Northern Chinese port city is the home of Tsingtao beer
Once they set their eyes on the striking Huilan Pavilion on Zhanqiao Pier, beer aficionados will know they’re in the right place.
The symbol of Qingdao city, China, the famous pavilion also features the bottles of Tsingtao, China’s most famous beer, and the number-one branded consumer product exported from China.
The Tsingtao Brewery was founded in 1903 by German settlers in Qingdao and it is now the 10th largest brewery in the world. On Beer Street, you can visit former breweries, now turned into educational museums, and sample this famous lager in one of Tsingtao’s own bars. Serious Tsingtao fans can visit in summer during the annual Qingdao International Beer Festival.
But there’s more to Qingdao than its much-loved beer. Ensconced on the southern tip of the Shandong peninsula along the Yellow Sea, Qingdao city is regarded as the largest trading port in northern China, but despite its urban bulk it has the appeal of a holiday resort.
Nowadays Qingdao is a popular holiday destination with both locals and international visitors. They’re attracted by its long beaches, mild weather, azure sea, dramatic mountains, relaxed atmosphere and a colourful history that has resulted in a harmonious blend of modern Chinese architecture with charming Old World European colonial districts.
Qingdaos first splash of fame came in 600 BC when the Chinese scholar, Lao-Tzu, parented Taoism in the nearby Laoshan Mountains. The area instantly became a great source of religious mystique, attracting scholars and monks, and wealthy people who built countless temples and pavilions on the mountains steep, forested slopes. Meanwhile, 30 km away, the city of Qingdao expanded innocuously from a small fishing village into a major shipping and manufacturing centre, which was occupied by Germans at the end of the 19th century, then the Japanese during WWI and WWII.
First-time visitors looking to learn what Qingdaos is all about should start in Badaguan (or Eight Strategic Passes) Scenic Area, where there are eight roads in the district named after the eight strategic passes in the Great Wall, each planted with a different bloom. Qingdaos colonial past comes alive here as more than 200 remarkably preserved European-style villas grace the streets, like a slice of Bavaria. The Granite Mansion, a former German governors villa built in 1903, also showcases the wonders of Gothic architecture, as does the Protestant Church, built in 1911. The mansion has become a popular place for taking wedding pictures.
As well as starring on the beer bottle labels, the Zhanqiao Pier, located in Qingdao Bay, provides great views of the Qingdao skyline and is a good place to find souvenirs. The Little Qingdao Isle, or as locals call it Lute Island, borders the pier and is one of the most beautiful dots of land in China. Peach and cherry trees canopy its park-like setting that includes cafés and a German lighthouse constructed in 1900.
For something more rustic, drive or take a tour bus into the Loashan Mountains. Best known in China as the birthplace of Taoism, they are one of China’s top five holiest mountains, and one of UNESCO’s World Natural and Cultural Heritage sites. Hiking trails offer beautiful views of dark gorges, twisting waterfalls, legendary sunsets and the bordering Yellow Sea. The extremely ambitious can trek to the top of Jufeng Peak, the tallest point.
Before leaving the peaks, be sure to visit the Taiqing Palace. Built more than 1,000 years ago it features a remarkable 140 rooms and the thick surrounding forest is full of exotic rare plants, making it one of many camera-friendly places in this region.