View of Xian City Wall

Xi’an Report – How to Go On a Xian City Wall Bike Ride

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When my travel buddy suggested a Xian city wall bike ride, I thought she’d lost the plot! I didn’t fancy navigating one of China’s megacities with lunatic traffic, hazardous fumes, heat, humidity, and unreadable road signs. Plus, we’re distinctly middle-aged and unfit!

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Then she told me we weren’t going to ride around the city streets – we were cycling on the ancient city walls in Xi’an. So, we donned our padded pants and set out to have a go.

Here’s my warts and all report about the Xian city wall and what a Xian city wall bike ride is really like.

Mature woman wearing black standing next to yellow bicycle

About The Ancient City Wall Xian

Construction of the ancient city wall began in 1370 during the Ming Dynasty and was completed during the Tang Dynasty. The wall is 14 km long, 12 metres high, and 15 to 18 metres wide. It was fully restored in the 1980s. It surrounds the old city of Xi’an, and your Xian city wall bike ride will take you around it.

Within the 36 square km old Xian city area encircled by the wall, there are strict building regulations, and no building can be higher than the wall. Landmarks such as the Bell, Drum Towers, and Muslim Quarter are within the walls. Outside the wall, however, you’ll see a complete contrast as huge skyscrapers rise as far as the eye can see, dominating the skyline!

Approaching the City Wall min

The approach to the Xian city wall is both impressive and imposing. A long, wide path lined with tall columns leads you towards the South Gate, which is dwarfed beneath the towering gatehouse. You can’t help feeling how awed and intimidated visitors and invaders would have felt in ancient times as they walked or rode towards the wall.

Key Features of the Wall

With a wide moat and watchtowers every 120 metres, it’s easy to see that the wall was built to protect the city and to accommodate the soldiers defending the ancient city.

At all four points of the compass, there are gates to the North, South, East and West, each fortified with three towers. These imposing city gates still provide access to the thriving old Xi’an city today from the surrounding modern city.

randoms at the city wall min

The closer you get to the entrance to the wall, the more you’ll find local Chinese people wanting to have their photos taken with you. If your hair is light-coloured or grey, you’ll be inundated with polite, friendly requests for selfies!

Our Xian City Wall Bicycle Ride

The South Gate is the only location where you can hire a bike. You’ll find a good supply of clean, well-maintained bikes and tandems to choose from (with proper suspension, brakes and padded seats, for which you’ll be very grateful).

The staff at the rental shop are super helpful, and they will adjust your seat up or down if needed. (You may need to resort to sign language for this).

You can easily cycle all the way around the ancient city walls in one and a half to two hours if you cycle at a leisurely pace and make lots of stops to take in the sights!

Bike Hire Cost

It’s very cheap to hire a bike for this experience:

  • It’s CNY 45 to hire a bike for two hours with a deposit of CNY 200
  • Alternatively, it’s CNY 90 to hire a tandem for the same time, with the same deposit of CNY 200

The Walking Option

If you prefer to take your Xian city wall tour on foot, it’ll take about four hours to walk around the wall. You’ll not be alone as many people enjoy the exercise of walking the wall and you might see joggers too. There’s even a city wall marathon in April.

Cycling around the city wall Xian China min 1

The Spectacular Views from the Xi’an Wall

You will have an outstanding view of the city from your lofty perch high up on the wall. Setting off from the South gatehouse, you’ll cycle anti-clockwise, with the fascinating twists and turns of the old city on your left and the vast sprawl of city skyscrapers on your right. Every point provides new views of the fascinating blend of the old and the new China.

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You’ll have a chance to see the towering financial district, traditional Chinese shops, a Buddhist temple with a golden roof and the lush greenery of Huancheng Park. The reward from the West gate is a good view of the historic Drum and Bell Towers, marking the centre of the old city.

Xian report view from the city wall min

In complete contrast to the crowded old city, with its narrow streets and traditional Chinese houses, on the outer side of the wall, you’ll see skyscrapers set in wide boulevards stretching as far as the eye can see into the distance. It’s a stark reminder of how rapidly the city of Xi’an is growing.

Xian skyscrapers min

As you cycle around the wall, stop a while at the intricately decorated watchtowers too and give your legs a rest. Every tower is different, and they all have little titbits of information to read (it’s all in English!). One has an interesting mini-exhibition about the history of the bicycle.

I can report that we made it around the Xi’an wall in just over an hour. Our guide clearly thought we were fat old women likely to have a coronary on the way and could barely conceal his astonishment!

Xi’an Report – Old City Wall FAQs

Xian Report. View of City Wall 2 min
Q. How easy is it to cycle around the city wall in Xi’an?

A. The city wall is very easy to cycle and mostly flat, but there are some slopes, and the path is quite bumpy. Take cycling shorts or padded pants, or risk walking like John Wayne when you get off your bike!

Q. What refreshment facilities are available on the wall?

A. It can get very hot up on the wall, even on an overcast day, so make sure you have a bottle of water in your bag. You can buy water on the wall, but you’ll pay a premium price. Stock up with snacks too. Concessions are limited and expensive once get onto the wall itself

Q. Are there any toilets on the wall?

A. Toilets on the wall are few and far between; however, there’s one at the start and one at the end! While the toilets are reasonably clean, they are squat toilets, and you’ll need to take your own toilet paper plus soap/hand wipes. You have been warned…

Gate house on the Old City Wall Xian min

Xi’an Report: What To Look Out For On the Xi’an Wall

The wall is very Instagrammable, even on misty days. You might even happen upon local people taking photos for a modelling shoot, just as we did. This girl’s dress was so perfectly matched with the red lanterns decorating the wall that we were slightly envious of how stunning she looked. (No, she did not cycle in that dress…)

IGers on the City Wall min

In Conclusion

A Xian city wall bike ride is a great way to enjoy your time in the city and get some of the most incredible views of Xian. It’s the perfect way to spend a few hours on your trip to China.

Interested in more Xi’an City travel tips?

Xian Report. View of City Wall min

Plan Your Visit to Xi’an

Xi’an is a city blessed with more than its fair share of great historical sites, and it would be easy to focus solely on them – neglecting to report on the Old City Wall. It would be a mistake not to spend time here if you can – the wall is magnificent.

How to Get to Xi’an

Most international visitors fly into Shanghai or Beijing before transferring to Xi’an – either by a domestic flight or bullet train.

Where to Stay in Xi’an

The first decision is whether to stay within or outside the old city wall. I recommend staying within the walls for the best experience and easy (walkable) access to many of the attractions in Xi’an.


Have you been to Xi’an? Did you cycle around the city wall? What would your own Xi’an report look like? Most important – did I miss anything out here? Do share your experiences in the comments below.

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