Xi'an is a small town that would never really get a second glance if it wasn't for a discovery in 1974 of a vast army of Terracotta Warriors by a local farmer.

The city itself is quite interesting as it has quite a history and is enclosed by ancient city walls (now restored and used by both tourists and locals alike). As with many other cities in China the traffic here is unbelievable – smog is also a problem.

What to See

Terracotta Warriors

The main reason for visiting Xi'an, the Terracotta Warrior site is about an hour's drive east of the city. The first emperor of China (Qin Shi Huangdi) had these warriors buried with him to help him rule another empire in the afterlife and guard his tomb (nearby, unexcavated).

This is a truly incredible place to visit (with very good facilities). In addition to the main tourist information building (showing a movie “in the round” about the site) there is also a museum as well as the three pits. Note that the walk from the main entrance is quite some way (as they do not allow vehicles close to the pits). There are a large number of souvenir shops and restaurants in a new complex near the parking area (likely you will visit if taken on a tour…).

Terracotta Warriors

Pit 1 is the largest and most famous of the three pits. It is here you can get some sense of the size of the entire area (of which only a small part is actually even being considered for excavation).

Terracotta Warriors

I was impressed that there is a great deal of restraint being shown in that they are not excavating until they can correctly do so. Of course, money is also a concern as it is a very expensive operation. It will be incredible when they finally excavate the emperor's tomb…Right now it makes an impressive mound in the countryside.

City Wall

The City Wall

Xi'an is an old city. Very old. The centre of the city is surrounded by a wall which is entirely intact. You can walk around the entire wall but be aware it is VERY big, about 28 km all the way around! You can rent bicycles but this might be a bit tricky in parts as there are some sections that are a bit rough…

One of the Many Gates or Buildings on the Wall

The periodic gates are magnificant and the walls themselves offer a great view of the city within. Note that there is a nominal entry fee to the walls themselves. Moving away from the various gates you quickly loose the tourists and see a bit more of the real city. Well worth it.

City Walls

Big (Wild) Goose Pagoda

Little (Wild) Goose Pagoda

The Wild Goose Pagoda is quite distinctive and is quite an interesting place to visit particularly with the Ci'en temple attached which has a fascinating set of displays (including some wonderful murals) devoted to the Tang dynasty monk Xuan Zang who was very famous for fostering communication with India and, in particular, translating various important religious works.

Ci'en Temple

Drum Tower

Drum Tower

The drum tower located in the middle of the city just to the west of the Bell Tower now houses a drum museum (which has a periodic drum demonstration worth waiting around for) as well as the ubiquitous souvenir shops. Good views of the surrounding area though (particularly the Muslim Quarter and market area).

World's Biggest Drum (Drum Tower)

Bell Tower

Bell Tower (from the Xi'an Kaiyuan Shopping Mall

The bell tower is in the (exact) middle of the city but no longer houses the original bells. Offering tremendous views of the city along the main streets the tower is only accessible via a pedestrian subway under the roundabout.

Muslim Quarter

The muslim quarter has a large number of very interesting shops and restaurants. Located just to the north of the Drum Tower it is well worth a visit.

Muslim Quarter Market

The market is also worth a visit and, refreshingly, offers very little hastle for tourists…

Other Things

Xi'an is a city like any other many things to see and do such as a very big shopping centre (Xi'an Kaiyuan Shopping Mall) located right near the Bell Tower in the centre of the city.

Shopping Centre

I would certainly encourage just walking around and just taking a look. There is a lot to see of both modern and anxient China here.

Yongning Palace Hotel (Near South Gate as seen from the City Wall)

Getting Around

While plans for a subway are currently being considered there are really only two ways of getting around: taxis and buses. The taxi is by far the easiest and quite economical. If you do not speak Mandarin make sure you have your destination written in Chinese to give to the driver.


Accomodation in the city can be a bit hit or miss. I stayed at the “City Hotel” but cannot recommend it. Be aware that the city has not been open to tourists for very long so accomodation may not be what you may have expected or experienced in other bigger Chinese cities (such as Beijing or Shanghai). I would advise caution…

Further Information

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