Top 10 Things to Do in Xi'an

Xi'an, also named Chang’an in ancient times, served as the capital for 13 dynasties during more than 1,000 years. It enjoyed popularity equal to that of Cairo, Athens and Rome. Together they were called the "four ancient capitals of the world". The historical city is full of must-see places for tourists. Most people know the famous Terracotta Army. Are there any other fun things to do or great places to visit? Below are the top 10 things to do in Xi'an.


Terracotta Army

Terracotta Army
Visiting the Terracotta Army is No. 1 on the list of top 10 things to do in Xi'an. It is also known as the Terracotta Warriors and Horses and was built as the funerary project of the first emperor in China’s history, Qin Shi Huang (259 - 210 BC). There are 3 pits in total. Pit 1 is the largest one, and contains 6,000 terracotta warriors. Pit 2, the most complete of the three pits, contains chariots, cavalry and crossbow troops in different poses and gestures. Another thing you need to know is that it is best to go to the Terracotta Army as early as possible. You have a clearer view in the morning because the light is better and it may be less crowded.

 Recommended Tour:  3 Days Xi'an Tour from $349

 Book a Terracotta Army ticket.

Cycling on the City Wall

One of the fun things to do in Xi'an definitely is cycling on the City Wall. This is the most complete ancient city wall that has been preserved in China. The existing City Wall was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) with a total length of 13.7 km (8.5 miles). In addition to the main wall, there are Archery Towers, Watch Towers and 98 Ramparts. Among the 18 City Gates, only East Gate, West Gate, South Gate and North Gate can provide bicycles. Riding on the City Wall, you can not only appreciate the typical Chinese architecture but also appreciate the different landscapes of the inner city and the outer city.

 Recommended Tour:  1 Day Xi'an Terracotta Warriors Tour with City Wall from $102

 Book a ticket for Xi'an City Wall.

Bell Tower – the Very City Center

Xi'an Bell Tower
The Bell Tower is located at the center of the city and deserves to be known as one of best places to visit in Xi'an. Built using the typical architecture of the Ming Dynasty, it has a square base of masonry and a 3-layer square tented roof with dark green glazed tiles on the top. If you choose to visit in the daytime, you can also enjoy the splendid ancient bell performance at 9:00, 10:30, 11:30, 15:00, 16:00 and 17:00. The Drum Tower, which is near the Bell Tower, is also a good place to visit. In addition, the area around Bell Tower is prosperous, so strolling in these streets and appreciating the Bell Tower can be really one of the best things to do in Xi'an at night.

 Xi'an Bell Tower & Drum Tower Tickets Booking

Muslim Quarter – Paradise for Foodies

Xi'an Muslim Quarter
Among the must-see places in Xi'an, you can’t miss the Muslim Quarter. As a calling card of the city, here you will find more than 300 local snacks, such as halal barbecues, Vegetable Stew with Beef Balls, Honey Cold Glutinous Rice and Crumbled Flatbread in Mutton Stew. Strolling around the Quarter, you can not only taste the authentic local food but also experience the Muslim culture and customs. However, something you need to pay attention to is to respect the local religious customs. Be careful to not take any pork products into the Muslim Quarter.

Crumbled Flatbread in Mutton Stew – Signature Dish of Xi'an

Yangrou Paomo, Signature Xi'an Food
Tasting Crumbled Flatbread in Mutton Stew, also called Yangrou Paomo, is definitely one of top things to do in Xi'an, since it is the most popular snack of the local people. The demanding cooking skills and peculiar process are the keys to this delicious food. The bread can be chopped up by a machine. However, you can choose to tear the bread into small pieces on your own and put them in a bowl then give it to the cook. You can eat this dish with hot sauce and pickled sweet garlic. That’s how the local people prefer the dish, and the special flavor will certainly impress you a lot. If you want to have a try, Lao Sun Jia Restaurant and Tong Sheng Xiang Restaurant are recommended.

 Further Reading: Xi'an Dining & Recommended Restaurants

Shaanxi History Museum

Shaanxi History Museum
Speaking of wonderfully free things to do in Xi'an, visiting Shaanxi History Museum is one. As China's first large-scale modern national museum, there are more than 1,700,000 cultural relics conserved in the museum. The permanent exhibition includes three halls displaying exhibits from 115,000 years ago to 1840, which describe the living scenes and artistic pursuits of ancient people.

The museum is free for all the tourists. Six thousand tickets are released every day. You are advised to line up before 9:00 to get tickets during holiday periods. Alternatively, you can order tickets in advance on the museum’s official website. In addition, the Tang Dynasty Mural Gallery, with an extra ticket costing CNY 300, is the most spectacular part of the museum, with a collection of nearly 20 murals from the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907).

 Recommended Tour with History Museum:   Xi'an 1 Day Historical Tour from $121

 Book a Shaanxi History Museum ticket for the Permanent Exhibition Halls & Treasures of Great Tang Dynasty in it.

Giant Wild Goose Pagoda

Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi'an
The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is located in the Da Ci'en Temple complex which was a royal temple of the Tang Dynasty. The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda was built for eminent monk Xuan Zang who spent 17 years getting the Buddhist sutras and Buddha relics from India. Later he came back and spent 11 years translating these sutras in this temple. This is also the origin of the famous legendary “Journey to the West” featuring Xuan Zang and his beloved disciple Monkey King. Thus visiting the Pagoda is one of the top 10 things to do in Xi'an. Today, you can still see some sutras and Buddha relics in the Pagoda. In addition, the music fountain of the square near the Pagoda is very splendid.

 Recommended Tour:   1 Day Xi'an City Tour to City Wall and Giant Wild Goose Pagoda from $109

 Book a ticket for Giant Wild Goose Pagoda

Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show

Tang Dynasty Dance Show in Xi'an
Xi'an was the capital city of the Tang Dynasty, the most prosperous period in China’s history. Enjoying the Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show surely is one of the best things to do in Xi'an at night. These shows create a great atmosphere to transport you back to the prosperous times to experience the life of the court. The best places in the city to enjoy the show are the Tang Dynasty Palace and the Shaanxi Grand Opera House. Another fascinating show, “Everlasting Sorrow” is played in Huaqing Pool near the Terracotta Army Museum. It tells a love tragedy of the Tang Emperor Xuanzong and his favorite concubine Yang Yuhuan.

 Book a ticket for Tang Dynasty Palace Show
 Book a ticket for Shaanxi Grand Opera House to enjoy Tang Dynasty Show and Dumpling Banquet.

Climbing Mt. Huashan

Mt. Huashan, Xi'an
Mt. Huashan, one of the Five Famous Mountains in China, is known for its breathtaking cliffs and narrow paths. Climbing Mt. Huashan no doubt is one of the unusual things to do in Xi'an. There are five main peaks in total. Among them, East Peak is the best place to enjoy the sunrise view and South Peak is the highest peak with a height of 2,154.9 meters (7,070 feet). Many tourists will choose to hike up North Peak and descend West Peak. However, if hiking is too difficult, cable cars are available on both of these peaks. The mountain is so dangerous that everybody needs to be careful and pay close attention to safety.

 Book a Mount Huashan Ticket

Qianling Mausoleum

Qianling Mausoleum
In Qianling Mausoleum are buried the Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty and his wife Wu Zetian, who is the first and only woman emperor in China’s history. This is really a must-see place near Xi'an. The Mausoleum consists of the emperor couple’s tomb and tombs of other princes and princesses of the Tang Dynasty. Here you can learn the life stories of Wu Zetian and enjoy historical sculptures, colorful murals and Tang three-color pottery figurines unearthed from the tombs.

 Recommended Tour:  1 Day Tour to Famen Temple & Qianling Mausoleum from $130

 Book a Qianling Mausoleum ticket.

Further Reading:
Where is Xi’an China
10 Best Places to Visit in Xi’an
Best Time to Visit Xi’an
Where to Stay in Xi’an China – 8 Best Areas
How Many Days in Xi’an Needed?
9 Best Xi’an Night Markets
7 Things to Do in Xi’an in Spring
8 Things to See in Xi’an in Summer
What to See in Xi’an in Autumn - 9 Best Destinations
What to Do in Xi’an in Winter - 7 Best Destinations
- Last updated on Apr. 04, 2023 by Catherine He -
Questions & Answers on Top 10 Things to Do in Xi\an
Asked by suchitra from MALAYSIA | Oct. 29, 2019 00:58Reply
How can I travel to Longmen Grottoes from Xi'an.
I do not want to go for any tour package. can we do it on our own?
Answers (1)
Answered by Mona from USA | Oct. 30, 2019 19:03

You need to take train from Xi'an Railway station to Luoyang Railway station first, then you can take taxi to the scenic area with around CNY30.
Asked by Tm from THAILAND | Nov. 18, 2018 06:51Reply
Hi, I would like to spend 2 days in Xi'an may be luoyang as possible ....
please give me some plan.... I like history.
Thank you
Answers (3)
Answered by Ursa from AUSTRALIA | Nov. 18, 2018 16:48

You can arrange the sightseeing in the following way:

Day 1: Muslim Quarter, the City Wall, Forest of Stone Steles Museum, Shaanxi History Museum, Giant Wild Goose Pagoda

Day 2: Terracotta Army, Longmen Grottoes

Hope helpful!
Answered by Tm | Nov. 20, 2018 17:34

Could I travel Terra-Cotta Warriors and Longmen grotto in same day?
According you give suggestion me above...I am interested to this plan.
Answered by Ursa | Nov. 20, 2018 18:13

Hi, Tm, sorry, one day is not enough to tour around Terracotta Army and Longmen Grottoes. You can advised to visit Terracotta Army first. Then go to Huaqing Pool next. Huaqing Pool is famous for the romantic love story of Tang Emperor Xuanzong and his concubine Yang Yuhuan.
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