Biking the Ancient Xi’an City Wall

One of the things I really love about traveling internationally is that you get to do some really awesome stuff. I don’t mean ‘awesome’ like visiting Elvis’ house, going to a theme park or going shopping. Seriously, what’s awesome about those things? Fun, yes. Entertaining, yes. But awesome? I dunno. Yet, those things made it on to Telegraph UK’s 50 Great Things To Do in the America. I had to laugh when I read that list. Most of the things on the list certainly aren’t things you can’t do anywhere else. I love America, but it is seriously lacking in ancient history and awesomely amazing things to do. Thus, Americans love to travel internationally.

The most amazing part of international travel is that there are TONS of things you can do in other countries that you really can’t do in the US. Like climb around 12th century ruins, explore castles and actually SEE ancient mixed with modern. It’s really great.

When we were in China, we got to have a pretty fun experience. I was a little iffy about it at first. I mean, I wanted to do it, but my thought was, “Okay, we’re going to go bike around a wall. It’ll be fun and unique and we’ll get to have a cool little story about how we road bikes in China on an old city wall.”

What I didn’t realize, though, was how MASSIVE that old city wall is and how surreal of an experience it would be.

When we arrived at the Xián City Wall, what impressed me most was the size of the wall. That thing is HUGE! I thought it was going to be quite a bit smaller than it really is.

Xián City Wall

Walking inside the wall is pretty neat, too. When you walk inside, you really get to see the magnitude of the wall and feel how secure the ancient inhabitants felt when they lived inside it.

Xián City Wall

To help you feel even more old-timey and like you’ve stepped into the past, they have pretty cool little guards to greet you as you walk through the gate.

Xián City Wall

The city of Xian is over 3,000 years old and the original city wall was started in 194BC. The original wall was either rebuilt, expanded or fortified during the Tang dynasty, which lasted from 618AD-907AD. Later, the wall was rebuilt on this second foundation during the Ming dynasty of 1368-1644. The size of the wall during each rebuilding measured 59ft wide at the bottom, 49ft wide at the top, 39 feet tall and 8.5mi long. No wonder it took 4 years to build!

Xián City Wall

 It’s hard to describe what it was like riding a bike around the city wall. It was fun and just felt so surreal. Here we are on modern bikes riding around on top of an ancient fortification, going past buildings that go back further than I can count! It really was amazing.

After you climb up the stairs to the top of the wall and rent your bike (at either the north or south gates), you are free to ride around the entirety of the top of the wall. Of course, there is a 100 minute time limit, but they will gladly extend your rental for a small fee…………..every 5 minutes you are late. lol. If you don’t think you can do the whole wall in just over an hour and a half, you can just drop your bike at one of the other bike stations around the wall and you’re good to go. After they return your deposit, of course.

But I recommend trying to get the entire circuit. We arrived about 2 minutes past our time, but the guy was really nice and wrote down that we returned it on time. So, but nice to the bike wrangler.

We were pretty much in awe our entire ride and the first building we came to, we just HAD to take a picture in front of. But it couldn’t be just any picture. It had to be an action shot!

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And then we did our still shot. And, yes, that stuff Troy is wearing is all his camera gear. You’d think he’d be losing weight, lugging all that around…………..but, no. He likes to eat too much. lol

Xián City Wall

I think on of my favorite things about the experience was being able to see the old mixed in with the new. It was pretty neat to see this ancient Chinese architecture surrounded by all of these modern buildings. I felt like I was stopping to take pictures every 10 feet. There are just so many amazing views and neat things to see from the wall. I read some reviews about the ‘attraction’ of visiting the Xián City Wall and it amazed me how people said there was nothing to see and that it was just ‘okay’. Seriously? It was amazing! It was such a neat experience and there were a lot of interesting things to see.

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Xián City Wall

The buildings on the wall were pretty cool, too. They all had signs next to them, describing what they were for, which I really liked. They were mostly barracks and storehouses for the troops that were once stationed on the wall or places for them to warm up or dry off when weather was bad. Some were office buildings, which I thought was interesting.

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Some other interesting things we saw on our ride were:

I’ve googled and googled to figure out what this is, but I have no idea. Maybe one of my Chinese-speaking friends can tell me?

Xián City Wall

There was this fun street market by the East side of the gate. It was fun watching people wander around down there.

Xián City Wall

They are working on restoring the Guangren Lama Monastery by the northwest corner of the wall.

Xián City Wall

Another building that I’m not sure what it is, but I like how it looks.

Xián City Wall

Slanted ramp to bring supplies up to the top of the wall, yet keep it from getting too slick from rain. Kinda cool.

Xián City Wall

This is where ancient artillery was stationed for the defense of the city. There are several of these spots around the wall.

Xián City Wall

It still amazes me how well this was constructed.

Xián City Wall

And I just love neat it all looks.

Xián City Wall

Fun snake sculpture on the wall to commemorate the Year of the Snake.

Xián City Wall

Once we got to the snake (about 3/4 of the way around the wall), we realized that we only had less than 10 minutes left on our rental! I can’t remember how much the late penalty was, but we certainly didn’t want to pay it. We were closer to one of the other bike stations, but we really wanted to be able to say we biked the entire wall, so we decided to race the last bit.  It was a rough 2 miles, but it was a lot of fun darting around people and trying to ride as fast as we could. It was so fun pedaling like crazy people and bumping along the bricks. We were so glad most of our remaining ride was downhill and that the wall wasn’t too terribly crowded.

Unfortunately, we didn’t make our time, but the bike checker was nice and put that we were in on time.

After we turned in our bikes and started heading towards the gate we’d come in, we found the reason why the last part of our ride hadn’t had many people. Down at the bottom of the stairs in the courtyard, there was a demonstration getting ready to start!

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Once we had secured a decent place to watch the performance from, I popped out my little camera and recorded it. The video is a bit jumpy in parts because I kept getting pushed………….and at one point a kid started peeing right next to me and I didn’t feel like wearing that around with me all day. :/ Gotta love China. Always something interesting. lol

So, here’s my video. It was pretty fun watching their performance. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Price: To get inside the wall, it is 50 yuan. To rent a bike, it is 40 yuan with a 200 yuan refundable deposit.

Hours: We got there a little after 8am. I believe it closes about 5:30pm.

Thanks for reading my blog! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section below. I’d love to hear what you think!

Xián City Wall

9 Replies to “Biking the Ancient Xi’an City Wall”

  1. Jen Seligmann

    What a great day out. Xi-an looks so full of colour. I really love the look of all the temples. I think I’d definitely need a spare memory card for my camera when I visit one day.

    • Erin Post author

      Xian is beautiful! We loved it there. Definitely bring a spare memory card. There are so many neat things to take photos of.

  2. alliblair

    So cool! I had never seen anyone post about riding their bikes around the wall like that! Neat perspective and amazing shots.

    • Erin Post author

      You should so go to Xian! That city has so much culture and history. Besides, you can get to the terracotta warriors from Xian!

  3. Els

    Interesting mix of history and modern life! And oh, surely Troy must have a sore neck carrying all that heavy equipment 🙂

    • Erin Post author

      Lol. Troy used to be sore from it all before he bought new gear. Currently, the pack around his waist and his backpack both rest on his shoulders, so the only thing putting pressure on his neck is the camera, which he slides over a shoulder when he’s not using it.

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