Article by Francis and Jin
The year of the ox has arrived! Xi’an has changed so much post-pandemic. New restaurants, hotels, and other establishments have emerged on every block, while the tired businesses of yesteryear have closed their doors and bid farewell. Also, now that the roads are all repaved, traffic has started moving too! We are of course talking about Beilin District – not Gaoxin, where there seems to be a perpetual jam and endless T-junctions.
With so much transformation, what is the perfect day in Beilin District?
Well, now that Lines 5 and 6 are open, Beilin just got a whole lot smaller. No matter what traffic is like, getting from A to B in our district won’t take you much more than half an hour. Without further ado, we present our selections below:
We want to wake up in our ideal staycation hotel, the Crown Plaza Xi’an. Francis likes a full breakfast, so we head to Leban for coffee and to enjoy their special deal of 50% off before 11AM. Francis goes for the salmon Benedict and iced Americano, Jin gets pancakes and orange juice.
For the rest of the morning, we spend it immersed in the cultural treasures of the Beilin Museum. There are not only the stone tablets in the “Stele Forest”, but there are also the Six Steeds of Zhao Mausoleum, of which four originals and two replicas are exhibited (the other two originals are in the U.S. at the Penn Museum). These are stone reliefs of the horses on which Emperor Tang Taizong rode into battle.
For classic Shaanxi food, if the weather is nice, we will go to Yong Xing Fang, which has Shaanxi snack foods from all around the province, as well as dance and music performances. If it rains, we will head to Zhai Xiang Zi (the Zhuque branch 朱雀店), a chain of Shaanxi restaurants that we have tried before which consistently deliver outstanding food (also ranked number 1 for Shaanxi food on Dazhong Dianping).
After lunch, we will probably wander over to Shaanxi Thirteen Ice Cream, which has a plethora of classic, local and curious flavors of ice cream and fruit sorbets including chocolate, lychee, and hot peppers. From there, it is easy to stroll to the Muslim Quarter past street vendors and mosques to the Drum Tower and Bell Tower, but our next destination would probably be The Shaanxi Art Museum. On the way there, stop by the Small Goose Pagoda and Xi’an Museum to see less frequented but no less historically significant collections. If it’s raining, then we would go shopping at the higher-end (and only slightly-less-crowded-than-Xiaozhai’s Saga Mall) SKP and Wang Fu Jing malls. We would catch the latest movie at the Hong Kong Future Cinema near the second ring road interchange.
For dinner, we head over to Daxue Nanlu, which is basically a foodie street near the campus of Northwest University. Here, we argue, sit two restaurants that are possibly the most underappreciated by the English-speaking community in Xi’an. Francis is talking about Jiuxi Xiaolongxia (九喜小龙虾 Jiuxi Crayfish) and Jin is talking about Wangquanzhong Choudoufou (王全中臭豆腐 Wangquanzhong Stinky Tofu). In the summer time, you will have to patiently wait in obscenely long lines. The crayfish restaurant is special because they only cook live crayfish and their spicy sauce is prepared fresh (not out of a plastic bag). And the stinky tofu restaurant (which started out as a tiny food cart) is run by a mother and father who are putting their kid through school, who put just as much love and care into selecting their ingredients.
After dinner, we would walk to South Gate and do a selfie with the lights. Depending on the day of the week, there might Pub Trivia (Wednesday) or Xi’an Games night (Thursday). For music, we would head to Meeting Jazz for live tunes. We would likely take the after party to Xian Mai Live (“likely” turns to “definitely” if their kitchen is still open because their French fries are da bomb). And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the perfect day in Beilin District.
Jin and Francis are both teachers in Xi’an who love exploring. Have your own ideas for a perfect day? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.