Qingdao is a beautiful coastal city in the eastern Shandong province of China. Perhaps you’ve ordered a Tsingtao beer before and if so, now you know that this is the very place that beer was brewed and bottled. Revered for its beer culture, this city on the Yellow Sea is one you shouldn’t miss out on when you visit China. There’s much to discover here from the sky-high buildings to the stunning beaches lined with mountains jutting into the sea.
Here are 17 things to do in Qingdao.
1. Qingdao Beer Museum
Because beer culture in Qingdao is so revered, you simply shouldn’t miss the chance to visit this museum devoted to everything about Tsingtao beer. The brewery moved not very long ago, however the tour of the museum is absolutely worth it. The exhibits are in English as well as Chinese so you’ll be able to learn a lot about the German influences hailing back to 1903 that brought forth this world famous beer. Best of all, you get to taste freshly-brewed Tsingtao beer at the end!
2. Qingdao Beer Street
It’s best if you’re in Qingdao during the summer months because the city becomes more alive once the frigid weather gives way to warm, humid days. But no matter the time of year, Qingdao Beer Street nearby the Qingdao Beer Museum offers plenty of sights to gawk at and food to taste. It’s really very colorful here, almost like a Chinese version of Duff Gardens from the Simpsons. In the summer, the sidewalks are alive with other revelers, all enjoy their beer and dining al fresco.
3. Qingdao Underwater World
This aquarium tends to get quite crowded during tourist season, however if you find yourself in Qingdao during the off months, stop in during a weekday to marvel at this beautiful display. It is the oldest aquarium in all of China too, having opened its doors back in 1932. The nearby No. 1 Bathing Beach is also a nice place to look around after wandering the 10,000 square meters of exhibition space of the aquarium where you’ll see an array of endangered underwater animals as well as a special jellyfish exhibit that is truly breathtaking.
4. May Fourth Square
You’ll know you’ve found it when you’re staring at the giant red sculpture in the center of downtown Qingdao. It’s nestled between Fushan Bay and the municipal government building. The name is a historic nod to the nation’s protest that originated in Qingdao. It’s a nice place to walk around on a beautiful day near the water. You’ll find people flying kites in the warmer weather and children playing. Nearby shopping at high-end malls awaits you as do a variety of restaurants from fancy Chinese eateries to trendy Western-style fare.
5. Zhongshan Park
A great way to enjoy Qingdao is to make your way to Zhongshan Park. It’s filled with peaceful walking trails and lovely areas to pack a picnic. It’s best you bring your own food though you will find vendors selling a variety of snacks that you just might be willing to try out. In spring, everyone comes here to see the cherry blossoms. But the rest of the year, you can take in the small zoo which is honestly lacking in cleanliness and might make you a little sad. The amusement park area and the gardens though are definitely worth visiting.
6. Huadong Winery
If beer isn’t really your thing, you still shouldn’t skip out on Qingdao. It’s also a place wine lovers will feel right at home. Just about 30 km from the center of Qingdao’s busy downtown streets, you’ll find the peaceful retreat of the Huadong Winery. The stunning grounds will have you wondering if you’ve somehow been transported to Napa Valley. A British expat by the name of Michael Parry and some partners created this gorgeous chateau in the mountains where you can enjoy a tour, sip wine overlooking the pristine grounds, and discover China’s leading vineyard.
7. Zhanqiao Pier
On the southern shore of Qingdao off the famed Zhongshan Road, this pier was the first wharf in Qingdao. The pavilion at the end offers plenty of fantastic photo opportunities and chances to snap up souvenirs as you make your way down to the end. It’s historic too, another relic from 1930 that still stands here though the pier was started back in 1891 and kept being built upon. You might even recognize it from the Tsingtao beer bottles as it is the image on the labels.
8. Polar Ocean World
Right on the water, you’ll find Polar Ocean World to be another interesting attraction. You may even opt to stay here if you’re so inclined as it offers an all-encompassing experience, however most Westerners feel more at home in the downtown area where the large Western hotel chains are located. Polar Ocean World and the compound it sits upon offers plenty of entertainment though. There are restaurants and shopping here too. Inside the attraction, you’ll get an up-close look at polar bears, penguins, belugas, and Arctic wolves, to name a few. In summer, walk out onto the beach area to buy interesting souvenirs or buy a refreshing bottle of Tsingtao beer. It goes great with the spicy grilled squid on a stick which you absolutely have to try if you love seafood.
9. Shilaoren Beach
It’s one of the largest beaches in Qingdao, named because of the rock jutting out into the sea that looks like an old man. Legend has it that it is a resemblance of an old fisherman waiting for his daughter to come back to him from underneath the waves. It’s a nice place to feel the warmth of the sun, take a swim, and have a beer.
10. Qingdao Protestant Church
Qingdao Protestant Church was built in 1910. It’s been renovated fairly recently but it still retains its original charms. The architecture is as German as it gets. For a perfect view of the sea and surrounding area, you can climb up the bell tower if you dare.
built in 1910, is situated on a small hill, east of Xinhaoshan Park. Although recently renovated, this church still retains most of its original style and charm. Covering 1,000 square meters, it is a typical German castle structure composed of an 18-meter-high main hall and a 39.10-meter- tall bell tower. Visitors can have a birds-eye view of city’s sea scenery from the top of the tower. St. Emil Church, which is more commonly known as Qingdao Catholic Church, is another interesting one to see, built from 1932 to 1934.
11. Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center
This place was constructed to host the 2008 Summer Olympics. As Qingdao as often referred to as “The Sailing City,” this marina is a tribute to that moniker. This is where the sailing competitions took place. It gets really windy here but it’s a beautiful place to walk around, particularly near the lighthouse. There are restaurants and a large shopping mall here, plus at night you can catch a laser light show if you’re lucky!
12. Small Qingdao Island
For a beautiful place to poke around, this island is full of charm with a small park and a smattering of cafes. The white lighthouse makes for lovely photos though the foliage is the main draw. If you’re looking to get a break from the bustle of the city, this is a nice place that will give you a different perspective on Chinese island living.
Badaguan translates to mean “eight passes.” It’s a historical street that features a unique melding of architecture in one place. This is what makes the area very special and with the unique varieties of trees here tucked alongside architecture from over 20 different countries, it’s no wonder Chinese people most often declare Qingdao as one of China’s most beautiful cities.
14. Laoshan Mountain
Laoshan Mountain’s highest peak stands around 1,133 meters above sea level, facing the Yellow Sea. Again, this makes Qingdao a popular destination with Chinese tourists, all of whom regard this mountain as one of the most scenic, hence making it one of the most famous mountains in China that overlooks the sea. Here you’ll find ancient trees, unusual-looking rocks and clear spring waters. Another draw is that even in the hot and humid summer months, this place stays pleasant while in winter, the intense cold that bludgeons the rest of Qingdao spares the area.
15. Qingdao International Beer Festival
For years, the famed beer festival that would grace Qingdao every August was held at the Qingdao International Beer City. However, in 2014 it moved to the Qingdao Century Plaza. Despite the location change, the beer festival is an epic event full of merry revelers drinking as much Tsingtao beer as they can handle. If you’re coming to Qingdao during August and you love beer, you won’t want to miss it. However, be forewarned that it does get very crowded here and the temperatures in Qingdao in August are hot and humid. If you like crowds, you’ll certainly have a blast shouting “ganbei” (Chinese for “cheers”) with the other patrons and making new friends along the way. Another tidbit of advice: Chinese people tend to drink their beer warm as they fear cold beverages could make them ill so don’t be surprised when every beer you are served is warm.
16. MIXC Shopping Mall
Added in more recent years, this incredible upscale shopping mall has added a new face to Qingdao, catering to the nouveau riche you’ll find zipping up and down the city streets in luxury cars including Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Step inside here and you’ll find Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton and much more. Taxes are higher here though so stick to window shopping or check out the 7 floors of modern architecture for comparison against the rest of the city’s older buildings. You can also find all kinds of cuisine here and plenty to entertain you. A roof garden, an Olympic ice skating rink, and a children’s area all well and good, but the best thing here is the SEGA indoor theme park, the first of its kind in China.
17. Sculpture Park
And finally, take a stroll alongside the sea at this relaxing park. You have stunning mountain and sea views on one side and fascinating sculptures on the other side. It makes for a nice place to walk around and take photos, eat a snack or get some exercise any time of year.