During our recent trip to Xian we mostly focused on seeing the Terracotta Warriors. However, we did get to see a little of the city. It has a very different vibe from Beijing. In many ways it's more of what I expected from China. Xian has some obvious historical artifacts still standing, most notably the city wall encircling the inner city. The streets are really full of people (Beijing is sprawling and hardly ever feels as packed as Tokyo or Hong Kong.) Perhaps scarier, the driving is even more chaotic than Beijing. It's definitely a little more raw than the more staid Beijing.
A few brief facts about Xian: It was the capital of China several times including during the Qin Dynasty that unified China (and produced the Terracotta Warriors). It was the end of the Silk Road, and for a few hundred years from about the 7th to 10th centuries, it was the largest city in the world. While Han Chinese represent most of the population, there is a sizable Muslim population and a famous mosque, The Great Mosque of Xian. The night market between the Drum Tower and the Great Mosque was absolutely packed with people enjoying a warm Saturday night.
The Bell Tower in the middle of the city
The Drum Tower near the Bell Tower
The busy night market near the Great Mosque and Drum Tower. (I wish I had better photos, but I had to hold onto the kids to make sure we didn't lose them in the massive crowd.)