things to do in Xi'an

The 21 Best Things to Do in Xi’an in 2024

Stepping into Xi’an is like stepping into a living history book. This ancient city, once the starting point of the Silk Road, is a treasure trove of cultural and historical wonders.

From the awe-inspiring Terracotta Army, a silent army of thousands guarding Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s tomb, to the grandeur of the ancient city walls that still encircle the old town, Xi’an is a testament to China’s rich past.

But it’s not just history that captivates; the city’s vibrant Muslim Quarter offers a sensory feast of sights, sounds, and flavors.

In this blog, I’ve curated a list of the 21 best things to do in Xi’an, from exploring ancient wonders to savoring local delicacies. I’ve also included accommodation options that promise comfort and convenience. I hope this guide will inspire and inform your travels in this remarkable city!

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🌟 Xian Travel Planning Guide

Considering a last-minute trip to Xian?

🇨🇳 Top Activities and Tours in Xian:

1. Mini Group Xian Day Tour to Terracotta Army, City Wall, Pagoda and Muslim Bazaar
2. Private Customizable Terracotta Warriors Full Day Tour
3. Xi’an Evening Food Tour by TukTuk
4. Private Day Trip to Mount Hua from Xi’an with English Driver


🏨Top Hotels in Xi’an:

EASTERN HOUSE (⭐️ 4.7 budget-friendly)
Canopy by Hilton Xi’an Qujiang (⭐️ 4.8 luxury)
Angsana Xi’an Lintong (⭐️ 4.8 mid-range)

🌐Make sure to install ExpressVPN in advance for unrestricted internet access during your stay in China!

🌏 Where is Xian Located

Xi’an is located in the central part of China, serving as the capital of Shaanxi Province. Geographically, it is situated on the Guanzhong Plain, which lies in the central region of the country. The city is positioned about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) southwest of Beijing and roughly 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) northwest of Shanghai.

Xi’an is historically significant as it was the eastern terminus of the Silk Road and the capital of several of China’s most important dynasties, including the Zhou, Qin, Han, and Tang. Today, it is known for its rich cultural heritage, including the famous Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, and serves as an important cultural, industrial, and educational center in China.

👑 Best Things to Do in Xi’an

1. Terracotta Army (兵马俑)

The Terracotta Army (Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum Site Museum) is located in Lintong District, east of Xi’an, about an hour’s drive from the city center. Each year, it attracts millions of domestic and international tourists who come specifically to see this “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

Despite being buried underground for thousands of years, the facial expressions of the figures are still lifelike, and the details of their clothing are clearly visible, even down to the lines on the soles of their shoes.

The museum is organized into Terracotta Warriors Pit 1, Pit 2, Pit 3, and the Bronze Chariots and Horses Exhibition Hall.

Pit 1 showcases thousands of warriors in a vast, impressive display. Pit 2 is not fully excavated yet but features more refined soldier types, including a green-faced warrior now at the Shaanxi History Museum. Pit 3, the smallest and most unique, houses the “command center” warriors and chariots not found in the other pits.

Beyond the main pits, the Bronze Chariots and Horses Exhibition Hall displays an intricately detailed bronze chariot, made from 3,000 pieces, noted as one of the earliest, largest, and best-preserved bronze chariots in Chinese archaeology.

✅Notes: I recommend hiring an informed guide for your visit to the Terracotta Army to gain a deeper understanding. Without proper guidance, it might seem like just looking at dirt pits and stone figures. Alternatively, you could study the Terracotta Army before your visit.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 120
⏰Opening hours: 8:30 – 18:30
🚗How to get there: Take metro line 9 to Huaqing Pool Station, and then take Lintong Bus 602 to get there.

👉 Book Terracotta Warriors Full Day Tour on Viator

2. Huaqing Pool (华清宫)

Huaqing Pool, historically a royal bathing and leisure site, is renowned for the romantic love story of Tang Emperor Xuanzong and his concubine Yang Yuhuan. The main highlight is the hot springs, but there are also beautiful gardens, ancient architecture, and historical trees and plants. The classical Tang-style buildings draw many visitors who dress in traditional Hanfu for photos.

The stage play “The Song of Everlasting Sorrow” is a must-see when visiting Huaqing Palace.

The performance takes place on an outdoor stage with a fully concealed design, set against the backdrop of Mount Lis and the Nine-Dragon Lake. With exquisite lighting and music design, the entire story is portrayed as if in a fairyland. When Yang Yuhuan, draped in long gauze, emerges gracefully from the lake surrounded by lotus flowers, the magnificent prosperity of the Tang Dynasty and the poignant love story blend together, creating a visual feast.

P.S. Both Huaqing Pool and the Terracotta Army are situated at the foot of Mount Li in Lintong District. If you’re taking the bus from Xi’an to the Terracotta Army, you’ll pass by Huaqing Pool. For a convenient one-day trip, visit Huaqing Pool in the morning and then head to the Terracotta Army in the afternoon.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 120; The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: CNY 348
⏰Opening hours: 7:30 – 18:00
🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 9 to Huaqing Pool Station.

👉 Book The Song of Everlasting Sorrow Show Ticket on Trip

3. Banpo Museum (西安半坡遗址博物馆)

The Banpo Museum in Xi’an is the largest and best-preserved site of a matriarchal clan village in the Yellow River Basin, with a history of 6,000 years.

The museum, which holds over 18,000 artifacts, displays the flourishing matriarchal society of that era through its exhibits of the site, excavated relics, and additional displays.

It features two Exhibition Halls, a Site Hall, and the Banpo Matriarchal Clan Community Village.

The first Exhibition Hall contains tools and household items used by the ancient Banpo people, providing insights into their daily lives and activities. The second Exhibition Hall hosts temporary exhibitions on ethnology, folklore, and prehistoric art.

The Site Hall showcases the ancient village, illustrating the Banpo people’s village layout, house construction, rituals, and burials. There is also a small pottery-making site.

The most precious artifact is the Human Face Fish Pattern Basin, a common item among the Banpo people, believed to symbolize their wish for prosperity and many children.

The Banpo Matriarchal Clan Community Village is quite interesting, with reconstructed ancient houses and a quiet garden area, though it is filled with birds, making the place lively with their chirping.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 55
⏰Opening hours: 08:00 – 17:30
🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 1 and get off at Banpo Station, Exit A.

4. Bell and Drum Tower (钟鼓楼)

The Bell and Drum Towers are located in the center of Xi’an City Wall, facing each other across the street, with only a 5-minute walk between them. These two Ming Dynasty buildings complement each other and are among the largest and best-preserved bell and drum towers in China.

In ancient times, the Bell and Drum Towers served to transmit signals and keep time. Today, the towers house exhibitions on their history, along with some calligraphy, paintings, and Ming and Qing Dynasty furniture. Visitors can choose to climb one of the towers to overlook the streets of Xi’an.

Besides admiring the architecture and capturing the night scenery, visiting the Bell and Drum Towers offers another worthwhile experience: listening to ancient music performances. The Bell Tower hosts performances with chimes every day, with six sessions in total, each featuring four pieces of music in rotation, lasting 10-15 minutes per session.

Similarly, the Drum Tower also has drum performances, also six times a day. It’s a rare experience to listen to music echoing from the corridors of history in these ancient towers.

Additionally, the Bell and Drum Towers mark the time with the “Evening Drum and Morning Bell” ceremony. Every day at 9:00/12:00/15:00, the Jingyun Bell in the Bell Tower rings 24 times for the “Morning Bell.” At 18:00 daily, the 24 solar term drums on the Drum Tower beat together, followed by the evening drum, ringing 24 times to mark the end of the day.

🎫Ticket:

  • Drum Tower only: CNY 30
  • Bell Tower only: CNY 30
  • Joint ticket of Bell and Drum Tower: CNY 50

⏰Opening hours: 8:30 – 21:30
🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 2 and get off at Zhonglou Station.

5. Shaanxi History Museum (陕西历史博物馆)

A visit to the Shaanxi History Museum in Xi’an is like peeling back layers of history to reveal the profound heritage of the region. Spanning over a million years from the primitive society of Lantian Man to the cultural treasures of the Sui, Tang, and Five Dynasties, the museum showcases nearly 400,000 exhibits, including paintings, bronze ware, and precious metals and stones.

The museum is divided into three main exhibition halls: the Permanent Exhibition Halls, the Treasures of Great Tang Dynasty, and the Exhibition Hall for Mural Paintings of Tang Dynasty.

The Permanent Exhibition Halls provide a timeline of Shaanxi’s culture, starting from the Stone Age, and entry is free. The latter two require separate tickets.

The Treasures of Great Tang Dynasty, located on the west side of the museum, features over 300 selected artifacts primarily made of gold and silver from the more than 1,000 items unearthed from the Hejiacun tomb, shining with brilliance and captivating visitors.

The underground floor of the east exhibition hall houses the Exhibition Hall for Mural Paintings of Tang Dynasty. Due to the rarity of surviving paper and silk paintings from the Tang Dynasty, our understanding of Tang Dynasty painting and social life heavily relies on tomb murals. These murals are extremely fragile and require strict preservation conditions, making it a rare privilege to appreciate them in a museum setting.

✅Notes: It is highly recommended to hire a guide when visiting the museum, as simply viewing the exhibits may not fully convey the stories and values behind them.

🎫Entrance fee: free
🎫Treasures of Great Tang Dynasty ticket: CNY 30
🎫Exhibition Hall for Mural Paintings of Tang Dynasty ticket: CNY 270
⏰Opening hours: 9:00 – 17:30
🚗How to get there: Take Bus No. 26, 271, 701, 5, 19, 24, 30, 34, and get off at Shaanxi History Museum.

6. Xi’an City Wall (西安古城墙)

The Xi’an City Wall, constructed during the Ming Dynasty, is the largest and best-preserved city wall in China. It features various structures, including watchtowers, gate towers, archery towers, sluice towers, and corner towers.

The wall has 18 gates, four of which are ancient, with the others being later restorations. Standing proudly in the city center, the wall encircles historical areas such as the Bell and Drum Towers and the Muslim Quarter.

The wall is approximately 14 meters wide and very flat, making it perfect for renting bicycles and riding along its length. From the wall, you can enjoy views of the old cityscape inside and the modern skyscrapers outside.

The ancient city wall is now a popular leisure spot for locals, and you might spot elderly people playing the erhu or singing Qin opera at its base. For a different perspective, you can also take a boat ride on the moat surrounding the wall.

The city wall stretches nearly 14 kilometers in total. You can tour it by walking, which takes about 3 hours, cycling, which takes a bit over an hour, or by taking an electric cart, which also takes around an hour with stops for sightseeing.

If you have the time, cycling around the wall is a great experience. For a half-circuit, many choose to start at the North Gate (Anyuan Gate) and finish at the South Gate (Yongning Gate).

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 54
⏰Opening hours: 8:00 – 20:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus no. 6, 104, 206, 138, 228, 266, 229, 608 and get off at Beimenwai Station.

7. Stele Forest (碑林博物馆)

The Beilin Museum (Steles Forest) is located inside the south gate of the Xi’an City Wall. It houses a collection of stone steles from the Han Dynasty to the Ming and Qing Dynasties, featuring authentic calligraphy by famous literati and calligraphers of different periods.

The museum’s most prized possession is the Kaicheng Classics, displayed in the first exhibition hall. These are the best-preserved set of classics on stone in China, dating back over a thousand years, and are considered true national treasures.

In addition to a vast collection of calligraphy works, the museum also features stone coffins, tombstones, statues, and hitching posts from various dynasties, showcasing ancient Chinese culture.

The Beilin Museum is a must-visit for calligraphy enthusiasts. Even for someone like me who isn’t very knowledgeable about calligraphy, the museum’s powerful charm is captivating.

Hiring a guide to explain the exhibits will allow you to appreciate them even more deeply and leave you with lasting memories. The museum offers two types of guided tours: live guides and audio guides. However, it’s best to opt for a live guide for a more engaging experience.

🎫Admission ticket: Mar. – Nov.: CNY 65; Dec. – the next Feb.: CNY 50
⏰Opening hours: 8:00 – 18:30
🚗How to get there: Take bus no.258 and get off at Wen Chang Men (Wen Chang Gate) Station.

8. Shuyuanmen Ancient Cultural Street (书院门)

Shuyuanmen Ancient Cultural Street is located very close to the South Gate of the Xi’an City Wall, only 570 meters away, and the Xi’an Stele Forest Museum is also located on this street.

The street is full of cultural atmosphere, with shops on both sides and a long line of stalls in the middle, mostly selling writing brushes, ink sticks, paper, and inkstones, as well as various handicraft souvenirs such as seals, shadow puppets, xun (a musical instrument), paper-cuttings, fans, woodblock prints, large traditional Chinese paintings and oil paintings, as well as precious jade and porcelain.

The biggest feature here is the quietness; there are very few shouting shopkeepers, so you can quietly choose the cultural items you like.

For purchasing antiques, jade, and other valuable items, it’s best to bring someone who knows about these items to help you choose.

I sincerely believe that this is not just an ordinary alley. It will open up a whole new world for you.

⏰Opening hours: all-day
🚗How to get there: Take Bus No. 12, 184, 193, 600, 603, 208, 221 to Nanmen (South Gate) Stop.

9. Small Wild Goose Pagoda (小雁塔)

The Small Wild Goose Pagoda may not be as famous as the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, and of course, the surrounding tourist facilities are not as developed as those around the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. However, I believe the Small Wild Goose Pagoda is definitely worth a visit. It’s a very pure place, quiet, and you can really feel the sense of history there.

Like the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, located within the royal temple Jianfu Temple, was also built during the Tang Dynasty. It was built later than the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, in the year 707 AD, and because of its smaller size, it is called the Small Wild Goose Pagoda. It was a place for translating Buddhist scriptures.

The scenic area is surrounded by green trees, and both sides of the road are lined with variously shaped horse hitching posts collected from the folk. There are also quaint historical buildings and a serene lake, creating a very comfortable environment.

The most famous thing here is the Morning Bell Chime of the Pagoda, cast in 1192 AD. In ancient times, monks would ring the bell every morning, and the sound could be heard for several miles. Now, the bell hangs in the Bell Tower near the pagoda, and a copy of it hangs in a steel frame in the open for tourists to ring.

Xi’an Museum

It’s worth mentioning that there is a Xi’an Museum in the Small Wild Goose Pagoda Scenic Area. On the first floor, there is an exhibition of bronze mirrors and Buddhist statues, and on the second floor, there is an exhibition of jade artifacts. The basement floor displays the layout of the ancient Chang’an Palace, surrounded by some ancient pottery exhibitions. The overall layout is excellent.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: 09:00 – 18:00
🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 2 to Nanshaomen Station.

10. Yongxingfang Food Street (永兴坊)

In Xi’an, in addition to the Muslim Quarter, Yongxingfang Food Street is also a culinary hotspot.

While the Muslim Quarter offers a feast of Hui ethnic cuisine with a focus on beef and mutton, Yongxingfang gathers specialties and snacks from three regions of Central Shanxi, Southern Shaanxi, and Northern Shaanxi, with noodles, liangpi (cold noodles), and roujiamo (Chinese hamburger) being the representatives.

When you visit Yongxingfang, be sure to experience the “shuaiwanjiu” or “smashing bowls wine”. This experience is quite impressive, as the place is filled with broken wine bowls. After finishing the wine, you must vigorously smash the bowl on the ground to show your spirit. The price is also very cheap, only CNY 5 per bowl, and the wine is a light rice wine, so you don’t have to worry about getting drunk.

In the streets and lanes here, you can find traditional sugar painting stalls, as well as artisans making dough figurines and straw crafts. Additionally, you can watch traditional Huayin Shadow Puppetry, Huayin folk opera, and folk songs from Northern Shaanxi. There are also various intangible cultural heritage experiences available, making it a very interesting place to visit.

🚗How to get there: Take bus 32, 33, 47, or 263 to Zhongshanmen.

11. Defu Lane (德福巷)

Defu Lane is a famous bar street in Xi’an. At the entrance stands an imposing three-gate stone archway. The short, less than 200-meter street is flanked by charming ancient-style buildings. It is lined with numerous cafes, bars, and tea houses, each with a unique and evocative name.

During the day, Defu Lane has a quiet and artistic vibe, with only a few cafes open. However, at night, the street becomes lively and crowded as it turns into a bustling bar district. Male bartenders can be seen at the entrances inviting people in, and nearly every bar features outdoor seating.

🚗How to get there: Take bus 184, 501, 706, or 707 and get off at Fenxiang Station.

12. Muslim Quarter (回民街)

Muslim Quarter is located next to the Drum Tower and is the most famous snack street in Xi’an, offering a wide variety of specialty snacks. The buildings on the Muslim Quarter are in Islamic style, and the entire street is filled with loud and distinctive cries from vendors. Although it’s crowded, the experience is quite enjoyable.

As its name implies, the Muslim Quarter offers traditional halal cuisine. Popular dishes include lamb and beef pita bread soup, roasted lamb shanks, stewed lamb offal, lamb patties, spicy soup, sour soup dumplings, and beef noodles. The lamb and beef pita bread soup is a must-try, representing Xi’an’s signature snacks.

The vibrant street life is also worth soaking in. Muslim vendors expertly craft their dishes on the street, making noodles, grilling skewers, and cutting Osmanthus jelly. Watching the food preparation process is not only entertaining but also a fantastic way to immerse yourself in Xi’an’s culinary culture.

P.S. The alleys of the Muslim Quarter are complex and interconnected. The deeper you explore, the more delicious and authentic the food becomes, often at more affordable prices.

🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 2 and get off at Zhonglou (Bell Tower) Station.

13. Gao’s Grand Courtyard (高家大院)

Gao’s Grand Courtyard, also known as the Gao Family Mansion, was once the home of Gao Yuesong, a Ming Dynasty official. This historic site, dating back 400 years, stands as one of Xi’an City’s most well-preserved traditional residences.

Gao’s Grand Courtyard is located on the Muslim Quarter, behind an unassuming gate. The overall style is particularly characteristic of northern Shaanxi, featuring window decorations and folk paintings. Although small, it vividly reflects the lifestyle of the northwestern region in the past. It is highly recommended to visit, and the admission fee is also affordable.

The tranquil atmosphere inside the courtyard contrasts sharply with the bustling Muslim Quarter outside. The original structure of the old house is well preserved, including the entrance rooms, guest rooms, side rooms, living room, private school, ancestral hall, and garden. Each room has a dedicated introduction.

There are also Shadow Play performances, which run every half hour. Make sure to arrive a few minutes early to wait at the entrance, as the doors close once the show begins.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 15
⏰Opening hours: 09:00 – 22:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus 4, 12, 15, 201, 215, 218, or 221 to Bell Tower Station.

14. Daming Palace Site (大明宫遗址)

The Daming Palace Site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the residence of Tang emperors and the center of state affairs for over 200 years.

The scale of the Daming Palace was more than four times that of the Forbidden City in Beijing, making it the pinnacle of ancient Chinese palace architecture. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in wars, and what remains today are ruins, reconstructed foundations, and newly built museums.

Within the Daming Palace Site Park, along with the ruins and palace foundations, you can also find Tang Dynasty artifacts excavated from the site. Although not plentiful, they are worth seeing, especially since there are free guided tours at scheduled times.

There is also a miniature landscape in the park, which accurately replicates the layout of the Daming Palace. This allows visitors to appreciate the overall architectural style and landscape features of the palace from various angles.

✅Notes: Due to the large size of the site, taking the park’s small train tour is a convenient and effortless way to explore the Daming Palace. Paid attractions within the park include the Danfeng Gate Heritage Museum, Daming Palace Heritage Museum, Archaeology Discovery Center, and all individual palaces.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 60
⏰Opening hours: 8:30 – 19:00
🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 4 to Daminggong.

15. Giant Wild Goose Pagoda (大雁塔)

The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, a renowned landmark in Xi’an, is located within the Da Ci’en Temple. It was originally built in 652 during Emperor Gaozong’s reign in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) to house the Sanskrit texts and Buddhist relics brought back by the monk Xuanzang, making it a significant example of Buddhist architecture introduced to China.

Situated inside Da Ci’en Temple, the pagoda’s exterior can be viewed with a ticket, but climbing it requires an extra fee. The temple itself is full of delightful surprises, with intricately carved exteriors and interiors, as well as beautiful gilded sculptures and murals.

Although many Tang Dynasty artists painted murals for the Da Ci’en Temple, most have been lost over time. However, the stone door lintels and frames at the four gateways of the pagoda still feature intricate Tang Dynasty line engravings.

Inside the pagoda, there isn’t much to see aside from numerous souvenir stalls on each floor and some displays and photos on the walls. The main attraction is the view from the top, offering a panoramic view of the surrounding city. A regulation in Xi’an ensures that no buildings taller than the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda are allowed in its vicinity, preserving its prominence.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 40; ascending the Pagoda: CNY 25
⏰Opening hours: 8:30 – 18:00
🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 3 & Line 4 to Dayanta Station.

16. Great Tang All Day Mall (大唐不夜城)

Today, the area around the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda has been transformed into the Great Tang All Day Mall, showcasing the flourishing Tang culture and elements.

It consists of several cultural districts, offering a fantastic nighttime scene along its 2-kilometer length. There’s food, entertainment, and various performances such as operas, singing, and acrobatics, ensuring you won’t feel tired with so much to see and do!

Recently, the Grand Tang Secret Box has become popular on Chinese social media. Two actors dressed in ancient Tang costumes host a show that combines a knowledge-testing quiz and a talk show, creating a delightful fusion of history and fashion.

The famous Tumbler Performance takes place on the west side of the North Square. A young lady in Tang attire dances gracefully on a semi-circular base without touching the ground. She may even interact with the audience by reaching out her hands.

At Kaiyuan Square, the Unbounded·Chang’an large-scale performance connects the past and present of Xi’an through the travels of the Tang poet Bai Juyi, offering a glimpse into the customs and culture of ancient and modern Xi’an.

The music fountain at the North Square is a must-visit spot! The scale and beauty of the fountain are impressive, with shows daily at 12:00-12:15, 16:00-16:15, 19:00-19:15, and 21:00-21:15.

🎫Admission ticket: free
⏰Opening hours: all day
🚗How to get there: Take Metro Line 3 & Line 4 to Dayanta Station.

17. Tang Paradise (大唐芙蓉园)

Tang Paradise, located near the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, is a royal garden built in the style of the Tang Dynasty.

The entire park is similar to the Summer Palace, extending along the central lake. It features many ancient-style buildings such as the Ziyun Building, Shinv Hall, and Fanglin Garden, all of which are grand and reflect the royal style of the prosperous Tang Dynasty.

One of the highlights of Tang Paradise is the various performances held throughout the day. These include magic shows, royal processions, and more. If you want to see the performances, be sure to grab a guide map which lists the showtimes.

I recommend visiting in the evening when the night scenery is stunning. There are various light shows, and on the North Square of the Ziyun Building, there is even a water curtain movie, showcasing the unparalleled night scenery of the park.

Some people may feel that these recreated Tang-style buildings, being relatively new, are not authentic cultural relics and may not be worth visiting. However, for me, such exquisitely crafted large-scale ancient-style gardens are still not to be missed.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 120
⏰Opening hours: 9:00 – 22:00
🚗How to get there: Take metro line 4, get off at Datang Furongyuan (Tang Paradise) Station.

18. Mount Huashan (华山)

Mount Huashan, one of China’s Five Great Mountains, is renowned for its breathtaking scenery, challenging hiking trails, and profound cultural significance. The mountain offers stunning vistas, including sheer cliffs, deep valleys, and picturesque temples clinging to steep slopes.

The most famous and exhilarating attraction is the Plank Walk, a narrow wooden walkway attached to the side of a vertical cliff, offering heart-pounding thrills and unparalleled views for the adventurous.

Mount Huashan Scenic Area consists of five main peaks: West, South, East, Central, and North. There are two primary ways to explore the area: a one-day tour or a two-day tour. For those who wish to ascend and descend the mountain in a single day, there are options for taking the cable car combined with hiking for a more relaxed experience, or for the more experienced hikers, doing the entire journey on foot.

Mount Huashan has two main cable cars: the North Peak Cable Car and the West Peak Cable Car. For a lighter trip involving only four peaks, you can choose the “West Up West Down” route. This itinerary involves taking the West Peak Cable Car up, then hiking the Plank Walk, visiting the East Peak and Central Peak, and finally descending via the West Peak Cable Car. This route takes about five hours (with four hours of hiking).

Alternatively, you can opt for the “West Up North Down” full panorama route. This involves taking the West Peak Cable Car up and descending via the North Peak Cable Car, which takes about seven hours in total.

Cable Cars:

  • West Peak Cable Car: This route offers stunning views and a shorter hike to the summit.
  • North Peak Cable Car: A more traditional route, it requires a longer hike but is popular for its scenic trails.

P.S. For those who prefer not to hike the entire way, cable cars are available to the North Peak and West Peak. This option provides a scenic and less strenuous ascent. The cable car requires an additional ticket.

Hiking Routes:

  • East Peak: Ideal for sunrise views.
  • West Peak: Known for its sunset views.
  • South Peak: The highest point, offering panoramic views.
  • North Peak: The starting point for many, accessible via cable car.

🎫Admission ticket: Mar. – Nov.: CNY 160; Dec. – Feb.: CNY 100
⏰Opening hours: all day
🚗How to get there: Take High-speed trains from Xi’an North to Huashan North. Upon arrival, take the free green Minibus Huayin 1/2 to Shengtai Guangchang.

👉 Book the Trip to Mount Hua from Xi’an on Viator

19. Famen Temple (法门寺)

Famen Temple, situated north of Fufeng County in Baoji City, lies roughly midway between Xi’an and Baoji. The temple dates back more than 1700 years, having been established at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty.

In 1987, archaeologists discovered four Buddha finger relics in the underground palace, making Famen Temple the only place in the world where such relics have been found.

The main highlight of Famen Temple is the relic of Sakyamuni’s finger bone, housed in the Namaste Dagoba within the temple. These relics are only displayed on weekends, major Buddhist festivals, and the first and fifteenth days of the lunar calendar.

Another major attraction is the Famen Temple Museum, which displays numerous valuable artifacts from the underground palace. This includes a Buddhist monk’s staff with two wheels and twelve rings, recognized as the earliest, largest, highest-ranking, and most intricately crafted Buddhist ritual instrument found globally.

The museum also showcases over 700 Tang Dynasty silk items, such as brocades, along with secret-color porcelain, glassware, and tortoiseshell Kaiyuan Tongbao coins.

🎫Admission ticket: Mar. to Nov.: CNY 100; Dec. to next Feb.: CNY 90
⏰Opening hours: 8:30 – 17:00
🚗How to get there: Take the direct tourist bus from Xi’an West Bus Station to Famen Temple.

20. Cuihua Mountain (翠华山)

Cuihua Mountain, part of the Zhongnanshan National Forest Park, is recognized as one of the top ten attractions in Xi’an. It captivates visitors with its magnificent natural scenery, particularly the Heavenly Lake and Landslide Remains scenic areas, which are not to be missed.

The Landslide Remains of Cuihua Mountain are especially unique. This geological marvel was formed by large-scale landslides caused by geological activity over millions of years, making it one of the world’s largest landslide areas. As you navigate through the jagged rocks, you might stumble upon hidden “ice caves” and “wind caves,” where the fresh, cool air will envelop you instantly.

For those who want to delve deeper into these fascinating geological features, a visit to the Qinling Zhongnanshan Global Geological Museum is highly recommended.

Additionally, Cuihua Mountain offers distinct scenery across different seasons. In the summer, the best way to enjoy it is by boating on Heavenly Lake. In winter, Cuihua Mountain transforms into a snowy wonderland within the Qinling Mountains, featuring icefalls, frozen lakes, deep snow, and a variety of winter sports facilities that will satisfy all your winter outdoor adventure desires.

🎫Admission ticket: Mar. to Nov.: CNY 65; Dec. to next Feb.: CNY 40
⏰Opening hours: 8:30 – 18:00
🚗How to get there: Take bus No. 905 and get off at Cuihuashan Station.

21. Hukou Waterfall (壶口瀑布)

Hukou Waterfall is located at the junction of Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces in the Qinjin Canyon, about 350 kilometers from Xi’an. It is renowned as a magnificent sight where the Yellow River plunges down.

The Hukou Waterfall is formed as the Yellow River abruptly narrows into a gorge after passing through the Qinjin Canyon, plunging over a cliff in a shape resembling a teapot spout, hence its name.

The waterfall is about 50 meters wide and 30 meters high, displaying a magnificent and powerful momentum. You can witness the majestic flow of the Yellow River cascading down, with the swift current splashing many mud droplets onto your face.

The best time to visit Hukou Waterfall is from September to November when the water volume is abundant, and the weather is pleasant.

Visiting during the warmer seasons allows you to see the waterfall creating a misty effect due to the abundant water flow, accompanied by a tremendous sound. In autumn, you can enjoy the surrounding red leaves along with the waterfall, while in winter, you can witness the spectacular sight of the Yellow River ice bridge and hanging ice peaks.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 90
⏰Opening hours: 8:00 – 17:00
🚗How to get there: Take a long-distance bus operating from Xian North Bus Station (城北客运站) to Hukou Waterfall Scenic Area Shaanxi (4 hours).

👉 Book Hukou Waterfall Tour From Xian on Viator

Xi’an cuisine features bold, spicy flavors with a focus on hearty, wheat-based dishes like noodles and bread. Key elements include savory broths, rich seasonings, and a blend of Chinese and Middle Eastern influences. Lamb, mutton, and beef are commonly used.

Roujiamo, a beloved Xi’an snack enjoyed by food enthusiasts, typically consists of pork belly (mostly pork, while the versions in the Muslim Quarter use beef) stewed with over 20 spices until tender, then finely chopped and served in a traditional Baiji bun.

Roujiamo generally comes in “premium” and “regular” varieties, differentiated by the quantity and quality of the meat. The premium version uses pure lean meat, while the regular version contains a mix of fat and lean meat. Some shops categorize them into three types: “regular,” “lean meat,” and “premium,” with the amount of lean meat increasing respectively.

It is best enjoyed hot, with a crispy outer bun and an inner layer soaked with rich gravy, making the meat tender yet not greasy, and providing a complex, delightful texture.

Liangpi, a popular Xi’an cold noodle dish, has been enjoyed since the Qin Dynasty due to its smooth texture and diverse preparation methods.

The most famous variant is Qinzhen Liangpi, which has a history of over 2,000 years. Prepared Liangpi is red and mixed with cucumber shreds and other vegetables in a sauce of vinegar and soy, then garnished with cilantro, minced garlic, and chili oil, resulting in a chewy and flavorful dish.

Another notable variety is Sesame Liangpi, favored by the local Muslim community, which is characterized by the addition of generous amounts of sesame paste. This gives the Liangpi a rich, thick flavor, making it even more satisfying.

Pao Mo is another must-try snack in Xi’an. The most famous variant is the Lamb Pao Mo, made with sliced lamb leg meat stewed in broth, with vermicelli added to the soup. When served, the meat is tender, the broth is rich, and it is garnished with chopped green onions and cilantro, creating an indescribably delightful aroma.

One of the unique aspects of Pao Mo is its preparation. The flatbread used in the dish is first baked and then crushed or torn into small pieces before being soaked in the broth.

When drinking the soup, it’s common to sip it slowly from the edge of the bowl to maintain a consistent flavor. If the soup becomes too greasy, eating some sugar garlic can freshen your palate.

Xi’an Biangbiang Mian is a popular noodle dish, known for its wide, hand-pulled noodles and flavorful toppings. The name “Biangbiang” comes from the sound of the noodles being slapped against the table during the hand-pulling process, which creates their distinctive width and texture.

The noodles are typically served in a savory sauce with ingredients like chili oil, garlic, vinegar, and soy sauce, along with toppings such as sliced vegetables, meat, and sometimes a poached egg. The dish is hearty and satisfying, making it a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

Xi’an Hu spicy soup, or “Hu La Tang,” is a staple of Xi’an’s breakfast scene. A bowl of this hot and spicy soup in the early morning can make you slightly sweat and feel refreshed all over.

The base of Hu La Tang is made from beef bones, spring onions, ginger, and cooking wine, simmered to create a rich broth. Potato starch is used to thicken the soup, which is then filled with beef meatballs, as well as vegetables like potatoes and zucchini.

Soup dumplings are a popular snack found throughout China, but each region has its own unique approach. Xi’an’s soup dumplings have a savory flavor, with fillings mostly consisting of beef and lamb.

When a steaming basket of soup dumplings is served, the thin skin is lightly bitten into, allowing the rich broth to be sucked out, followed by chewing the filling inside, which is oily but not greasy. Dip them in a sauce with chili oil for an even more authentic experience!

Fried Persimmon Chinese Donuts, or Huanggui Shizibing, are a traditional Shaanxi dessert. The outer skin is made from the unique persimmons of Tong County, and the filling consists of crushed walnuts and sweet osmanthus paste. Once wrapped, the donuts are placed in a pan and fried until both sides are golden brown. They should be eaten hot, as the persimmon skin is soft and chewy, making them an excellent after-meal treat.

Eight Treasure Rose Mirror Cake is a beloved childhood memory for Xi’an locals. The main ingredient is glutinous rice flour. The cake is steamed in small trays, resulting in palm-sized white cakes. Once taken out, they are spread with a variety of sauces and coated with black sesame seeds, crushed peanuts, and other toppings.

The sauces come in many flavors such as blueberry, hawthorn, and chocolate, but the rose flavor is the most iconic and popular, offering a sweet, sticky, and appetizing taste.

🛫 How Do I Travel to Xi’an

By Plane

Domestic flights from major cities across China generally fly directly to Xi’an. Upon arrival, you will land at Xi’an Xianyang International Airport.

Additionally, from Xianyang Airport, you can take Metro Line 14 to North Railway Station and then transfer to Line 2 or Line 4 to reach the city center.

Another option is to take an airport shuttle bus. There are 9 shuttle bus lines between the airport and downtown Xi’an, with two late-night lines operating after 9 pm. A taxi to the city center costs approximately CNY 80-100.

By Train

Xi’an has three railway stations: Xi’an Railway Station, North Railway Station, and Xi’an South Railway Station.

Xi’an Railway Station is located in the city center and mainly serves regular trains to and from major cities in China like Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Chengdu, and Guangzhou. It is accessible by Metro Line 4.

Xi’an South Railway Station is the farthest from the city center and has the fewest train services. Xi’an North Railway Station is a high-speed railway station for bullet trains to destinations such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chengdu. It can be reached by Metro Lines 2, 4, and 14.

Trains to Mount Hua from Xi’an are also boarded at North Station.

🚖 How to Get Around Xi’an

Subway

Xi’an currently has 9 operating subway lines, with a basic one-way fare of CNY 2 to CNY 8. Key lines include Line 2, Line 3, and Line 4, which connect major tourist spots.

Due to common traffic congestion in Xi’an, and the subway’s coverage of major tourist attractions, it is recommended to take the subway to save time.

Bus

Xi’an’s bus system is well-developed, with city and suburban buses covering every corner of the city. Urban buses are often marked with the character ‘游’ (You), meaning ‘Tourist’.

  • Tourist Bus Line 8 (No. 610), which connects the train station, Bell Tower, Small Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi’an Museum, Shaanxi History Museum, and Big Wild Goose Pagoda.
  • Tourist Bus Line 5 (No. 306), which connects Fangzhicheng Coach Station to the Terracotta Army Museum.

Taxi

Taxis are readily available and relatively cheap. Ensure the driver uses the meter or agrees on a fare before starting the journey. The initial fare is CNY 8.5 for the first 3 kilometers (1.9 miles), with an additional CNY 2 for each kilometer thereafter. Services like Didi are also popular and convenient.

Bike

Xi’an has several bike-sharing programs like Mobike, allowing you to rent a bike using a mobile app and return it to any designated station.

☀️ Best Time to Visit Xi’an

Xi’an has distinct four seasons, with spring and autumn—March to May and September to November—being the best times to visit.

March to May: Spring in Xi’an is warm, dry, and mostly sunny. The city is adorned with blooming flowers, creating a picturesque scene ideal for photography and exploring outdoor attractions such as the City Wall, Big Wild Goose Pagoda, and various parks.

September to November: The comfortable temperatures and fewer tourists compared to the peak summer season make it perfect for visiting. The leaves of the Big and Small Wild Goose Pagodas turn into a riot of colors; and the streets of the Bell and Drum Towers are filled with the fragrance of blooming osmanthus. However, be prepared for occasional autumn rains.

June to August: Summer in Xi’an is hot and sunny, with temperatures occasionally reaching 40℃. It’s advisable to visit attractions with less exposure to the sun. In the evening, you can cool off at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda’s musical fountain.

November to March of the following year: Winter in Xi’an is cold, with bone-chilling winds and occasional fog. The lowest temperature can drop to -4℃, so it’s important to dress warmly. If you’re lucky, you might experience a winter snowfall in the ancient capital. Additionally, during this period, there are fewer tourists, and accommodation and ticket prices are lower compared to the peak season.

🏨 Where to Stay in Xi’an

It’s highly recommended to stay around the Bell and Drum Towers area, a popular choice for most first-time travelers to Xi’an. This area is not only convenient for transportation, with access to Line 2 of the subway for connections to other lines, but also close to a variety of local delicacies and not far from the Muslim Quarter.

This area offers many mid-range and chain hotels that are affordable and well-connected for transportation.

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is another iconic landmark in Xi’an, surrounded by many attractions such as the Tang Paradise and the museum. Most tourists also choose to stay here, where you can enjoy the musical fountain at the square, the water curtain film at the Tang Paradise, and experience the “Morning Bell Chime of the Pagoda,” one of the Eight Great Sights of the Guanzhong Area. This area has many hostels and budget hotels with great value.

Many visitors come to Xi’an for the Terracotta Army, and since it’s about an hour’s drive away, some tourists choose to stay near this area. The trip to the Terracotta Army and Huaqing Pool can be completed in a day, but if you have enough time, staying overnight is a good option.

  • For those who value a high-quality travel experience, hiring a professional customized tour team is recommended.
  • When buying tourist crafts and souvenirs in Xi’an, be cautious of vendors selling counterfeit antiques.
  • Specialty products near tourist spots tend to be overpriced and of inconsistent quality, so it’s best to purchase them from supermarkets.
  • For convenient and affordable accommodation with plenty of food options, stay near subway Line 2.
  • Avoid unlicensed taxis outside the station when you first arrive in Xi’an by plane or high-speed train.
  • While Xi’an is generally safe and its residents are honest, be mindful of pickpockets in crowded areas like train stations, bus stops, and the airport.
  • Don’t miss the show “The Song of Everlasting Sorrow” at Huaqing Pool.
  • Schedule your visit to Mount Hua for the last day of your trip to avoid sore legs affecting the rest of your plans.
  • Wear comfortable sports shoes in Xi’an, especially if you plan to hike Mount Hua.
  • Visit the Great Tang All Day Mall in the evening to fully appreciate the Tang Dynasty’s grandeur.

China Travel Planning Guide&FAQ

🎫Do I need a visa for China?

Yes. Most visitors to China will need a visa to enter the country. The type of visa you need will depend on the purpose and duration of your trip, as well as your nationality. If you are a resident of the US, you must apply for a Chinese visa at the Consular Office in the country. On the other hand, inhabitants of countries like Japan, Canada, and the UK can request a visa through the Chinese Visa Application Service Center.

🤔Why is it necessary to install a VPN in China?

In China, the government has strict regulations on internet access, leading to the blocking of popular websites and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube. To access these sites, a VPN is suggested as a means of bypassing the restrictions. It is important to choose a reputable VPN provider and use caution while doing so. ExpressVPN has been historically deemed the most reliable VPN for this purpose, despite being heavily targeted by China’s censors. Nevertheless, it is still a widely preferred option owing to its ease of installation and user-friendliness.

📲Is it necessary to have a Chinese SIM card while in China?

Yes. It is crucial to acknowledge that accessing the internet in China may pose limitations due to certain websites being prohibited or filtered. To ensure uninterrupted connectivity while staying in China, purchasing a local SIM card is advisable. For optimum results, acquiring SIM cards from either China Unicom or China Mobile is recommended. While China Mobile has the most comprehensive coverage in China and is a market leader, China Unicom is more compatible with foreign phones, enabling 3G and 4G services. Or you can purchase a SIM card online.

🔮Should I buy China travel insurance?

Yes. Although China is generally a safe country for travel, it is still possible to encounter accidents or other unexpected occurrences. Therefore, obtaining travel insurance can provide a sense of security and financial protection. In my research, I have found that World Nomads is a reputable travel insurance provider that covers a wide range of activities and is recommended for the average traveler. Nevertheless, I advise you to compare insurance quotes from various providers before making a decision.

🚙Can you rent a car in China?

Unfeasible. Obtaining a Chinese driver’s license to rent a car and self-drive may seem like an option, but it is not a practical choice for most foreigners. Therefore, many prefer to opt for a driver or public transportation when navigating China, as it proves to be more convenient.

✈️What’s the best site to purchase flight tickets for China?

I suggest using Trip for affordable flights to China. As a China-based company, they often offer lower prices compared to foreign companies. Additionally, they offer English-speaking phone support in case of any issues.

🏡What is the best way to book hotels in China?

Not only does Trip offer a wider range of flight options, but it also provides a greater selection of hotels to choose from. Moreover, Agoda is a reliable resource for hotels throughout Asia.

🎒What do I pack for China?

Travel adapter and converter: China uses a different electrical system than many other countries, so it’s important to bring a travel adapter and converter if you plan to use electronic devices such as phones, cameras, and laptops.  
Sunscreen: The UV index in China can be high, particularly during the summer months, and prolonged exposure to the sun without protection can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer.
Deodorant: It should be noted that finding deodorant in China may not be a simple task.

📚Can a guidebook for traveling to China be useful?

Yes. If you’re planning to travel to China for the first time, a travel guidebook can be a valuable resource, and Lonely Planet is one of the most reputable guides available globally. Its comprehensive itineraries and recommendations take into account your personal preferences and can save you both time and money. The insider tips are also extremely helpful in navigating China’s unique cultural landscape like a local.

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