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The Perfect Weekend in Xi'an

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Xi'an is the historical heart of China. Walk along the Old City Wall, and imagine yourself in the Tang Dynasty. The city feels especially enchanted when the lanterns light up and street musicians play traditional music on street corners. Xi'an's food is enough to win over the most reluctant visitor: biang biang noodles, a regional specialty, and street food in the Muslim Quarter, and all the sweet desserts.
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Lintong, Xi'an, Shaanxi, China
The story of the Emperor Qin reads something like Game of Thrones, with hostages, feuding brothers, wars, and the ultimate unification and creation of what we know as China today. Wanting to protect himself in the afterlife, Emperor Qin created an...
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Xi'an, Shaanxi, China
Want to know more about Taoism? About 70km west of Xi'an, in Tayu Village, is the Louguantai Temple, where it's said that Lao Tze, the founder of Taoism, wrote the Tao Te Ching and set the fundamentals for the religion. Built over two thousand...
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Xi An Zhong Lou, ZhongLou ShangQuan, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China, 710001
The Bell Tower of Xi'an is one of the city's most famous attractions. Cities of Ancient China each had their own bell tower and drum tower, which were used to tell time. Bells were rung at dawn, while the sound of drums signaled dusk's arrival....
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Hongying Rd, Beilin Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China
An interestingly curated museum, the Forest of Stone Steles Museum (also called the Steles Forest or Beilin Museum) focuses on displays of steles (commemorative slabs), epigraphs, and stone sculptures from throughout history. The museum's...
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91 Xiaozhai E Rd, QuJiang ShangQuan, Yanta Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China, 710061
Built in the grand architectural style of the Tang Dynasty, the huge Shaanxi History Museum offers a comprehensive overview of the history of the ancient capital. The museum houses over 370,000 precious relics unearthed in Shaanxi Province....
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Huajue Alley, BeiYuanMen XiaoChi YiTiao Jie, Lianhu Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China, 710001
Located in the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an, China is the Great Mosque, the country’s oldest and most renowned mosque. The mosque dates back to 742 AD. From all outward appearances, it looks like a Chinese temple and not a mosque; pagodas have replaced...
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Take advantage of your time in Xi'an to really see what it was like to live like an emperor. About 27 miles outside of Xi'an is the Taiping National Forest Park. The Taiping Palace was built by an emperor in the Sui Dynasty, and the park also...
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1 Ci'en Rd, QuJiang ShangQuan, Yanta Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China
Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is a very cool historical site to visit in Xi'an. It was built in the seventh century to house Buddhist scriptures, statues, and other relics that were brought back to China by the Buddhist scholar and traveler Xuanzang....
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Beiyuanmen Snacks Street, Xi'an, Shaanxi, China
Going to watch a landscape opera in Xi'an feels like the Chinese version of going to Shakespeare in the Park (minus the dialogue) in New York. The performance is set amidst the ruins of Hua Qing Palace. I went to see The Song of Unending Sorrow,...
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China, Xian Shi, Yanta Qu, DaTang TongYiFang, 西安大雁塔南广场西侧 邮政编码: 710061
The Underground Palace is one of the strangest places I have ever visited. We stumbled upon it by chance while wandering along the west side of the wall around the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. Despite not knowing what it was, we bought tickets and...
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Xi'an, Shaanxi, China
There are a number of old neighborhoods in Xi'an that are lovely to explore on foot, especially between the Bell Tower and the Great Mosque, and west of the South Gate. Wandering around, you'll see old houses and stumble upon amazing stonework and...
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Furong S Rd, QuJiang ShangQuan, Yanta Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China
Tang Paradise is a modern reconstruction of various ancient sites in Shaanxi province. There are a lot of beautiful buildings constructed in the style used during the Tang Dynasty. The park itself is 165 acres, with a lake in the center surrounded...
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Ci'en E Rd, QuJiang ShangQuan, Yanta Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China, 710061
Awa Shanzhai serves very tasty food. Their service is good and they have picture menus for easy ordering. But whereas with most Chinese restaurants it's easy to figure out the cuisine (Sichuan, Guangdong, barbecue, hotpot, and so on), the funny...
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There's a little bar area south of the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, two blocks east of the Westin. The bar scene in Xi'an isn't as boisterous, by Western standards, as in other cities. That being said, if you're in the area and want a beer, this is a...
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China, Shaanxi, Xian Shi, Yanta Qu, XiaoZhai ShangYeJie, 兴善寺西街55号 邮政编码: 710065
I got really excited when I saw this humble canteen at the Daxingshan Temple, next to the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda and near the Westin. (I lived in Macau for a year and ate at least one meal a day at one of two Buddhist vegetarian restaurants in...
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127 E 1st Rd, ZhongLou ShangQuan, Xincheng Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China, 710005
Muslim noodle restaurants are ubiquitous all over China, but Xi'an, with its large Muslim population, has a far better class of them. Most restaurants have photos of the various dishes on the wall, and all you have to do is point. My personal...
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1 Ci'en Rd, QuJiang ShangQuan, Yanta Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China
If you're looking for something a touch classier than a man grilling octopus on the back of his scooter, this dedicated street food area is for you. It's on the west side of the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, and has a lot of the Chinese street food...
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China, Shaanxi, Xian Shi, Yanta Qu, GaoXin ShangQuan, 高新区科技路徐家庄附近(近白沙路) 邮政编码: 710065
Delhi Darbar is an excellent Indian restaurant in Xi'an. I usually order palak paneer and malai kofta when trying a new Indian restaurant, because unlike curries, it's really hard to make these without fresh ingredients. (In China, you either need...
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1 Ci'en Rd, QuJiang ShangQuan, Yanta Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China
Northern China has some of the most amazing tasting yogurts. Since we don't have any decent yogurt in Shenzhen, I pig out every time I go north. Stalls and shops around Xi'an sell really cool drinking yogurts. This stall was on the west side of...
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China, Shaanxi, Xian Shi, Yanta Qu, GaoXin ShangQuan, 高新一路 邮政编码: 710065
This is a slightly odd place. It's in the middle of a commercial area, with no restaurants in sight. If you get to the right block, it's actually behind a large building. You have to knock and be let in like a speakeasy. Once inside, it's a pretty...
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China, Shaanxi, Xian Shi, Weiyang Qu, 范家南村54号 邮政编码: 710016
The Muslim Quarter of Xi'an is famous for its vendors of dried fruits and nuts. These aren't just any old packs of nuts. They are of the finest quality, selected and dried by hand. A pound of shelled walnuts goes for the equivalent of around $10....
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16 Lianhu Rd, ZhongLou ShangQuan, Lianhu Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China
Shi zi bing, 柿子饼, are kind of flat balls of glutinous rice and persimmons, stuffed with things like red bean or black sesame paste, and deep-fried. They're only about 2 RMB each and are so ridiculously tasty that you'll be tempted to eat more than...
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128 N Guangji St, BeiYuanMen XiaoChi YiTiao Jie, Lianhu Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China, 710001
I'm of the belief that all food is better on a stick, and Xi'an did not disappoint in this respect. There are women everywhere selling little desserts on sticks. These desserts are made of rice that's been pounded and steamed in cute little...
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80 Nanyuanmen, ZhongLou ShangQuan, Beilin Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China, 710001
You can't talk about Xi'an without talking about biangbiang noodles, a unique Shaanxi food. The character for biang is one of the most complex among noodles, and is achieved by kneading the dough 58 strokes. With all the hype about the giant...
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Xi'an, Shaanxi, China
This Shaanxi staple is a must-try while in Xi'an, especially if you're there during the height of hot, sizzling summers. Liangpi, or "cold skin" noodles, are thick cold rice noodles doused with savory sesame sauce and crispy, thin shreds of...
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N Guangji St, ZhongLou ShangQuan, Lianhu Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China, 710001
Taxi service isn't great in Xian, but no big deal. There's great bus service around town. If you want to get home a little faster, take a tuk-tuk. There are so many around Xi'an that we got into a tuk-tuk traffic jam in this photo of the Muslim...
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This was a wonderful night walk along the moat on the outside of the South Wall. Traditional music softly plays and the dim lighting highlights the beauty of the lit-up wall. There's also talk of opening the boats on the moat up to tourists, which...
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Qujiang Shangquan, Yanta, Xi'an, Shaanxi, China, 710061
This is a great little market directly across the street from the Westin and south of the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. It's oriented towards visitors and tourists, so there are lots of cheap souvenirs. However, there are also plenty of cool, locally...
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Xi'an, Shaanxi, China
Located near the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, this market is complete with stall after stall of curios, furniture, accent pieces and handicrafts, perfect for an afternoon of treasure hunting. Though beautiful and attractive, you'll need to search...
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Nanliu Alley, ZhongLou ShangQuan, Beilin Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China
There are many night markets in Xi'an. One of the best is in the ancient city, near to the old Drum and Bell Towers. It's the perfect starting point for an evening walk through town or just a great option for fresh, authentic, and cheap food.
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Shuyuanmen Pedestrian St, ZhongLou ShangQuan, Beilin Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China, 710001
Xian's art district is called Shuyuanmen, 书院门, and there are some local artists here that sell paper cut art. Paper cutting began as a major art form in Xi'an around the seventh century, which was the city's heyday. People in China place cut paper...