Also in the old city center is the hussling, bussling and well preserved "Muslim quarter." The city developed a sizable Muslim population because of its promenence as the start and finish of the Silk Road. Today, the neighborhood where many lived is now a twisty, turny labrith of streets, markets, restuarants, shops and more. And the food's good too.
We had lunch in a traditional restaurant that served an hardy meat soup. Before the arrival of the broth, you are instructed to crumble up a piece of the local flat bread into your bowl. Then, when the good stuff comes, the bread soaks up the flavors and you have an delicious concoction to savor. After lunch, we checked out the market where we bought some small paintings, Mao watches, paint brushes and other items.
Still sticking in the old city, check out the large plaza at the Bell Tower...especially at night. This is the "Times Square" of Xi'an and a good vantage point to watch the locals go by and contemplate the moderization and westernization of China. But more about that in a minute.
Finally regarding the old city, we stayed at the Bell Tower Hotel and you should too. It's a very well located and appointed hotel that caters to westerners and was one of the nicest places we stayed on our entire trip. After several days biking, hiking and guest house living in the countryside beyond Xi'an, it was a welcome refuge.