“My favorite thing to do is go where I’ve never been.”
Xi’an is a world-renowned ancient capital. It is located in the heart of China’s Guanzhong Plain on the Yellow River Delta. Historically, Xi’an was the starting point of the ancient Han-dynasty Silk Road. It stretched all the way through western China, Central Asia and the Middle East to the Mediterranean Sea.
Noted for its ancient Chinese history, Xi’an is world-famous for it’s unique “Underground Army” of clay Terracotta Warriors.
Fun Xi'an Attractions
Xi’an’s Terracotta Army is one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. Located about 25 miles east of Xi’an, this “eighth wonder of the world” attracts over two million tourists a year. The army was built to guard the tomb of Emperor Qin Chi Huang (the first Emperor of China), and to protect him in the afterlife. He died in 210 BC and was buried with his Terracotta Army. The grave’s creators were buried alive in the mausoleum to ensure its secrecy. In 1974, the tomb was discovered by farmers digging an irrigation well near the base of Qin’s pyramid. The site was opened to the public in 1980. Since then, archaeologists have uncovered about 2,000 of the 8,000 life-size warriors from 22 square miles of Pits. Planted in battle formation, each of the soldier’s bodies are identical – cast from the same mold – although their faces are unique.
Museum of Terracotta Army
Today, only a small portion of the underground army of Terracotta Warriors has been fully excavated. Archaeologists have also unearthed about 40,000 bronze weapons from the Terracotta Pit, including spears, battle axes, crossbows, and arrowheads. Pit #1 is the largest and most impressive area. It contains over 6,000 Terracotta figures. Pit #2 was discovered in 1976. It contains over 1,400 chariots, horses and cavalrymen. Pit #3 was excavated in 1977. The small chamber contains figures that appear to represent an Elite Command Force. Pit #4 was discovered empty. Speculation includes the death of the Emperor and the fall of the dynasty. The most recent Pit to be discovered contains figures of women and animals (pigs, cattle, goats and chickens). Tip: Arrive early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Better yet, ask if your tour guide can get you into the museum for a private showing, before it opens to the public.
Other fun Xi’an attractions include:
Bell Tower & Drum TowerThe Bell Tower, built in 1384, stands at the center of the walled city square. The Drum Tower, built in 1380, stands to the west. Both towers are Ming Dynasty treasures. Each Ming city had a bell tower and a drum tower. The bell was sounded at dawn and the drum at dusk. Now, every day at sunrise, a team gathers at the Drum Tower to beat the drum 21 times – and returns at sunset to the Bell Tower to sound the bell 21 times.
Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Big Wild Goose Pagoda is Xi’an’s most famous Tang Dynasty landmark. It’s one of the most famous Buddhist pagodas in China. The pagoda was built in 652 A.D. to house the Buddhist scriptures which were brought back from India by the traveling monk Xuan Zang, China’s most famous Buddhist monk. He then set about translating them into Chinese.
Located within the compound of the Ci En Temple of Xi’an, the pagoda stands an impressive seven stories high (200 feet). It was Xi’an’s tallest structure for over 12 centuries. Once standing a mile inside the walls of the Old City, today it is located three miles outside of it.
De Fa Chang RestaurantThe large and elegantly decorated restaurant is located in Xi’an Bell and Drum Towers’ square. We’ve never seen such an amazing selection of “Jiaozi” Chinese Dumplings anywhere before. The restaurant serves up to 20 varieties of steamed dumpling, many shaped like animals or flowers… and even aliens! The colored dumplings are stuffed with a variety of delicious fillings – savory (veggies and meat) and sweet. Feast on a full Chinese banquet of traditional dishes and Peking Duck.
Shaanxi History Museum
Opened in 1992, the state-of-the-art Shaanxi History Museum is rated as one of the best museums in China. Built in huge, classical Chinese style, the museum’s collection of historical and cultural artifacts are among the best. Plan on spending plenty of time here – there’s so much to see.
Small Wild Goose Pagoda
Built from 707 to 709 A.D., Small Wild Goose Pagoda housed Buddhist scriptures brought back from India. The pagoda, located to the south of the walled city, was once one of Xi’an’s tallest structures. The top of the 13-storey pagoda was shaken off by an earthquake in the middle of the 16th century, but the rest of the structure remains intact. The delicate pagoda – located within the compound of the Jianfu Temple – and its beautiful surroundings, including a picturesque park, are well worth a visit.
Tang Dynasty Show and Dumpling Banquet
For a fun evening experience in Xi’an, we highly recommend this Dumpling Banquet and Tang Dynasty Show. The night begins with a feast of local dumplings. Nearly 20 varieties of dumplings are steamed and stuffed with a delicious assortment of vegetables, meats and seafood. Exquisite!
Following dinner, experience the local color and pageantry of the Tang Dynasty Show. The performance showcases the music, dance and colorful costumes that have graced the region for centuries. The dinner and entertainment lasts for 2 1/2 hours and will fill a memorable evening in the walled city.
Book Xi'an Sightseeing Tours, Day Trips and Fun Things To Do
Book a Private Half-Day Tour to see the lifelike Terracotta Warriors. Take an Adventure Day Tour and visit Mount Huashan to see Buddhist and Taoist Temples. Feast on Xian’s famous dumplings and see a colorful Tang Dynasty Show. Take a hands-on Steamed Bun Cooking Class and visit a local market. Enjoy a Customized Day Tour to the Terracotta Army and Horses Museum.
Book Your Xi'an Vacation
The Best Time To Visit Xi'an
The best time to visit Xi’an is during Spring (March-May) and Fall (September-October) when temperatures are mild. We visited Xi’an in October and the weather was perfect. 🙂