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Xian Rundown

The presence of a peerless, household name cultural wonder is invaluable for a city’s international prestige. Such is the case with Xi’an, one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China and a contemporary model of economic revival in a century which, so far, looks to belong to the People’s Republic.

Xian, after all, is the venerable home of the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. Most people, however, recognise the UNESCO World Heritage Site by two words: Terracotta Warriors. What has become the most dependable cash cow this side of Tutankhamun for museum curators the world over, with sold-out exhibits from Toronto to Sydney, was unknown prior to a chance discovery by some Lintong District farmers in 1974. Today of course, the epic funerary museum is why over 30 million domestic and 1 million international tourists converge on the Shaanxi province capital.

Xian is not all ancient dynastic monuments, however. Though visitors must inevitably cross the likes of the Bell and Drum towers, Goose Pagodas, mountain temples and old city walls of the holiday checklists, the Silk Road city of 9 million strong is thoroughly modern and hustles with the best of them.

Xian’s Top 10

10. Stele Forest, or Xi'an Beilin Museum, is the foremost repository of stele artwork in China.

5. Hua Shan, or Mount Hua, is one of the Five Sacred Taoist Mountains in China.

9. Jianfu Temple is where to go to admire the beautiful Small Wild Goose Pagoda.

4. Qianling Mausoleum, northwest of Xian, is a good warm-up for the main event.

8. Banpo Neolithic Site, east of Xian, is one of the most in-demand posts for archaeology and anthropology grad students.

3. Mount Taibai is the dominant peak in east China and the heart of a National Forest Park.

7. Shaanxi History Museum owns a considerable collection of priceless artefacts.

2. Giant Wild Goose Pagoda soars above the city and dates back to 652.

6. Famen Temple is impressive enough to warrant the 120 km trip from Xian proper.

1. Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor is up there with the Great Wall and Forbidden City as a China must.

Xian History

  • Shaanxi History Museum – Contains 300,000 artefacts, paintings, coins and murals.
  • Xian Circumvallation – The last intact ancient city wall in China. Spans 23km and you can rent bicycles to tour around it.
  • Terra-cotta Warriors and Soldiers Museum – More than 7,000 life-sized warriors and horses made from terra cotta found in an archaeological dig.
  • Forest of Stelae Museum – In the Confucius Temple, contains 1,000 inscribed tablets featuring Confucian classics.
  • Little Goose Pagoda – An ancient temple built in 684 AD to bless the afterlife of Emperor Gaozong.

Xian Art & Culture

  • Great Mosque – The largest mosque in China, it is a curious blend of Chinese culture and Islamic architecture.
  • Folk House – A combination of entertainment centre, art gallery and teahouse.
  • Temple of the Eight Immortals – The largest Taoist temple that was supposedly built over a wine shop.
  • Tang Dynasty Arts Museum – Located on the eastern side of Da Ci’en Temple, it contains a collection of Tang artefacts, architecture and clothing.
  • Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show – Ancient music and dance from the Tang dynasty.

Xian Shopping

  • Temple of the City Gods – An eclectic market sits by this historic temple.
  • Beiyuanmen Night Market – A street market where you can purchase a variety of things.
  • Pink Alley – Another street market that is a short distance from the city centre.
  • Xiyang Shi – A great place to find souvenirs, such as terracotta warriors, shadow puppets and lanterns.
  • Shuyan Xiang – A main street market where you can purchase calligraphy, brushes and fake rubbings from the Forest of Stelae Museum.

Gay & Lesbian Xian

  • 1 + 1 Club – A mixed club where you can dance to hip hop, R&B and electronic music.
  • Club 21 – A popular club with young locals. It features cabaret shows.
  • In.D – GLBT club and bar that gets very business on the weekends.
  • Moon Palace – Another popular GLBT bar that sells only Heineken and Budweiser.
  • Bei Ou Guan – Gay-friendly bathhouse for men only.

Xian Outdoor

  • Tang Paradise Theme Park – A 165-acre theme park that works to recreate the Tang dynasty.
  • Xian Outdoor Night Market Tour – The city has several street markets that open at night and offer a variety of foods, toys and other goods.
  • Hukou Waterfall – A natural wonder, this is the only waterfall in the world in which the water is yellow.
  • Tabai Mountain Natural Forest Park – The highest national forest park in China, it sits at 2.18 miles above sea level.
  • Huaqing Hot Springs – Natural springs that are featured in the love story of Emperor Xuanzong and his concubine Yang Guifei of the Tang dynasty.

Xian Sport

  • Go golfing at the Xian International Golf Club.
  • Take a hike up the Huashan Mountain and view the Taoist temples situated there.
  • Go skiing at the Bailuyuan ski area.
  • Visit the Shaanix Swimming and Diving stadium.
  • Rent a bike and bicycle around the city.

Xian Events

To experience the full Terracotta Army invasion, book a comprehensive day tour of the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor and inherent attractions.

Xian is a busy, immersive city but it behooves intrepid visitors to travel to the likes of Mount Cuihua, Mount Li, Mount Wangshun, Mount Zhuque, Mount Zhongnan and other national parks and forests.

Every September the city throws a colourful Ancient Culture and Art Festival.

The annual International Marathon on Xian City Wall is a major event in Shaanxi Province.

When To Go

Weather is seldom not the prime topic of conversation in Xian and is, quite literally, all over the map. The city has a semi-arid, temperate climate that is subject to the East Asian monsoon season. The result is a considerable shift in conditions from summer to winter.

The bulk of annual precipitation in Xian falls from August to October. Winter temperatures flit between 25°F (-4°C) and 46°F (8°C) with very little snow in the process. The furnace-like humidity of summer - the city is in a bowl valley - ushers in occasional dust storms and temperatures between 68°F (20°C) and 90°F (32°C).

As a result, prospective visitors may want to plan trips to Xian in either spring or fall. April, May, September and October are the most clement months, on the whole.

Getting Around

Xi'an Xianyang International Airport handles well over 15 million passengers a year and is the chief transport hub of northwest China. Like other airports and key infrastructure points throughout the People’s Republic, Xianyang International is in hyper-expansion mode. Aside from various domestic destinations, the airport serves Singapore, Taipei, Seoul, Busan, Tokyo and Osaka.

Rail and bus access to Xian is a snap but as always, it pays to splurge on a first-class seat.

Xian’s inaugural subway line became operable in September 2011. Once complete, the metro system will span over 155 miles (250 km). Until that day, bus or taxi is the way to see the city. Go to the tourist office at the Bell Tower for a free map with useful public transport info.

Hotels in Xi An

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1 Grand Park Xian

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Prices reflect the lowest "base rate" found over the next 30 days. Rates are subject to change and may not include taxes and fees, hotel service charges, extra person charges, or incidentals, such as room service. Converted rates are provided for your convenience. They are based on today's exchange rate, but the hotel will charge you in the local currency. Taxes may be payable in addition.
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