XA20: Half Day Xi'an City Wall Hiking or Cycling from South Gate
Standing amidst a myriad of modern buildings, China's most integrated and best-preserved Ming dynasty City Wall has long been a widely admired landmark for visitors to Xian. It has been a must-see destination in Xi’an for the travelers and a popular hiking place among the locals.
In the morning, your guide will meet you at your downtown hotel and escort you to take a metro or a public bus to the South Gate of the City Wall. Start your City Wall Hiking following the below recommended route. If you are interested in cycling, your guide will help you to rent a bike and the rental fee can be paid on the spot. Your guide will help you to get the entrance tickets. Then go and explore the City Wall on your own speed. Your guide will wait for you and escort you back to your hotel by metro or public bus.
Here we first present you with a hot hiking route along the wall. And in the detailed information, you will learn about the warfare, city construction and the architectural arts in ancient times about the City Wall. And it'll be fun, too!
Start from the South Gate (Yongning Gate), located at the midpoint of the City Wall in the south, you will then walk clockwise around the wall and in turn pass by:
The south part (start) of the City Wall, including Zhuque Gate, Wumu Gate, and Hanguang Gate;
The west part, including West Gate (Anding Gate) and Yuxiang Gate;
The north part, including Shangwu Gate (Small North Gate), the North Gate (Anyuan Gate), Shangde Gate, Jiefang Gate, Shangjian Gate, and Shangqin Gate;
The east part, including Chaoyang Gate, Zhongshan Gate (Small East Gate), East Gate (Changle Gate)
And finally the south part (back), including Jianguo Gate, Heping Gate, Wenchang Gate, and end at the South Gate (Yongning Gate)
1. The whole route is about 14 kilometers, which is a bit difficult for hiking novices and not a piece of cake to the old hands either. It is recommended to hike at a good health state and sleep well the night before.
2. There is almost no cover on the wall. So if you are hiking on a sunny day, please bring sun block to protect your skin and keep cool.
3. As it is a long journey (about 4 hours), bringing enough water is also necessary. You can also buy bottled water at the South Gate, West Gate, North Gate, and East Gate at a price higher than normal.
4. A pair of comfortable walking shoes is also important.
South Gate (Yongning Gate)
The South Gate (also called Yongning Gate, meaning the gate of eternal peace), which is the most time-honored gate among the four main gates (one for each side of the wall).
For almost all Chinese dynasties, the south gate of a royal capital was always the site to greet distinguished guests. Those statues of the ancient dancing ladies, the red palace lanterns and the colorful flags in the South Gate square show that this old city still welcomes visitors from afar.
South Gate to Zhuque Gate
On your way westward, you might notice that there are ramparts, which extend out from the main wall. The ramparts were originally built every 120 meters with a sentry building on top to shoot any attackers who climbed the wall. This interval was not decided by accident, but by the fact that half the distance between two ramparts was the effective range of ancient weapons like the bow and arrow and crossbow.
After walking about 1,050 meters, you will reach Zhuque Gate. As one of the four divine creatures in ancient China, Zhuque (rose finch) symbolizes the southern direction and the season of summer. Therefore, Zhuque Gate was the south gate of the original city wall in the Sui and Tang dynasties, and the emperors usually held important ceremonies here. In 645AD, when the renowned Monk Xuan Zang returned to Chang'an (the ancient name for Xian) from his arduous seventeen-year journey to India via the ancient Silk Road, he was warmly greeted at the Zhuque Gate by the chancellor, Fang Xuanling, and other high officials who were instructed to represent Emperor Taizong of the Tang dynasty. According to historical materials, Japan's first imperial court in Nara was modeled after Chang'an city, and it had a replica of Zhuque Gate as the main entrance, so one can imagine how famous and grand the gate once was.
The original Zhuque Gate was destroyed during a battle at the end of the Tang dynasty. The current one was built in the 1980s very near to the ruins of the original and is of great historical importance. It is now a major gateway to and from the city center.
Zhuque Gate to Wumu Gate
Further to the west of the Zhuque Gate, you can see the Wumu Gate, commonly known as the Small South Gate. It was opened in 1939 to commemorate Mr. Jin Wumu, an early outstanding member of Tongmenhui (Chinese Revolutionary League) who died a martyr during the bourgeois revolution of 1917. If you hike along the wall in the morning, you might see the busy early morning market, an indispensable part of the everyday life of the local people.
Wumu Gate to Hanguang Gate
The next few meters walking to the southwest corner of the city wall, you will pass the Hanguang Gate, which is the best-preserved site of the capital Chang'an during the Sui and Tang dynasties (581 - 907).
Here you can get down to the Hanguang Gate Site Museum to explore an array of relics, and the inner structure and the history of the city wall. You may also take a side visit to China's first thematic museum, focusing on calligraphy, located nearby. Neither of the two museums requires an extra admission fee.
Hanguang Gate to Southwest Corner (Best Part of Round-the-City Park)
As you pass along the city wall, you can see a belt of recreational parks on its outside fringe. This belt is called Round-the-City Park. Of all these parks, the West Park is the largest extending more than 3 kilometers, from the southwest corner of the city wall to the northwest corner. It is open to the public for free and has fitness equipment, leisure facilities, lush trees, wide lawns, and ancient style buildings. Here you could observe the everyday life of the locals doing morning exercises, taking a leisure walk with their pet birds, playing table tennis, singing Shaanxi Opera, or just basking in the sun.
Hanguang Gate to West Gate (Anding Gate)
West Gate (Anding Gate) to Yuxiang Gate
The next stop of your Xi'an City Wall tour itinerary is Yuxiang Gate, which is about 1260 meters north of the West Gate. In 1926, Xi'an city was besieged by the warlord Liu Zhenghua for more than eight months, during which time many of civilians and soldiers perished in the fighting and from disease and starvation. The city was not saved until General Feng Yuxiang and his National Revolutionary army defeated Liu Zhenghua. In 1928, this gate was opened in memory of General Feng Yuxiang. A series of city sculptures - Zhang Qian's Diplomatic Mission to the Western Regions - stands at the square outside Yuxiang Gate. Inside the gate, is Lianhu Road, one of the busiest east-west traffic arteries.
Yuxiang Gate to Northwest Corner
About 560 meters further north of the Yuxiang Gate is the northwest corner of the City Wall. There, a Sentry Building, which was important to the inner city's safety, stands capturing visitors' attention. Right inside the corner is the only Lama temple in Xian, the Guangren Temple, which was built in 1703 when Emperor Kangxi came to Chang'an (Xi'an) during the Qing dynasty. From then on, it played a significant role in promoting national solidarity. With imposing white pagodas outside, stately buildings, leafy trees and flowers inside, the temple today is a nice quiet area in the bustling city.
After walking eastward for about 700 meters, you will reach the Shangwu Gate (Small North Gate). Inside the gate there is a street called Xiwuyuan, which, as the name implies, was a place in the past to practice martial arts. The Shaanxi military and Kung Fu examinations were held in Xiwuyuan during the Sui and Dang dynasties. It was also the parade ground for military training during the Qing Dynasty.
Shangwu Gate to North Gate (Anyuan Gate)
If you walk east for 1440 meters you can see the North Gate. Also called Anyuan Gate, it implied that the imperial court hoped all its conciliatory approaches towards the minorities on the north frontier would lead to peace. When the 1911 Revolution broke out, the original North Gate towers, where the Qing Army had ammunition stored, were destroyed in the heavy fighting. The current gate was restored in 1983, and it has some cultural relics and works of calligraphy and painting on display in the arrow tower. You can feel proud that half the distance of your city wall hike has been completed.
North Gate (Anyuan Gate) - Shangde Gate - Jiefang Gate - Shangjian Gate - Shangqin Gate
In the next 2300 meters walking eastward to the northeast corner, you will pass the Shangde Gate, Jiefang Gate, Shangjian Gate and Shangqin Gate. These four gates are all busy traffic arteries leading to the Xi'an railway station. The Shangde Gate, Shangjian Gate and Shangqin Gate were all opened after the founding of new China. Together with the Shangwu Gate, they all evince the virtues of Confucian ethics. The original Jiefang Gate was opened during the Republic Period and was torn down in 1952 to expand the railway square. The current rebuilt one joined the entire wall together in 2005.
Shangqin Gate - North east Corner - Chaoyang Gate
Next you will reach the Chaoyang Gate by walking about 780 meters, after rounding the corner. Facing towards the sun, this gate is the first one kissed by the rays of sunshine every day, so that's where it gets its name.
Chaoyang Gate to Zhongshan Gate (Small East Gate)
It is the Zhongshan Gate (Small East Gate) that is 820 meters south of the Chaoyang Gate. The opening of this gate was sponsored by General Feng Yuxiang in honor of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the greatest revolutionary forerunner of modern China. Inside the Zhongshan Gate, there is a thriving antiques market.
You will see the East Gate after walking southward for 700 meters. It has been called Changle Gate (eternal joy) since the Ming dynasty. As Nanjing, the Ming capital, was east of Xian, this gate was named to proclaim the wish that the Ming Emperors desired their government to endure forever at ease. In October of 1643, Li Zicheng led his peasant rebellion force and stormed their way into the inner city from this gate. When he saw the horizontal tablet on the gate, he said to his army 'what a miserable life for people if the emperor wants eternal joy', so they indignantly burnt up the gate. It was rebuilt during the Qing dynasty, and today you can see old defenses like cannons and ballista here.
East Gate (Changle Gate) - Southeast Corner - Jianguo Gate
Walking the next 1020 meters, you will round the southeast corner of the wall and move westward to arrive at the Jianguo Gate, which was opened to mark that great historic event, the founding of PRC.
Jianguo Gate to Heping Gate
While enjoying the city views, you will see the Heping Gate. The name showed the war-weary Chinese people's deep desire for peace in the early years after liberation. Casting your eyes south to the end of the street, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda is visible.
Heping Gate to Wenchang Gate
The next stop, Wenchang Gate, is about 640 meters on your way westward. There is a tower honoring the god of literature, the only construction that has nothing to do with military defense. Legend has it that scholars and students worshipped the god of literature for inspiration and academic help before examinations. The ancients believed that if one's name could be selected by the god of literature, he would pass the three imperial examinations and became the top candidate.
Wenchang Gate to South Gate (Yongning Gate)
It takes only about 605 meters walking further west to your starting point, the South Gate. At this moment, you will feel a strong sense of accomplishment after finishing this 12-kilometer hike. Congratulations!
What is the most popular cycling route in Xi'an? The first thing most people think of is the City wall. This is an ideal place to ride a bike in Xi'an for the first time.
Inside the walls, you will feel the charm of history. Ancient architectural complex or archaize buildings, black bricks, grey tiles, angled cornices, take you back to the ancient times of Xi'an. Outside the walls you will see a modern city. A forest of tall buildings, bright colors, skyscrapers, all with fashion smells you are familiar with. Here, you will truly feel the collision of deep history on one side and prosperity on the other.
Cycling on the City Wall
The square city wall encircles the ancient city of Xi'an. Cycling around the wall you will pass four main gates: Changle Gate in the east, Anding Gate in the west, Yongning Gate in the South and Anyuan Gate in the North. You can do your biking tour from either gate depending on your starting point.
The City Wall is 18 meters high and 12-14 meters wide at the top, with a total length of 13.74 kilometers. On the wall there is no street obstruction, no cars and with few people, it is quite spacious for riding and the vision is extremely wide. Don't be hurry, take your tour leisurely and stop to drink water, take photos and rest for a moment at every corner tower. In this way you can do the whole journey approximately in 2 hours. Of course, if you don't want to ride the whole way, it is ok to just experience the part of it. There are bike rental points at each of the main gates and you can rent or return your bike from any of the points.
Bicycle Rental Information
Rental price for a separate bike is CNY45 per 180 minutes. If you want a tandem bicycle, it is CNY90 per bike. Besides, the deposit of CNY200 per bike is also required.
You'll also want to know where and when you can rent a bike. You can rent or return it at any of the four gates. Service hours at the South Gate are from 08:00 to 22:00, and the other three gates are from 08:15 to 19:00.
Generally, 2 hours are enough to cycle around the wall, but in case you run out of time, the overtime charge is CNY5 per 10 minutes for one bike, and it is CNY10 for a tandem bike.
• You are not allowed to bring your own bike onto the wall, only rent one from the bike rental point at either of the four gates.
• You can return the bike at the nearest rental location, but after 19:00, you should return it at the South Gate. Although the opening time is until 22:00, we suggest you return the bike before 21:30.
• Please keep the rental deposit slip well. You need it to get your deposit back when returning the bike.
• Children under 10 years old and adults over 65 years old are not allowed to ride bicycles on the wall. Walking or sightseeing battery cars are optional for those tourists.
• Kindly note there is no shelter on the City Wall, please pay attention to sun protection and drink more water. In the hot summer, the best time to ride is in the morning or at dusk.
★ If you prefer to travel to the City Wall by yourself and do not need a tour guide, you may read the following information to help you.
How to reach the South Gate (Yongning Gate)?
By Subway: You can take Subway Line 2 at the North Railway Station and get off at Yongningmen. Leaving from the Exit D2 and walk about 140 meters northward, during which you will pass by two traffic lights, you can then turn left and find the ticket office in 50 meters. The whole trip takes about 40 minutes.
By Bus: The bus stations nearby the gate includes Nanmenli with bus No. 12, No. 193, No. 600, etc. and Nanmenwai with bus No.6, No. 11, No. 40, No. 208, No.800, etc. You can find the fastest bus from your hotel to the South Gate by common map apps.
If you start from the Xi'an Xianyang International Airport, you can take the Airport Shuttle Bus - Bell Tower Route at Terminal 2, get off at Bell Tower Hotel Xi'an, and then walk southward about 1,500 meters to reach the South Gate. The whole trip will take about 2 hours.
Entrance Fee & Opening Hours
You need to buy admission ticket of the City Wall to ride bike on the top. The entrance fee is CNY54 per person.
The South Gate is the most lively and prosperous gate. It is very close to the Bell Tower in downtown Xi'an, so the opening time is slightly different from other gates. From April to October, it opens at 8:00 in the morning and closes at 22:00 at night. From November to March of the next year, it opens from 8:00 to 20:00. For the other three gates, the opening time is 8:00-19:00 from May to October, and 8:00-18:00 from November to April of the next year.
You can buy an admission ticket at the north end of the South Gate square to get across the suspension bridge and the Zhalou, namely the gate tower outside of the city wall. There is also a ticket office right below the Zhenglou gate tower on the other side of the main city wall for visitors who come from the inner city.
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- Prices are per person in US Dollars.
- Subway/ public bus fare
- Entrance fees as indicated above
- Professional English speaking guide
- Private driver
- Tips or gratuities for guide