5 Incredible Things You Must Do in Xi’an
August 03, 2019
Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province and eastern end to the Silk Road, was the capital city of 13 imperial dynasties, the most for any city, and many ancient structures are preserved. Xi’an is located in north central China, and is a popular tourist destination with foreigners and locals alike today. Let me help in your planning for your first visit to this city with historical and cultural significance. The following are 5 things you must do when visiting Xi’an.
#1 – Visit the Terracotta Army & the First Emperor’s Mausoleum Site Park
The only reason Xi’an made it into my bucket list was due to the Terracotta Army. The Terracotta Army is commissioned by the First Emperor of China, Qin Shihuang, to protect him in the afterlife. Thousands of armies, of which many have not been uncovered today, are strategically placed in a direction towards his tomb. What’s interesting is that their faces are modelled after Emperor Qin Shihuang’s actual army during those days so you won’t find two of the same!
Known in history as Lishan Park, the First Emperor’s Mausoleum Site Park covers an area of 2.26 square kilometres and is located about 1.5 kilometres west of the Terracotta Army. It is the biggest mausoleum in China and contains the richest collection of burial objects ever recorded in Chinese history. There is no doubt that Lishan Park is a valuable quintessence of mausoleum in Qin dynasty. It reflects the culture of a generation. All the ancient cultural relics and archaeological findings provide us with important material data and information on ancient politics, economics, military, culture, art and technology.
In 1987, the First Emperor’s Mausoleum, including the Terracotta Army, were inscribed on the World Heritage List. Currently, the main attractions in the area are the grand tomb and two burial pits.
Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum
Directions: Take 306, 914 or 915 bus from the eastern square of Xi’an Railway Station.
Opening Hours: March to November 8.30am to 5pm || December to February 8.30am to 4.30pm
Admission Fee: March to November 150RMB || December to February 120RMB || Please note that during the entire visit, the ticket will be checked three times. Please keep your ticket while at the museum.
#2 – Hike Mount Huashan
Located 120 kilometres from the city of Xi’an, Mount Huashan is the most dangerous hike in the world. From the ticketing counter at Mount Huashan, depending on which peak you’re interested in going, you’ll take different buses up to the cable car station. There is a total of 5 peaks atop Mount Huashan. The shuttle bus from the ticketing counter to North Peak cable car base station takes approximately 20 minutes, and a further 15 minutes is required from the cable car base station up to the peak. If you’re hiking on foot, it takes around 6 hours. On the other hand, the shuttle bus from the ticketing counter to West Peak cable car base station takes around 40 minutes while the cable car ride up to the peak takes roughly 20 minutes. You’ll have to climb another 30 minutes up to the West Peak.
If you do not have sufficient time to explore Mount Huashan, I recommend taking the cable car to the West Peak because it’s conveniently connected to the South Peak, the East Peak, and the Middle Peak. You’ll get to cover almost all the peaks except for the North Peak.
#3 – Cycle on the Ancient City Wall
Xi’an City Wall and Beilin Museum Historical and Cultural Scenic Area is honoured as a national 4A level scenic spot. The city wall is 13.74 kilometres long, and it is by far the largest and most intact ancient city construction all over the world. Beilin museum covers an area of 34,667 square metres and houses a collection of ancient epitaphs and stone statues. It would take too long to explore the entire city wall and scenic area on foot, so I decided to rent a bicycle. It’s a great way to take in all the city’s beautiful scenery from an elevated perspective.
You’ll come across major landmarks such as the Bell Tower, the Drum Tower, the Great Mosque, Guangren Lama Monastery and Revolution Park, just to name a few. If I remember correctly, there is a total of 18 gates around the city wall. The most prominent one is the Yongning Gate aka the South Gate because Xi’an’s cultural square is located right in front of this gate.
Xi’an City Wall
Directions: There are many city buses that stop at the East Gate, West Gate, South Gate, North Gate and the Wenchang Gate. As for the subway, take line 2 and get off at Yongning Gate station or Anyuan Gate station.
South Gate 8am to 12midnight all year round.
Wenchang Gate, Heping Gate, Shangde Gate, East Gate, West Gate, North Gate, Hanguang Gate and Zhongshan Gate 8am to 7pm from 1 May to 31 October and 8am to 6pm from 1 November to 30 April.
Beilin Museum 8am to 6pm all year round.
#4 – Visit the Small Wild Goose Pagoda & the Big Wild Goose Pagoda
The Small Wild Goose Pagoda is a Buddhist pagoda which has survived from the Tang Dynasty. You can learn about the history and culture of Xi’an by visiting the pagoda and the Xi’an Museum situated southwest of the temple. The Small Wild Goose Pagoda is not as famous as the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, but is more peaceful.
The Big Wild Goose Pagoda, originally built in 652 during the reign of Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty, functioned to collect Buddhist materials that were taken from India by the hierarch Xuanzang. It was first built to a height of 60 metres with five storeys, and is now 64.5 metres high with an additional two storeys. You can ascend the pagoda for a panoramic view of the city.
Small Wild Goose Pagoda
Address: 72 Youyi West Road, Beilin Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China
Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Address: 1 Ci’en Road, Xiao Zhai Shang Ye Jie, Yanta Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China
#5 – Feast on Xi’an’s Delicacies at the Muslim Quarter
Xi’an might be one of China’s most famous cities for street food. There are lots of food you can try at the Muslim Quarter (回民街) such as the BBQ lamb skewers, biang biang noodles, soup-filled dumplings, mala beancurd, osmanthus rice cake, and more. I was lucky that the hotel I stayed in was of walking distance from the Muslim Quarter, so I settled my dinner there every single night.
Apart from the things that I’ve recommended, there are other attractions such as the Yuanjia Village and the Yangling Mausoleum that you can visit if you have more time in Xi’an. It’s a city worth checking out, and I’m quite certain that you’ll be as fascinated as I was.