What is today called the Old Town of Dali 大理古城 is actually not that old: it was only founded at the beginning of the Ming dynasty, after the Ming destroyed the old capital of the Dali Kingdom Yangjumie 阳苴咩 situated just northwest of it and embarked on a spree of cultural destruction that left almost nothing standing.
Only the Three Pagodas north and the Lone Pagoda south of the old Dali capital remained and until today are Dali's most important landmarks, still visible from afar.
- The Three Pagodas were part of Chongsheng Temple 崇圣寺, historically a very significant temple complex, but almost certainly not close to the size of the ugly reconstruction of today. Until the Muslim Uprising in the 19th century, a large Guanyin 观音 statue formed the center of the temple, but it was probably melted down for arms.
- South, the Lone Pagoda 一塔 was part of Hongsheng Temple 弘圣寺, of which nothing survived.
Dali's historic city walls still frame the center of the old city, with gates to all four directions.
- In the center of town the Tower of Five Glories 五华楼 was demolished during the Anti-Japanese War as it was too much of a landmark to direct Japanese bomber planes. When it was rebuilt, the style change from Bai to mock-Ming.
- Near the south gate is the still extant City God Temple 城隍庙, the main place of worship for the emerging commercial class of Dali. Today, worship of the City God has moved to the historic temple of the Fire God, the old temple has been renovated, but is hidden and almost permanently closed off.
- The Wumiao and Wenmiao are both relatively new reconstructions.
- Dali's modern middle school was established on the grounds of the old Xiyun Library 西云书院, a Ming place of learning.
- Puxian Temple 普贤寺 is today perhaps the most active Bai temple inside the old town.