Xian is one of my most favourite cities in China. I have been to Xian twice now and I loved it both times. There is so much to see in Xian that you can easily spend a week there without getting bored and some off the stuff is so amazing that you don’t mind seeing it twice either. Moreover, at least in October, when I visited it did not seem to be overcrowded either. The grounds of Jianfu temple which houses both the Small Goose Pagoda and Xian’s Museum were actually pretty tranquil and quite pleasant to walk around in. Definitely worth a trip as the Small Goose Pagoda, which withstood 7 or 8 earthquakes, since it was build in the Tang Dynasty (707-709 AD) is absolutely stunning. I prefer it to the Big Goose Pagoda (652 AD) by far, although you should definitely visit both.
Within Xian there are plenty of other places to visit including the Drum and Bell Towers, the City Walls, the Shaanxi History Museum, the Temple of Eight Immortals, the Muslim Quarter (see below), the Great Mosque, the Forest of of Stelae Museum (see below) and the Temple of Eight Immortals. That alone will keep you busy for a few days. That is assuming that you are not doing any shopping or souvenir hunting. If you looking for Chinese paintings or calligraphy, your best bet is probably Shuyuan Xiang near the Forst of Stelae Museum. Here you can to buy Chinese paintings, calligraphy or even art supplies (brushes, inkstones, paper etc) or you can even have a Chinese seals (with Your Chinese name ingraved ) made here. However, I suggest that if you do this be prepared to spend a little bit of money as the cheap ones look pretty horrible.
There are plenty of sights to visit outside of Xian as well, the most famous obviously being the Terracotta Army. However, you should also go and see the Tomb of the Han Emperor Jingdi which consists of a museum and the tomb itself which is still being excavated. The tomb consists of 21 burial pits, some of which have been covered by glass floor so you can walk over the tomb and admire the finds. The museum itself contains about 50000 terracotta statues including farmers, servants and domesticated animals, thus providing a good description of daily life in ancient China. In addition to these two sites I also visited Hua Shan, one of Taosim’s five sacred mountains and Famen Si.
During both of my visits I stayed in the X’an Qixian (Seven Sages) Youth Hostel, which I can only recommend. It is located inside a traditional Chinese Courtyard house and it is ideal for exploring Xi’an by foot as it is situated within walking distance of the Drum and Bell Towers, the Muslim Quarter and even the Museum of Stelaes.
Food – Muslim Quarter
If Xian is one of my most favourite places in China, this is one of my most favourite places in Xian. At least in 2011 and 2012 this place was absolutely amazing, The atmosphere was brilliant and the choice of food available was jmindboggling. While in Xian I do not think that I ever ate anywhere else. You can either sit in one of the many small restaurants, eat your dumplings and watch the world go by, or you can wonder from food stall to food stall and create your own menu so to speak. Watching the food being prepared in front of you is also quite entertaining and the best thing is that you know that the food has been freshly prepared and has not been sitting in a pot somewhere for the whole day.
Forest of Stelae Museum
Xian’s Terracotta Army
How to get there:
You can easily reach the Terracotta Army by public bus, which leaves from Xian Train Station eastern car park. The buses are clearly labelled ‘Terracotta Army’ (in English) and you need to get out at the last stop.
How to get there:
The easiest way to get to Hua Shan is to take one of the private buses that depart from outside Xi’an Train Station. The first bus leaves Xi’an about 6am and the drive takes about 2 hours. The buses leave Xian throughout the day but only depart when the bus is full.
Tomb of Emperor Jingdi
How to get there:
When I visited the tomb in 2011 the only way to get there was by taxi. However, more recently it seems to have become possible to visit the temple by public transport. Take the Metro Line 2 to the Shitushuguan station and take the bus 4, which leaves outside exit D, to the the tomb.