5 Things to Do in Xian, China

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Known for the Terracotta Army, a vibrant Muslim community and unique noodles, Xian is a city you must visit while traveling in China.

Chinese vendor at the Muslim Quarter in Xian China and the Terracota Army

Located South of Beijing and to the West of Shanghai, Xian is the largest city in the province of Shaanxi.

Xian is the beginning of the Silk Road and because of the Silk trade, its culture and population are diverse.

The archeology of the area is also extremely interesting.

Getting to Xian can be done by train from Beijing or Shanghai, but it takes a very long time. If you don’t want to spend a couple days traveling, the best way to get to Xian is to book a flight from a major city. In-country flights in China are very affordable and easy to book.

Once you arrive in Xian, most hotels provide transportation from the airport or you can take the subway to your accomodation.

Here are some of my recommendations for hotels in Xian.

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5 Things to Do in Xian, China

Xian is definitely worth a visit if you are traveling in China, so make sure to build it into your itinerary.

Visit the Terracotta Army Museum

If there is one thing that you must not miss in Xian is the Terracotta Army Museum. In fact, it’s probably why travelers go to Xian in the first place.

This magnificent museum houses thousands of clay figurines that were made to “safeguard” the first Emperor of China in his afterlife. Each has distinct faces and the height to denote their rankings in society.

All the artisans, workers and wives of the Emperor were said to be buried in this massive tomb as well. They were killed and buried to prevent the secrets of how it was built from getting out.

There are other mysteries surrounding the Xian Terracotta Army that are simply fascinating! For more on the Terracotta Army Museum, read this blog post.

  • Terracota Army in Xian
  • Terracota Army in Xian
  • Terracota Army in Xian

People Watch and Shop in the Muslim Quarter

The Muslim Quarter is a bustling neighborhood full of alleyways, vendors, restaurants and businesses.

At the Muslim Quarter, you can observe a culture within a culture.

Around 50,000 Hui people (Chinese people with muslim ancestors that practice Islam) live in Xian. The Hui make up a large percentage of the minorities living in the city.

The history of the Hui people is tied to the history of the Silk Road, which starts in Xian.

Foreign muslim travelers married Han Chinese and the religion became part of this new people.

The Muslim Quarter is also a good place to shop for souvenirs and other goods. Don’t forget to haggle prices way down!

  • Shoppers at the Muslim Quarter in Xi'an China
  • Street vendor in the Muslim Quarter in Xi'an China
  • People eating at the Muslim Quarter in Xi'an China
  • Cake slices at the Muslim Quarter in Xi'an China
  • Dried Dates at the Muslim Quarter in Xi'an China
  • Souvenirs for sale at the Muslim Quarter in Xi'an China

Attend Prayer at the Great Mosque of Xi’An

One of the gems of the Muslim Quarter is the Great Mosque of Xi’An.

I was a little apprehensive about visiting the mosque as a solo woman traveler. But my visit actually opened my eyes to just how accepting and flexible the religion can be.

In this Mosque, women are welcome to walk around and don’t have to cover up (no pants, long-sleeves or head coverings are necessary).

Prayers are segregated by gender and not open to non-Muslims. However, you can watch a prayer televised outside the prayer room.

There are buildings where visitors are not allowed to enter, but they have clear signs on the door in English.

Take a moment to read the prominent sign right outside the main prayer room. It explains why they are so open to outsiders and that in the Great Mosque of Xian, Islam is only accepted as a peaceful religion.

  • Devouts going to pray at the Great Mosque of Xi'An
  • Man entering the Great Mosque of Xi'An
  • Prayer room at the Great Mosque of Xi'An
  • Architecture at the Great Mosque of Xi'An
  • Great Mosque of Xi'An

Walk the Ancient City Wall of Xian

One of the main attractions of the city is the Ancient City Wall of Xian which was built for defense in the 14th century.

The wall has been renovated throughout the years and I found it particularly beautiful during sunset and night time.

Locals like to walk or ride a bike on top of the wall. You can bikes at the base.

  • Ancient City Wall of Xian China at sunset
  • Xian China at Sunset from the top of the Ancient City Wall
  • Pagoda at the Ancient City Wall of Xian during sunset
  • Outside wall of the Ancient City Wall of Xian China at night
  • Lanterns at the Ancient City Wall of Xian
  • Pagoda at the Ancient City Wall of Xi'an China

Eat Xian’s Dumplings and Noodles

Another activity not to be missed. Different parts of China have their own claims to fame in the culinary world. Xian is known for its noodles and dumplings.

You will laugh at the English translation of some dish names. You will laugh even harder when you order things like “Smell of Urine Dry Noodles” or “Double Pepper Chicken Fish Face.”

Personally, I think the restaurants had it translated that way on purpose to to get a laugh at the foreigners ordering the food, but it is all in good fun!

Thankfully the food doesn’t taste or smell as they are named!

How many of these 5 Things to Do in Xian do you have in your bucket list?

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The city of Xian China at Sunset and dinners at the Muslim Quarter
The Muslim Quarter in Xian China and local food

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