tower is 64 meters high. The 7-story wooden tower used to preserve and translate Buddhist scriptures. Visitors can appreciate the different styles of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda whether it is day or night.

xian big wild goose tower

During the day, from the viewing platform at the top of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, you can see the panorama of the entire Xi’an city, and at night you can enjoy the light show of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

big wild goose tower

Small Wild Goose Pagoda

The Small Wild Goose Pagoda was built in the Tang Dynasty in 707, slightly later than the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. Although the Small Wild Goose Pagoda has 15 floors, it is only 43 meters high, which is shorter than the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

xian small wild goose tower

Though both were built to preserve and translate Buddhist scriptures, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda and the Small Wild Goose Pagoda belong to different temples. Unlike the majestic Big Wild Goose Pagoda, the Small Wild Goose Pagoda is more delicate and slenderer. The Small Wild Goose Pagoda, like the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, has a viewing platform, which is a good place to overlook the entire city of Xi’an.

Bell tower

The Bell Tower in Xi’an was built in 1384 in the Ming Dynasty, and it is a Ming and Qing style wooden building. Among the existing bell towers in China, the one in Xi’an is the largest and best preserved. The bell tower is 36 meters high, and a huge clock hangs inside, which was the clock of the whole city in ancient times. In ancient times, bells rang at specific times of the day to tell people the time.

Drum tower

The Drum Tower in Xi’an, built in 1380 during the Ming Dynasty. Like the Bell Tower, the drum tower is also a wooden building of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The Drum Tower is 36 meters high as the Bell Tower, and the big drum of the Drum Tower would be struck every day at sunrise and sunset.

xian drum tower china

When there was important information in ancient times, the big drum will also be struck, so the ancient officials and people’s lives are inseparable from the Drum Tower. Today, there are ancient drum music performances in the Drum Tower, and tourists can feel the charm of ancient Chinese music culture.

City wall

The city wall of Xi’an was built in the Ming Dynasty. The wall is 12 meters high. Like the ancient city walls of many European cities, it is the city’s military defense system. The city wall of Xi’an has four main city gates in ancient times, and in addition to the observation deck, there are also defensive facilities such as archery towers, enemy towers, and turrets, which are worth visiting for tourists.

Daming Palace

Daming Palace was first built in 634. It was the imperial palace of the Tang Dynasty. A total of 17 emperors handled state affairs here. The Daming Palace is mainly divided into two parts, the part where the emperor works and the part where he lives and entertains. The office part consists of three palaces forming the front court, while the residential and entertainment part consists of garden areas and other palaces to form the inner courtyard. After 234 years as the ruling center of the country, Daming Palace was finally destroyed in several wars since 880.

Xi’an Museum

For tourists who like museums, Xi’an Museum is worth visiting. Because there are various historical relics such as pottery figurines, bronzes, calligraphy and paintings, and cultural relics. As the Small Wild Goose Pagoda and the ruins of Tang Jianfu Temple are also here, tourists can plan in advance to visit together. If you want to have a deeper understanding of history, it is often a good way to go to museums to see collections and exhibitions. In addition to various regular exhibitions, Xi’an Museum also has some special exhibitions and temporary exhibitions, which are also worth visiting.

Huaqing Palace

The name of Huaqing Palace is the collective name of Huaqing Pool + Lishan. Huaqing Pool is the place where the emperor went on vacation. It was built in 644 with magnificent architecture and is famous for its hot springs. Huaqing Pool has beautiful scenery, and October is a good time to visit. In ancient times, the emperor Tang Xuanzong visited here every year in October.

xian huaqing palace fountain china

Muslim Quarter

Xi’an is one of the cities in China where the Hui people gather. The place where the Hui people gather is Huimin Street (Muslim Quarter), where you can experience the cultural life of the Hui people and taste their special food.

xian muslim quarter china

Great Mosque

The Great Mosque was built in 742. This mosque is not only ancient, but more importantly, its architecture is very distinctive. The temple combines Islamic and Chinese ancient architecture, and the wood carving craftsmanship in the temple is very exquisite.

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There is an ancient well in the middle of the courtyard of the temple. The water in the ancient well is cherished by Muslims as holy water.

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The Beilin is the museum with the largest collection of ancient stone inscriptions in China. There are not only the steles of the calligrapher and celebrities, but also the epitaphs of the steles. These steles record famous quotes, poems, and articles.

xian beilin china

Visitors can not only appreciate the works of famous calligraphers and stone carving artists of different dynasties in China, but also feel the distinctive historical and cultural atmosphere in this unique garden in the Beilin.

xian beilin steles china

Stone Sculpture Exhibition Hall

Inside the Beilin, there is also the Stone Sculpture Exhibition Hall, which has more than one hundred stone sculpture related to Buddhism, Taoism, etc.

xian stone sculpture exhibition hall

Tang Paradise

Tang Paradise was built in 2004, it is a theme park that showcases the style of the Tang Dynasty. In the Tang Paradise, cultural commerce, sports and entertainment, catering and accommodation are integrated into one, and it is a good place for tourists to go on vacation and experience the culture of the Tang Dynasty.

Transportation in Xi’an

It is very convenient to take a bus in Xi’an, and many scenic spots can be reached by bus. Those who take the bus can also take a look at the cityscape of the whole city, especially since locals are usually on the bus. This allows you to see the daily life of the locals.

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I once asked another friend who has been to Xi’an if she has any suggestion for us, or if there is anything we need to pay attention to. My friend said that there is only one thing to pay attention to. Don’t take those small three-wheeled motorcycle. She felt that it was unsafe. My husband and I remember it very well, and we were determined not to ride a small three-wheeled motorcycle in Xi’an.

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When we were going to take the bus to the train station, we got on a branch line of a line. As a result, the main line of this line had a stop at the train station, but the branch line went in the other direction. When we got off the bus, there were no other buses going to the train station, no taxis passing by, only small three-wheeled motorcycles. We were quite nervous when we were on the small three-wheeled motorcycle. Finally, we arrived safely at Xi’an Railway Station.

Xi’an local food

When one comes to Xi’an, besides visiting famous scenic spots, eating has become the top priority, which cannot be missed. The food in Xi’an is very famous throughout China, and the snacks in Xi’an are even more unique.

xian baozi food china

Rou Jia Mo

The Rou Jia Mo in Xi’an is more like Kebab. The outside is somewhat similar to bread. It is made of flour that is fermented and steamed. The inside is lamb, pork or beef, and there are various side dishes and seasonings inside. Xi’an’s Rou Jia Mo is delicious and unique, and it entered the list of intangible cultural heritage in 2016. Visitors to Xi’an should not miss the characteristic traditional food of Rou Jia Mo.


The Liangpi in Xi’an is a type of noodle that is smooth and translucent, and it is chewy. There are two main types of Liangpi: Liangpi mixed with sauce and Liangpi mixed with vinegar. The Liangpi mixed with sauce depends on the taste of the sauce, which is generally spicy. The corresponding side dishes can alleviate the heavy taste of the sauce and achieve a proper fusion. Vinegar-mixed Liangpi embodies the dietary characteristics of western China who like the sour taste of vinegar, and it is very refreshing with side dishes.

Lamb Paomo

Lamb Paomo is a local traditional food in Xi’an. It has a long history and can be traced back to the 11th century BC. It was first served to the emperor in the palace. Many ancient books have mentioned this dish. Lamb Paomo are made of relatively tender lamb, steamed buns, delicious soup, rich side dishes and seasonings to make a rich, mellow and fragrant broth.

Saozi noodles

Saozi noodles are generally handmade with high-gluten noodles, and sauces, seasonings and ingredients are added to the noodles. The taste is complex and delicious due to the rich seasoning and ingredients. Because there is often chili oil, pepper powder and scallions in the seasoning, the saozi noodles are spicy and very attractive. Some people think that Saozi noodles come from the “Longevity Noodles” in the Tang Dynasty, so in Shaanxi, besides birthdays, it is a must-have choice for weddings, funerals, and festivals.

Hot and sour powder

Although hot and sour powder originated in Sichuan, Shaanxi hot and sour powder also has its own characteristics due to the different types of chili powder used. Hot and sour noodles can reflect the western food culture of Xi’an. This dish combines the three elements of noodles, sour and spicy.

The hot and sour noodles are made of mung bean starch and have a chewy texture. The soup of hot and sour powder is configured with vinegar, chili oil, pepper powder and other seasonings, which fill this dish with a unique taste. Furthermore, hot and sour powder will have different toppings, making this dish rich despite being quick and easy.

My husband is not acclimatized in Xi’an, he had pain in the belly when he eats everything, from fast food to fancy restaurants, no matter what he eats, he will rush to the toilet in no time. The whole trip to Xi’an was a huge drain on his body and mind. He said that Xi’an was beautiful, but the constant pain was unbearable. But at the end, I asked him if he would like to come to Xi’an again in the future? He said he wanted to come again.

How many days for visiting Xi’an are needed?

Xi’an is a large city. My husband and I visited Xi’an for 3 days, and it felt like the time was just right. If you only visit for two days, it will be very hasty, and you may miss some attractions. If you visit for 4 days, you will be more relaxed and you can see more details.

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So, our suggestion is to visit Xi’an in 3-4 days is a good choice. Of course, the longer the time, the more places you can see, and you can learn more about the customs, culture and history of a place. If the time is limited, we suggest that visiting Xi’an in 3 days is a good choice.

xian huaqing palace steles china

Author: Hua

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