As the start and terminus of the Silk Road stretching across halfway across the world connecting the East and the West, Xi’an has been one of the most important cities in Chinese history. Nestled in on all sides by an abundance of beautiful scenery, to the south there are the Quin Mountains, the north stretches the Wei River, and the East boasts the Hua Shan Temple, you will never be at a loss of natural surroundings. Not to mention the fact that the city is home to a world famous army, the Terracotta Warriors, since the Qin dynasty, you’ll feel like you’re stepping right into an exciting history book during your time here. With temples, palaces, ancient city walls and even the exponentially more modern Space Exploration Centre, Xi’an is a wealth of knowledge and adventure.
What to Know
Standing proud for more than 3000 years, Xi’an, which translates to Western Peace, is one of China’s oldest cities. It is often regarded as one the birthplaces of ancient Chinese Civilisation– not such a bad reputation at all! Being such an important city normally comes with a price, after many years a lot of its historical relics have been destroyed by war, which makes the remains even more precious.
The Xi’an winters can be extremely cold with temperatures around 0°C you’ll be glad to have brought an extra couple of layers, however, in the summer the city is bathed in welcoming heat when temperatures rarely fall below 25°C.
What to Do
You will visit the legendary Terracotta Warriors – photos don’t do them justice – before taking a bike ride around the city walls, helping out at a soup kitchen for the homeless, visiting the Muslim Quarter and trying some… KTV!
Xi’an is famous for having an artistic eye, with countless souvenir and handicraft markets to choose from, you will be spoilt for choice! The Shuyuanmen Market and Xi’an Antiques Market sell Tang tri-coloured glazed pottery, folk handicrafts and paper cuttings and of course mini Terracotta armies. However, if you’re a little strapped for cash then take your camera along as there will be some excellent photo opportunities.
Springing to life in the evening, a popular pastime on a mild summers evening is taking a stroll around the Bell Tower people watching as the locals engage in unique activities. After this, head over on over to the ancient Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, the north square of this Buddhist pagoda features the largest musical fountain in Asia, which performs at least one show per day. If your cultural meter hasn’t been maxed out quite yet, head over and watch a Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show or a show of the local Shaanxi Opera (Qin Qiang).
What to eat
Xi’an is hailed as ‘the capital of table delicacies,’ an intriguing title which is well awarded: Shaanxi cuisine is one that will not leave you disappointed. One such delicacy is the famous yangrou paomo, or crumbled unleavened bread in mutton stew, famed not only for its deliciousness but also for the way in which it is traditionally served. A plate of hard bread is presented to the table and you individually break off the quantity you want to eat. The chef then cooks your portion with mutton stew and serves it back to you, ready to be seasoned with spices and sauces to your liking. This dish is popular all over Shaanxi but nowhere is it quite as beloved as it is in Xi’an – it is appreciated for its flavour as well as its nutrition.
Liangpi is another dish native to Xi’an, but don’t be put off by the less-than-appetising translation of its name (liangpi means cold skin) – this is a dish made with cold noodles and plenty of flavours and seasonings, and doesn’t contain any kind of skin. In terms of street food, the Shaanxi sandwich is a particularly tempting snack in this city. Like their western counterpart, the Shaanxi sandwich is made by stuffing finely shredded pork or beef into a flattish rounded bread bun. With each vendor cooking both the bread and meat slightly differently, you’ll have plenty of reason to eat as many of these snacks as you can in Xi’an – after all, you need to find out which one’s the best!