©Nateethep Ratanavipanon/500px

Xi'an City Walls

Top choice in Xi'an

Xi'an is one of the few cities in China where the imposing old city walls still stand. Built in 1370 during the Ming dynasty, the magnificent 12m-high walls are surrounded by a dry moat and form a rectangle with a perimeter of 14km. Most sections have been restored or rebuilt, and it is possible to walk the walls in their entirety in a leisurely four hours (or around two hours by bike, or at a slow jog).

You can cycle from the South, North, West and East gates, with rental costing ¥45 for 100 minutes (¥200 deposit), while the truly lazy can be whisked around in a golf cart for ¥200. Access ramps are located inside the major gates, with the exception of the South Gate, where the entrance is outside the walls; there's another entrance inside the walls beside the Forest of Stelae Museum. En route, you get to look out over modern-day Xi'an. From this vantage point it's clear that the city is a hotchpotch of the old and new, with the new vastly in the ascendancy. Every now and then a slice of old Xi'an, such as Guangren Temple, appears and you are rewarded with a bird's-eye view.

To get an idea of Xi'an's former grandeur, consider this: the Tang city walls originally enclosed 83 sq km, an area seven times larger than today's city centre.

Buses 4, 15 and 201 reach the West Gate; buses 9, 26 and 37 and Line 2 of the metro reach the North Gate; buses 11, 16 and 23 and Line 2 of the underground can get you to the South Gate; and buses 8, 22 and 33 go to the East Gate.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Xi'an attractions

1. Guangren Temple

0.45 MILES

The sole Tibetan Buddhist temple in the entire province, Guangren Temple dates from the early 18th century, but was largely rebuilt in the 20th century…

2. Muslim Quarter

0.96 MILES

The backstreets leading north from the Drum Tower have been home to the city’s Hui community (non-Uyghur Chinese Muslims) for centuries, perhaps as far…

3. Great Mosque

1.07 MILES

Bigger than many temples in China, the Great Mosque is a gorgeous blend of Chinese and Islamic architecture and one of the most fascinating sacred sites…

4. Folk House


This well-rounded historic residence also serves as an art gallery, entertainment centre and teahouse. Originally the home of the Qing bureaucrat Gao…

5. Drum Tower

1.15 MILES

While the Bell Tower originally held a bell that was rung at dawn, the Drum Tower, standing at the foot of the smoky and uproarious street of Beiyuanmen,…

6. Bell Tower

1.43 MILES

Occupying a central place at the frantic bulls-eye intersection of Xi Dajie, Dong Dajie, Bei Dajie and Nan Dajie, the domineering form of the Bell Tower…

7. Forest of Stelae Museum

1.94 MILES

Housed in Xi'an’s Confucius Temple, this museum holds more than 1000 stone stelae (inscribed tablets), including the nine Confucian classics and some…

8. Little Goose Pagoda

2.23 MILES

Standing in the pleasant grounds of Jianfu Temple, Little Goose Pagoda had its top shaken off by an earthquake in the middle of the 16th century, but the…