Visit Ancient City of Pingyao: 1-day itinerary

Have you heard much of Pingyao? If you know about its existence, you know far more than I did before I started planning my trip to China. Of course, we always hear a lot about the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors, but I had no clue, how amazing some less spoken about places in China could be.


I found out about Pingyao from travel groups, the photos enticed me, so I decided to include it in my trip. That certainly was a great decision.

The city was built a millennium ago and became the Wall street of China. For centuries (16-19th) it was at the center of economic development of the country. That’s why you will find so many banking institutions here. Due to such importance, the city is now on the UNESCO heritage list.


Pingyao is a really lovely city. It is one of the best preserved among the old Chinese cities with intact city walls and cute houses. They don’t allow modern buildings inside the walls, which lets it preserve its charm. This is a city, where even KFC looks cute.

How to get to Pingyao

The city is quite touristy, because it is located in-between Beijing and Xi’An. When I say between, it doesn’t mean, you won’t have to make a detour, but it definitely is worth it. We went from Beijing West by train. The fast train (D type) took about 4 hours to get here. And it took 3 hours to get from here to Xi’An.

Find detailed information on trains in China, how to get tickets and how to travel between the cities.

I had researched about getting to the city from the high speed railway station previously. Keep in mind, there is another train station far closer to the old city. High speed station is a bit farther, although still no more than 15 mins drive. I found out that no cars, except some hotel vehicles can enter the old city. So I decided to ask the hotel I booked, to send us the car. It was only 30 yuans, so it was worth it for us, particularly, as we were arriving after 8 pm.

Unfortunately, we didn’t find the car at the car park, as hotel promised. Not sure if it was late or they didn’t send it, because I didn’t answer their Wechat calls (we had no internet). So we had to decide whether to take a taxi or a bus. The fact is, taxis won’t get you much closer to your destination, than the bus does, as they can’t enter the old city gates. If you decide on a taxi, don’t give more than 30 yuans, they will ask for 50 or more for sure.

We opted for the bus. Bus 108 stops exactly at the exit of the station, on the right from the taxi stand. You won’t miss it. The bus costs 1 yuan and will get you to the spot about 5 mins walk from the North gate of the old city. This is one stop before last, before the main bus station of Pingyao. You will have to walk from here.

Tickets for visiting Pingyao

Entering the old city is free. However, to visit the many museums inside the old city (I believe there are 22 of them), you will need a ticket. The whole city has one ticket, which gives you access to all the sites. It costs 125 yuans or 65 for students. Technically, you have to be a Chinese student to get the discount and an undergrad one, but if you meet a nice cashier, you may be lucky to be given a student ticket with your country student ID. It sounds expensive, but it definitely is worth it.

The ticket offices are in many places around the town, you can spot them near the entrances of most major attractions.

The ticket has the validity of 3 days, but you can only visit each museum once. Make sure to keep your ticket safe while exploring the city.

Other Tips for visiting Pingyao

  • I do suggest to stay at least one night here to enjoy the evening lights. The two main streets come alive at night. In the beginning, we were apprehensive of the dark side streets, however, we didn’t feel unsafe. Whoever we met only helped with directing us to where we needed to go.
  • I recommend to book a hotel from, as they have greater choice in smaller cities than or Agoda, so you will book something for cheaper. The hotel I chose in the old city was clean, very cute and the people who met us were very nice. That somehow made up for the hassle of getting there, due to the transfer car not arriving. Most Pingyao hotels look like old houses, they are decorated beautifully. Just have a look at these photos.
  • In Pingyao hardly anyone speaks even a word of English. So be prepared with the Google translate app 😊
  • Tourists will be in the city mostly from 10am to 5 pm, because most people do this as a day trip. During this time the main streets can be a bit crowded, but all the side streets and many sights are still quiet and nice. We didn’t see many people either in City God temple or Confucius temple, for instance. The banks and the South gate of the wall are more crowded.
  • The city is really small, so you can walk around easily. Actually, no transport – either buses or taxis – can get inside the ancient city walls, so the only way is to walk. My mom is not very fit and has joint pains, but she was still able to walk without problems in this city.

1-day Itinerary of Pingyao

Here is the list of major spots you shouldn’t miss when visiting Pingyao. It doesn’t matter in what order you will visit the sites. Start wherever is closer to you.

Old City Wall

The old city is surrounded by a very well-preserved wall. This wall is much smaller than that of Xi’An, however, it is one of the best preserved in China. It’s unclear, when exactly was the wall constructed. It did exist in the 11th century and was first reconstructed in the 14th century.

We went up at the South gate, which is the most prominent among the six city gates. It was very crowded with tour groups. I believe tour groups just visit this part of the wall and leave. If you wander a bit farther from the gate, you will be all by yourself.

You can technically walk around the whole area in 3 hours I believe. But not all sections of the wall are open for walking. West gate to North gate section was closed at the time we were there.

We walked from South gate to the West gate. This section was very quiet and we didn’t meet anyone most of the time. We really loved seeing the roofs of the buildings from up the wall and, in general, observing this cute city. Be careful though, as most part of the wall has very low battlements towards the old city, so don’t go too close to them. I do suggest to walk at least some part of the wall, whichever side is open at the time you visit and you prefer.

Ming-Qing Street (South Street) and West Street

Both of these streets are very beautiful with a lot of handicraft shops, places selling local sweets, the lights. The Ming-Qing street was actually called China’s Wall Street with banks surrounding it.

You will anyway end up in this very central place at least a couple of times during your exploration of the city. Do come here not only during the day, but in the evening too, when the red and yellow lights make them magical.

The Temple of City God

An ancient Taoist temple, this one was one of the highlights for us. When we visited there were really few people here. Here you will find the colorful statues depicting the “hell” and “torture”. The statues have strange expressions and they are definitely worth exploring.

The Confucius Temple

This was a totally fascinating Temple and one of our favourites. Even before entering, you will find the stone depictions of Confucius teaching his disciples and many other stories. The temple complex covers a big area. Inside the complex you will find the old classrooms, that were used to teach the students about the teachings of Confucius. There are also the training grounds, where they used to teach archery and other fighting skills. You can even try your hand in it.

The temple was first built in the 7th century and rebuilt in 12th. Since then, it’s very well-preserved.

Here, you will see a lot of red and yellow signs hanging nearby. From what we understood, the red means luck and yellow is for wealth (they were 50 and 100 yuan to buy and hang there, but we saw exact same in Suzhou on Pingjiang road for 5 yuans. I am sure you will find them in many other places. So you can bring them with you, if you like).

Rishengchang Former Bank

Founded in 1823, this is the first Chinese bank, so worth visiting for this sole reason. It is very centrally located on the West street. You can learn about the history of banking in China here.

Xietongqing Bank

I did prefer this one to other banks, because of the vaults with old gold and silver money. I didn’t see this in any guides and I am really happy we entered here accidentally, thinking it was Rishengchang. Definitely don’t miss it!

China Escort (Security guard) Agency

You can see some of the weapons of the former guards here and find information about martial arts.

Pingyao Ancient Government Office

Not as fascinating, as I expected it to be, but it covers a huge area and has a number of rooms to explore, including the administrative rooms, prison cells, etc. The complex was first built in the 4-6 centuries, but had to be rebuilt in the 14th century. The country government headed by the local magistrate was housed here and did administrative business.

The rest is up to you. I wouldn’t mind staying another day and seeing all the 22 museums and just wondering the streets, marveling at the interesting things you find at every corner. Although it may get boring, if you stay more than that. You could also get out of town and visit the famous Wang compound, if you have more than one day.

Suggestions for Additional Days in Pingyao

Wang Family compound (price: 55 yuan) – This is a well-preserved dwelling of a rich family dating back from the 14th century and being expanded over centuries. The compound is located outside the old city gates and you will need to either change 2 buses or a train and a bus to get there.

Qiao Family compound (price: 115 yuan) – Same, as the Wang compound, this is a family dwelling constructed in the 18th century. It’s become better known due to being features in a few movies and TV series. It’s particularly known for its lovely courtyard. You can get here by bus from Pingyao bus station.

Shuanglin Temple – The temple with a history of almost 1500 years was listed, as part of the Pingyao Ancient city, as the UNESCO World Heritage site. You can get here by bus from Pingyao train station.

See also:

Useful tips for planning your trip to China.

Transport in China.

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