Arriving at Xi’an north station on a fast train from Beijing in the middle of the afternoon is not ideal as taxis have a shift change between 3pm and 5pm and are difficult to find. There are dozens of touts who are to be avoided at all costs and although the queue took some time a proper taxi using the meter took us the 13kms to the centre of Xian for the vast sum of the equivalent of £3.50p.
We took an overnight train to Shanghai from the old main station and again because it was the change over time it was difficult to find a taxi but our hotel found one although we had to agree a price instead of using the meter.
Xi’an is an enormous city but if you are staying in the centre near the Drum or Bell Tower then most of the sites are in reasonable walking distance and most visitors are only in the city for a couple of days to visit the Warriors. We used the local bus service to get to the old main train station for the bus to the Terracotta Warriors museum and this was relatively simple, see below.
We stayed at the Citadines Central Hotel, www.citadines.com , which is an apartment hotel, our studio apartment was a decent size and while some of the common areas are looking slightly tired it was great value, in an excellent location and with pleasant helpful staff.
The hotel is only five minutes walk from the great eating area known as Muslim Street, packed with stalls offering kebabs, the local hamburger equivalents, great spicy potatoes and many other dishes, a very enjoyable night out and loads of souvenir shops and stalls,
Round the corner from the hotel in the street running up to the Drum Tower is a fast food restaurant with great bowls of noodles, no English menu so point at the pictures.
We ate in a bar restaurant in Defu Street, the bar street, which specialised in grilled meat with liberal chilli seasoning (which they will tone down) called something like Chill Grill, good food, really nice service and incredibly cheap.
Just by the Bell Tower is a modern mall which actually seems to be a department store and on the seventh floor are a number of food places, we ate at a smart restaurant called Spice Surprise which was very good.
Cafes & Bars
Defu Street, known as bar street, is just over five minutes walk from Citadines and the street is lined with a variety of bars, many with happy hours and most also serving food. We liked the first bar on the right at the top of the street just before the main strip and the last one on the left at the bottom, Both very relaxed no people trying to drag you into their bars.
As in all other places the most common beer is Tsingtao which you also find outside China, but locally there are variations including Tsingtao Pure Draft. If you pop into your local Xi’an eating place you may pay as little as 30p for a 600ml bottle, obviously in more upmarket places the prices reflect the surroundings. There are other bottled beers readily available including the Chinese Harbin beer and brands such as Tiger.
Wine was available in small shops but more expensive than in Beijing or Shanghai and we did not find a large supermarket although there are many in the city. We were not eating in any upmarket restaurants so not sure about selection or prices. Given the large number of visitors and the enthusiasm for wine among the more affluent Chinese I suspect there would be a reasonable choice.
The chances are that you are in Xi’an for one reason and that is to visit the amazing museum of the Terracotta Warriors, you can do this as part of an organised tour but you can also do this on your own very easily. If you are staying near the Drum and Bell Towers there is a local bus to the main railway station, not the north one used by the high speed trains. This is bus number 611, they run almost every five minutes and the fare is the equivalent of 20p, the final stop is the station and you catch the bus back from the same stop.
Once you have got off the bus walk towards the station and to the right hand side you will see an area packed with buses. The bus you want is 306 and there is a stand with a queue which you join and they load the buses from this queue. There are very regular buses and you pay for your single fare on the bus, the equivalent currently of 70p. One thing to note is that lots of people get off before the last stop which is the Terracotta Warriors, the conductor on the bus will ask you where you are going to make sure you get off at the correct stop.
You then walk to the main entrance and get your ticket for the site. The warriors are incredible, the site contains Pits 1, 2 and 3 and if I was to go again I would visit 2 and 3 then Pit 1 last. This way you get to see the best last. If you do Pit 1 first the other two will probably seem rather disappointing. There are loads of souvenir shops and places to eat outside the main entrance before you reach the bus park but the toilet facilities are not as good as in the site itself. The buses return from the same place as they arrived.
The other main sites on a short visit are the Drum Tower, the Bell Tower and the Great Mosque. The city walls are also incredible and ring the centre of the city. The four gates are quite far apart, we only saw the south one but the buildings around this looked very interesting.