Xi’an is a busy urban city that many would say requires more than a day to experience. But what if you only have 24 hours?
9:00am – Terracotta Army
It would be a crime to visit Xi’an and miss the Terracotta Army, so start your day nice and early to be able to devote as much time as you need here. You can get to the Warriors by going to the central Xi’an railway station and catching the 306 bus which is left about 200 meters from the exit of the station.
There is a handy tourist information office right outside the exit if you can’t find it and they will direct you. We paid 7RMB each for a return, and a lady came round on the bus to give us our ticket. This is by far the cheapest and I think easiest way to get there as a taxi is going to cost you 10x more. The bus leaves every 10 minutes so you are not going to have to wait long. The journey takes around an hour but is well worth it when you reach your destination.
After walking through the scenic area that I imagine would look beautiful in the spring time, you’ll find yourself in a large square area with a museums and the pits where the statues lie. We wandered around the museums for a while but were itching to see what all the fuss was about to be honest!
It’s not often that either of us are lost for words, but the Terracotta Army definitely gave us enough to think about, instead of nattering away whilst checking out a big tourist attractions, like we usually do. Not only were there such a large number of statues, but the details were incredible and different on each and every one. Obviously, a lot of the mud had worn away some features, especially on the horses, but they were truly a breath-taking sight.
We spent 3 hours looking around the Terracotta Warriors which I think is more than enough time. Entry was 120 yuan each and there are plenty of tour guides waiting to take you round for varying prices. We didn’t take a tour guide as we were on a budget and I would only recommend one if you really are interested in the fine details as the English translation on the plaques is very good.
We also paid 10 yuan to have a member of staff take a few pictures with our own camera in front of a wall of soldiers, which we thought was a nice touch – normally you’re ripped off at places like this and are charged at least a tenner to have a camera automatically flash on your shiny forehead!
As you leave the pit areas, there is a shop where you can buy miniature (and huge) versions of the soliders. We bought one who stands at about 25cm for 250 yuan as a little reminder of our visit, but there are a lot of other options.
Further on, there is a street of shops and stalls selling pretty much the same things, but I don’t imagine anything here is made from actual terracotta. There are also restaurants along here (including KFC, which I thought took away from the historical Chinese vibe…) so you might want to snack up before your bus journey back.
The bus leaves from the exact spot it dropped you off at the entrance to the Terracotta Warriors so after 3 hours expect to be back in Xi’an by 14:00.
14:00pm – Drum and Bell Towers
Right next to the Muslim quarter in Xi’an are the famous drum and bell towers. Named because one has drums in and one has a bell…..dare you to guess which one. Sounds like it might be a bit tedious but the surrounding area of the towers is very well looked after and there are some good views and picture opportunities by going to see them. We also wandered around the city and found a gorgeous park, where a few elderly couples were dancing the day away.
15:00 – Muslim Quarter
This is a tight, typically Chinese, market bustling with activity with side streets and hundreds of stalls to see. You can easily spend two hours wandering around taking in the culture, which is unique this far east in China. After spending time looking around you can choose to eat in the Muslim quarter, as by now you would have smelt the street food for some time or you can venture into the more western influenced built up areas to sample more stereotypical Chinese cuisine. I won’t recommend places to eat as simply put we just snacked on street food all day so did not sit down for a meal.
If I’m honest this day knackered me out so we did not go crazy ‘drinking’ in the night life of Xi’an, but even after how much you can get done in one day there is still time to head out and socialise. The area surrounding the drum and bell tower is totally illuminated at night and has all of the best known bars, restaurants and general night time activities you might want to experience.
We were quite lucky as the hostel we stayed in (Alley Youth Hostel) was very much geared towards backpackers, in the sense of playing films, having books to read and a pool table ready to play on. We were also invited to an English workshop where people from all over the world came to chat in a relaxed atmosphere to improve their English so it was nice to meet new people and get a couple of free drinks in too!
Have you been to Xi’an? Were you on a time schedule like us? Please share your experiences and comments below!
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