Built during the Ming Dynasty, Xian's Drum Tower (Gulou) is set across from the equally ancient Bell Tower in the heart of the Old City. The structure's original purpose was to keep time, with its drums beaten each morning to mark sunset (Sunrise was marked with the tolling of the bells in the Bell Tower). The tower has been renovated several times over the years, and a huge six-foot-tall (1.8-meter-tall) drum was added in 1996, with 1,996 studs installed to represent the year it was made.
After marveling at the Drum Tower's impressive Chinese architecture, you can step inside and climb to its top level for views across the city. The tower features a museum, as well as regular drumming performances throughout the day. In addition, a small drum is available for visitors to beat three times a day for good luck in exchange for a fee.
The square in which the Drum Tower is located is a lively area filled with various shops, eateries, and other attractions. A trip here is included on most tours of the city and is usually combined with other top attractions, such as the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, and Muslim Market.
Insider Tip: The Drum Tower is beautifully lit up at night and climbing up to its higher levels provides some fantastic views of the twinkling lights of downtown Xian.
The Drum Tower is in the center of Xian, a short walk from the Bell Tower; you can buy a combined ticket to cover both sights for 50 CNY. The site can be reached by taking Line 2 of the subway to Bell Tower Station and heading west from exit B. Local buses also serve the area.