How to Spend a Day in Xi’an

Xi’an is a definite must see city in China. Not only is it home to the terracotta warriors, but it was also once the capital of China and is along the silk road. There is so much history here it's definitely a place you don't want to miss.

Costs for Xi'an

Train (round trip) $132

Tour $55

Entry to Warriors $25

Bike on Wall $8

We got there through Beijing. We took overnight trains there and back which are a serious experience all in themselves. Our tickets were for hard sleepers and the three of us shared our space with three other people. For more on trains in China and tips for travel, you can check out my post full of tips here.

My favorite city we visited out of all the places in China was Xi'an. A lot of that has to do with our tour guide. She was very helpful and answered our questions with much less candidness than our other tours. Find out more about the tour we took here.

We booked our tour through Viator. Our guide was so nice and very informative. She knew a lot of history about places, not just surface stuff which we ran into a lot in other cities... She was also very flexible and let us do what we wanted with our day which was nice because a lot of other tours in China will not let you spend more/less time somewhere and will require you to visit factories or tea ceremonies.

We had our suitcases with us and they let us keep our bags in the car while we toured different places and kept it all very secure. They also picked us up right from the train station with a sign waiting for us so we wasted no time looking for them (included in the cost of the tour). They also have bottled water available on the bus for you during the tour. These things were a nice bonus! We didn't have to pay at the train station. The only downside to this tour is that tickets and lunch are not included. So you do have to factor in that cost, but honestly best tour we took through the whole week.

Terracotta Warriors

The terracotta warriors were really cool to see. There are so many more than I had realized and the way they were found is so fascinating. We had to walk through a part of the city where cars are not allowed, then through a park, and finally to the museum. Plan on a lot of walking when visiting the warriors! When there, there are three different buildings to go through and many different types of warriors to see. The coolest ones to me are the ones with the horses guarding the entrance to the rest of the warriors. Definitely don't skip going into all the different buildings. There are many different preservation projects going on and you can get fairly close to the warriors.

Also, there a few tourist traps here. You can meet the man who discovered the terracotta warriors and take pictures with replica ones. We didn't wait in line for the man who discovered the warriors because our guide told us it was not the real man. We did take pictures with the full size warriors because getting that close to them really helps you see how they were built!

Pro-tip: There are a few signs in English, but having a guide to walk us through was really helpful. I would recommend a guide to take you through the museum and rooms of warriors.

Muslim Quarter

Because of the Silk Road, there is actually a large number of Muslim people in China. Xi'an has an ancient Muslim temple, tons of delicious street food, and small interesting streets to walk through. We tried some interesting dessert dishes and walked the streets smelling delicious meat dishes. Then we visited the Grand Mosque (built 800 years ago). I loved seeing the mosque because I had never been to a mosque before and this one was so unique because it was a fusion of Chinese architecture and Middle Eastern design. It was so unique!

Bike on Xi'an City Wall

This may have been my favorite thing we did in Xi'an honestly. How unique is it to get to ride a bike on an ancient city wall?! The wall started being built 1200 years ago and was build to 40 feet high by the Ming Dynasty 800 years ago when they made Xi'an the capital of China. We rented bikes for $8 each and rode all the way around the city wall. It took about 1 1/2 - 2 hours to get all the way around. It was such a unique way to see the city and pagodas surrounding the city wall.

Pro-tip: When booking a tour, use multiple sites to figure out if you will like what the tour offers. I use sites like TripAdvisor, Viator, and the company’s website itself to check all info on a tour before booking.

I do feel like we saw Xi’an fully in a day. If have just one day in Xi'an, get a tour. We were able to do so much because we were with a tour that drove us from place to place and our guide was really helpful. Don't forget to check out my full 8 day itinerary for how we traveled in China!

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  • Kelly Ann Duhigg

    This brings back such fond memories of Xi’am for me. I loved the terracotta warriors and also biked along the wall. Also so glad to see that you went to the markets which had a cool middle eastern influence when I was there. Great stuff!!

  • Thanks for the advice regarding getting a tour. My boyfriend and I haven’t tried it yet. We always try to figure things out ourselves. I have seen the terra cotta image before and since then, I dreamed to visit it one day. China is just near my country. But because of visa issues, it is not easy to enter China. I hope one day I can take a photograph with those armies.

  • Vyjay Rao

    Xian is an intriguing city and one of the reasons for its claim to fame is of course the Terracota Warriors. I love hifascinating.story and would love to visit this place which is steeped in history. The silk route and ancient Chinese history is so

  • Neha Verma

    A good tour guide definitely makes the trip all the more meaningful and memorable. Good that you got one. I have heard a lot about Xian. And also terracotta warriors. When I make a plan to visit here, I will follow your guide

  • Pack Your Baguios

    I teach about ancient China so I’ve always wanted to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. I like the tip of having a tour guide. A good tour guide can make or break a trip!