Qingdao – literally translated ‘Green Island’ – the largest city in Shandong province and the #1 seaside metropolis in China is often dubbed as the ‘Switzerland of the East’. Qingdao is also a major seaport and industrial center. With a population of 9.29 million, Qingdao is leading Shandong in the size of a local economy. It is home to international electronics brands Haier and Hisense, and the manufacturing base for trains running in Boston and Philadelphia. This cozy modern city has leveraged its history as one of China’s first gateways to the outside world to achieve its modern glory of being an economic and cultural hub in Northern China.

It is a city with tasty appeals – a short but fascinating history. Having been developed as a German colony from 1891 and then occupied by Japan during the early 20th century, its legacy boasts historic architecture – hillside villas with red-colored roofs, on winding cobbled streets – alongside striking modern designs. Little Fish Hill Park would offer a fantastic view over-looking the city, and out to sea.

Qingdao is considered to be one of the most livable cities in China, with its fresh sea air, breezy and laidback vibe. It has a metro system, with 3 lines already in operation and 13 more on the way. The Jiaozhou Bay Bridge, which held the Guinness World Record for being the longest (26.7 km) roadway bridge over water in December 2012, reaches the main urban area of Qingdao – serving as an excellent introduction to the city and an impressive first sight skyline.

For a glimpse of the past, and the many influences that have shaped the Qingdao of today, the Governor’s House Museum, in the style of a German palace, makes an interesting short stop. It was built between 1905 and 1907 as the residence of the highest military and political leader of the German colony in Qingdao. The interior still contains some German and Chinese original furnishings. In 1957, Chairman Mao stayed here with his wife and kids on vacation.

For your own leisure, you won’t have to spend too long in Qingdao before you come across the ubiquitous local beer, Tsingtao. Indeed, the Tsingtao Beer Museum, on the site of the original and still-operating brewery, is a fun attraction. There are old photographs, telling the history of the beer and its brand, and some glimpses into today’s working factory lines. Visitors can sample the beer, at its freshest, and then take a walk through the ‘Drunk House’, for a hangover-free stumble!

In 2008, the sailing events were hosted in Qingdao. Qingdao is also nicknamed a ‘sailing city’ for hosting the sailing events for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and Paralympics, the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR 2008-2009) in 2009, the annual International Sailing Week, and the bi-annual Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

Transportation:

Qingdao is now connected with direct flights to South Korea, Japan, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Moscow, Madrid, Sydney, Melbourne and Vancouver. It is also connected to Beijing either by a 4-hour bullet-train ride or a 1.5-hour flight.

Since a 72-hour visa-free policy was implemented by the city in Mid-November 2015, business and leisure travelers from 51 countries can enjoy their 72 hours of visa-free stay while on an international transfer at Qingdao’s Liuting International Airport.