The breezy seaside city, Qingdao is a colorful port on the Shandong Peninsula. Where its namesake beer is brewed, pretty Qingdao’s charms derive from its German textures, namely its cobbled streets, red roof tiles, distinctive stonework, and tree-lined avenues. Modern-day Qingdao is a clean, entrepreneurial, and forward-thinking city, a kind of miniature Shanghai with high ambitions.
Wandering about at leisure is the best way to see Qingdao’s main sights. Reproduced on the label of Qingdao beer, the octagonal Huilai Pavilion, which hosts craft exhibitions, lies at the tip of Zhanqiao Pier. The 440 m pier juts into Qingdao Bay off the frenetic No. 6 beach. The busy Zhongshan Lu (road) running north is Qingdao’s premier shopping street. To the east is St. Michael’s Church, whose twin spires preside over an atmospheric part of city filled with steep cobbled streets and iron balconies. Southeast of the church is the charming Protestant Church, with its distinctive clock-tower and white clock face. Built in 1910, its exterior has sandy yellow walls and red clay tiles, while the frugal interior is open to visitors. The 128-ft clock-tower is also occasionally open, and visitors can climb up its steep stairway. Farther east in Xinhao Shan Park is the former Governor’s Residence, now the Ying Hotel. A short walk to the south, the Qingdao Museum is worth exploring for its collection of relics, including several huge stone Buddha statues dating to AD 500, and paintings from the Yuan and Ming eras. Visitors can stroll down Qingdao’s waterfront past its many beaches. No. 1 beach is the longest and busiest, while farther east, No. 2 beach is more attractive. Its clean stretch of sand leads to Huashi Lou, a stone mansion with a turret, that was once the residence of a Russian aristocrat. The genteel Badaguan area to the north is known for its villas and sanatoriums set amidst charming tree-lined streets.
Environs: An easy 40 km bus ride from Qingdao, the vast mountainous region of Lao Shan is steeped in Daoist lore. It is known for its mineral water, an essential ingredient of Tsingtao beer. The Sung-era Great Purity Palace was built to perform Daoist rituals for the dead. From here, paths lead to the summit. Visitors can either climb the stairs located half-way up, or take the cable car for dramatic views. Earlier, Lao Shan was dotted with Daoist temples, but only a few survive today. The most famous is the Sung-dynasty Taiqing Temple near the coast, not far from where the Shandong writer Pu Songling (1640 – 1715) lived. Many more temples survive on Lao Shan’s slopes, along with caves, waterfalls, and hiking trails.