Must See Sights
Bespoke’s pick of the best for the ultimate trip
The Terracotta Warriors
Need we say more? This is no doubt the reason you’re in Xi’an in the first place. This vast archaeological site lay undiscovered for more than 2,000 years until local farmers discovered it in 1974. It’s an epic story that’s still only half told – and continues to fascinate.
The Muslim Quarter & The Great Mosque
As a significant stop on the Silk Road, Xi’an has a surprisingly metropolitan past. For centuries it was one of the biggest and most sophisticated cities on earth, and nowhere is the influence of the Middle East more prevalent than in the city’s atmospheric Muslim Quarter and pretty Xuexi Lane Mosque
The City Walls & Shuyuanmen
Xi’an’s mighty City Walls are among the largest and best preserved in the country – and a leisurely bike ride atop this ancient structure is a must. We always stop by the nearby Shuyuanmen area too, for its Old China street market vibes and numerous calligraphy-supply stores.
The Big Goose Pagoda
This dramatic leaning tower is hugely significant and a great place to learn about Chinese Buddhism. First built nearly 1500 years ago, one of its functions was to store important documents brought to China from India by the monk Xuan Zang, the main character in the Chinese classic Journey to the West.
The Small Goose Pagoda
Because you can never have too many goose pagodas, right? We actually prefer this chilled out spot to its bigger brother, and consider it an overlooked gem.
Han Yang Ling Mausoleum
Often referred to as a ‘mini Terracotta Army’, this archaeological treat on the outskirts of town dates back to 150 A.D. The tomb of emperor Liu Qi and his empress has been left exactly as it was discovered – visitors walk along glass pathways constructed directly over them.
What To Eat
Six Xi'an culinary experiences to get excited about
Xian is known for its noodle varieties, but our favorite has to be biang biang mian – super thick noodles served with delicious local vinegar and a kick of chili.
Muslim Quarter Snacks
This part of town
comes to life in the evenings: Smoke billows from lamb skewers on outdoor grills, noodles are pulled streetside and baskets of dried fruits line the streets. A feast for the senses!
Suan Mei Tang
This sour plum juice is a truly gorgeous concoction of smoked Chinese plums, rock sugar and sweet osmanthus. It’s great for digestion too.
Homestyle Shaanxi Food
A typical Shaanxi meal
consists of cold dishes, stir-fried local veggies and flavorful meat dishes. With sides of local dumplings and noodles on standby (just in case you’re still not full!)
Local Craft Brews
Xi’an’s bars are few in number but have a genuinely local feel. Near The Wall – the city’s first microbrewery – is a good place to start.
Aka China's version of a hamburger: succulent pulled pork stuffed into a chewy, doughy patty. Delicious.
Xi'an's hotel scene is still relatively under developed. Here are our top picks!
The Sofitel & Sofitel Legend
Bang in the center of the city, the bustling Sofitel offers all the amenities you’d expect from a five star hotel, while the smaller Legend aims for a quieter, more exclusive ambiance complete with personal butlers for guests. For those that want to explore Xi’an’s local eats by night, this is a great base.
With views onto the nearby Big Goose Pagoda, this is a fresh, contemporary hotel in a modern part of town that’s a great choice for families. The lobby even includes a branch of Shan 13, the hip ice cream store with a focus on delicious flavors from the region.
The Hyatt Regency
The newest of the high-end hotels, the Hyatt Regency is located in a newly developed area to the south of the city some distance from the center. It is, though, close to the highway that leads to the Terracotta Warriors – perfect if this is your only reason for visiting. The spacious outdoor areas and lake view rooms offer a calm, resort-like fee too.
Hit the ground running with our insider’s guide to Xian’s need-to-know neighborhoods
Within Xi’an’s remarkable city walls lies its historic center. It’s a gritty area but includes the compelling mosques and vibrant backstreets of the Muslim Quarter which come to life at night. The south gate area is also worth exploring – an old market specializing in calligraphy supplies by day hides a handful of emerging hipster hangouts, great street food ops and craft beer bars.
Just south of the center, the Yantaqu has been heavily redeveloped in recent years. It’s home to – yep, you guessed it – those two goose pagodas that you’ll be hearing a lot about. You’ll also find a handful of other interesting sites here including the excellent Shaanxi Provincial Museum, as well as some of the sleek new hotels and malls.
Xi’an’s most famous site is actually located almost 45km from the city center in the suburb of Lintong, at the foot of the Li Mountains. Forgotten for a couple of thousand years, the area was suddenly thrust back into the limelight when the Warriors were rediscovered in 1974. It’s still a largely rural place – the journey there takes you passed fields of pomegranate plantations and you might still spot the occasional cave home.