Rows of Terracotta Soldiers in Xian

A 24 Hour Xian Itinerary

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? Have a look at this quick Xian itinerary for brief visits to the city.

9:00am – Terracotta Army

It would be a crime to write a Xian itinerary and not include a visit to 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 you’ll find 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/£0.80/$1.06 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. Public transport is so cheap in China that you can’t really avoid it!

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!

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A line of terracotta warriors being repaired and rebuilt
these are waiting to be repaired

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.

A terracotta horse in a large a frame swing
even the horses were created!

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 around 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. You’ll learn a lot about the Terracotta Warriors and the history of the First Emperor of China.

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!

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Two people with a collection of terracotta warriors
love a cheesy photo op!

As you leave the pit areas, there is a shop where you can buy miniature (and huge) versions of the soldiers. We bought one that 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.

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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. You’ll find a variety of dishes from all over China, including food from Beijing.

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.

3 Large red drums with chinese writing on
the city has some beautiful sights

15:00 – Muslim Quarter

Next on this Xian itinerary 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.

2 People with large mallets hammering dough
the food streets are full of people outside preparing their snacks


If I’m honest this day knackered me out so we did not go crazy ‘drinking’ in the nightlife 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 nighttime 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? Do you have a Xian itinerary that is longer than 24 hours? Please share your experiences and comments below!


  1. This looks like a great way to spend the day. Truthfully China is not on my bucket list but seeing the Terra-cotta warriors is, go figure :-). It certainly would be nice to eat authentic Chinese food which l love. Pinning this. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Haha, fly into Xi’an and then fly out the next day. No one will know you ever went to China!

    1. The Terracotta warriors are a must see. Glad you’ve added it to the list!

  2. I have only been to China twice and love the country but haven’t touched X’ian so this is high up on my list. I love to see the Terracotta Warriors, love to walk around there and get freaked out by them 😀

    1. It is a little strange to see so many and to think about how many that are still yet to be found…

  3. As luck would have it, my girlfriend and I are due to spend a short time in Xian next weekend. Admittedly our stay will be more in the vicinity of 48 hours but nevertheless, good to know that so much can be accomplished in a short period of time. The Terracotta Warriors are without doubt one of the must-do things in China

    1. I can imagine the terracotta warriors are in your 48 hour plan so have fun! If you find out anything about the city that we missed please share.

  4. I had an opportunity to visit China with my mom years ago and for the life of me, cannot figure out why I didn’t go. This blog solidifies what a mistake that was.

    1. There is always time! China also gets better year after year so it might not have been the mistake you think it is.

  5. I love guides like this, you can see so much in a short time if you know what to prioritize and where to go! Great itinerary 🙂

    1. Thanks a lot, and we didn’t even really do anything in the evening! After Xi’an I think we learnt that we waste a lot of time usually.

  6. Awesome guide, just perfect if you have only a day to explore. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks! Hopefully everyone has more than a day because it is a beautiful city to explore.

  7. You mentioned three hours to explore the Terracotta warriors. Does that include any other areas besides the great hall shown in your post?

    1. Good Question. It includes all of the buildings you can go in. Theres the museum, pit 1, 2 and 3. We also had a look around the official shop inside the complex. In the museum we walked through at an average pace, not stopping to read every thing but a good majority of them. If you were a real fanatic on Chinese history you could easily spend longer than 3 hours but we defeintely did not miss out on anything.

  8. Great to see you took the time to see more than the Terracotta Warriors while in Xi’an. It seems to be the most popular (and incredible) tourist attraction. This is definitely somewhere on our list for the next time we’re back in that part of the world. Thanks for the itinerary.

    1. To tell the truth we only planned to see the terracotta warriors. It was a nice surprise when we found that Xi’an has a lot more to offer.

  9. thanks for a great guide – and it was so good to have so much detail on times and costs and directions – much appreciated!

    1. Thanks! It took us ages to find the bus station for the terracotta warriors but it is definetely worth it. Especially if you are on a budget.

  10. Great blog! If we did have to put in an activity for the night in Xian is there something that you would recommend?

    1. You could check out the Tang Dynasty Show or take a night-time street food tour!

  11. This looks absolutely gorgeous. Dying to go now that we can travel again. So much history in a single place

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