A City for International Students: The Ultimate List of Things to Do in Xi’an

If you have an appreciation for ancient cultures but also enjoy the luxuries of modern life, Xi’an is a city to set your eyes on. Set in the heart of China’s Shaanxi province, Xi’an has immortalized the stories of multiple dynasties spanning over a millennium. At the same time, it is a densely populated city characterized by modern innovation and youthful energy.

Whether you choose to study abroad in Xi’an or are just visiting, there is no shortage of activities and sights to keep you busy. One of the best aspects of Xi’an is that it offers something for everyone, whether you want to discover China’s glorious past, immerse yourself in the diverse culture or mingle with your peers. Here are some of our suggestions for things you can do in Xi’an: 

Historical Attractions & Cultural Experiences

  • Terracotta Army: This impressive archaeological site exposes thousands of life-sized terracotta soldiers, horses, and chariots that were buried with the first emperor of China to protect him in the afterlife. As well as the amazing craftsmanship, it’s worth a visit to appreciate the amazing craftsmanship and to learn about the stories that lie behind this wonder. 
  • Ancient City Wall: Xi’an is home to the largest and best-preserved ancient city wall in China, dating back to the 14th century. You can cycle or walk along the wall, which is about 14 kilometers long and 12 meters high, and enjoy the views of the old and new parts of the city.
  • Tomb of Emperor Jingdi: This underground museum displays the burial pits and artifacts of the fourth emperor of the Han Dynasty, who was known for his peaceful and prosperous reign.
  • Shaanxi History Museum: Arguably one of the best in China, this museum showcases the splendid history and culture of Shaanxi province, which was the cradle of Chinese civilization. There 370,000 exhibits, ranging from prehistoric times to the Qing dynasty, covering various aspects such as art, religion, politics, and economy. 
  • Big Wild Goose Pagoda: This Buddhist pagoda is a symbol of Xi’an and a masterpiece of ancient Chinese architecture. It was built in the 7th century to store the scriptures and relics brought back by the famous monk Xuanzang from his journey to India. Climb up the seven-story pagoda for an amazing panorama of the city and its surrounding temples and gardens.
  • Muslim Quarter: This colorful area the heart of Xi’an is a must to experience the culture and cuisine of the Hui ethnic minority, who are mainly Muslims. Don’t leave without trying some of the famous street food, such as roujiamo (meat sandwich), yangrou paomo (lamb and bread soup), and biangbiang noodles (wide and thick noodles). You can also visit the Great Mosque to admire its unique blend of Chinese and Islamic architecture.

Nature & Outdoors

  • Hiking: Take the trek up Mount Huashan, one of the five sacred mountains of China, to admire stunning views, visit ancient temples, and challenge yourself on the plank walk. Another hiking option is Cuihua Mountain national forest park that has beautiful scenery, waterfalls, caves, and wildlife.
  • Skiing: Hit the slopes at Bailuyuan Ski Area, the largest ski resort in northwest China. You can also ski at the Xueyu Ski Resort, a smaller but conveniently-located ski resort near the city center.
  • Cycling: Ride the Xi’an City Wall, the largest and best-preserved ancient city wall in China, where you can see the old and new city from a different perspective. You can also cycle along the Chanhe River, a scenic route that passes by the Terracotta Army, the Huaqing Palace, and the Lishan Mountain.
  • Hot Springs: Relax with a soak at Huaqing Palace, a historical site that was once the imperial palace and the bathing place of the Tang Dynasty. You can also enjoy the Xi’an 3-hour Outdoor Hot Spring SPA Experience, a tour that includes a transfer, a massage, and a hot spring bath.


  • The Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show: This spectacular performance showcases the authentic music, dance, and costumes of the Tang Dynasty, which was the golden age of Chinese culture. Watch the show at the Tang Dynasty Palace or the Shaanxi Grand Opera House.
  • Xi’an Symphony Orchestra: Soak in the notes from a professional orchestra performing classical and contemporary music from China and abroad. You can listen to the orchestra at the Xi’an Concert Hall or the Xi’an Music Hall.
  • The Xi’an International Chorus Festival: This biennial event invites choirs from different countries and regions to sing and exchange in Xi’an.
  • Xi’an International Music Festival: Join this recently-launched annual event that brings together artists from around the globe to showcase various styles of music and culture.

Food & Drink

  • The Muslim Quarter: Home to the Hui ethnic minority, this is a lively area where you can taste delicious halal street food such as cold noodles, biangbiang noodles, bread and mutton soup, and the ubiquitous Chinese hamburger. 
  • Dumplings: These pockets of joy are a staple food of Xi’an, and they’re also served as a delicacy for special occasions. Go for a dumpling banquet where you can taste all sorts of varieties with different shapes, colours, fillings and sauces. 
  • Craft Beer: Explore the emerging craft beer scene with its plethora of interesting flavors and styles, such as wheat, IPA, stout, and sour. You can also visit some of the popular craft beer bars and breweries in Xi’an, such as Near Wall Bar, Xi’an Brewery (who also host a Craft Beer Festival!), and Brew Bear. 
  • Tea Culture: Experience Xi’an’s tea culture, which dates back to the Tang Dynasty, through a traditional tea ceremony, where you can learn about about tea varieties and brewing methods. Some of the famous tea houses and shops in the city include De Fu Xiang Tea Street, and Xi’an Tea Museum.
  • Biang Biang Noodles: Xi’an very own famous noodle dish features thick, hand-pulled noodles made out of wheat flour, coated in a delicious Chinese black vinegar sauce and garlic chili oil. The name actually comes from the noise the noodle dough makes when it is slapped onto the surface. 

Universities in Xi’an

Xi’an is a center of education and talent in China, particularly in the fields of science and engineering, as well as in humanities and social sciences. There are over 29 well-known universities, many of which offer programs in English and attract a growing number of international students. Some of the prestigious universities in Xi’an include:

  • Xi’an Jiaotong University: One of the top-ranked universities in China and the world, especially in engineering, science, and technology. It is also a member of the C9 League, an alliance of nine elite universities in China. 
  • Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University: An international university jointly founded by Xi’an Jiaotong University China and the University of Liverpool UK as a joint venture.

  • Northwestern Polytechnical University: A leading university in China and the world, specializing in aerospace, marine, and materials engineering.
  • Xidian University: A key university in China, focusing on electronics and information technology. 
  • Northwest University: One of the oldest universities in China, with a history of over 100 years. It is known for its strengths in natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences. 

Apply to Study in Xi’an 

Are you intrigued by this fascinating city? Xi’an is home to some outstanding universities which offer a variety of courses for international students. Learn more and apply to these universities through the China Admissions platform. 

Kay is a marketing assistant at China Admissions. A "third-culture kid" based in Thailand, she has had lifelong exposure to international communities and has worked with top global brands. Having studied abroad herself, she encourages young minds to invest in their self-development and foster an appreciation for new countries and cultures.
Kay Marlowe

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