If you only have 24 hours in Xi’an to take in the city’s historic sites, you’re in luck. Though you could easily linger for two more days and absorb all the magnificent details of this ancient city, it is possible to see the main draws in just one. Here’s our best advice for your perfect one day trip to Xi’an.
Drop off your bags at Hilton Xi’an, conveniently located inside Xi’an’s ancient city walls and walking distance from attractions such as the Muslim Quarter, and the Bell and Drum towers.
Xi’an’s most distinctive feature is the Ming-era city walls that still surround the city-center; locals often refer to locations as “within the walls” or “beyond the walls”. The Bell Tower sits on the central axis of the city, from where the four main streets extend. While most sights are within the city area, you will have to journey about 45 minutes outside the city for the Army of Terracotta Warriors.
Start the day early and head out to the site of the Terracotta Army. One of the most famous archaeological finds in the world, this 7000-strong subterranean army has silently guarded the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor, for more than two millennia. Three excavated pits display an army of life-sized warriors – each archer, cavalryman or general unique with his own expression, hairstyle, armor and military rank.
Weary traders and travelers from Central Asia ended their long caravan journeys in Xi’an, bringing with them dishes and recipes from home. You will find their descendants at the old Muslim Quarter, where most of the Muslim community resides today. Walk the streets and see locals hammering on peanut and sesame candy, roasting lamb skewers over coal-fired griddles, or stirring huge pots of steaming lamb stew. Enjoy local snacks such as the Chinese burger (rou jia mo), which is made up of Uyghur flatbread stuffed with tender strips of slow-cooked mutton, stewed with chili and cumin. (For more to do in the Muslim Quarter read Discovering Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter on Foot.)
Walk through History (Optional)
If you need a break, head back to your hotel and rest up for an evening out, otherwise, keep up your momentum and continue on to the Shaanxi History Museum. Dubbed the “Treasure Chest of Ancient China”, this museum houses a remarkable collection of local artifacts that depict the development of Shaanxi province culture from the Neolithic ages through to the Qing Dynasty. The exhibition halls take you on a miniature tour through ancient Chinese history and the glory days of Xi’an as the imperial seat of 13 dynasties. Well-preserved pottery from nearby Banpo Neolithic village and many exquisite Shang Dynasty bronzes are also on display.
As the sun begins to set, go on a walk or bike ride along Xi’an’s old city walls. The largest intact city wall in the world, its imposing 12m-high walls are surrounded by a dry moat with a total perimeter of 14km. Since its construction in 1370 during the Ming dynasty, the wall has been restored and it is possible to circle the wall in its entirety. Look out over modern-day Xi’an, where slices of old and new, local and foreign come together.
Finish off you day with a dumpling banquet in the city that takes dumplings to a whole new level. Dumplings are a ubiquitous dish in China, but in Xi’an they come in every shape and color you can imagine. Sit back and prepared to be stuffed as plates of tiny duck-shaped dumplings, dumplings folded into fish, or intricate flowers, each with it’s own delicious combination of stuffings – like pork, shrimp, duck, green onion or celery – are brought out for your eating pleasure.
Read for a trip to Xi’an? Check out our fully- customizable Terracotta Warrior day tour.