Xi’an Backpacking Guide + Map (2024)

Author Carina Klein
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Travel guide on how to visit Xi’an, China, on a budget.

During our backpacking trip around China, we fell in love with Xi’an. Here’s our travel guide to visiting the ancient Chinese capital – in a budget-friendly way.

Our Xi’an Travel Guide

Before you go to Xi’an:

Is Xi’an Worth Visiting?

Xi’an is absolutely worth a visit! Many travellers only come for the Terracotta Army – and that’s reason enough if you ask us – but if you have the time it’s very worth your while to stay a bit longer!

Picture of Drum Tower Xi’an
Drum Tower Xi’an

How to Get to Xi’an

Xi’an is located in northeastern China. We used it as a stop to break up our journey from Guilin to Beijing.

Xi’an does have an international airport.

Like everywhere in China, we went to Xi’an by high speed train.

How to Get Around Xi’an

As we found the taxi drivers in Xi’an pretty annoying, we went everywhere with public transport.

Xi’an has an amazing subway system which is super easy to navigate. Plans, ticket machines, signs, and announcements are in Chinese and English.

Additionally, there are buses. For example, you need to take the bus when you want to go to the Terracotta Army by public transport.

Picture of Xi’an subway
Xi’an subway

Where To Stay in Xi’an

We stayed at Xi'an Desti Youth Park Hostel Bell & Drum Tower. The location is amazing: It’s right next to Zhonglou metro station and within walking distance of the City Walls and the Muslim Quarter.

The dorms and bathrooms were clean. The beds were sturdy and felt very private. The staff spoke English and the bar and cafe was a nice place to relax.

Picture of Dorm at Xi'an Desti Youth Park Hostel
Dorm at Xi'an Desti Youth Park Hostel

Where to Eat in Xi’an

We are suckers for street food – and we enjoyed the Xi’an street food a lot! Two of our top addresses are:

  1. The Muslim Quarter, especially around Guangji Street.
  2. Beiyuanmen Street next to the Drum Tower.
Picture of Beiyuanmen Street Xi’an
Beiyuanmen Street Xi’an

Best Things to Do in Xi’an

Terracotta Army

The world-famous Terracotta Warriors are the main draw of Xi’an. They are one of China’s main tourist attractions and dubbed the “8th Wonder of the World”.

We have written a complete blog post about our visit to the Terracotta Army.

City Walls

The Xi'an city wall was built between 1374 and 1378. It is the largest city wall in China and encloses the city centre of Xi'an with a total length of 13.7 km (8.5 mi). You can completely circle the city wall.

Bucketlist2life tip: In old articles, you can still read that the city wall is free. When we wanted to enter from the South Gate, we had to pay 54 RMB. You can also rent a bicycle.
Picture of Xi'an city wall
Xi'an city wall

Muslim Quarter

The Muslim Quarter is the hub of the Muslim community in Xi'an. It is a series of small alleys with about ten mosques including the Great Mosque. The area is amazing for sampling street food and buying souvenirs.

Xi’an Mosque

Xi'an's Mosque is 1250 years old and one of the largest mosques in China. The building was constructed in the Chinese architectural style. The courtyard is open to the public but the prayer rooms are reserved for Muslims.

Picture of Xi’An Mosque
Xi’An Mosque

Giant Wild Goose Pagoda

With a height of 68 m (223 ft), the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is one of the landmarks of Xi’an.

It was built in 652 by Emperor Gaozong in memory of his deceased mother.

The Great Wild Goose Pagoda is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Bucketlist2life tip: There’s a music fountain show on the North Square of Big Wild Goose Pagoda but we didn’t check it out. The pagoda itself closes at 5 pm but the last fountain show is at 8:30 or 9:00 pm depending on the season.

Shaanxi History Museum

The Shaanxi History Museum is one of the most important archaeological museums in China. Among its most important displays are jade artworks from the 3rd millennium BC, relief tiles from the palace of the First Emperor, and wall paintings from the Tang period.

Bell and Drum Towers 

The Drum and Bell Towers date back to the 14th century. In earlier times, when the city wall was closed at night, the beat of the drums was the sign to raise the drawbridges at the four gates in the evening. The sound of the bells was the sign to lower the drawbridges at the four gates in the morning.

Nowadays, the Bell Tower is the central landmark of Xi’an.

Picture of Drum Tower Xi’an
Drum Tower Xi’an

Day Trip from Xi’an

Huashan Mountain with its famous plank walk is the quintessential day trip from Xi’an. We for one had a great time. Here’s our complete blog post:

How Many Days Do You Need in Xi’an?

Many people only visit Xi’an for a day (or even less) to see the Terracotta Army. We think it’s definitely worth it to spend more time in Xi’an as there’s loads of history.

Xi’an was the first capital of the Chinese Empire and was repeatedly the capital over the course of 1120 years. It was also the start of the famous Silk Road.

Additionally, Mount Huashan with its famous plank walk is a worthwhile day trip.

You can easily spend two days or more in Xi’an.

Xi’an Itinerary

Here’s how we would spend two days in Xi’an:

Xi’an Day 1

Morning: Visit the Terracotta Army.

Bucketlist2life tip: We visited the Terracotta Army in the morning and it was very crowded. Rumour has it that it’s less crowded in the afternoon. Maybe you can try and switch the morning and afternoon activities around. We were too excited to see the warriors to wait 😅

Afternoon: Explore the city centre. Start with the Drum and Bell Towers. From there, head to the Muslim Quarter. Stroll through the markets and enjoy some street food, Don’t forget to check out the mosque.

Afterwards, we recommend you head to the city walls. You can either just take a peek or do the whole loop – preferably on a bicycle.

Bucketlist2life tip: The city walls close at 10 pm so you can also check them out at night.

If you still have the time and/or energy, you can head to the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. The pagoda itself closes at 5 pm but the fountain show runs until 8:30 or 9:00 pm depending on the season.

Xi’an Day 2

Day trip to Mount Hua Shan.

Picture of Terracotta Army Xi’an
Terracotta Army Xi’an

Xi’an Budget

We paid around 60€ per person and day in Xi’an. This includes our day trip to Hua Shan which was around 85€ including all transportation and entrance fees.

Is Xi’an Safe?

Like in all of China, we always felt safe in Xi’an – even walking around at night. There’s loads of CCTV and security.

What is the Best Time to visit Xi’an?

The best times to visit Xi’an are spring and autumn. It should be neither too hot nor too cold.

Picture of Xi’an Muslim Quarter
Xi’an Muslim Quarter

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