Dating back to the 1380s, the very beginning of the Ming Dynasty, Xi'an's majestic Bell Tower and Drum Tower are symbols of the city's rich past and are some of the largest and best-preserved of their kind in China.
Every Ming-era city in China had a bell tower and a drum tower to help signal the time and mark important events. The Bell Tower in Xi'an, located at the very center of the old city, is an imposing 27.4 meters high and located in a busy traffic circle. Visitors need to take an underground walkway beneath the traffic circle to reach the tower.
Visitors can climb up to the Bell Tower's terrace where the wooden tower sits to get a bird's eye view of the surrounding area. However, the view is not very impressive since the tower is surrounded by busy roads in all directions. Please note that getting up to the terrace requires climbing many stairs. Inside the tower, there is a small museum that houses a huge bell, as well as some handwritten memos about the relocation and renovation of the tower. There are also bell and chime performances at various times throughout the day.
As an iconic landmark of Xi'an, the Bell Tower receives many tourists and there may be long lines at certain times. While people can pay a small fee to go upstairs and visit the interior of the tower, most visitors find the exterior of the Bell Tower is more impressive, especially in the evening when it is illuminated with colorful lights. Since the tower is quite tall and prominent, you can easily appreciate it for free from across the road.
The Drum Tower, located at the south end of Beiyuanmen pedestrian street and about 200 meters to the northwest of the Bell Tower, was built in 1380, even earlier than the Bell Tower. The Drum Tower houses many large drums and some antique furniture, as well as short musical performances featuring drums and other traditional instruments at various times. The Drum Tower can be visited together with the Bell Tower with a combo ticket.
In between the Bell and Drum Towers, there is a square that offers good views of the two towers. The square is a nice place to stroll, with trees for shade and many places to sit. The square is surrounded by vendors, shops, and restaurants that become busy in the evening, offering great people watching opportunities as well.
Despite the long history and magnificent architecture of the two towers, they may not seem as impressive as some of China's other, larger imperial structures, especially for visitors who have just visited Beijing. They can be skipped if you don't have much time in Xi'an.
Opening hours: 8:30am-10:00pm (April to October) / 8:30am-6:00pm (November to March)
Entrance fee: 35 CNY (Bell Tower only), 50 CNY (Bell Tower and Drum Tower combo ticket)
Average time for this activity: 0.5 hr
The Bell Tower can be easily accessed via subway line 2.