An elegant seaside city with a European twist, Qingdao has earned itself the tag "China’s Switzerland" for its distinctive architecture and Germanic cultural legacies. Modern development has reshaped Qingdao’s skyline, but it is still a port town at heart, where sailing takes centre stage, the beaches are beloved and the seafood is abundant.
In 1898 Germany was granted a 99-year lease on territory around Kiautschou Bay. See evidence of the German influence in the many cobbled alleys, red rooftops and Teutonic stylings of Qingdao. Explore the charming, hilly old town, and look out for the Lutheran and Catholic churches in German design.
The German presence also gave to Qingdao a taste for beer, and it’s here that China’s most popular beer, Tsingtao, is produced. Head to the Old Tsingtao Brewery for a brew house and museum tour. Explore the beer gardens of Beer Street and enjoy a bratwurst and pitcher of specialty beer in the sunshine. Beer lovers should time their visit for the city’s annual international beer festival held each August.
Qingdao’s famous beaches attract sun-seekers from all over the country. Follow the crowds to Number One Bathing Beach or travel further to the prettier Number Two Bathing Beach, a picturesque little cove said to have been a favourite escape of Chairman Mao. Nearby Shilaoren Beach, named for a rocky outcrop that resembles an “Old Stone Man”, is quite developed but remains cleaner than the city beaches.
The city’s Botanical Gardens are a great destination for families, as is Qingdao Underwater World. Hikers will enjoy the to climb to the “Mushroom Observatories”, small hilltop structures that offer great views of the area.
Qingdao is 6 hours south from Beijing by high-speed rail, and flights are available to most major Chinese cities. The city is easy to explore by bus and taxi. Visit Qingdao in late summer or spring to enjoy good weather without the crowds. Favorable winds ensure air quality is good year round.