Best Things to Do in Xi’an, China 2022

You can climb the pagoda for views over town from within a glassed-in enclosure. To the south of the pagoda is an open-air mall of shops, galleries, restaurants and public art. 5. See the Drum and Bell Towers The Drum Tower and Bell Tower are the symbols of Xi’an. Both of them were built in the Yuan Dynasty to signal the running of time. You can visit the top of both towers (Entrance is 30CNY each). I recommend visiting the Bell Tower over the Drum Tower. It is right in the middle of a roundabout and gives you straight line views of North and South gate of the wall. The Bell Tower is magnificently illuminated at night, making it one of the city’s best photo-ops come evening. Musical performances are held inside both towers from 9am to 11.30am and 2.30pm to 5.30pm. Close by, a covered market sells all manner of haggle-worthy goods for souvenirs and gift-giving, leading to the magnificent Great Mosque. 6. Explore the Muslim Quarter One of my favorite things to do in Xi’an is wandering through the Muslim Quarter, a vibrant area with exotic and delicious street food. This area is home to 20,000 Muslim Chinese and the narrow lanes are brimming with street food stands, smaller mosques hidden behind enormous wooden doors, men in white skullcaps and women with their heads covered in colored scarves.   The food here definitely reminded me of food in Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan etc): from barbecued lamb skewers, oven-baked flatbread. One of the Chinese Muslim dishes you have to try here is the yangrou paomo, which involves crumbed flatbread soaked in a flavorful mutton gravy. If you’re a food lover, I recommend booking a food tour here with an expert! 7. Admire the Great Mosque of Xi’an Within the Muslim quarters, you’ll find the Great Mosque, which showcases a beautiful blend of Chinese and Islamic architecture. First built in 742, the mosque was later restored during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Arab influences extend from the central minaret (cleverly disguised as a stumpy pagoda) to the enormous turquoise-roofed Prayer Hall (not open to visitors) at the back of the complex. Today the Great Mosque is still used by Chinese Muslims (Hui people) as a place of worship. 8. Admire the Temple of the Eight Immortals Xi’an’s largest Taoist temple dates from the Song dynasty and is still an active place of worship. Supposedly built on the site of an ancient wine shop, it was constructed to protect against subterranean divine thunder. Scenes from Taoist mythology are painted around the courtyard. Empress Cixi, the mother of the last emperor, stayed here in 1901 after fleeing Beijing during the Boxer Rebellion. The small antique market opposite is busiest on Sunday and Wednesday. 9. Visit the Shaanxi History Museum If you can only visit one museum in Xi’an, make it the Shaanxi History Museum. This museum is a treasure trove of ancient Chinese artefacts and gives a miniature overview of the thousands of years of Chinese history. It sprawls across a massive area of 65,000 square meters (16 acres) with 370,000 exhibits on display. The museum showcases the history of over a million years from prehistoric times (1,150,000 years ago) to the Ming and Qing dynasties. 10. Feast on a Dumpling Banquet at De Fa Chang Xi’an was the place where the art of creating dumplings was refined, and dumpling banquets are definitely one of the best things to do in Xi’an for food lovers. We had the most delectable dumpling banquet at De Fa Chang Restaurant, one of the most popular restaurants in town with several branches in Xi’an. The banquet includes over 8 courses, with each course serving dumplings of different shapes, sizes and fillings. The most impressive dumplings are intricately shaped like swans and ducks. 11. Relax in the Xi’an Lianhu Park (Lotus Lake Park)  After a busy day of sightseeing, we really enjoyed kicking back and soaking up the lush greenery of the Lotus Lake Park. This park was built as a royal garden by the second son of Zhuyuanzhang (the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty 1368-1644). In the summer days, when the lotus flowers are in bloom, the park is absolutely stunning. 12. See the Fountains of Dayan Pagoda Northern Square  In the evening, head over to the Dayan Pagoda Northern Square — the largest fountain square in Asia. There are lots of clay sculptures and shadow puppets erected around the square, which reflect the life during the Tang Dynasty. The most attractive one is the music fountain show. The 22 water shows, together with the changing lights and ancient music, are pretty entertaining especially at night. Xi’an Travel Guide How to Get to Xi’an There are direct flights from Singapore, Taipei and Bangkok to Xian. If you are traveling to Xi’an from Beijing, the best way to get there is on a domestic flight. The flight from Beijing to Xi’an costs around US$55 each way and the journey is only 2 hours.  Alternatively, you can take a 4.5 hour high-speed tra

Best Things to Do in Xi’an, China 2022

You can climb the pagoda for views over town from within a glassed-in enclosure. To the south of the pagoda is an open-air mall of shops, galleries, restaurants and public art.

giatn wild goose pagoda - must see in xian china

5. See the Drum and Bell Towers

The Drum Tower and Bell Tower are the symbols of Xi’an. Both of them were built in the Yuan Dynasty to signal the running of time. You can visit the top of both towers (Entrance is 30CNY each).

I recommend visiting the Bell Tower over the Drum Tower. It is right in the middle of a roundabout and gives you straight line views of North and South gate of the wall. The Bell Tower is magnificently illuminated at night, making it one of the city’s best photo-ops come evening.

Musical performances are held inside both towers from 9am to 11.30am and 2.30pm to 5.30pm. Close by, a covered market sells all manner of haggle-worthy goods for souvenirs and gift-giving, leading to the magnificent Great Mosque.

bell tower xi'an china

6. Explore the Muslim Quarter

One of my favorite things to do in Xi’an is wandering through the Muslim Quarter, a vibrant area with exotic and delicious street food. This area is home to 20,000 Muslim Chinese and the narrow lanes are brimming with street food stands, smaller mosques hidden behind enormous wooden doors, men in white skullcaps and women with their heads covered in colored scarves.  

The food here definitely reminded me of food in Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan etc): from barbecued lamb skewers, oven-baked flatbread. One of the Chinese Muslim dishes you have to try here is the yangrou paomo, which involves crumbed flatbread soaked in a flavorful mutton gravy. If you’re a food lover, I recommend booking a food tour here with an expert!

xi'an china - muslim quarters street food

7. Admire the Great Mosque of Xi’an

Within the Muslim quarters, you’ll find the Great Mosque, which showcases a beautiful blend of Chinese and Islamic architecture. First built in 742, the mosque was later restored during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Arab influences extend from the central minaret (cleverly disguised as a stumpy pagoda) to the enormous turquoise-roofed Prayer Hall (not open to visitors) at the back of the complex. Today the Great Mosque is still used by Chinese Muslims (Hui people) as a place of worship.

8. Admire the Temple of the Eight Immortals

Xi’an’s largest Taoist temple dates from the Song dynasty and is still an active place of worship. Supposedly built on the site of an ancient wine shop, it was constructed to protect against subterranean divine thunder.

Scenes from Taoist mythology are painted around the courtyard. Empress Cixi, the mother of the last emperor, stayed here in 1901 after fleeing Beijing during the Boxer Rebellion. The small antique market opposite is busiest on Sunday and Wednesday.

xi an attractions

9. Visit the Shaanxi History Museum

If you can only visit one museum in Xi’an, make it the Shaanxi History Museum. This museum is a treasure trove of ancient Chinese artefacts and gives a miniature overview of the thousands of years of Chinese history.

It sprawls across a massive area of 65,000 square meters (16 acres) with 370,000 exhibits on display. The museum showcases the history of over a million years from prehistoric times (1,150,000 years ago) to the Ming and Qing dynasties.

what to do in xian - shaanxi history museum

10. Feast on a Dumpling Banquet at De Fa Chang

Xi’an was the place where the art of creating dumplings was refined, and dumpling banquets are definitely one of the best things to do in Xi’an for food lovers. We had the most delectable dumpling banquet at De Fa Chang Restaurant, one of the most popular restaurants in town with several branches in Xi’an.

The banquet includes over 8 courses, with each course serving dumplings of different shapes, sizes and fillings. The most impressive dumplings are intricately shaped like swans and ducks.

where to eat in xian - dumpling banquet

11. Relax in the Xi’an Lianhu Park (Lotus Lake Park) 

After a busy day of sightseeing, we really enjoyed kicking back and soaking up the lush greenery of the Lotus Lake Park. This park was built as a royal garden by the second son of Zhuyuanzhang (the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty 1368-1644). In the summer days, when the lotus flowers are in bloom, the park is absolutely stunning.

lotus park - best places to visit in xian

12. See the Fountains of Dayan Pagoda Northern Square 

In the evening, head over to the Dayan Pagoda Northern Square — the largest fountain square in Asia. There are lots of clay sculptures and shadow puppets erected around the square, which reflect the life during the Tang Dynasty.

The most attractive one is the music fountain show. The 22 water shows, together with the changing lights and ancient music, are pretty entertaining especially at night.

music fountain show - xi an travel guide


Xi’an Travel Guide

How to Get to Xi’an

There are direct flights from Singapore, Taipei and Bangkok to Xian. If you are traveling to Xi’an from Beijing, the best way to get there is on a domestic flight. The flight from Beijing to Xi’an costs around US$55 each way and the journey is only 2 hours. 

Alternatively, you can take a 4.5 hour high-speed train or an overnight economical train. A one-way train ticket on a high-speed train from Beijing to Xi’an costs around $240 for a business class seat and $76 for a second class seat. To save money, opt for the normal trains which usually cost one quarter of the price of the high-speed train. Here’s detailed info on train schedule and prices.

Search for Domestic Flights here!

xi an things to do - airport in china


How to Get around Xi’an

By Taxi/Uber

The easiest way to get around Xi’an is by taxi, though not many drivers speak English.  Another option is to use Uber, which works really well in Xi’an and saves you time and energy of having to flag down taxis and try to communicate with the driver. You just need to get a local SIM card (scroll down to learn more).

By Bus 

Taking the bus is the cheapest way to get around the city. Change is not given onboard public buses, so it is important to carry exact change. Express buses are available connecting the major tourist spots such as the Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum, the Huaqing Hot Spring, and the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum.

bus in china - where to stay in xi an


Where to Stay in Xi’an

The city center is a great place to stay since most of the sights are nearby. If you’re looking for better value, I recommend staying in Yanta, just south of the city center.

Budget: YiJia Inn

This family-run guesthouse offers great value for money, with modern rooms that have a touch of tradition. It has an excellent location, with the Muslim Quarters and Drum Tower just a 5-minute walk away. Check the latest rates.

Midrange: PuSu Jade Boutique Hotel

This unique nature-themed hotel is set just beside Xi’an City Wall. Tastefully designed with wooden furnishing, the boutique hotel gives the sensation of rural China. Check the latest rates.

Luxury: Grand Park Xi’an

Ideally located in the heart of historical Xi’an, the Grand Park Xi’an is the best hotel in the city with luxurious rooms and spectacular city views. It’s around a 5-minute stroll from the ancient city wall. Check the latest rates.

where to stay in xian


Staying Connected in Xi’an

If you’re looking to stay connected in Xi’an, I recommend getting a prepaid SIM card at the airport or in any telco shop. China Unicom has the best 3G/4G connections nationwide. You can order your SIM on their website but it needs to be delivered to an address in China. I got my China Unicom SIM card for around US$25 with 1GB of data.

The internet is heavily controlled in China and many sites and social media platforms (like Facebook) cannot be accessed there. One way to get around this censorship is using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). It’s easy and cheap to subscribe to a VPN service before you leave home. 

things to do in xi'an - rice terraces of longji


Language in China

The official language of China is Mandarin. Traveling in China is challenging for some (luckily I speak Mandarin), as it can be difficult to find someone who speaks English. It can be overwhelming, so make sure you take your time to adjust to the culture shock.

Roads and buses only have Chinese signs and it is difficult to find your way around without knowing some Mandarin. Get the Google Translator app and download the Chinese language translation file to access it offline.

It’s definitely useful to learn some basics like “xiexie” (thank you), “nihao!” (hello) and “zaijian” (goodbye).

writing in chinese - how to travel xian


Plan Your Trip to China

Most people only spend two or three days in Xi’an. But with so many things to do in Xi’an, you could easily stay busy for a week. 

If you’re planning to travel all over China, here are some other articles I’ve written that you might find helpful.