The birthplace of Chinese civilisation and capital of the Shaanxi Province, Xi’an is a city that will leave a deep impression on you. Whether you are into authentic Shaanxi cuisine, history and culture this is a city that is sure to not disappoint. Historical and cultural delights infused with strong graceful architecture, Xi’an is a city that is truly mesmerising and unforgettable.
Xi’an’s heritage is known to many in China as being the capital city of 13 Imperial dynasties, which is the most for any Chinese city, in addition to this is the City where the “The First Emperor” unified China as one whole nation, known as Qin Shi Huang he led the great Qin dynasty from 220 BC-210BC, one can say that his legacy is everlasting within the city, as this is the emperor responsible for the Terracotta Army.
Xi’an is located in the north of China in Shaanxi Province and is one of the many beginnings of the world renowned Silk road. You will see the remnants of this through the local diversity of ethnic influences and the variety of the culinary treats.
This is a guide for things that I have done personally, so if there are things I have missed please add to the comments below, so we can have an excuse to go back!
Things to Do
There is quite a lot to do in this ancient city so below is a list of things that you might want to check out, I have included a brief description of each different activity.
- Terracotta Warriors of Qin- What trip to Xi’an is complete without making a visit to great Terracotta warriors, with three huge pits this is an archaeological marvel which has left the world astonished. The warriors have been buried for over a thousand years and have only been discovered in 1974 and the collection is assumed to grow more with careful excavation in the future, this is one of the things that I would not recommend skipping out on. Some advice for tourists buying Terracotta statues as souvenirs may seem like a cool idea but in Chinese culture it is regarded as bad gift as the statues were made to guard the Emperor in his afterlife, so they give off quite a big death vibe.
- Xi’an’s City wall- This is the most complete city wall that has survived in China, in addition to this it is one of the largest ancient military defence systems in the world. Started by the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty Zhu Yuanzhang, built the wall and extended its size and height to fortify the city, this allowed him to unify surrounding states and build the empire. This wall will give you stunning views of the old city and is great for those who love a good ol’ walk.
- Xi’an Bell Tower-The Bell Tower Square marks the geographical centre of the ancient capital. From this important landmark extend East, South, West and North Streets, connecting the Tower to the East, South, West and North Gates of the City Wall of the Ming Dynasty.
- Shaanxi History Museum- This history museum, housed is in a magnificent Confucian Temple and features more than 370,000 pieces of historical relics mainly from the Zhou to the Tang periods (1100B.C. to 907 A.D.).
- Huaqing Palace- also known as the Huaqing Hot spring or Huaqing Pool, is located to the north of Mount Li in Lintong District, Xi’an, Shaanxi Province. It is 30 kilometres away from Xi’an city. With Mount Li on the south and the Weihe River to the north, Huaqing Palace. An ancient Chinese resort palace it is celebrated for its hot spring pools. Huaqing Palace combines in harmony culture and history with natural scenery. This is perfect for those who want to to visit the Terracotta army as most tour groups offer this within the tour package.
- Forest of Stones Steles Museum- This museum boasts the largest collection of steles cut in 837 A.D., the oldest existing texts of the Confucian classics, and more than 2,000 engraved stone tablets from the Han dynasty. This museum is great for those who are interested in calligraphy and Chinese Literature. I would recommend walking to this museum as you will pass through a small suburb of local artists who have an ability to display their passion through art.
- The Muslim Quarter- These busy walking street is ideal for the hungry, and I am sure you will spend a lot of time and money eating the delicious street food. Lamb skewers, Chinese hamburgers and fresh pomegranate juice, you can not miss this street. I’m sure the Muslim quarter made me put on weight!
- Great Mosque of Xi’An- Located behind the busy walking street in the Muslim quarter this is one of the most tranquil and peaceful you will find in Xi’an, with classic traditional Chinese architecture and over 1,000 years behind it this mosque, is probably one of my most favourite places in Xi’an. The lovely gardens and delicate ambience can mellow and relax your mind and soul.
Street Food Galore
Below I have listed a couple of highly recommended things to eat in Xi’an, There is so many things to try so I have only put down my favourite things that I really enjoyed. To make it easy I will put down the English translations and pinyin version, pinyin will make it easier to find or order when your’e in China.
Of course there is so much I didn’t try so any things I missed out please do include in the comments section.
Lamb Skewers-Yang Rou Chuan
Juicy, succulent pieces of mutton on skewers coated in cumin and chilli flakes is probably one of the most famous street foods in China. In Xi’an the meat is so juicy and irresistable I would recommend trying.
Cold Skin Noodles- Liang Pi
Liang pi is a noodle-like Chinese dish made from wheat or rice flour. It is a speciality dish originating from this province, this is a cold noodle dish, which is quite refreshing to eat.
Soup Buns- Guan Tang Bao
Soup filled steam buns, absolutely deliscious one of my favourite things to eat whilst I was in Xi’an.
Chinese Hamburgers- Rou Jia Mo
This is the Chinese equivalent to an western hamburger, however the meat here is stewed in a soup wth over 20 spices and then is finely chopped to fill a type wheat based flatbread. Usually comes in pork but in Muslim areas beef is common to find.
Xi’an’s Speciality Mutton Stew-Yang Rou Paomo
Crumbed, unleavened flatbread is soaked in highly seasoned mutton stew, the paomo is a local favourite and enjoyed throughout the Shaanxi Province.
My Xi’an Journey!
Here are some more pictures of my journey into Xi’an, if you have any questions I am more than happy to help.