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Things to Know for a Self-organized Xian Trip

Last updated by meimeili at 2013/12/11; Destinations: Xian

Xian is one of China’s oldest cities with an incomparable history to boast. More than 73 emperors ruled over this principle area over the last 3,000 years. Xian also played an important part in the history of the Chinese Silk Road and the Great Wall! Here are our tips for arranging your own trip to experience Xian.

Main Neighborhoods and Zones

•    City Center – This area will be your main zone of interest as a traveler, with many hotels, shops such as the Bazaar Area, the Drum and Bell Towers, and of course the iconic Xian city walls.

Getting Around

•    Some streets may seem to have different names but refer to the same route. For example, Nandajie, Nanda-Street, South-Street, and South-Avenue are all the same.

•    There are 4 main streets in the city center within the Xian city walls that can help you orient yourself: North-Street, East-Street, South-Street, and West-Street.

•    Metro/Subway: There is currently just 1 north-south line running in Xian. This was opened in September 2011. More lines are under construction for operation in the near future. Most stops on the existing line are not typically of interest to visitors.

•    Bus: Traveling by bus is the principle method of getting around Xian. The cost is 1 Yuan within the city center. A bus map can be arranged for free at the Tourism Office Center near the Bell Tower in the middle of the center. Line 610 is particularly useful as it connects top sights such as the railway station, the Bell Tower, the Small Goose Pagoda and Xi'an Museum, the Shaanxi Historic Museum, and the Big Goose Pagoda. Line 609 connects the Bell Tower, the South Gate, and the Big Goose Pagoda. Finally, Line 611 is very useful for stops between the train station and the Bell Tower. Line 306 which runs efficiently on the highway express can take you to the Terracotta Warrior Museum.

What to Wear/Pack

•    Antibacterial hand gels, toilet paper, and personal sized liquid soap are all recommended as many establishments do not have such amenities available.
•    Always bring breathable, closed toe shoes for walking around the city as it can get dirty and dusty. Be expecting of rains as well.
•    It is easy to purchase quick and cheap items in any of the markets in Xian if you forget anything at home.
•    Summer (April to October) – March to April is a very common time for dust storms. July tends to be the hottest month averaging about 27°C. As in many other areas in China such as Shanghai and Beijing, the summers are very hot and humid.
•    Winter (October to March) – January is the coldest month. Aside from summer, the rest of the year is quite dry in Xian. The winters are also very cold so be sure to bring layers and thermals.

What to See

•    Terracotta Warriors and Horses Army & Museum – This is by far the most famous and popular sightseeing destination in Xian! It is easy to reach the site and museum by organized tour or Bus Line 306 for example, about 1 hour from Xian center. This site is essentially the tomorrow of Emperor Qin who was the first leader of united China, kicking off its dynastic tradition. There are more than 55,000 pieces of ancient terracotta sculptures with a military theme such as weapons, chariots, animals, and more; researchers believe that this is the exact replica of the Emperor’s actual army that lived more than 2,200 years ago. There are over 8,000 terracotta warriors each with distinctive features to start! In 1987, the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Army was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

•    Xian City Walls – Xian has one of the oldest city walls in the history of human civilization. Almost no ancient city was without its enemies! Today on the Xian city walls, visitors can take a walk or rent a bicycle to ride around. The views of the city from the top are simply beautiful. Sometimes you will even see some locals practicing tai chi on the walls. The Xian City Wall Museum is also well worth a stop.

•    Shaanxi Historic Museum – This museum hosts an extensive collection of the top relics found in the Shaanxi region from the Neolithic to the Qing Dynasty. The items showcased from Banpo Village Ruins are especially worth your time, as well as the items from the dynamic Tang Dynasty. Tickets are free for the first 4,000 visitors per day.

•    Forest of Steles – This fascinating destination is a site with 2,300 stone tablets that were used in ancient days to record official texts. The Forest of Steles is found within the old city walls.

•    Big (Wild) Goose Pagoda – Big (Wild) Goose Pagoda is a visual icon of Xian. This is a common gathering place and in front, there is a pleasant water and music show from time to time. Authentic and local-style restaurants and parks can be found nearby.

•    Drum & Bell Towers – These towers are the main orientation points of Xian, especially the old city downtown within the city walls. They are visually astounding and one of the time-honored icons of all China.

•    Grand Mosque and the Muslim Quarter – China has long been a mixing pot of cultures and outside influences. In part due to Xian’s significance along the Silk Road, there has been a large influx of the Muslim culture. Today, the Muslim Quarter and Muslim Street is a fine place to spend the afternoon wandering the shops and restaurants. Visitors can find crafts, snacks and foods that are both Chinese and Islamic in flavor, and other items for very cheap prices. The Grand Mosque, the first mosque built in China, offers a stunning blend of Islamic and Chinese architecture styles. Non-Muslims are not allowed inside per traditional rules of Islam but some of the courtyards are open to the respectable public.

•    Daming Palace and Park – This grand green space and park with an impressive ancient palace gate with palace built in the Tang Dynasty is an ideal place to enjoy some nature in Xian and get away from the urban way of life and crowds. The square is host to community events all the time.

•    Banpo Village Ruins – Banpo Village is more than 6,000 years old and is an interesting highlight where visitors can see the original residential and pottery-making areas, ancient tools, and burial ground. Be sure to stop by the Shaanxi Historic Museum when back in Xian proper to see some of the many items excavated from Banpo Village.

What to Eat

Xian is full of wonderful restaurants, but keep in mind that one of the most interesting and affordable places to eat is at any of the eateries in the Muslim Quarter due to the fusion of culture and flavors that have survived the centuries. Street food found at shops and stalls are also authentic places to grab a bite in Xian.

•    Yang Rou Pao Mo – mutton soup with a piece of thick, chewy bread; a beef version is also available in lieu of mutton
•    Biang Biang Mian – wide noodles in a broth served with eggs, tomato, beef or another meat, and more.
•    Rou Jia Mo – a very traditional Xian dish similar to a beef burger, it can also be found served with pork or lamb; this is a definitely must-try in Xian!
•    Xiao Long Baozi – delicate steamed dumplings that are common snacks late at night or after drinking; Da Baozi is a version eaten in the mornings
•    Guan Tang Baozi – steamed buns with sauces melted inside
•    Shi Zi Bing – the people of Xian love their steamed buns! These are made from persimmons ad stuffed with sweet delicacies inside such as black sesame paste then deep fried for a very rich flavor.
•    Lu Dou Gao – green bean cakes with some flavors sometimes mixed in such as sesame

Where to Stay

The city center within the ancient Xian city walls is the ideal place to stay for visitors. Renmin Square is full of especially mid-level category accommodations due to its central location. The closer to the Bell Tower and the South Gate in the city center, the more choices and higher prices you will find.