Clean air, sandy beaches and colonial architecture make Qingdao the finest seaside resort and most pleasant city on the Chinese mainland.
Fun-loving, historic Qingdao is the finest seaside resort on the Chinese mainland and one of the most pleasant cities in the entire country. Its beguiling mix of sandy beaches and colonial architecture attracts both domestic and foreign visitors eager to enjoy the clean air and bracing ocean. Throw in excellent seafood and the world-famous beer produced at the Tsingtao brewery and you have the perfect recipe for a Chinese-style beach party.
Any number of beaches and bays are strung out along 40km (25 miles) of curving coastline, while exploring the winding, cobbled streets of the old town, with its European-style villas and churches, is a must. Restaurants perch by the sea shore and everywhere you go you’ll find Tsingtao beer being served by the glass, bottle or, on the beach, in plastic bags with a straw. Nearby too, is the sacred mountain of Lao Shan, long a spiritual retreat for emperors, its hillsides scattered with ancient Taoist temples.
Qingdao was just a sleepy fishing village in Shandong Province until 1897, when Germany took it over as their foreign concession in China. Although German rule was short-lived – they lost control of the city in 1914 to the Japanese – its legacy was gothic-style churches, red-roofed houses, tree-lined streets and the Tsingtao brewery. Now, Qingdao is a booming port with a large South Korean and Japanese expatriate population. Having hosted the sailing events of the 2008 Olympics, an ever-increasing number of water sports are on offer here too.
May to September are the best months to enjoy Qingdao's beaches and water sports, although its coastal setting ensures it stays warmer than the rest of Shandong Province even in winter. August is the busiest month, with the international sailing week and beer festival attracting the crowds.
Singaporean citizens can visit China for a period of 15 days without a visa, while most other nationalities require a visa in advance. Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months and that you have a return or onward ticket.
China's currency is the yuan (Y), also known as renminbi, or colloquially as kuai. There are ATM's and exchange counters at the airport. ATM's accepting foreign bank cards are plentiful across Qingdao. Credit cards can be used at high-end hotels and restaurants. Everywhere else, it is best to carry cash.
Qingdao's Liuting International Airport is 32km (20 miles) north of town. Airport shuttles run hourly along three routes from 5.40am to 7.40pm and cost Y20. A taxi to or from the airport costs Y120-140.Within Qingdao, taxi fares start at Y9-12, depending on the type of taxi. There is a Y1 fuel surcharge. Ordinary buses cost Y1, with buses 11, 26 and 501 running from the railway station along the coast. Special sightseeing buses depart for different destinations, including Lao Shan, for Y30 every hour from the train station.
Qingdao is a very safe city by international standards with violent crime against foreigners extremely rare. But pickpockets are active so watch wallets and purses on buses and in crowded areas. Avoid using unlicensed taxis. Don't drink the tap water.
|How are you?||Ni hao ma?|
|Fine, thanks||Hen hao, xie xie|
|Excuse-me! (to get attention)||Qing wen!|
|Thank you||Xie xie|
|What's your name?||Ni jiao shen me ming zi?|
|My name is…||Wo jiao…|
|Nice to meet you||Jian dao ni hen gao xing|
|Are you on Facebook/Twitter?||Nin zai shi yong Facebook/Twitter ma?|
|Where’s an internet café?||Wang ba zai na li?|
|Where can I get a taxi?||Wo ke yi zai na li zhao dao chu zu che?|
|Where is the bus/train station?||Qi che zhan/huo che zhan zai na li?|
|A one-way/return ticket to…||Yi zhang dao…de dan cheng/shuang cheng piao|
|Do you have a room for one/two?||You yi/liang ren de fang jian ma?|
|When's check out?||Ji dian tui fang?|
|Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar?||Ni neng tui jian yi jia hao can guan/jiu ba ma?|
|A table for two, please||Qing gei wo liang ge ren de zhuo zi|
|A menu, please||Qing gei wo cai dan|
|The bill, please||Qing gei wo zhang dan|
|Where's the toilet?||Xi shou jian zai na li?|
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Tianhou Temple is dedicated to the goddess who protects sailors. The temple was built in the late 15th century during the Ming Dynasty, although it has been heavily-restored since then. The pagoda roof rises in dramatic fashion and there is also a Dragon King Hall, where a splayed pig lies before the God of the Oceans. The complex also houses the Qingdao Folk Customs Museum, which has a small collection of artefacts.
Governors House Museum
Qingdao's most eye-catching building, the Governor's House Museum is the former residence of the German Governor. Built in 1903, it's part Prussian hunting lodge, part Bavarian-style castle. The art nouveau touches and Chinese furnishings add to the incongruous nature of the structure.
Lao Shan is one of China's holiest peaks, its hillsides dotted with ancient temples that emperors once visited to pray at. As far back as 412 BC, pilgrims were coming here. Now, it makes a great day trip from Qingdao, which is 25 miles away. A cable car will lift you part of the way up the mountain. After that, it's a four-hour slog uphill past any number of temples and caves. Make sure to visit Taiqing Palace, which dates back to AD 960 and is the oldest surviving temple.
St Michael's Cathedral
Newly-renovated, St Michael's Cathedral screams of Europe, despite its setting close to the Qingdao Bay. With a gothic edifice and twin spires (hidden by devout locals after being torn down during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960's and 70's) that soar over the old town, it makes a great landmark if you're lost. Mass is celebrated every Sunday.
Tsingtao Beer Museum
You can't visit Qingdao without touring the Tsingtao Beer Museum. Tsingtao beer remains the pride of the locals and is still China's most globally-recognised brand. Located in the original and still functioning brewery, established in 1903, the brewers claim that the water they source from Lao Shan is the reason the beer tastes so good. The Y60 admission price allows you to explore the history of the brewery and offers a glimpse of the modern-day factory line where six bottles a second are produced. You get a free beer as well.
Qingdao’s old town, and the nearby residential district of Badaguan, are packed with historic buildings and fine villas from the days when Qingdao was a German concession port. The Teutonic architecture – sloping red roofs, half-timbered facades and gothic and art nouveau touches – make Qingdao unique and wandering the Old Town is essential.
Start your tour at the famous Zhan Qiao Pier, which is lined with food and souvenir vendors. At the far end, the Huilan Pavilion is a popular spot for photos: it features on the label of Tsingtao beer. From there, walk up Zhongshan Lu before turning right on Zhejiang Lu and reaching St Michael’s Cathedral and its striking spires. Then, head southeast along the cobbled streets to the 1908 Protestant Church (Jidu Jiaotang, 15 Jiangsu Lu).
After that, it’s a short stroll northeast to Signal Hill Park and the Governor’s House Museum. Qingdao’s most imposing building, Mao Zedong stayed here in 1957 when he visited for a seaside holiday. To the west of Signal Hill Park lies the residential district of Badaguan, or ‘Eight Passes’. The area gets its name because eight of its serene streets are named after the most famous passes of the Great Wall. Fantastic old villas from the concession era line the roads, making this Qingdao’s most attractive neighbourhood.
Finish your day by hopping a taxi northeast to the Tsingtao Beer Museum, housed in the original and still functioning brewery. Directly opposite the brewery is Beer Street, packed with bars and restaurants.
Zhan Qiao Pier, St Michael’s Cathedral, 1908 Protestant Church, Governor’s House Museum, Badaguan, Tsingtao Beer Museum.
With beaches galore, water sports, aquariums and parks, Qingdao is a kid’s paradise. Whether it's splashing in the ocean, or playing on an amusement park, there’s plenty to stop young ones getting bored.
Qingdao’s beaches should be the first stop for anyone travelling with children. Shilaoren, or Old Stone Man, is Qingdao’s largest and best beach. A 45-minute bus ride from the old town, it’s a 2km (1mile) -long strip of clean sand with plenty of seashells for kids to collect. Showers, changing facilities, chairs and umbrellas are available for hire, as they are at all the beaches, while local entrepreneurs offer boat rides.
Closer to the old town, are the pretty No. 2 and No. 3 Bathing Beaches, which have sheltered coves and are fine for swimming. Also popular is the No. 6 Beach, close to the Zhan Qiao Pier, although it’s less clean. No.1 Beach is home to the Qingdao International Sailing Centre, where aspiring sailors can take lessons and boats can be hired. Many of the beaches levy a nominal charge, Y5–10, to access them.
The Qingdao Underwater World (1 Laiyang Lu) is a favourite with kids but gets very busy at weekends. Check out the 82-metre (269ft) -long underwater tunnel, where you can gaze at fish swimming all around you. There are also daily mermaid shows. Children under six get in free, and admission also includes entry to the nearby Polar Ocean World, with its polar bears, penguins and seals.
Shilaoren beach, No. 2 and No. 3 Bathing Beaches, Qingdao International Sailing Centre, Qingdao Underwater World.