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Best things to do in Xi'an

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Where in the world: Asia  /  China  /  Shaanxi  /  Xi'an

Top 15 things to do in Xi'an

1. The Museum of Qin Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses

The Museum of Qin Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses boasts a collection of over 8,000 carved soldiers and horses. The figures in this World Heritage Site were buried in the 3rd century BCE with the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, to protect him in the afterlife. The thousands of life-size soldiers stand at attention as an imperial army would in real life. Look for remains of the paint that originally lacquered each statue.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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2. Travel China Guide

Suggested duration: 8 hours
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3. Muslim Quarter

Immerse yourself in the Islamic culture located within the city center at Muslim Quarter. Inhabited by about 20,000 Muslims, the quarter covers several blocks and shelters some of the oldest and best-preserved mosques in China. Explore the dark-colored stone streets, which contain residence and business buildings modelled on the styles of Ming and Qing Dynasties. Get acquainted with the friendly descendants of first Muslim diplomatic and merchant immigrants who operate restaurants, shops, and workshops, and maintain their own traditions and customs. Also, try out local dishes sold by street vendors and check out market stalls offering authentic handicrafts and exquisite souvenirs.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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4. Xi'an City Wall (Chengqiang)

Built in the 14th century during the reign of the first Ming emperor, Xi'an City Wall (Chengqiang) has survived bombings, fires, and erosion and remained an important landmark. Surrounded by a deep moat, this section of the wall spans 13.7 km (8.5 mi). Constructed to optimize protection against invasion, the structure therefore includes a complicated system of gates and 98 ramparts. Today, visitors can walk, bike, or ride in a battery car across the gate.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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5. Big Wild Goose Pagoda (Dayanta)

Listed as a World Heritage Site, Big Wild Goose Pagoda (Dayanta) represents a well-preserved structure originally built in 652 that serves as an important holy site for Buddhists. Considered a symbol of the ancient city, the building currently stands 64 meters tall (210 ft), but it underwent many restorations throughout history due to numerous earthquakes which repeatedly damaged its foundation and façade. As you approach the pagoda, notice how the brick exterior looks like a square cone. Inside, observe the walls engraved with statues of Buddha as you climb the twisting staircase and take in the panoramic view from the arch-shaped doors on each of the seven storys. If you wish to take a seat on the viewing platform, you'll need to purchase a ticket.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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6. Xi'an Bell Tower

A grand construction of wood and brick, Xi'an Bell Tower stands as the city's most iconic landmark and one of the largest of its kind in the nation. Built in 1384 during the Ming Dynasty, the tower looms 40 m (131 ft) high and sits atop a massive stone foundation. Once rung to herald the beginning and the end of the day, the tower features a pagoda-like design, complete with a triple stack of roof awnings. Note the curved edges of the roofs, which helped strengthen the building during earthquakes. You may also hear about a local legend during your visit--according to the tale, the tower serves as the anchor attached to a restless, subterranean dragon.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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7. Shaanxi History Museum

One of the largest institutions of its kind in the country, Shaanxi History Museum offers an illuminating glimpse into the past through collections of fossils, bronze artifacts, and ancient artwork gathered from around the region. Explore the museum's exhibit halls, many of which feature architecture reminiscent of Tang Dynasty buildings, to browse more than 350,000 items ranging from golden statues to famed terracotta warriors. You'll find that many of the museum's displays feature information and descriptions in English, which make sightseeing even more pleasant and informative. Keep in mind that the museum only offers a limited number of tickets each day, split between the morning and afternoon sessions. Be sure to check out the museum website for information regarding ticket distribution times, as well as temporary exhibits, group tickets, and special events.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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8. Xi'an Mosque

A fusion of both Islamic and Chinese architectural elements, Xi'an Mosque represents one of the most famous Muslim sites in the country. Founded in 742 CE by traveling Arab and Persian traders, the mosque has long served as a hub of worship in the region. Wander the extensive grounds, split into four distinct courtyards, to enjoy the manicured gardens and lush surroundings. As you approach the main building, you'll find an array of calligraphy engravings and brightly-colored awning decorations in hues of red and green. Note that although the mosque features the usual minaret, its tiled rooftops recall the classical Chinese style with their signature upward-curving corners. Keep in mind that the prayer hall does not open to visitors.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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9. Mount Huashan, Huayin

Part of a chain of peaks towering above the surrounding landscape, Mount Huashan stands as one of the most sacred peaks in Taoism, Buddhism, and Chinese history. Pay a visit to the mountain and you'll find somewhat surreal views of razor-sharp ridges puncturing the sky, covered with hardy shrubs and trees. Follow the harrowing stone pathways and plank steps to cross these ridges, enjoying sweeping views along the way. You can even stop at several temples and shrines as you go. Keep in mind before visiting that the mountain features a number of hair-raising pathways; several involve essentially shimmying along a footboard with nothing but an iron chain between you and a drop of more than 1,524 m (5,000 ft). Carefully consider the risks of venturing off the more beaten paths atop the ridges, as they can be extremely dangerous.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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10. Drum Tower (Gulou)

Admire the largest drum in China in Drum Tower (Gulou), an impressive brick and wood edifice rising 34 m (112 ft) above the landscape of Xi'an. Built in 1380, the tower houses an enormous cowhide drum, beaten at every sunset to tell the time (in contrast to the sound of the bell every sunrise from the sister tower nearby). Enjoy a view of the town from the second-floor observation area, and explore a large collection of ancient percussion instruments at the drum museum inside the tower. LED-lit at night, the tower's monumental size and shape make it a landmark of the city.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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11. Huaqing Palace

Lying at the foot of Mount Li, Huaqing Palace have been a significant bathing site for some 3,000 years. Although the complex dates back to a much earlier period, much of the site you see today was constructed by the Tang Dynasty in 723. Wind you way through a scattering of imperial bathing pools and palace quarters, surrounded by cedar trees and delicate lotus flowers floating on the spring's surface. At the exhibit hall, revel in daily performances of dances from the Tang period, coupled with a traditional tea ceremony.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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12. Tang Bo Art Museum

At Tang Bo Art Museum, discover Shaanxi folk arts and become an expert in the Tang dynasty. Browse through rich collections of farmer paintings, decorative masks, rice paper pictures, pig skin puppets, and paper silhouettes used in shadow plays. Aside from calligraphy and traditional paintings, the museum also boasts works by local contemporary artists on display at a cultural exchange hall. Take a guided tour to learn more about the history of the Tang dynasty, or pick up some paper, ink, and a brush and join a calligraphy lesson.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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14. Forest of Stone Steles Museum

Observe a vast collection of ancient carvings at Forest of Stone Steles Museum, where a collection of over 3,000 steles spread over seven exhibit halls narrate China's long history. Head to the hall of statues to view tombs and sarcophagi of notable figures, and don't miss a centuries-old stele documenting the first 150 years of Christianity in China. You'll find a sufficient amount of English signage to help you get around.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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15. Xi'an Museum

Delve into the history of the city at Xi'an Museum, which showcases thousands of relics from the area’s rich culture, displayed with English explanations. The museum forms part of the “Small Wild Goose Pagoda” complex, and can be visited free of charge as part of the compound. Admire an array of local artifacts and antiques, ranging from religious statues and paintings, to ceremonial relics, as well as delicate jade and ceramic pieces.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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