20 Things To Do In Xian

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Known around the world for its famous Terracotta Warriors, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a stunning China landmark, Xian is well and truly on the radar for most visitors to China. Other Xian attractions include the culture and architecture in Xian’s Muslim quarter, temples and towers. The capital of China’s first emperor is a fascinating city to visit and one of the top places to visit in China. Xian is the capital of  Shaanxi province and one of China’s ancient capitals. Here are a few Xian attractions to put on your bucket list. Unlike other cities in China, such as Xiamen in Fujian province or Macao, where much of the history has western influences, Xian is a pure hotbed of Chinese history. 

Xian, China

Top Tours

Things To Do In Xian

1- See The Xian Tang Dynasty Show

things to do xian
Seeing a historic show is one of the fun things to do in Xian to understand history.

The Tang Dynasty Emperor strides ceremoniously down the aisle in his black gold-trimmed robe with gorgeous concubines dressed in flowing gowns trailing behind him.

As he walks past the tables of guests, you’ll be swept up in the grandeur of the royal procession. Don’t be surprised if you feel like dropping on the ground with your head pressed to the floor.

1400 years ago when Xi’an was the capital of the Tang Dynasty, your head would have been certainly been chopped off for not showing the Emperor proper respect.

Fortunately, these days, the “Emperor” is a performer in the Tang Dynasty Song & Dance Troupe, a dinner show with a slickly choreographed routine where dancers in bright costumes leap and twirl on the stage with acrobatic flair.

Here, Xi’an’s history comes to life in swirls of colour, dance and music. 


Don’t miss out.

Book your tickets to the Xi’an Night Great Tang Dynasty Show and you can opt to include a dumpling dinner with your ticket too.

xian to do
Learning more about the city’s rich history is one of the top Xian attractions.

things to do xian
One of the fun things to do in Xian.

2- Visit The Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum

xian things to do
Seeing the Terracotta Warriors is an awe-inspiring thing to do in Xian.

Xi’an’s main historical sight is the Terracotta Warrior Museum, which covers an area of more than 20 hectares and is divided into various pits.

More than 8,000 figures of warriors and horses, along with other items such as chariots and weapons, have been unearthed in these pits.

The army of clay warriors was assembled by Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259-210BC) to protect the Emperor in the afterlife.

The life-sized figures of soldiers (many of which hold real weapons) and horses are arranged in classical battle formations.

Although many pieces have been restored, excavation and restoration work has been an ongoing process since a farmer discovered it in 1974.

The Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum is Xian’s main drawcard so make sure you book your ticket in advance for a private tour or a guided bus tour.

xian attraction
Make sure you have enough time to take in this top Xian attraction.

3- Visit The Forest of Stone Steles Museum

The Tang period was the golden age of Chinese literature and art.

So your next stop should be the Forest of Stone Steles Museum, where a gallery of stone tablets holds records of Chinese culture and history in a variety of writing styles.

The collection, which is housed in what was once a Confucian temple, dates back to 1090 AD and is a library of 3000 engraved stone tablets.

There are classics such as Classic on Filial Piety written by Emperor Xuan Zong in AD 745, the Ming De Shou Ji Stele (a record of the peasant uprising against the Ming emperors) and the Popular Stele of Daiqin Nestorianism (engraved in AD 781 to mark the opening of a Nestorian church in China). 

4- Explore The Big Wild Goose Pagoda

xian attractions
The Big Wild Goose Pagoda has an interesting story and is a top Xian attraction.

Next on the literature trail is the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, an ancient architectural marvel built with layers of bricks but no cement to hold the bricks in place.

The pagoda is on the grounds of the Temple of Great Maternal Grace, which during its heyday had 13 courtyards and 1,879 rooms.

There was a chamber dedicated entirely to the translation of Buddhist scriptures.

If you’re interested to delve deeper, this private Big Wild Goose Pagoda Buddhism Walking Tour is a great way to learn more.

5- Admire The Bell Tower and Drum Tower 

things to do in xian
Exploring the Drum Tower is one of the things to do in Xian you shouldn’t miss.

Xi’an’s historic centre is marked by its bell tower, a traditional building that was built by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang as a watchtower in 1384.

Across the square from the bell tower is the 600-year-old drum tower, named for the huge drum that originally hung within it.

During ancient times, the beat of the drum at sunset indicated the end of each day.

Inside the drum tower is a drum museum with displays of different types of drums, some as old as one thousand years.

A drum performance is held here each day. 

6- Wander Around Xian’s Muslim Quarter

Xian Attractions - Muslim Quart
Exploring the Muslim Quarter is one of the attractions in Xian.

Below the drum tower is the start of the Muslim Quarter, the hub of Xi’an’s Muslim community.

Amble past the traditional Ming and Qing Dynasty shop houses, catching whiffs of barbeque beef and mutton roasting slowly over charcoal fires.

Yongxingfang Food Street has a focus on authentic Shaanxi cuisine where you can enjoy a wide range of local snacks and dishes in a traditional setting.

Browse through dried fruit and nut shops and souvenir stores with rows of imitation terracotta warrior statues.

The cafes are packed with Muslim men in white skull caps sipping tea so pull up a seat at a café and watch the world of Xian go by.

The services is rough and don’t be surprised to find young teenaged waitresses dressed in jeans and t-shirts slapping down metal plates with skewers of meat on the table in front of you.

Food stall in Xian
The food in Xian is delicious and one of the Xian attractions to savour.

Muslim food is popular in Xi’an.

Xi’an’s Muslim community is a tightly knit group descended from diplomatic envoys and merchants who settled in the area centuries ago.

Although the Muslim Quarter is compact, it has an ambience that differentiates it from the rest of the city.

Wandering around the Muslim quarter is an eye-opener to the diversity of China’s culture and not what most people expect to see when visiting China.

Check out this Xi’an Muslim Quarter Night Market Foodie Walking Tour.

7- Visit The Great Mosque

While the Muslim Quarter is already on your list, the Great Mosque deserves a special mention.

As one of the largest and most well-preserved Islamic mosques in China, its architecture beautifully blends Islamic and Chinese design elements.

The mosque is not only a place of worship but also a tranquil haven for contemplation and exploration.

Its main landmark, the Great Mosque, is one of China’s largest.

Built in an eclectic mixture of traditional Muslim and Chinese styles, visitors can enter the mosque’s courtyard to admire gardens, stone arches, glazed tiles and ancient tablets but only Muslims are allowed into the prayer hall.

Although the present mosque only dates back to the 18th century, it’s believed that an original mosque might have been established on this site during the Tang Dynasty as a result of Islam being introduced into China by Arab merchants and travellers. 

8- Walk Xian’s Wall

The city wall is one of the top Xian attractions.

Later that evening, I follow the glittering lights on a walk around Xi’an’s ancient wall.

One of the very few cities left in China where the old city wall is still visible, Xi’an’s wall forms a rectangle around the ancient Tang Dynasty city.

Visitors can climb steps to the top of the wall and take a 16-kilometre jog along the top of the wall.

A large group is gathered on the grassy area beneath the wall to watch local performers singing and dancing.

The entire structure, with its guard towers, is lit up like a fairytale fort and is a glittering reminder of Xi’an’s imperial past. 

It’s worth taking a tour of the wall to learn more about its history or join a night tour for a magical atmosphere and an enchanting way to appreciate the ancient structure and the city’s skyline.

9- Eat Dumplings and Noodles

xian food
One of the Xian attractions is its special dumplings and noodles.

One of the top attractions in Xian is the dumplings and the noodles, which are delicious and different to most places in China. 

The snacks and street food available in Xian are unique and you could easily spend a few days discovering different tastes. 

Here are a couple of Xian’s famous foods:

  • Cold noodles or liangpi (凉皮) drizzled with vinegar, chilli oil, pepper and garlic with a bean sprout and cucumber topping.  
  • Sour soup dumpling or suantang shuijiao (酸汤水饺) are mutton dumplings dished up in a leek and cilantro broth.
  • Join a food tour with a local to find out the best places to eat.

10- Explore Ancient China In The Banpo Museum

The Banpo Museum is an archaeological site that features a prehistoric village dating back to the Neolithic period.

It offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of China’s ancient peoples, showcasing their homes, tools and art.

It’s an educational visit that provides a contrast to the imperial and military history of Xi’an.

Banpo Museum is at 155 Banpo Rd, Baqiao District, Xi’An, Shaanxi, China. Book your tickets here.

11- Step Back In Time At The Shaanxi History Museum

This museum is home to a vast collection of artifacts that tell the story of China’s history, including items from the Zhou and Tang dynasties.

The museum offers a deep dive into China’s rich past and the evolution of its fascinating civilisation.

The Shaanxi History Museum is at 91 Xiaozhai E Rd, Yanta District, Xi’An, Shaanxi, China, 710064.

12- Discover Treasures In The Xianyang Museum

Xianyang Museum offers insights into the pre-unification period of China.

The museum is housed in a Ming dynasty Confucian temple and contains a collection of artifacts from the Qin Dynasty, including terracotta figures, pottery and bronze items, and the Han Dynasty.

Han Dynasty rulers built their own terracotta army of about 3000 statues that were discovered in 1965, similar to the one unearthed in Qin Shi Huang Di’s mausoleum.

The museum is well-worth visiting for this mausoleum alone.

Xianyang Museum is at 53 Zhongshan Road in Xianyang.

13- Discover Shaanxi Culture At The Guanzhong Folk Art Museum

Located in a restored temple complex, the Guanzhong Folk Art Museum showcases the rich cultural heritage of the Shaanxi region, including folk art, traditional crafts and architectural styles.

It’s a good spot to learn in one place about the local customs and traditions that have shaped the region’s identity.

Guanzhong Folk Art Museum is at 2XHC+2WW, Chang’An, Xi’An, Shaanxi, China.

14- Relax In Xingqing Palace Park

Once an imperial garden, Xingqing Palace Park is now a public park where locals go to enjoy some serenity.

It has a large lake, traditional pavilions, and various recreational facilities, making it a perfect spot for a leisurely stroll or a family picnic.

Xingqing Palace Park is at 55 Xianning W Rd, Bei Lin Qu, Xi An Shi, Shan Xi Sheng, China.

15- Qujiang Pool Park

Once a Qin Dynasty royal garden, this park in southeastern Xi’an is a scenic spot with historical sites, lakes and lush greenery.

It was turned into a public recreation area during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and was opened up to the people to visit.

The park is home to nine houses named after poems and are where you can see Shaanxi opera, silhouette shows and Fengxiang clay sculptures.

There’s also a small museum with displays from archeological excavations of Qujiang ancient ruins.

16- Daming Palace National Heritage Park

Once the royal palace of the Tang dynasty, this site has been transformed into a park where visitors can explore the remnants of the once magnificent palace complex.

The palace was the imperial residence of the Tang emperors for over 220 years.

It’s a great place to learn about the architectural and cultural significance of the Tang dynasty’s royal residence.

Daming Palace National Heritage Park is at 585 Ziqiang E Rd, Xin Cheng Qu, Xi An Shi, Shan Xi Sheng, China.

17- Have Fun At Tang Paradise

A large theme park located near the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Tang Paradise is designed to showcase the culture of the Tang Dynasty through its architecture, gardens and performances.

It’s an excellent place to see traditional Chinese performances, including water shows and cultural festivals.

Tang Paradise is at 99 Furong W Rd, Yanta District, Xi’An, Shaanxi, China.

18- Take A Day Trip To Mount Huashan

For the more adventurous, a trip to Mount Huashan offers breathtaking views and an exhilarating climb.

Known as one of China’s five sacred mountains, it features steep stairways and narrow passages with dramatic drops.

The mountain is also accessible via cable car for those who wish to enjoy the views without the strenuous hike.

19- Take A Dip In Huaqing Hot Springs

Located at the foot of Mount Li, Huaqing Hot Springs is famed for its scenic beauty and historical significance, having been a royal bathhouse over several dynasties.

It’s a great place to relax while enjoying the natural hot springs and exploring the historical sites around it.

Huaqing Hot Springs is at 38 Huaqing Rd, Lin Tong Qu, Xi An Shi, Shan Xi Sheng, China. You may like this tour.

For more things to do in China read:

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Christina Pfeiffer
Christina Pfeiffer is a writer, photographer and video blogger based in Queensland, Australia. She has lived in three continents and her career as a travel journalist has taken her to all seven continents. Since 2003, she has contributed travel stories and photographs to mainstream media in Australia and around the world such as the Sydney Morning Herald, CNN Traveller, The Australian and the South China Morning Post. She has won many travel writing awards and is a full member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers.