There’s a lot more to take in around this coastal haven than its famous beer
If you know anything about beer, you will have heard of Qingdao. The city on the shores of the Yellow Sea gives its name to China’s best-selling international lager Tsingtao, the original brewery being set up in 1903, shortly after what was then a fishing village on the Shandong Peninsula became a German naval base and concession.
Now one of China’s major ports with a population of about 8 million, Qingdao is known for much more than beer. It boasts the largest beach in Asia and the longest sea bridge in the world, but more importantly for visitors and residents alike, it is reputed to be one of the nicest places to live in China.
The German influence is still apparent in the architecture of the buildings in the old town, several of which now house public institutions. And the city still hosts an annual international beer festival. This year’s begins on Aug 11.
Last year, the city recorded more than 50 million visitors, many of them staying in the 153 star-rated hotels. These are some of the highlights that may have made their trip memorable:
1. The Badaguan Scenic Area
This is the old part of town, built during the German concession and lying in the eastern part of the city in Shinan district. Badaguan means “eight passes” in Chinese, with the avenues named after mountain passes that intersect the Great Wall. Two more roads were added in the 1930s.
Called the “streets of flowers”, the area is well known for its garden villas and Western-styled buildings.
The flowers are always out, no matter what season, making Badaguan perfect for strolling or driving around and sightseeing at any time.
2. No 1 Bathing Beach
Recognized as the largest sandy beach in Asia, and the best in Qingdao, the No 1 Bathing Beach is appreciated for its soft sand and clear waters.
Located by Huiquan Bay and surrounded by green mountains, the beach provides all the services that visitors and holidaymakers could wish for, from lockers to restaurants.
During the hottest months from July to September, many arrive from nearby regions and provinces, but No 1 is big enough never to feel overcrowded. There are rooms for 200,000 comfortably every summer.
Lining the beach are many changing huts and chalets of innovative designs and various styles. Some are round, some are square, and some have towers, all lending to create a fairy-tale atmosphere.
If you are curious about the quality of the maritime environment, it should be noted that Qingdao hosted the sailing events for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Many of Qingdao’s splendid old buildings can be seen in Badaguan. Ones to look out for include the Granite Castle, which according to the sign out front, was the villa of Russian aristocrats. It was built in 1931 but now serves as a very popular backdrop for wedding photography.
Not far away on Signal Hill is the four-story Qingdao Guest House, built in 1908 in the style of a German schloss and now a museum featuring its antique furnishings and ornaments. Originally the German governor’s home, it was later used by Mao Zedong and hosted several other political leaders.
Elsewhere in the old town are the former Bismarck Barracks, now a fisheries college, and the Qingdao Art Gallery and Museum building, which used to be the headquarters of the Red Swastika Society.
3. Qingdao Beer Museum
Qingdao Beer Museum is located in Dengzhou Road, within the Tsingtao Brewery. The pavilion takes full advantage of the century-old German buildings to demonstrate the brewing technology and production of its famous brand. With an investment of about 40 million yuan ($6.28 million, 5.11 euros), it is also considered the only beer museum in China.
There are three areas to the museum. The first deals with the history and culture of Tsingtao beer. In the second, there is an exhibition of the old plant and equipment, placed to contrast with the modern production line and brewing methods. There are also reproductions of traditional workshops.
The third section is a multipurpose entertainment area for up to 200 visitors. Visitors can taste various kinds of Tsingtao beer and buy souvenirs.
4. Qingdao International Beer Festival
The first Qingdao International Beer Festival was held in 1991 and since then, the festival has become a major event for the coastal city. The festival begins on the second Saturday of August and lasts for 16 days.
This year’s opens on Aug 11 at Century Square (renamed Tsingtao Beer Passion Square for the event) and will feature activities, including competitions, exhibitions, parties and parades. Beer fans can enjoy more than 200 varieties of beer from 20 brands and 13 countries.
The 21st Qingdao International Beer Festival last year attracted 3.8 million visitors who altogether consumed 1,100 tons of beer.
Eating and drinking
For first-time visitors, Pichaiyuan is the snack area where they can taste all kinds of traditional Qingdao snacks such as fried dumplings, tofu jelly and shrimp wontons. Situated in Zhongshan Road, Shinan district, the courtyard has about 40 restaurants.
Another street for food is the Qingdao Beer Street, which lies in Dengzhou Road of Shibei district. There are more than 50 bars and eateries on the street. You can’t miss it – the road’s painted green.
The popular bar area, Zhonglian Creative Square, lies in Nanjing Road. There is a group of about 10 bars sited on the tops of buildings and connected by bridges and clear-glass lifts.
There are quiet bars to chat with friends and also clubs where the music and dancing never stop.
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