Xi'an Top 10 Sights - Global Storybook

Xi’an: Top 10 Sights

Xi’an (Sian), formerly known as Chang’an, is the first and the oldest capital of China.  With a current population of around 8 million, this is not one of the largest cities in China, however that does not mean that it lacks its share of popular, and interesting attractions!

The number one reason why different people come to visit this town (and the number one reason behind its fame) is the astonishing Terracotta Army – sometimes called the “Eighth Wonder of the World”.  Though, in addition to the Terracotta Warriors, there are fascinating, historic museums, beautiful parks and pagodas, famous shopping streets, and other amazing day trips that are a must for any first time visit to this city.  Now, let’s review the Top 10!

1. Terracota Warriors 

Unarguably, the number one sight in Xi’an is the World-famous Terracotta Army, located just outside the city, on a short 40-minute ride.  The museum, that hosts the Army, was built around 3 main pits where the Warriors were once uncovered by a local farmer, who was digging the ground around this place.

For those not familiar with this sight – the Terracotta Army is a huge collection of “human” statues, made of terracotta (hence the name).  Their original purpose was to ‘safeguard’ the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who believed that he will require the help of this army in the afterlife.  They were buried underground, though many statues have been vandalized by the locals, many centuries ago.

There are a number of different, inexpensive tour options that you can choose from, which will take you to this museum.  It is also possible to visit it on your own, by taking a local bus, though it might be a bit difficult if you do not speak the Chinese language.

  • Address: Lintong
  • Time required: 4-5 hours
  • Hours of operation: March-November: 8:30am – 6:00pm; November-March: 8:30am – 5:30pm.  The ticket counter closes 1 hour prior
  • Price: March-November: 150 Yuan; December-February: 120 Yuan

2. Shaanxi History Museum

Perhaps, the best museum in Xi’an – the Shaanxi History Museum is one of the largest, as well as one of the oldest museums in Xi’an.  It holds a number of very important (and interesting) artifacts, including some of the famous Terracotta Warriors (that were moved here from their pits), and even some of their original weapons which survived the robberies of the past; and numerous other historic objects, including pottery, ceramics, murals, statues, coins, gold and bronze items, and many others.

It also has some fascinating exhibitions on the history of the silk route, including a moving topographical map, since this was the city from which the silk route originated.  The museum’s collections are spread across several floors, though its main collection is located on the first floor.

  • Address: 91 Xiaozhai E Rd, XiaoZhai ShangYeJie, Yanta Qu
  • Time required: 2-3 hours
  • Hours of operation: Tuesday-Sunday; closed on Mondays.  November 15-March 15: 9:00am – 5:30pm; March 16-November 14: 8:30am – 6:00pm
  • Price: free, but there is a limited number of tickets given out each day (also must bring your passport to collect the free ticket).
  • Official website: http://e.sxhm.com

3. Big Wild Goose Pagoda

This beautiful Pagoda, located in the southern part of Xi’an, was originally built in 652 (7th century), during the Tang Dynasty, and remains a holy place for Buddhists to this day.  The main building is now seven stories high and it is possible to go up the tower to enjoy some breathtaking 360-panoramic views from above.

In addition to the famous pagoda, there are beautiful small temples spread across the complex, some of which hold awe-inspiring murals and other beautiful religious objects.  You can also get a 30-minute walking tour of the complex from one of the local temple guides for a small fee.

  • Address: Yanta W Rd, XiaoZhai ShangYeJie, Yanta Qu
  • Time required: 1-2 hours
  • Hours of operation: everyday: 8:00am – 5:00pm
  • Price: 50 Yuan to enter the complex; additional 30 Yuan to go up the Pagoda
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4. City Wall

Xian City Wall is one of the oldest military fortifications in China.  Some parts of it have been rebuilt and renovated due to its old age and natural wear and tear, but for the most part it is the most complete surviving ancient city wall in the country.

It offers spectacular views from its high, elevated position, and it takes around 5 hours to walk the entire route.  It is also possible to rent a bicycle on the wall to cycle around it.  For those who decide to walk – there are a number of small and interesting, free museums, souvenir and coffee shops, and even restroom points.  It is a great place for an early evening stroll, right before the sunset.

  • Address: 2 South St, Beilin
  • Time required: 5-7 hours (to walk the entire route), or 1-1,5 hours (to cycle around it)
  • Hours of operation: South Gate: 8:00am-10pm; East/North/West Gate, Wenchang Gate, Heping Gate, and Shangde Gate: 8:00am – 6:00pm; Hanguang Gate: 8:00am – 5:30pm
  • Price: 54 Yuan (adults), 27 Yuan (children)

5. Tomb of Emperor Jingdi (The Yangling Mausoleum of Han Dynasty)

Tomb of Emperor Jingdi, Xi'an - Global StorybookLocated on a short, 30-minute drive outside the Xian’s city center, this interesting complex is also famous for a large number of its burial statues.  Though, the statues of the Emperor Jingdi’s tomb are very different from the Terracotta Army.  They are much smaller inside, they are both male and female, they are… naked, and they are missing their hands, (and possibly clothes) which were originally made of wood and have decayed due to their old age.

In addition to the emperor’s, there is also an empress’s tomb, several burial pits, and even an old sacrificial graveyard located in the complex.  This is one of the most famous and visited sights in Xi’an, therefore it is recommended to come here either very early in the morning, or just before the closing time (please note – the ticket counter closes an hour and a half earlier).

  • lAddress: Shaanxi Sheng
  • Time required: 1-2 hours
  • Hours of operation: March-November: 8:30am – 6:30pm; December-February: 8:30am – 6:00pm; ticket counter closes 1,5 hours earlier
  • Price: March-November: 90 Yuan; December-February: 65 Yuan

6. Tang Dynasty Show

The Tang Dynasty Show is one of the most popular entertainment shows in Xi’an.  Located in a beautiful theater, by the same name – Tang Dynasty Palace, this breathtaking show is not to be missed.  Featuring a number of different performances, the show lasts around 70 minutes and it is possible to have a dinner in the theater just before the start of the show.

  • Address: No.75, North Chang’an Road
  • Time required: 1-2 hours
  • Hours of operation: 8pm (the show); 6:30pm (the dinner)
  • Price: 120 Yuan (show ticket only)
  • Official website: http://xiantangdynastyshow.com

7. Xian Museum

This fairly new museum was opened only recently, in 2007.  Despite its short operating history, it holds a number of interesting, historic artifacts, including some beautiful and ancient Buddha statues, a nice collection of jade items, porcelain pottery, seals, calligraphy and paintings, and a great, recreated old topographical map of Xi’an.

Its main collection is located in the basement; the building itself is located in a small, charming park right next to the Small Wild Goose Pagoda (sight #10).

  • Address: 72 Youyi W Rd, Beilin Qu
  • Time required: 1-2 hours
  • Hours of operation: March-October: 9:00am – 6:00pm; November-March: 9:00am – 5:30pm
  • Price: free, but there is a limited number of tickets given out each day (also must bring your passport to collect the free ticket)

8. Great Mosque

The Great Mosque is located right in the heart of the Muslim Quarter (sight #9) and it is one of the oldest Islamic mosques in China.  In addition to the mosque, there are several different beautiful pagodas, courtyards and a small park located inside the complex.  Its most unique feature is the blend of the two (Arabic and Chinese) architectual styles that gives it a very interesting and particular look.

  • Address: Beiyuanmen Snacks Street, Lianhu
  • Time required: 1 hour or less
  • Hours of operation: 8:00am – 7:00pm
  • Price: March-November: 25 Yuan; December-February: 15 Yuan (Free to Muslims)
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9. Muslim Quarter

The Muslim Quarter, or the Muslim Street, as it is sometimes known, is a big and narrow, lively and vibrant, shopping bazaar, where one can buy pretty much anything – from souvenirs, clothes, shoes, and books to any food items.  The area around the quarter is home to over 20,000 Muslim residents, one of the largest (and oldest) ethnic communities in Xi’an.  In addition to the bazaar, there are several restaurants, shops and even small mosques (besides the Grand Mosque) located in the area.

  • Address: located right behind the Drum Tower (Beiyuanmen, BeiYuanMen XiaoChi YiTiao Jie)
  • Time required: 1-2 hours
  • Hours of operation: everyday: 8:00am – 11:00pm
  • Price: free

10. Banpo Museum (“Village Site”)

Banpo Museum was built around an actual, 6,000 years old, pre-historic village site.  It used to belong to a small, primitive settlement named Yangshao Culture, which lived in this area.  Some of its remaining traces include several burial sites, including small burial pots for children, storage pits, various household pottery pieces and tools, as well as small, recreated village prototype models, animated videos, and much more.  It is a great place to witness a very ancient and unique speck of history preserved in this particular site.

  • Address: 155 Banpo Rd, Baqiao Qu
  • Time required: 1-2 hours
  • Hours of operation: March-November: 8:00am – 6:00pm; December-February: 8:00am – 5:30pm
  • Price: March-November: 65 Yuan; December-February: 45 Yuan

Bonus Sight: Small Wild Goose Pagoda 

Located in the same park as Xian Museum (sight #7), this ancient and mysterious, Buddhist pagoda survived several major earthquakes, quite miraculously remaining almost entirely intact.  It was built in the early 700’s (8th century), during the Tang Dynasty as a place of worship and pilgrimage, and as one of the main centers for translating the original Buddhist scripts.  It is also possible to go up the stairs to enjoy the beautiful panoramic views from above (though it is currently closed for renovation as of mid-2017).

  • Address: 72 Youyi W Rd, Beilin Qu
  • Time required: 1 hour or less
  • Hours of operation: March 15-October: 9:00am – 5:00pm; November 1-March 14: 9:00am – 4:30pm; closed on Tuesdays
  • Price: 30 Yuan to go up the tower

Bonus: Huashan Mountain

Mount Hua, or Huashan as it is most commonly known, is one of the holy mountains of China, located on around 2-2,5 hour drive from the city center.  It is one of the most beautiful places in the country and a must-do day trip outside of Xi’an.  You can book a tour with one of the local tour operators, or you can even get there by yourself via public transportation (though again, it might be a bit difficult for those who do not know the language).

Please note – this is not an easy hike, and the route is dangerous in some places, though the entire hiking trek is not a must, and you can just visit several scenic spots around it.  In any case, moderate physical activity is required.

  • Time required: 5-6 hours to hike the entire path around the five peaks of the mountain; 4-5 hours for a roundtrip transportation to and from Xi’an, plus another 2-3 hours for various queues
  • Hours of operation: March-November: 7:00am – 7:00pm; December-February: 9:00am – 5:00pm
  • Price: Park entrance only – March-November: 180 Yuan; December-February: 100 Yuan; additional fees for cable cars apply

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