Xi’an’s a Bespoke favorite and a place that we can visit time and time again. Despite what some might say, there’s a lot to love in this city beyond its most famous attraction.
1.Those Terracotta Guys
Let’s just get this one out of the way first, shall we? Xi’an’s UNESCO-recognized tourist draw is a China bucket list item and no mistake. Is it worth the trek? Unequivocally yes, but we will say this: you will get much, much more out of your visit if you are accompanied by a super knowledgeable local guide (like those that work for Bespoke, obvs).
After all, this is arguably the greatest archaeological find of the 20th century, and dates back to the formation of China as the country we know today. And we’ve lost count of the number of independent visitors who’ve come away confused and underwhelmed by the museum’s sparse and vague introductions. A great guide will provide you with the context you need to do justice to the warriors and ensure you get the absolute most from your visit. You’ve travelled all the way to China, after all.
2. A Glimpse of Western China
Walk the buzzing backstreets of the Muslim Quarter where you’re likely to see the minarets of mosques and hear the unmistakable sound of the call to prayer. Whilst the architecture is certainly Chinese, the sights, sounds and smells of the area are more in line with what you might expect to encounter in Central Asia than the Middle Kingdom.
During the Tang Dynasty when the Silk Road was at its peak, Xi’an was one of the largest, most cosmopolitan cities on earth and attracted traders from all over Asia. Today it is still regarded as the gateway to Western China and has a decidedly different feel from the cities on the country’s coast.
3. Some of the Best Street Food in China
At Bespoke we’ve always said that Xi’an is one of the most underrated foodie destinations in the country, and, while some Chinese cities are squashing their local food scenes in the name of progress (boo!), the streets here are jammed with local eateries dishing up regional specialties, many of which are rarely found in other places.
The Muslim Quarter is the epicenter of the action, with marinated lamb skewers grilling on every corner and plenty of other goodies including delicious beef dumplings and heaps of dried fruits. Throughout the rest of the city, keep an eye out for hole-in-the-wall joints serving some of the best noodles in the country, and rou jia mo – Xi’an’s signature snack that’s comprised of a flatbread stuffed with tender stewed pork. Hey, why not make life super easy for yourself and take a food tour with Bespoke to make sure you taste the best of what’s on offer here.
4. Out of Town Adventures
Yup, Xi’an does suffer from the same urban sprawl that plagues many Chinese cities, but the good news is that fantastic countryside lies just beyond and provides the setting for some great day trips. Want to get seriously off the beaten track? Then consider jumping in a jeep and heading up into the rugged hills where you’ll encounter remote mountain temples, inhabited cave dwellings and the chance to meet local craftspeople.
Alternatively, Huashan is a famed Taoist mountain that provides easier access (read cable cars and shuttle buses) to some of the best mountainscapes in the area and can be covered in a day.
5. Family Fun
Xi’an offers awesome opportunities for families to explore a side of China that’s developing on its own terms – away from global powerhouses like Beijing and Shanghai. We always suggest families to stroll through the traditional Shuyuanmen neighborhood with its appealing mix of calligraphy supply stores and ink carvers, before heading up onto the might city walls and jumping on the bikes.
Not only does this provide a novel work out, but offers a unique perspective on both the historic city center and the booming new business areas of the city that are taking shape outside of the walls. Need some evening entertainment? We defy even the most cynical of tourists not to be impressed by the epic ‘dancing fountain’ show that takes place near the Big Goose Pagoda each night, and it’s a great place to see local families at play.
See Xi’an with Bespoke – our Trip Customization Service means your trip is planned by the people who know it best