Qingdao

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.

 

When to go

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.

Visa requirements

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.

Money

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.

Transport

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.

Health and safety tips

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.

Emergency details

Singapore Embassy:

The nearest Singapore Embassy is in Beijing (tel: (86) 10 6532 1115). 
 

Police:

Dial 110 in an emergency. The main police station, known as the Public Security Bureau, is at 272 Ningxia Lu, west of the train station (tel: (86) 532 6657 0000).

Basic greetings
English Mandarin
Hello Ni hao
How are you? Ni hao ma?
Fine, thanks Hen hao, xie xie
Goodbye Zai jian
Excuse-me! (to get attention) Qing wen!
Thank you Xie xie
Yes Shi de
No Bu shi
OK Hao de
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?
Help! Jiu ming!

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Tianhou Temple

19 Taiping Lu, Shinan District

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

26 Longshan Lu, Shinan District

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

Lao Shan District

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

15 Zhejiang Lu, Shibei District

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

56 Dengzhou Lu, Shibei District

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.

Shop

Jinsha Pedestrian Shopping Street

Jinsha Street

Jinsha Pedestrian Shopping Street is home to Shantou's popular night market, which gets going from 5pm onwards. Northeast of People's Square and just south of Jinsha Park, it features hundreds of stalls selling clothes and all manner of gadgets and trinkets. It's also a great place to snack on yummy Teochew street food, like steamed and fried rice cakes and baked oysters.

Budget $

Nanguo Shopping Mall

Changping Lu

The largest shopping mall in eastern Guangdong Province, Nanguo Shopping Mall sprawls across a huge area of Shantou's central business district. You could spend days window shopping here. A warren of boutiques selling both mid-range and high-end clothing brands, it's also home to supermarkets, cinemas and many restaurants and fast food outlets.

Budget $$$

Tongrentang

Huanggang Lu

Tongrentang is China's most famous purveyor of traditional chinese medicines and this is the Shantou branch. The store was founded in Beijing back in 1669 and was once the purveyor of herbs and potions to the Qing dynasty emperors. Traditional chinese medicine doctors are on hand for consultations and they claim to be able to cure anything.

Budget $$

Taidong Night Market

Taidong 1st Road, Shibei District

One of Qingdao's most atmospheric shopping destinations, Taidong Night Market gets going around 5.30pm and runs till 10pm. All manner of trinkets, clothes, souvenirs and household wares – just about anything you could want – is on offer here, as well as the ubiquitous food stands. Bargain hard, and be wary of pickpockets in the crowds.

Budget $

Zhongshan Lu

Zhongshan Lu, Shibei District

Qingdao's most historic shopping street, Zhongshan Lu has been in business for well over 80 years. You'll find all manner of dried seafood here, including sea cucumber, shark fin, shrimp and abalone. The shops too, have been renovated and make for picturesque browsing. Also here is Zhongshan Commerce City, an underground shopping mall specialising in mid-range brands and accessories and dedicated to the local fashionistas.

Budget $$

Dine

Chun He Lou

146 Zhongshan Lu, Shibei District

Founded way back in 1891, Chun He Lou specialises in Lu, or Shandong cuisine, and is always buzzing with locals packed tight around the tables eagerly awaiting the crispy chicken and delicious pot-stickers the restaurant is famed for. Go for a table on the top floor. Downstairs is more canteen-like, although it does offer a takeaway service.

Budget $$

Firewood Court

Off Zhongshan Lu, Shibei District

Another long-time Qingdao favourite, Firewood Court is a maze of hole-in-the-wall restaurants and food stalls that are busy both with locals and visitors. Seafood is a speciality of course, but it's fine for dumplings and hotpots too. Access it via the archway on Zhongshan Lu that has '1902' written across it.

Budget $

Haidao Seafood Restaurant

40 & 54 Yunxiao Lu, Shinan District

So popular that there are now two branches, Haidao Seafood Restaurant is the hottest destination for an upmarket seafood dining experience in all Qingdao. And that's high praise in a city famed for its marine delicacies. Your fish (or lobster, crabs or clams) of choice will be floating in the huge collection of water tanks at the entrance. Just point at what you want. The two branches are very close to each other.

Budget $$$

Huangdao Market

Huangdao Lu, Shibei District

Huangdao Market sits in the centre of the old town and is a hectic, mouth-watering institution. Food stalls are crammed together, offering tempting seafood fresh from the ocean, as well as pancakes, fruit and barbecued meats. Just pick and choose your meal and it'll be cooked in front of you. A great place to sample Qingdao's famous clams, and you can wash them down with Tsingtao beer served in a bag with a straw.

Budget $

Tudari Korean Restaurant

131 Minjiang Road, Shinan District

Qingdao has a large Korean and Japanese expat population, and Tudari Korean Restaurant is one of many places catering to it. There are more expensive places to get your grilled beef, pork or lamb and accompanying side dishes, or bibim guksu (a traditional noodle dish) but Tudari is reliable enough to have a number of branches scattered across the city.

Budget $$

Stay

Hailong Castle Hotel

23 Changzhou Lu, Shinan District

It's not a castle, but the Hailong Castle Hotel qualifies as the most unique lodgings in Qingdao. Housed in the former police offices of the old Qingdao Prison, it's more comfortable than it sounds. Large rooms, with pine furniture, free internet and a very decent price for its location close to No.1 Bathing Beach. Don't worry, you won't be shackled to your bed.

Budget $$

Sea View Garden Hotel

2 Zhanghua Lu, Shinan District

Hard to beat for its solicitous service and beachfront location, the Sea View Garden Hotel is a long-standing five-star option in Qingdao. Close to the old town, but still peaceful, there's a free airport transfer, a great outdoor swimming pool and the rooms offer fantastic ocean views. The Chinese restaurant here gets rave reviews.

Budget $$$

Shangri-la Hotel

9 Xianggang Zhonglu, Shinan District

The top spot in town, home to the hip Q Bar and Café Yum, the towering edifice of the Shangri-la Hotel is hard to miss. It offers all the luxury and trimmings you'd expect, including free Wi-fi in all rooms, Cantonese and Shandong restaurants and a high-class spa for serious pampering. Close to Shilaoren beach.

Budget $$$

Sophia International Hotel

217 Xianggang Donglu, Laoshan District

Opposite Shilaoren beach – Qingdao's best – and convenient for trips to Lao Shan, the Sophia International Hotel comes highly-rated. It has excellent facilities – swimming pool, free internet and an airport shuttle – and the shops and restaurants of buzzing Xianggang Lu are a taxi ride away. It's also very close to the site of the International Beer Festival, so you won't go thirsty in August.

Budget $$

YHA Old Observatory

21 Guanxiang Erlu, Shibei District

Deservedly popular, so book ahead, the YHA Old Observatory is located in a former observatory that commands great views over the city. Just north of the old town, it's the perfect spot to kick back after a day on the beach. Efficient and friendly English-speaking staff and a choice of rooms that ranges from the swanky, to shared dorms.

Budget $





Cherry Blossom Festival

April

Qingdao's Zhongshan Park is the city's largest expanse of greenery and is famous for the cherry blossoms that bloom magnificently each April.


Hongdao Clam Festival

May

A celebration not just of clams, but of Qingdao's fishing heritage. Visitors can tour fisherman's homes, go fishing and enjoy super-fresh seafood.

 


International Beer Festival

August

Asia's largest beer festival draws three million visitors each year for two weeks of raucous beer drinking, accompanied by lashings of seafood. A host of bands provide the soundtrack to the festivities.


International Sailing Week

August

Since hosting the sailing events of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Qingdao has emerged as a key sailing destination in Asia. Professional sailors descend on the port for a week of races and competitions, while there are also talks and the chance to meet them.


Lantern Festival

February/March

Qingdao lights up like one massive, glowing Christmas tree at the end of Chinese New Year.


Mount Lao Tourist and Cultural Festival

November

Holy Laoshan, once the haunt of emperors, hosts a series of cultural events at its many Taoist temples, making this a great time to visit the mountain.

 


Culture

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.

Places to visit:
Zhan Qiao Pier, St Michael’s Cathedral, 1908 Protestant Church, Governor’s House Museum, Badaguan, Tsingtao Beer Museum.

Kids-friendly

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.

Places to visit:
Shilaoren beach, No. 2 and No. 3 Bathing Beaches, Qingdao International Sailing Centre, Qingdao Underwater World.