Top Free Things to Do in Xi’an
Xi'an, known as the hometown of the Terracotta Warriors and Horses, one of the Eight Great Wonders of the world, is the birthplace of Chinese civilization. It has been the capital of 13 dynasties. It is one of the four greatest ancient capitals in the world.
Xi'an is also the starting point of the Silk Road. Its abundant history and culture attracts visitors from all over the world every year. Most of the attractions require an entrance fee but listed here are some places that are free for visitors.
Shaanxi History Museum 陕西历史博物馆
The Shaanxi History Museum in Xi'an is regarded as "the pearl of ancient dynasties and the house of Chinese treasures". It gives a miniature overview of the thousands of years of Chinese history and the splendid ancient cultures of olden times.
It covers 65,000 square meters (16 acres), of which 11,000 square meters (207 acres) belong to the exhibition halls and 8,000 square meters (about 2 acres) are used as warehouses for storing relics. Now, 370,000 exhibits in the museum vividly show the history of over a million years from prehistoric times (1,150,000 years ago) to the Ming and Qing dynasties.
A guide is recommended to help you see the best things among all of the relics displayed there.
The museum is close to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda – about 7 minutes' drive, and can be combined with the pagoda to make a half day tour.
The museum is crowded so get there earlier to escape the huge tourist crowds in the afternoon.
Muslim Quarter 回民街
The Muslim Quarter is the hub of the Muslim community as well as a Muslim food and souvenir market.
Walking along this twisted, narrow street, you can see Muslim men chatting with each other or having fun with the little children.
You can also enjoy a great variety of delicious foods there. The authentic handmade Muslim food tastes very good.
The Crumbled Unleavened Bread in Mutton Stew(Yangrou Paomo), the fried rice with pickled Chinese cabbage and little capsicums, the roast beef, mutton or lamb, preserved meat, casserole and various noodles can all make your mouth water. The most famous snack on this street is the steamed stuffed bun of Jiasan. They are all waiting for you to enjoy them.
The area is open to all non-Muslims expect for the mosques which only the Muslims have access to.
Xi'an Museum 西安博物馆
Located in the Small Wild Goose Pagoda Scenic Area, Xi'an Museum is a good place to learn the history, economy, social life and culture of Xi'an - the one-time capital of 13 dynasties.
It consists of 3 areas: the cultural relic area, the Lesser Wild Goose Pagoda and Jianfu Temple area, and the garden area which covers an area of 16.3 hectares.
About 130,000 fine cultural relics are kept there, most of which were unearthed in the important tombs and the capital sites of the Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC-221 BC), the Qin Dynasty (221 BC-206 BC), the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), and the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
It is a three-storied building with an underground floor which is unseen from the outside.
The exhibition hall underground shows the history, economy and social life, as well as the cultural exchange and trade with foreign countries, of Xi'an.
On the first floor,the exhibition hall has a display of Buddhist statues and other precious historical relics of municipal counties and districts.
- Opening hours: Tuesdays-Sundays, closed on Mondays
09:00 to 17:30 (November 15th to March 15th; tickets are available before 16:00);
08:30 to 18:00 (March 16th to November 14th; tickets are available before 16:30).
- Recommended time for a visit: 2 hours
- Address: 91 Xiaozhai East Road, Xi'an 西安小寨东路91号
- Bus route: Take Bus 5, 19, 24, 26, 27, 30, 34, 400, 401, 521, 527, 701, 710, 721 or 722, Tourist Bus You 6, or Bus 8 (610), and get off at Cuihua Lu (Cuihua Road) bus stop.
- Transportation: Take Bus 4, 15, 32, 43, 45, 201, 205, 206, 215, 218, 221, 222, 251, 300, 604, 610 or 611 and get off at Zhong Lou (Bell Tower) Station, walk towards the Drum Tower and you will easily find the street behind the Drum Tower.
Xi'an Lianhu Park (Lotus Lake Park) 莲湖公园
It is a park to enjoy the lotus flowers and to have fun. Located at 18, Lianhu Park Road, Xi'an, it was built as a royal garden by the second son of Zhuyuanzhang (the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty 1368-1644), covering an area of 18 hectares. It is the oldest park in Xi'an.
There are lots of lotus flowers planted inside the park. In the summer days, when the lotus flowers are in bloom, it is very beautiful.
To the west of the North Lake, there is also a Water World. There are slides, boats for people to relax in, as well as a children's playground for kids. Some light exhibitions, flower exhibitions and bonsai exhibitions are also held there.
- Address: On the second floor, the jade articles, seals, paintings and calligraphies are shown.
- Opening hours: 08:30-18:00; closed on Tuesdays and the Chinese New Year's Eve
- Transportation: Take Bus 18, 21, 29, 32, 40, 46, 203, 204, 224, 407, 410, 508, 521, 610, 700, 707, Tourism Bus 7, Tourism Bus 8 or the Wulong Special Line, and get off at Xiao Yan Ta (Small Wild Goose Pagoda) Station.
- Note for entrance: Please bring your own ID card or passport for entrance (climbing the Lesser Wild Goose Pagoda excluded).
Dayan Pagoda Northern Square 大雁塔北广场
Dayan Pagoda Northern Square is the largest fountain square in Asia. It is next to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, covering an area of about 17 hectares.
It consists of a fountain area, a cultural square, a garden area, a cultural corridor and a tourism business area. The design for the whole square is led by the Tang Dynasty culture.
There are lots of sculptures which reflect the life, culture and customs of the great and prosperous Tang Dynasty in all fields, such as shadow puppets, paper cutting, clay sculptures, the Eight Weirdos of Shaanxi, marriage in rural areas and walking on stilts. Poems are carved on pillars and store fences.
The most attractive one is the music fountain show. The 22 water shows, together with the changing lights and ancient music, make it an ideal place to relax and be entertained.
Delicate snacks and souvenirs are also available in the pedestrian streets.
The Former Residence of General Zhang Xueliang 张学良公馆
Zhang Xueliang is a hero in China due to his dream of uniting China (Communists and Kuomintang) against the Japanese invaders during the war time.
His former residence in Xi'an consists of several buildings among the local dwellings. In front of the gate, there is a board written "Memorial Museum of Xi'an Incident". The residence still keeps the state of the life that Zhang Xueliang once lived. The table lamp and the telephone are still set in their original places.
On the second floor of the west building is a meeting room. There are silicon statues of Zhou Enlai, Zhang Xueliang, Song Meiling, Yang Hucheng and Song Ziwen. They vividly recreate the historical moment of the peace talk after the astounding Xi'an Incident in 1936.
- Transportation: Take Bus 18, 2, 205, 235 and 236
- Address: Yanta Road, Yanta District, Xi'an
- Opening times for the music fountain:
Mondays-Fridays: 12:00, 20:00
Saturdays-Sundays and other holidays: 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00, 18:00, 20:00
- Duration: 30 minutes.
- Note: take an umbrella to prevent you from getting wet and take care of your electronic belongings.
- Address: 9 Jianguo Road, Xi'an.
- Transportation: Take Bus 504 and get off at Jianguo Road Station.