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CityTips Guide to Qingdao

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Set along the Yellow Sea on the Shandong Peninsula, Qingdao is a rare mesh of mountains and sea. Beach culture and Bavarian architecture conjure odd expectations of women in bikinis and men in lederhosen snacking on hot apple strudel with chopsticks.

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Local Overview

Ensconced on the southern tip of the Shandong Peninsula along the Yellow Sea, this city of 2.5 million is the largest trading port in northern China. Yet, despite such an urban bulk it behaves in the confident manner of a tourist resort. Its rare mesh of mountains and sea combine with a fairytale beachfront setting of Bavarian architecture to conjure strange expectations of women in bikinis and men in lederhosen snacking on hot apple strudel with chopsticks. Regardless of how impossibly odd, the bottom line is that it cohesively works: Qingdao averages more than 15 million tourists a year attracted to its beautiful weather, interesting historical architecture and, needless to say, beer. Major four- and five-star hotel chains are the norm rather than the exception. The 16 day International Beer Festival enjoys worldwide attention. In 2008 Qingdao served as the host for the Summer Olympic sailing competitions.

Qingdao's first splash of fame occurred in 600 BCE when the Chinese scholar Lao-Tzu outlined a philosophy soon known as Taoism in the nearby Laoshan Mountains. The area instantly became a great source of religious mystique, attracting scholars and monks plus their benefactors who built countless temples and pavilions on the mountain's steep, forested slopes.

In addition to is spiritual importance, in 1897 Qingdao became a politically important city as well when Germany moved in and claimed it as a concession area. Buildings were razed and replaced with Bavarian architecture, giving Qingdao the look of a ski village in the Black Forest. Despite local loathing, these buildings would eventually ripen into the backbone of Qingdao's booming tourist market and a source of metropolitan pride.

In 1919 at the close of World War I, Japan moved into Qingdao, only to be evicted in 1922. In 1938, they returned, but finally received the boot once and for all in 1945 following defeat in World War II.

Qingdao would not springboard into its current "giant" status until 1984 when it was named by the Chinese government as one of 14 coastal cities to be declared open to foreign investors. It has since vaulted into the same international rank normally only enjoyed by Beijing and Shanghai.

The city is currently divided into seven urban districts:

Shinan Better known as downtown, this district sparkles as Qingdao's glamourous city center. All of the major hotels including the Qingdao Dongfang Hotel, the Hai Tian Hotel, the Crowne Plaza, and the five star Shangri-La Hotel freckle this area. Just about every major urban attraction glows within its boundaries as well. The Zhanqiao Pier, Little Qingdao Isle, and the famous Badaguan Scenic Area are just a few of its tourist magnets. Plus all of Qingdao's major beaches, including Beach Number One, can be found here as well. This is the district you need to know if arriving as a tourist.

Shibei Directly north of downtown along Jiaozhou Bay, this district is better known for industry. It contains most of Qingdao's major shipping piers.

Sifang Located north of Shibei, it too is low on tourist options. Industry reigns.

Licang Located farther up the peninsula, north of Sifang, it is home to the area's Peach Blossom Tourism Spot. It, obviously, caters to huge crowds during the spring blossom season. The Zhengzhuang Industrial Park can also be found here.

Chengyang Qingdao's most northern district is best known for its electronic, machinery, and chemical engineering industries.

Huangdao An island, located to the southwest of Qingdao, is also known for its industrial might. The Huangdao Wharf, one of the area's largest, is legendary for accommodating 200,000-ton oil tankers.

Laoshan Situated to the southeast of downtown, this area harbors the magical Laoshan Mountains. Hiking trails are many, leading to the world famous Mount Taishan and towering Jufeng Peak. Lodging can be found at the coastal Golden Beach Hotel.

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