In this paper, the catalytic activity of thirteen different metal chlorides in aqueous solution for the conversion of xylose into furfural was studied in comparison with both the auto- and HCl-catalyzed reactions. A maximum furfural yield of 60.3 mol % was reached with the addition of FeCl3 to the aqueous xylose solution. However, the catalytic efficiency of FeCl3 decreased on use of birch hydrolysate as a raw material, resulting in 43.5 mol % furfural yield. The obtained experimental results were incorporated in a kinetic modeling study. The assessed reaction rates for xylose dehydration to furfural and xylose decomposition to byproducts, in the presence of AlCl3 and CrCl3 are significantly higher than during acid-catalyzed conversion. The logarithms of the reaction rates show a linear correlation with the ionization energy as well as with the acidity of the metal ions.