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South Gate (Yongningmen)
South Gate (Yongningmen)

South Gate (Yongningmen)

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Xian, China

The Basics

The Xian City Wall is one of China’s best-preserved city walls. Gain admission to the wall at the South Gate, the largest of its major gates, for a moderate fee, with additional charges to rent bicycles (including tandems) or a golf cart. It takes around four hours to walk a full circuit of the walls, which are 9 miles (14 kilometers) long. Most Xian city tours, whether from Xian itself or day trips from Beijing or Shanghai, include a visit to the city wall, often at the South Gate.

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Things to Know Before You Go

  • A Xian landmark, the South Gate is the most popular spot to start exploring Xian City Wall.

  • A good guide can help you make sense of the wall’s fortifications, as well as pointing out essential Xian sights.

  • While it’s easy to look at the South Gate from below, the city wall itself is reached by steps and not accessible to travelers who use wheelchairs.

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How to Get There

The South Gate stands dead center in the southern stretch of the Xian City Wall, at the base of South Street, about half a mile (800 meters) south of the Bell Tower. It’s close to Shuyuanmen Street and walking distance from the Great Mosque and the Muslim Quarter. The South Gate has its own dedicated metro station, Yongningmen (line 2).

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When to Get There

The Xian City Wall is open from morning to evening seven days a week in summer, closing earlier in the evening during winter, and the South Gate is at its most attractive after dark. Try to avoid visiting Xian on weekends or over Chinese holiday periods, particularly Lunar New Year and Golden Week, in early October.

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The Story of the Xian City Wall

The ancient Chinese city of Chang’An, from which modern-day Xian originates, was for centuries the largest city in the world. During the Tang dynasty, over 1,000 years ago, the city walls encircled a city seven times larger than the area today’s walls enclose. The current walls were built in the 14th century and have been regularly maintained since then.

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