Zao shang hao！
Xi’an, home to the majestic Terracotta Warriors, start of the Silk Road and capital of 13 ancient dynasties, wows with its depth of history. If the sight of 7,000 clay soldiers, horses and chariots leaves you cold, worry not, there’s surely something in this central Chinese, UNESCO World Heritage-listed marvel of a city to warm your heart of stone.
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Xi’an’s City Wall may not be the greatest, but it is remarkably intact and a handy way to get a handle on the old town. Start at the South Gate, where you can grab some street snacks for breakfast, then rent a bike and cycle around the wall’s rampart.
the old and new
Tackle the wide, flat and easy 14km circuit clockwise, whizzing past Xi’an old and new, with loads of signs illustrating stories from the city’s past. Finish back at the South Gate, then check out the calligraphers and their wares and snap up a few souvenirs at the nearby Shuyuanmen Market / Shuyuanmen.
You’re conveniently placed for lunch at Zui Chang’an hidden just behind the market. Bags an alfresco seat in the front courtyard and order up a storm – the rustic Shaanxi cuisine is all good.
Waddle out and get cultural at the Shaanxi History Museum with its treasure trove of Chinese antiquities, in particular the Tang Dynasty murals wing.
food in xi'an
As dusk sets in, the Muslim Quarter (Huimin Jie) comes to life. Pay an early evening visit to the serene Great Mosque before it closes, then get set for more delicious local food, with this quarter containing some of the city’s tastiest eats. For local Muslim snacks follow the crowd to the packed street-side eateries in Sajinqiao area, or sample yum roujiamo (think Chinese burger) at Fan Ji near the Bell Tower. Beer lovers can stroll to Wuben Taproom for refreshing ales, while cocktail fans can cab it to speakeasy-style The Cirque. For a local experience,Chinese bathhouses like Real Love are open 24 hours, and this is the place to revive yourself with a soak and vigorous body scrub after a day hitting the streets of Xi’an.