Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, China is a wonderful destination to add to your grand tour of China. Xi’an is most famous for its impressive Terracotta Warriors and has several other lesser-known sites that are also worth a visit. For example, Xi’an is home to a well-established Muslim community, so you can visit a mosque while you’re there. There are also numerous delicious street snacks to try including hou jia rou, which is a bun filled with meat. The highlight of any trip to Xi’an however will definitely be the incredible Xi’an City Wall, which is the only complete city wall in China. Read on to learn tips for planning your visit to the amazing Xi’an City Wall.
About the ancient Xi’an City Wall
In addition to being the only complete city wall in China, it is one of the oldest intact military fortifications in the world. Built under the orders of the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (Xi’an was the ancient capital city of China), the current wall was constructed atop an older wall dating from 618 AD to 907 AD. The wall has since been restored several times and features a moat, ramparts, and impressively large city gates.
The Xi’an City Wall is 3.7 km (8.5 miles) long and 12 to 14 meters (40 to 46 feet) wide at the top. Entrance to the city wall is simple as there are several entry points, which are marked on tourist maps of the city. At my time of visit, entry to the city wall cost 54 CNY (~8 USD) and this fee funds preservation work on the city wall. Entrance to the Xi’an City Wall is from 8 am until 10 pm daily.
Renting a bike
To see the entire wall and its surroundings, I highly suggest you rent a bike. Single and tandem bikes can be rented from a stall by the South Gate entry point or several other locations along the wall. At my time of visit, rental for a tandem bike cost 90 CNY (13.32 USD) for 2 hours with a 300 CNY (~44.50 USD) deposit that you get back when you return the bike. You can return the bike at any of the bike rental locations atop the wall. At a leisurely pace, biking the entirety of the city wall takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours.
Biking the wall
Cycling the Xi’an City Wall at a reasonably slow pace allows you to see so much of Xi’an. Keep your eyes open for the impressive South Gate (if you don’t enter from this gate), the nearby Bell Tower, and the three other gate towers (North, East, and West Gates). There are several other towers, which are approximately 394 ft/120 m apart from each other, so there is plenty to look at while biking the gate. From the wall, you’ll also get a bird’s eye view of the City Wall Park and the deep moat.
For me, the wildest thing about a visit to the Xi’an City Wall is the fact that you’ll feel as though you are stuck in some strange time warp. The wall that you’re standing on is over 600 years old, but you’ll see shiny skyscrapers among ancient pagodas across the city. The difference in architecture as well as ages of the buildings is really mind blowing.
Xi’an gets very hot during the summer and cold in the winter, so be sure to dress appropriately for your visit. I’d suggest bringing along sunblock and water or a sports drink. If you forget to bring a beverage, there are several sellers along the wall from whom you can purchase a drink or small snack. In addition to vendors, facilities on the city wall include bathrooms and several small museums inside of some of the gates. My last tip is to arrive early, because the Xi’an City Wall does get crowded as the day goes on. Visit the over 600 year old Xi’an City Wall for an unforgettable experience. I bet that cycling the Xi’an City Wall will be one of the highlights of your China trip; it was for me!
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