Xi’an is one of the few cities in China where the old City Walls are still standing. The Ancient City Wall of Xi’an, with a history of more than 600 years, is the longest, oldest and best-preserved extant city defense system from ancient China and one of a few such ancient military facilities in the world. It is also one of the most important landmarks of the Xi’an city.
After its enlargement in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the City Wall now stands 12 meters (40 feet) high, 12-14 meters (40-46feet) wide at the top and 15-18 meters (50-60feet) thick at the bottom. It covers 13.74 kilometers (8.5 miles) in length with a deep moat surrounding it. The walls are a bit thicker than their height, which gives them great defensive solidity.
Cycling is the best way to explore the historic City Wall of Xi’an. The wall is high and wide, with a road on the top which is empty, perfect for biking. And it is safe as there are no vehicles and the wall is protected. Since 1983, the governments carried out large-scale renovations of the city walls, including the East Gate, North Gate Watchtower and South Gate buildings and drawbridges.
The South Gate and North Gate are the two main entrances to the inner city. You can enter the wall via the South Gate (Yongning Gate) which is the most time-honored and magnificent one among all the city gates. The bike hire place is on top of the wall near the South Gate Tower. So it is popular for people to ascend here. If you stay near the Bell Tower, you can take 10 minutes’ walk along the South Street to get to the South Gate.
You can bike the entirety of the walls in 1-2 hours or just part of it as you like. The further away from the South Gate you are, the fewer people you encounter. On the way you can stop at various viewpoints and look down at the activity below. Inside the City Wall are old-style streets. Some of the dwellings exhibit the classic Chinese architectural design with the curved and tiled roofs; other homes were constructed of unadorned brick. Outside the City Wall is a park, surrounded by a moat.
Cycling on the City Wall can be done during the day or as an evening activity as the wall has lights. It’s amazing when biking atop the old City Wall and enjoying a great view of the city.
- Recommended cycling route: Along the city wall, totally 13.74km. The wall route is a little bumpy and you should be careful.
- Estimated duration: To cycle round the wall for a whole circle takes about 1 hour, or 1.5 to 2 hours at a medium speed.
- Best season for cycling: spring and autumn.
- Bicycle rental: Bicycles are available at all four wall gates from 8 am to 9:30 pm. The rental fee for a bike is 40 yuan ($6.35) for 100 minutes; for tandem, it is 80 yuan for 100 minutes. Refundable deposit of 200yuan is needed.