Known abroad for the impressive Terracotta Army just outside of the city, Xi’an has an important place in Chinese history as the capital of multiple feudal dynasties through the nation’s long history. There are plenty of reasons to come to Xi’an other than to see the Terracotta Army. Here are five of the best things to do in Xi’an, Shaanxi.
Visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda
One of the most famous Buddhist temples in China, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda was built in the 7th century specifically to hold sacred Buddhist scriptures brought to China from India. Today it is still an active temple, where monks chant, pray and live; making the experience of visiting quite unique, when you consider the fact that this has been happening there for 1,300 years.
Bike along the City Wall
Built in the 14th century, the City Wall surrounding Xi’an maintains a structural integrity unlike many of its counterparts across China. It is the largest military urban fortification in the world. Nowadays, it’s a big tourist attraction, and a great way to see it and get yourself oriented in the city is to hire a bike at one of the many huts along its route and cycle along it. Plan on spending a couple of hours if you want to do the entire 13.5km route, and time it so that you end at the South Gate around 6pm – so that you can witness the changing of the guard and watch the sunset from there. Be sure to follow The Blonde Abroad’s advice when she says:
“The ride is fairly simple and effortless, but be sure you bring something to drink as the street vendors are few and far between.”
Eat in the Muslim Quarter
Having been an important trading city at the eastern end of the Silk Road, Xi’an has a diverse history, and there is a significant Muslim population, known locally as the Hui, descendents of merchants who settled here from further west. This heritage is clearly noticeable in the Muslim Quarter, specifically along Beiyuanmen Street, a pedestrian street which is host to a popular street food and souvenir market. Here, you can find distinctively Chinese Muslim cuisine, such as yangrou paomo, a mutton stew served with a pita-like bread.
Visit the Shaanxi History Museum
Built with features of the architectural aesthetics of the Tang Dynasty, this huge museum holds over 370 000 items, including paintings, pottery, coins and bronzeware from the Zhou, Qin, Hang and Tang eras. As the former capital of multiple dynasties, the Shaaxi region (of which Xi’an is the modern capital) of China is rich in cultural relics, making a visit to this museum an unmissable part of any trip to Xi’an.
Learn to make dumplings
There’s really no more immersive and informative way of getting to know the culture of a place you’re visiting than by learning about the food people eat. Dumplings are popular all over China, but Xi’an is especially known for them, so take some time to learn how they are made and enjoy these local delicacies. Small cooking classes make it easy to learn, even if you’re a beginner.