Qingdao, is regarded by some Chinese as one of the most beautiful and clean cities in China. With a population of around 3.5 million (8 million regional) it is the largest city in Shandong Province. The name Qingdao means The Blue/Green Island. In 2008, Qingdao was named China’s 7th-most livable city.
Qingdao City lies on the east shore of Jiaozhou Bay (胶州湾; Jiāo zhōu wān ) and comprises four districts from south to north:
- Shinan District (市南区; Shì nán qū ) — downtown with most of the city’s major hotels, attractions and beaches.
- Shibei District (市北区; Shì běi qū ) — just north of downtown dominated by industry and peirs.
- Sifang District (四方区; Sì fāng qū ) — further north and dominated by industry.
- Licang District (李沧区; Lǐ cāng qū ) — further north and home to Peach Blossom Tourism Spot as well as more industry.
Three Suburban districts comprise primarily coastal areas close to the city proper
- Laoshan District (崂山区; ) — southeast of downtown and home to Laoshan Mountain.
- Chengyang District (城阳区; ) — on the north shore of Jiaozhou Bay and mostly industrial
- Huangdao District (黄岛区; ) — on the southwest shore of Jiaozhou Bay and home to huge wharfs and other industry.
Five Rural areas administratively part of Qingdao:
- Jiaozhou City (胶州市; ) — west of downtown.
- Jiaonan City (胶南市; ) — along the coast south of Huangdao District.
- Jimo City (即墨市; ) — north of downtown including the coast north of Laoshan District.
- Pingdu City (平度市; ) — far northwest.
- Laixi City (莱西市; ) — far northeast.
There are plenty of airlines offering flights to Qingdao from major UK airports including London Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester, Aberdeen, Belfast, Glasgow, Cardiff, New Castle, London Gatwick.
The Qingdao Liuting International Airport is the main hub for Shandong Airlines and a focus city of China Eastern Airlines. The flights between Qingdao and Shanghai, and Qingdao and Beijing are very frequent. If you arrive in Beijing or Shanghai in the morning or in the afternoon, you even do not have to book the flight ticket to Qingdao ahead. Depending on the season, last minute tickets may be sold at discount, however this is definitely not the case during the busy summer months when buying in advance is advised.
International destinations include Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Seoul (Incheon) and Busan. Qingdao also has flights to Hong Kong and Taipei.
The airport is 32 kilometers from the city proper, about half an hour taxi ride. Prices for a taxi ride from the airport to the Hong Kong Middle Road area should be between ¥120-140 depending on the route taken (The National Highway 308 is slower but cheaper, the toll expressway is faster and more expensive) and time of day (more expensive at night).
From Incheon, Korea there are ferries twice-weekly by Weidong Ferries.
There are also twice-weekly connections from Shimonoseki, Japan on Orient Ferries . The trip takes over 24 hours and 2nd class one-way costs ¥12,000. The voyage is one night from Shimonoseki to Qingdao, but two nights from Qingdao to Shimonoseki. The ferry also serves as a cargo vessel and after boarding in Qingdao, it will often take several hours to finish being loaded with cargo before it departs.
The restaurant food and drinks, snacks and souvenirs from the shop are all priced in Japanese Yen, so make sure to get some/have some left over before boarding. The cost of most food and drink is reasonable considering you’re stuck on the boat with nowhere else to buy things, but the pennywise traveler will definitely bring their own alcohol, cigarettes, and snacks. (mind that there might be duties when crossing into Japan or China).
There are electrical outlets in the lounge area, but if those are taken, there are also some up in the gym/fitness area, where no one goes. Be advised that on boarding from China, the ship operates under Japanese time, so change your watches and pay attention to announcements for when dinner will be served, as food is only served at certain times of the day. There are Japanese-style shower/bath rooms on the upper level where the first class rooms are located.
Qingdao Railway Station (tel. 0532-6011111, reservations 0532-2962777) is at 2 Tai’an Road (泰安路2号) at the west end of Shinan District.
Trains from major cities not too far away include:
- Beijing — there is a daily sleeper train from Beijing taking about 9 hours and costing ¥116-326. There is now a much faster service from Beijing provided by China Railway High-speed that has 6 trains per day and takes 6 hours for ¥274-329.
- Shanghai — There is a daily sleeper train from Shanghai taking about 18 hours and costing ¥150-452. There is now a much faster service from Shanghai taking 10 hours and costing ¥420-504.
- Tianjin — 10 hours, ¥51-274.
- Jinan — fast trains taking less than 3 hours, slower and cheaper trains taking 5 hours.
- Nanjing — fast trains taking less than 8 hours, slower and cheaper trains taking 13 hours.
Trains from major cities further away include:
- Harbin — 28 hours, ¥204-615.
- Xian — 21-23 hours, ¥168-506.
- Guangzhou — 28 hours, ¥266-738.
- Nanning — 55 hours, ¥148-510.
If you are travelling from within Shandong Province, going by bus is probably the easiest way. Especially now with the new excellent and fast expressways linking Qingdao with other cities in the province. There are several buses per day from Jinan, Taian, Qufu, as well as Yantai and Rizhao on the coast. They leave from and arrive to the bus station just outside the train station, but also from the new bus station north of town, which can be reached by local trolleybus number 5 in 20 minutes.
Take one of the plentiful taxis. Usually the base price is ¥7, and the price per kilometer is ¥1.80. You can get across for about ¥39. Also be aware that you will be required to pay any toll fees incurred during the trip. So simply add ¥1 plus any toll fees you may have incurred (most likely not unless you traveled on the Qingyin Expressway) to the meter’s reading.
The bus and trolleybus network is quite well put together and useful once you figure out the routes. Buses 11, 26, 228, and 501 run from the railway station (Shinan Distict) along the coast via Donghai Xi Lu to all the beaches in the modern eastern part of town (Middle Hong Kong Road), where pubs and cafes are located. Many major routes have dedicated bus lanes, that can make taking the bus faster than taking a car during rush hour. Buses 316 and 231 will bring you to the center of the town from the newly renovated station. Regular buses cost ¥1 and the air conditioned ones are ¥2. If you get on a bus that goes really far (out to the suburbs) you need to tell the ticket person on the bus where you are going and it will cost up to ¥6.
Very few locals in Qingdao cycle because it is illegal on streets and sidewalks. When renting a bike make sure that it is legal to ride your planned route. There are more than 40km of waterfront trails. If you really want a work out, try hiking Fushan or the TV Tower hills as there are some decent mountain bike trails.
Places to see in Qingdao
- Zhan Qiao (栈桥; Zhànqiáo). The famous pier Zhan Qiao is the iconic symbol of Qingdao. It was extended by the Germans and is a popular tourist station. The famous pavilion that is the logo of Tsingtao Beer was built in 1931 and now houses a small aquarium just renovated. The pier is now lined with individuals selling all manner of things, as well as beggars and opportunities for very small-time gambling.
- Catholic church (天主教堂; Tiānzhǔjiàotáng; also known as St. Michael’s Church), 15 Zhejiang Road (浙江路15号; Zhèjiānglù), ☎ 0532-82865960. M-Sa 8AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. Built in 1934. Masses held every Sunday. As of November, 2009, the church is closed to tourists for renovations. ¥15.
- Protestant Church, 15 JiangSu Road, ☎ 0532-82865970. 8 AM – 5 PM. This is a Lutheran Church located in the older part of the city. It was built in 1910, and has an auditorium and bell tower, both of which are open to visitors. The bell is original and was brought from Germany specifically for the church. ¥5.
- Zhan Shan Temple, (Situated at the foot of ZhanShan Hill and to the east of TaiPing Hill). 8AM-5PM daily. This temple was built in 1945. It has five halls and a pagoda, with an area of 20,000 square meters. The temple boasts a large collection of skillfully carved statues of Buddha and Buddhist scriptures. There are tens of thousands of people at ZhanShan Temple from the 8th to the 10th of April on the lunar calendar every year. ¥8.
Parks and nature
- Xiao Qingdao Park (Little Qingdao Island), 2 Qingyu Road, ☎ 0532-82863944. 7:00AM-6:30 PM. This is the island from which Qingdao takes its name, literally, Green Island. The Island was used for military purposes for many years, and it features a lighthouse built by the Germans in the 1900s. The Japanese later built a bridge to the island. Visitors may also tour the botanical gardens and enjoy the views of Qingdao. ¥25.
- Baihuayuan Gardens (百花苑; Bǎihuāyuàn; lit. Hundred Flowers Park ), 55 Yan’an First Road (延安一路55号; Yán ‘ān Yīlù ), ☎ +86 532 82862461. 8AM-6PM. Small park with lots of trees, flowers and sculptures. For many years it was the cemetary for foreigners, but the cemetary was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. It is now a beautiful park with sculptures of writers, artists, and revolutionaries. ¥5.
- Qingdaoshan Park (青岛山(炮台遗址)公园; Qīngdǎo Shān(pàotáiyízhǐ) Gōngyuán; lit. Qingdao Moutain Battery Park Site), (Next to Baihuayuan Gardens), ☎ 0532-82962004. 8AM-5PM. This park is the site of the former German battery overlooking Jiaozhou Bay. Visitors can enjoy the park, as well as visit the battery structure and an exhibit on the history of the German military in Qingdao. ¥15.
- Zhongshan Park (中山公园; Zhōngshān Gōngyuán), 28 Wendeng Road (文登路28号; Wéndēnglù). 6AM-6PM. ¥10.
- Xiao Yu Shan Park (literally, Little Fish Hill), 24 FuShan Access Road, ☎ (0532-82865645. 7:15AM-6:15PM. A park built in traditional Chinese style in 1983. It has great hilltop views of Qingdao especially during sunrise. ¥15.
- Xin Hao Shan Park (Signal Hill Park), 18 Lonshan Road, ☎ 0532-82794141. 6:00AM-9:30PM. This hill was originally used by the Germans as a signalling station, and was later turned into a park. It has lovely landscape and features a revolving tea shop offering a 360 degree panorama of Qingdao. Visitors will also see the Heart to Heart Bridge, where local couples place a heart-shaped padlock on the bridge to ensure that their relationship will last forever. ¥15.
- Qingdao Municipal Museum (青岛市博物馆; Qīng dǎo shì Bówùguǎn), 27 Meiling lu, Laoshan District (崂山区梅岭路27号; Láo shān qū Méilǐnglù) (Bus 104, 230, 231, or 301 to Qingdao Museum Stop), ☎ 0532-88893336, . Tu-Su April-September 9AM-5:30PM, October-March 9AM-4:30PM. This museum includes exhibits of art and antiquities of ancient to modern Qingdao, as well as exhibits on porcelain and calligraphy. ¥30.
- Qingdao Art Museum (青岛市美术馆; Qīngdǎoshì Měishùguǎn ), 7 Daxue lu (大学路7号; Dà xué lù ), . ¥20.
- Haier Science and Technology Museum (海尔科技馆; Hǎiěr Kējìguǎn ), 27 Meiling lu, Laoshan District (崂山区梅岭路27号; Láo shān qū Méilǐnglù) (Bus 104, 230 or 231 to Qingdao Museum Stop, in the same building as Qingdao Municipal Museum), ☎ 0532-88899855. 9AM-5PM. A separate museum specially geared towards children. ¥20.
- Qingdao Underwater World/Qingdao Aquarium (青岛海底世界; Qīngdǎo Hǎidǐshìjiè), (Located next to the #1 beach), . Aquarium open daily. Qingdao is host to China’s first public aquarium, opened in 1932. Today the “Underwater World” consists of four main areas on both sides of the street connected via an underground tunnel. One highlight is the moving platform that takes visitors in a tunnel through the aquarium, one can look all around and see fish from every angle. Also, do not miss the ever-popular mermaid shows. Be aware, however, that during the day and in the summer it will be packed with hoards of noisy children and tourists. Two of the exhibits do not have air-conditioning. ¥15.
- Polar Ocean World (青岛极地海洋世界), . An aquarium focusing on polar animals, including polar bears and penguins. Newer and more modern than the Underwater World. It has a well known Beluga whale and dolphin show, as well as a daily large seal exhibition. ¥15 per adult.
- German Governor’s Residence, (Ask for the Qingdao Guest House). A Bavarian-style castle where Mao stayed as well. Also the observatories on the hills around it are interesting for good views and museum sites.
- Qingdao German Prison Site Museum, 25 Changzhou lu, ☎ 0532-82868820. 8AM-5PM, April to November; 9AM-5PM, November to April. This building housed a prison built by the Germans. The visit begins with an exhibit of the good and bad sides of German and Japanese occupation, followed by a visit of the cells and torture rooms. The building originally housed German prisoners, but was later used to incarcerate Chinese prisoners under Japanese rule, as well as communist party members under the Kuomintang. The basement recreates the Japanese torture cells, complete with original implements and illustrations. RMB 15.
- Qingdao Naval Museum, 8 Laiyang lu, ☎ 0532-82874786. 8 AM – 5 PM. A museum with exhibits on the history of the Chinese navy, as well as full-size warships that visitors may tour. RMB 30.
- Tsingtao Brewery (青岛啤酒厂; Qīngdǎo Píjiǔchǎng), 56 Dengzhou Road (登州路56号; Dēngzhōulù), ☎ 0532-3834337. 9:00AM-5PM. The brewery has some interesting exhibits and the bottling plant is fascinating.Inside the brewery you will see the history of the brewery and how beer was made in the late 19th and 20th century. Of course the ample free samples of beer (especially of the delicious unfiltered or “raw” beer) and free mug are likely to persuade you this place is worth a visit. ¥60.
- Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center. Qingdao was the location of the sailing events for the 2008 olympics. Visitors can see the plaza, lighthouse, and closing ceremonies site, as well as visit the restaurants and bars at the venue.
- Qingdao TV Tower, 10 Taipingshan Road, ☎ 0532 8365-4020. November – March, 9:00AM-7:00PM; April – October, 8:30AM-9:30PM. Visitors take the elevator to an outdoor observation deck that offers fantastic views of Qingdao. Tea, snacks, and beer are available inside, as are souvenirs and an exhibit on Qingdao’s winning bid for the sailing competitions during the Beijing Olympics. ¥40.
- Qingdao Eastern Bear Park, 10 Laoshan Road, Qingdao City, ☎ 0532-88999666. 9:00AM-5:30PM. A new attraction in Qingdao that houses Asian Black Bears (Dog Bears) among others. The bears are segregated by age, and visitors can feed them the food provided. While the bears are interesting, there are large numbers crammed in relatively small spaces, and appear to be starving. Bear shows take place several times a day and feature bears with chains around their necks being hit by their trainers until they perform tricks, only to receive very small rewards. There is also a lovely park that has a separate entrance and entry fee, in which visitors can take the stairs to the top of a mountain, passing several temples en route. It is worth the walk up, if visitors are ok with contributing their money to the bear habitat. ¥150.
Things to do in Qingdao
Qingdao has some famous (within China) beaches worthy of visiting. Unfortunately, litter is a problem at all of them, ranging from the occasional cigarette butt to having to wade through a flotsam of trash just to get into the ocean itself. Your experience will vary depending on the tides and the time of year you visit. During summer weekends, Qingdao city beaches are VERY crowded (sometimes upwards of 100,000 people), and slightly less crowded on summer weekdays. Again, these can be packed full of people during the weekends. Bring sunscreen, while you can buy beach toys, food, drinks, and knick-knacks at any of Qingdao’s beaches, surprisingly no one sells sunscreen at the beach itself. You can find bathing beaches all along the seaside from the Zhanqiao Pier to the Shilaoren Beach in the eastern suburbs.
- Laoshan Beach (崂山浴场; Láoshān yùchǎng), (Just at the entrance to Laoshan National Park, about a 30 minute drive east of the city limits,). Surrounded by mountains and visited far less often than its alternatives, Laoshan beach is one of the best in town. Make sure to arrange transportation there and back, because taxis are harder to get there.
- Old Stone Man Beach (石老人浴场; Shìlǎorén yùchǎng), Donghai East Road and Haikou Road (东海东路 – 海口路) (Get there by bus 125 or 321). 24 hours. One of the best beaches within easy striking distance of the city. It is cleanish, very long and broad, with the highest waves. Tables, chairs, tents, boats, shower, changing facilities etc. are available for rent. Admission free; Shower and changing is now 10 RMB at the cheapest. In addition, you can store your items in a locker for another 10 RMB + a deposit of 30 RMB..
- Beach #1 (第一海水浴场; Dìyī hǎishuǐ yùchǎng), Nanhai Road (南海路) (CNY15-20 in taxi from the center; busses #6, #15, #26, #31, #202, #206, # 214, #219, #223, #228, #231, #302, #304, #306, #311, #312, #316, #317, #321, #501, #604, #605, #801 stop at near by bus stop Hai Shui Yu Chang (海水浴场; Hǎishuǐ yùchǎng)). 24 hours. Clean and full of amusement for children but often crowded. Very basic shower and changing facilities available. Surrounded by restaurants and hotels. Admission free. ¥5 for shower and changing facilities.
- Beach #2 (第二海水浴场; Dìèr hǎishuǐ yùchǎng), Shanhaiguan Road (山海关路; Shānhǎiguān lù) (CNY10-15 in taxi from the center; buses #26, #31, #202, #206, #214, #223, #228, #231, #304, #316, #317, #321, #501, #604, #801 stop at bus stop Wu Sheng Guan ([chinese; pinyin]) a bit north of the beach). Quiet beach. Entrance CNY2 in summer, else free.
- Beach #3 (City Beach) (第三海水浴场; Dìsān hǎishuǐ yùchǎng). Has a “plastic island” so you can swim far away and have a rest before coming back (but it is sometimes exhausting to swim in the waves).
- Beach #6 (Muscle Beach). Not very clean. ¥5 for very basic shower and changing facilities.
International Beer Festival
Qingdao International Beer Festival, held at the end of August every year, is a celebration of Qingdao’s brewing heritage. During the daytime, there are official ceremonies that celebrate Qingdao’s heritage as well as carnival type rides, food and games. In the evening, the event really picks up as crowds flock to huge tents set up by each beer company with a presence in China. One can sit down and order beer or snacks. The price of food at night during the festival, however, is ridiculous. You cannot find Kebabs for anything less than CNY 10 per stick! One can also watch (or participate in) various performances such as karaoke, concerts, auctions, or comedy. The entertainment itself is tame and bland; 2009s best gig, by far, was a Phillipine cover band imitating Western songs. The International Beer Festival, unfortunately, no longer seems to have much of an international presence save the beer. Much of what you see now can be found at any Chinese carnival, park or civic celebration.
- Huangdao (黄岛). Providing there isn’t persistent fog as is often in the area, one can take a ferry from Qingdao port to the neighbouring district of Huangdao. The city has mostly been built in the last 10-15 years and thus is completely devoid of character. That said, there are plenty of Japanese hostess bars, and a few Western drinking holes too, if you get tired of Qingdao’s fare. The ferry prices generally range from 15-30RMB one way, but be advised that if the ferries aren’t running the taxi fare is 200RMB+ back to Qingdao.
- Seafront walk. Walk along the sea front in the evening from beach 2 back into town to 6.