Welcome to Qingdao, China!
Qingdao City is many things, as some regard it as one of the most beautiful cities in China with its green hills and lush flora. Qingdao is also one of the cleanest cities in China and its (relatively small in comparison to other Chinese cities) size probably has something to do with that fact. The population is about 3.5 million people, and it is also known to be one of the “least Chinese” cities in China.
If you’re going to be spending some time on Green Island, this guide will help you get around and see the best there is in Qingdao. Explore this insider’s guide to discover how a worldwide local knows, that often overlooked cities are sometimes the best to visit.
Worldwide Local Tip: Qingdao is still growing, and getting around town by bus is only useful if you can understand Chinese. The Metro system works pretty well, but only because it is new and doesn’t cover the entire city yet. Taxis are probably your best bet for getting to and from your Qingdao hotel, and drivers will usually give you their business card so you can contact them directly, instead of trying to flag down a cab at every turn.
Experience Germany--in Qingdao!
In 1897, Qingdao was taken as part of a German Imperial Possession. They supposedly were going to have the area of Qingdao under lease for 99-years, and by 1902 the city of Qingdao went from a measly population of 1,000 people to around 16,000, and 668 of those people were German settlers. In 1903, those German occupants built the Tsingtao brewery. Which is probably the most iconic part of Qingdao. It is known throughout the world, and if you’re going to spend any time in Qingdao, you must visit beer street. Dengzhou Road is a street of bars and restaurants, and at the end of it is the legendary Tsingtao Brewery, designed in a Bavarian-style beer hall, you can’t miss it.
Worldwide Local Tip: If you’re not the type to want to wander around a brewery, Tsingtao can be bought outside from a vendor. Served out of a plastic bag, a liter of fresh Tsingtao will only cost you upwards of $3 USD. Try exclusive flavors like apricot or blueberry. You could always pour the contents of the bag into a glass, but that’s boring. Drink it from a straw like a local.
Enter “Hipster” China
Once you’ve got your taste for beer, explore the reason why Qingdao is considered the hipster city of China. The Old Town is filled with buildings that look out of place and more like they belong in the Alpine countryside. There are a ton of German style buildings in the area, like the Governor’s Mansion and St Michael’s Cathedral. These landmarks are considered nationally recognized, but few people visit them. This makes them a good place to explore if you’re trying to avoid crowds. There are second-hand shops here as well, as well as vinyl record stores and lots of other weird esoteric shops.
Worldwide Local Tip: Much like its hipster persona will lead you to believe, there are a lot of cafes in this part of town. European style coffee shops, serving Chinese and Japanese favorites like Milk Tea or international favorites like lattes and cappuccinos, can be found here for your afternoon pick-me-up.
Don’t Miss Taidong Night Market
Like a lot of Asian cities, Qingdao hosts a night market that is a sensation of smells, flavors, sights, and sounds. The Taidong Night Market is open daily from 5 pm to 11 pm and offers everything from tasty street food to cheap clothes and goodies. Indulge in some skewers, hand pulled beef noodles or a savory-cheesy deep fried chicken cutlet. The food here is cheap and delicious and can keep you well fed for a whole evening.
Worldwide Local Tip: One of the holdouts from the old Imperial German days is the sausages. Grab a Tsingtao from a local Qingdao beer vendor and try one of these tender, juicy, spicy sausages to feel like you’ve somehow magically crossed the world from China to Bavaria.
Have an Amazing Time in Qingdao, China!
Qingdao might not be as large or as visited as other cities in China like Beijing or Hong Kong, but the laid back and easy going lifestyle of Qingdao is what makes it special. Enjoy its greenery and mountains, lounge on the beach on a summer’s day, or take in its long and interesting history. Qingdao is a place in China quite unlike any other, and a worldwide local knows that those special cities are always fun and unique.