Xian is an exciting destination for travelers to China and is home to some world-class tourist sites such as the Terracotta Warriors.
This ancient Chinese city is a mix of east meets west and was once the starting point on the legendary Silk Road.
The old city is enclosed within a walled fortification and is packed full of interesting attractions, restaurants, and parks.
Xian makes a great base for exploring some of China’s top attractions such as Huashan Mountain, nearby Luoyang and the Shaolin Temple.
This is a guest post by Steve Rohan of chinatravelsite.com.
Table of Contents
Two Days in Xian: Where to Stay
Budget: Travelling with Hostel (South Wall) is located inside the city walls very close to the South Gate. The dormitories and private rooms are clean and comfortable, and there is a wonderful rooftop bar with fantastic views across the city (tip: you don’t need to stay at the hostel to enjoy the bar). Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
If you are planning on hostelling in China, check out this guide to Backpacking in China.
Mid-Range: Left Hotel is located close to the Bell Tower in the center of Xian. The rooms are beautifully decorated and come at a very reasonable price for the location.
Luxury: The Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel is located just outside the south gate and close to Yongningmen metro. The upscale rooms offer fantastic views across the city. The breakfast buffet is superb with a good selection of Chinese and western dishes on offer. There is also a restaurant, bar, and spa on site. Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
How to Spend Two Days in Xian, A Perfect Itinerary
Xian in 2 Days: Day One
Xian City Walls
The best place to get a feel for Xian is by exploring the city walls which stretch for 13km around the centre of the city. The most fun way to do this is to hire a bicycle on top and cycle the length which takes around two hours.
The wall was completed in 1370 and is one of the largest surviving fortifications in China after the Great Wall. There are four main gates at each point of the compass which act as the entry points.
The views from the wall are some of the best in the city and you can see across the old rooftops and temples.
Bell and Drum Towers
Xian’s Bell Tower is in the geographical centre of the old city. This beautiful red-bricked building with its many eaves was constructed in 1384 and now houses a photography exhibition charting the city’s history.
The nearby drum tower was used in ancient times to warn of enemies approaching the city, as well as to pass the marking of time.
There are hourly drum performances inside the tower between 09:30 and 16:20.
A short walk from the bell and drum towers is “Muslim Street”, so called for the many Uighurs that call Xian home and offer an incredible array of foods to try with a decidedly eastern flavour.
This is the best place to try street food in Xian, but there are also many restaurants and cafes should you want to take a rest from all the exploring.
Wild Goose Pagoda
After lunch head to the famous Large Wild Goose Pagoda. Built during the Tang Dynasty in 652, this was an important place of Buddhist Worship and houses scriptures collected from India.
It is possible to climb the Pagoda and also explore the associated Da’Cien Temple.
Shaanxi History Museum
The Shaanxi History Museum is a great free attraction in Xian and charts China’s history from prehistoric times up until the modern day.
There are four main exhibition halls with over 300,000 artefacts on display including pottery, ornaments, paintings and weapons.
Xian in 2 Days: Day Two
The mausoleum of Emperor Qingshihuang is arguably one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century. In 1974 local farmers unearthed the first of over 8,000 life-size terracotta soldiers.
The museum contains three main excavation pits with the soldiers still in situ and is an impressive sight. Terracotta horses, chariots and other dignitaries can also be viewed.
The museum is set within beautiful parkland overlooking nearby Li Mountain and is a great place for a picnic (there are also many restaurants around the site).
Huaqing Pool and Lishan Mountain
Huaqing Pool, located less than two kilometres from the Terracotta Warriors, is a beautiful Chinese garden at the foot of Lishan Mountain. Here you can find tranquil courtyards with bubbling streams and pools, ancient architecture, pavilions and more.
If you are feeling adventurous you can also climb the stone steps to the summit of Lishan (at 1,302 meters it’s not too taxing). There are plenty of resting places along the way with stalls selling refreshments and the views across Xian the central plains of China are fantastic.
South Gate/South Shuncheng Road
In the evening head to South Shuncheng Road parallel to the south wall which is lined with many great bars and restaurants. Near Wall Bar is Xian’s premiere craft beer brewery and you can see the beer brewed on site while tasting it. There is also live music most nights.
Practical Information for your 2 Day Xian Itinerary
If you want to post photos of the incredible Xian attractions to your social media, then a VPN is a must for any trip to China. Most social media platforms are banned, so using a VPN means you can get around the “Great Firewall” and stay connected. Read all you need to know about the best VPN for China.
WeChat & Alipay
WeChat is the Chinese equivalent of WhatsApp and is used by millions every day. As well as messaging and calling, WeChat can also be used to pay for everything from subway tickets to meals in restaurants, taxis and shopping. You will find a trip to China will be made easier by downloading and installing the app.
Another alternative to WeChat is Alipay which is just as widely accepted and can be linked to non-Chinese bank cards.
When is the Best Time to Visit Xian?
Xian is located in central China and has a temperate climate. Summers are long and hot with the odd downpour. Spring and summer are perfect times for a visit as the temperatures are warm but not too humid. Winters are cold with some snow. This part of China can suffer a fair amount of pollution in winter, so not the best time for a trip to Xian.
How to Get from the Airport to the City Centre
Xianyang International Airport is located 40km north of the city, but is connected to Xian’s metro making getting to the city easy.
Take the Xian Airport Metro Line to Beikezhan (Xian North Railway Station) and change to line 2. The Bell Tower (Zhonglu) is 11 stops.
Tickets cost ¥25 ($3.80) and the journey time is around an hour.
How to Get Around the City
The Xian metro is the best way to get around the city. Tickets are cheap by western standards (around ¥4 one way, which is less than one dollar). The metro is easy to navigate as signage is in both Mandarin and Pinyin English.
Taxis are also cheap and plentiful in Xian making it easy to get around. The base fare is ¥10 ($1.50) and each additional mile is charged at ¥1.40 ($0.22).
A great way to get around the city is by availing yourself of the many shared bikes you can find on every street. You will need the WeChat or Alipay app to pay, and rental starts at ¥1.
Author Bio: Steve Rohan, originally from England, has lived in China for six-year. He has traveled to over 50 countries and writes for the adventure travel blogs thetripgoeson.com and chinatravelsite.com.