The city of Qingdao on China’s east coast has long been praised as one of the country’s most liveable cities.
With its iconic red roofs, leafy boulevards and sparkling blue seas, it’s a hit with domestic and international tourists alike, with regular cruises to Japan and South Korea in the summer.
So, if you’re considering a visit, here’s what you need to know.
Brush up on your Deutsch
Compared to other Chinese cities, Qingdao is relatively young. Originally a poor fishing village, at the turn of the 20th century it was given to Germany as a concession.
The Germans bulldozed everything except the Tianhou Temple and put in place wide streets, strict urban planning, a sewer system and a separate drinking water supply.
They also built grand mansions, the most extravagant of which was the Qingdao Guest House, otherwise known as the former residence of the German governor.
It had 66 rooms and cost one million gold Deutschmarks to build – an amount so astronomically large that the Kaiser summoned the governor back to Germany to explain himself. Today, the mansion-turned-museum serves as an excellent example of what you can do with an unlimited expense account.
Built over a century ago, the aptly named Protestant Church was the first proper church in Qingdao. To this day, its bell tower still rings every half hour with remarkable accuracy.
Prior to the bell tower, locals told the time by looking at the sun. /CGTN Photo
Not to be outdone, the Catholic community built St Michael’s Cathedral on top of a hill in the oldest part of Qingdao. When seen from above, you’ll realize the cathedral is shaped like a cross, and that the European-style plaza in front of it is dotted with couples in glossy tuxes and flowing gowns… and a photography team in tow.
On weekends, it may seem there are more newlyweds than tourists in the plaza. /CGTN Photo
Visit the Chinese Beverly Hills
Qingdao was a city of many firsts: The first to have bicycles, automobiles, car-worthy roads, and even public film-viewings. Literati and aristocrats traveled here from all across the country, and many bought houses in the area around Fushan Road.
It was like a Chinese Beverly Hills, home to luminaries such as Lao She, one of the most famous Chinese authors of the 20th century, and Kang Youwei, a prominent reformer.
Even more exclusive was the Badaguan area with its European mansions, home to the VVIPs and where visiting presidents and premiers are still hosted today.
With its narrow one-way streets, this part of town is best visited on foot. /CGTN Photo
Embrace the sea
Though there are many beaches in Qingdao, the most centrally located and best for swimming is No.1 Bathing Beach, just a stone’s throw away from Badaguan.
For the more adventurous, head over to the Olympic Sailing Center to get a taste of the open sea on a private sailboat. Qingdao is the "capital of sailing" in China, after all.
To celebrate your return to dry land, head over to the Tsingtao Brewery Museum. The Germans established it in 1903 around the same time as their churches, which shows you just how serious they are about beer. In addition to showing you how China’s second largest brewery came to be, the Tsingtao Museum also offers visitors two free glasses of its unpasteurized draft which only stays fresh for 24 hours, and is quite possibly some of the best beer you’ll ever try.
If two glasses aren’t enough, head across the street, where the restaurants have Tsingtao on tap, and grab a couple of plates of fresh seafood to go with your fresh beer.
In Qingdao, you can buy fresh seafood and get it cooked at a restaurant of your choice. /CGTN Photo