Chaotic, colorful and cosmopolitan. These are the first words that come to mind when I think of Xi'an. A city whose heart revolves around the Bell Tower, located in the center of a large roundabout, which also represents a fundamental node of the efficient metro. This tower and its sister, the Drum Tower, are beautifully illuminated in the evening. I therefore recommend that you visit them one during the day and one in the evening, to appreciate the panorama of the city that begins to light up.
The most historical part of the city is enclosed by the splendid 14km long and perfectly restored City Wall, which you can enjoy by bike. We entered the south door and started riding appreciating the mixture of buildings, historical and modern, one next to the other. There will be picturesque spots, in particular near the towers that signal the end of a section and in the intermediate ones on each side. The golden roof of the Guangren Temple, a Tibetan place of worship, present in the northwest corner will surely catch your eye.
The Muslim quarter is characteristic, noisy and full of stalls selling everything from food to souvenirs. I advise you to get lost without a specific destination, being caught by perfumes, sounds and luminous signs.
It is an area different from the usual markets of China, exactly for its Muslim influence. You will find unlikely dishes, such as chicken and pork legs, in addition to the ever-present skewers of meat, dried fruit, pomegranate juice and unleavened bread. If you are in the mood for eating, try the roujiamo, a typical hamburger of made with an Arabic bread, stuffed with boiled and chopped meat. Delicious! To find it, just look for the line of people always present in front of this shop. Inside the neighborhood, you will also find the Great Mosque, where Chinese and Arab architecture blend together.
Beyond the south walls of Xi'an, the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is worth a visit. Originally inside the walls, it is a splendid example of a Tang-style pagoda.
In addition to appreciating it during the day, the Pagoda becomes the stage for the show of luminous fountains which is organized every evening at 9 pm. The majesty of the fountains, arranged on a large surface, makes the show truly not to be missed.
Just south of the Pagoda, with a short walk of about 15 minutes, you can reach an immense outdoor shopping center, which is illuminated by Chinese lanterns in the evening and also offers free dance and music shows.
Logically Xi'an is world famous above all for being the closest city to the famous Terracotta Army, one of the largest archaeological discoveries in the world.
The visible statues are distributed in 3 different hangars, called pits. It is possible to walk along each pit, observing the statues from above. The most impressive is definitely pit 1, where over 2,000 soldiers have been unearthed and are ready for battle in front of you. Each of the soldiers is different from the other: nothing is left to chance and every detail, from the hairstyle to the clothing, has been carefully studied. It is estimated that there are still 4,000 more soldiers to unearth in this pit!
If you can, visit pits 3 to 1 to leave the best in the end. Get ready in pit 1 to share the space with a number of people approaching that of the terracotta statues, mainly due to numerous group tours that move en masse. While visiting the site, take time to watch the movie on a circular screen in the small cinema. It will allow you to understand a little more about their story.
It can be easily reached with the green buses (n. 915) that depart from Xi'an station (East Square). Tickets are made directly on the bus and will leave you a few steps from the entrance to the archaeological site.
We liked Xi'an for its liveliness. Do not just visit the Terracotta Army during the day, but spend at least two days to discover a city where different religions coexist, ancient buildings mix with modern one and where everything live in full harmony.
Before your trip
- How many days? We spent three days in Xi'an and we managed to do our journey stages with confidence
- Where to stay? We stayed at Mehood Lestie Hotel Bell Tower Xi'an. Excellent accomodation that leans for breakfast at the nearby Merlinhod Hotel Xi'an. Very spacious rooms with all comforts, those on the upper floors also have a beautiful view. The location was great, just a few steps from the Drum Tower and the metro station Zhonglou
- Do I need to book tickets in advance? No, in our case it was not necessary. Leave early to be at the Terracotta Army at the opening, the queues flow quickly
- Where to eat? Recommended to taste the hotpot the Haidilao Hot Pot Cheng restaurant (review), inside the shopping center (7th floor) near the Drum Tower. Reservations are recommended to avoid long lines. We had a lot of fun cooking the various slices of meat, vegetables and fish. If this is your first time using the hotpot, the staff is going to help