Xi’an is just over two hours away from Beijing flying, making it an easy weekend destination. Though the city is best known for the Terracotta army, the centre has a lot to offer as well.
The most famous and most visited attraction on offer in Xi’an would be the Terracotta Army. However, the warriors are actually quite far out of the city so its best to organise your trip before you arrive in Xi’an or through the hotel, which marks up the price but is probably the easiest and most convenient way as they will offer a pick up and drop off service. You can also visit by taking a bus from the centre, but this takes much longer, so if you have time in the city this could be a good option.
The warriors still sit in the original location where they were found. It’s a huge complex split into three different ‘pits’ looking like massive warehouses. The entrance has been converted into a mini town with McDonald’s, Burger King, Starbucks and other conveniences. At this stage of the entrance you will be approached by numerous tour guides, wearing a shirt and a small scarf. The scarf identifies the company they work for. It’s up to you whether you would like a tour guide as you go round. I decided not to because I prefer to go at my own pace. The price they offer you will be marked up so you should negotiate a price you’re willing to pay. The price will depend on how many people are in your group. It’s important to bear in mind that when you enter into the park there are audio guides on offer and also more tour guides who might be cheaper. I went while traveling with my mum, we were offered a tour for 150¥ and then later noticed within the park they were offer guides for the same price but for a large six party group so we could have bargained down. We decided against a guide. If you don’t want a guide just say no strongly, they will pester and try to convince you but just walk away and they will get the idea.
In the park you can wander around freely. I would suggest leaving pit 1 until last because it’s the largest and most impressive. There is a mini museum displaying the history of the excavation, which is where I started. I found it quite useful to read about how the army were discovered before being the pits themselves, especially as they’re still working in pit 2 so you can understand how they’re treating the new warriors they’re finding.
Muslim street is a must when visiting Xi’an, located in the centre just behind the Drum tower, it offers small stalls, hawker style food and cute souvenirs. It is generally always packed with people, mostly tourists. The street is also called Meat Street due to the quantity of meat, which hangs outside. The local food stalls offer everything fried on skewers, including seafood, veg and meat, which will be cut and treated in front of you.
Off Muslim street there are lots of little alleys with souvenir shops, which is a good opportunity to pick up some post cards or trinkets for loved ones back home. Don’t forget the unconditional rule BARGAIN FOR EVERYTHING. Never feel like you can’t bargain in places like this, they will expect it. They’re initial offer will be a rip off just to see if you’ll take it. Aim to pay around a third of what they offer you to begin with and don’t be afraid to walk away to get your point across.
The city also offers the beautiful Bell and Drum towers, both close to each other and Muslim Street. The Bell Tower sits on a roundabout, to access it you must head down to the subway and walk along, there are simple directions to follow. The underground walkway mirrors the road above, sitting in a circle making the entrance to the tower very easy to find.
The city is surrounded by a wall, offering a lovely afternoon stroll. Though accessing the wall is not free, it’s well worth doing, as it gives you the opportunity to view the city from a height. Entrance was 54¥. Every couple of hundred yards as you walk around there’s an outpost offering food and drinks. At designated areas you can also rent bikes for a faster way around. The wall is extraordinarily wide, much larger than the Great Wall, which I was not expecting. I went around during the heat of the day in May and it wasn’t too busy, but I would suggest as Summer approaches it would be a better idea to go earlier or later in the day, especially as it’s too hot.
What were your impressions of Xi’an? Leave a comment below ♥