Peter and I spent a long holiday weekend in Xi’an, China. This was my first time to mainland China and while the mainland doesn’t have the best reputation around Hong Kong, I’m happy to report back that I had an amazing time in Xi’an.
The food was delicious, cheap, and plentiful, the locals were super friendly and the city itself was beautiful and energetic without being crowded and overwhelming.
I’ll be sharing more details on everywhere we went, everything we saw and more importantly all of the things we ate. But for now, here’s some help for planning 4 days in Xi’an, China’s former imperial capital.
Day 1: Arrival
There are several flights from Hong Kong to Xi’an. We flew on China Eastern airlines and arrived in Xi’an in the early evening. From the airport we arranged for a car through our tour guide to pick us up and drop us off at our hotel.
This private car pick up cost us 180 CNY. We were quoted 450 CNY by our hotel, but we also heard from friends that a taxi from the airport to the city is the cheapest option.
We opted to stay at the Shangri-la Golden Flower Hotel. It was not as close as we would have liked to the centre of town, but I read it is in a great location for taking public transportation (which we didn’t end up using). Taxi and tuk tuk drivers will all be familiar with the hotel if you give them the name which is super convenient. Overall the hotel was pretty, clean (and surprisingly didn’t smell of cigarette smoke at all) and service was great.
A huge plus is that the main restaurant in the hotel, Golden Flower House is so freaking delicious. We wrapped up our first evening in Xi’an with a big dinner there and a few cocktails at the hotel bar. But more on food later!
We used Michael Yang and his small tour guide company for two full days in Xi’an. If I had to go back again, I would probably have just used the guide one full day, but I was very happy with our sweet guide who spoke great english and was so helpful and accommodating.
Day one cost us 600 CNY and day two cost us 550 CNY which included our guide and a car and driver.
Our first big stop on Day 2 was to the Banpo Neolithic Museum, where you can see the site and remains of a Neolithic settlement. Banpo is thought to be a matriarchal society (which I can totally get behind!) and it was interesting seeing the ancient and surprisingly innovative architecture of the community.
Our second stop was the highlight of the trip and the reason most visitors go to Xi’an, the terracotta warriors. It is about an hour and a half drive to the site (longer if you get stuck in traffic which we found to be pretty terrible in Xi’an). We spent a few hours here walking through the gardens and looking in awe at the UNESCO heritage site.
*A full post on the terracotta warriors is coming soon!*
After seeing the warriors, I recommend a stop to Yongxing Fang for endless street food stalls. This area had many local families and was full of people eating, playing, and relaxing in the afternoon. It is MUCH less crowded than the Muslim Quarter and our guide explained it is a newer foodie street.
Once you’ve had your fill of street eats, head to the Near Wall Bar, Xi’an’s local brewery. Most of the staff speaks limited english but the menu is in english and the beer and bar snacks are the perfect way to end a long day of site seeing.
Wake up early and rent a bicycle to ride along Xi’an’s old city wall. Peter and I opted for a tandem bike and made our way around the wall, stopping for photos and for ice cream along the way.
Including stops we spent about an 1.5 hours riding before meeting our guide to visit Bell and Drum Tower and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.
The Big Wild Goose Pagoda was probably the least exciting of the things we saw in Xi’an but we kept our visit there short before making our way to the famous Muslim Quarter.
Although I described Xi’an as not crowded or too overwhelming, the Muslim Quarter is definitely the exception. On a Sunday afternoon it was super crowded, bustling, and full of aromas from the various food stalls.
I’ll be updating this with a full post on the Muslim Quarter soon, but it is a must stop for foodies!
Wake up from your post Muslim Quarter food coma and sneak in a last meal before heading out to the airport!