Toasting Tsingtao in Qingdao: China’s beach-lined beer city

Toasting Tsingtao in Qingdao: China’s beach-lined beer city

The city is called Qingdao. Its beer is called Tsingtao. And here are seven reasons why you should enjoy both this month
qingdao beer festival -- main
When the beer season hits, Qingdao loses its inhibitions.

Probably the most-frequently mispronounced Chinese city in English, Qingdao was China's default beach resort before Hainan started making waves two decades ago.

But Qingdao -- which was briefly a German colony at the turn of the 20th century -- has one thing Hainan can’t offer: beer, good beer, barrel upon barrel of it.

With the opening of Qingdao International Beer Festival (August 11-26), this is the season to enjoy both Qingdao and Tsingtao.

We sought out the best of “China’s Munich.”

1. Drinking frenzy at Qingdao International Beer Festival

qingdao beer festival -- qingdao travel -- inline 1"Beer is easy. I grew up downing rice wine."

The 16-day festival is the closest thing to Oktoberfest in China. During last year's beer bacchanal, some 3.8 million visitors downed nearly 1.1 million liters of the amber nectar.

Brews from Japan, Czech Republic, the United States, Germany and China are poured into pitchers, mugs, steins and even plastic bags.

Beer tents compete to lure patrons with blaring music and gyrating performers. Semi-sober drinkers can sing karaoke on the public stage for a modest fee.

This year’s Qingdao International Beer Festival takes place in the Laoshan District in eastern Qingdao.

The square can get crowded at night and hot during the day, so pacing alcohol intake and timing your visit are keys to enjoying this annual highlight.

The 22nd Qingdao International Beer Festival (青岛啤酒节), Qingdao Beer Passion Square, Shiji Square, Laoshan District, Qingdao, Shandong 山东省青岛市崂山区世纪广场青岛啤酒激情广场, 9 a.m.-10:30 p.m., August 11-26.

Ticketing hotline: +86 133 0532 1665, Admission: RMB 10 (9 a.m.-3 p.m.), RMB 20 (3 p.m.-10:30 p.m.)

2. Swimming at No. 2 Bathing Beach

qingdao beer festival -- qingdao travel -- inline 2Follow Mao's lead: hit No. 2 Bathing Beach and paddle.

This beach was once reserved exclusively for top officials of the Communist Party of China.

Mao Zedong came to Qingdao in July 1957 with his wife Jiang Qing, their two children and his closest political advisors for a conference with provincial and municipal Party secretaries.

Meetings were held on No. 2 Bathing Beach in straw huts, where the future of the country and the Party were discussed.

Mao apparently liked Qingdao a lot -- he swam at this very spot five times in 1957.

Mao’s swim in the ocean set a precedent for subsequent Party leaders, including Deng Xiaoping, who visited in July 1979.

"What's unique about Qingdao is that the beaches are not only places of leisure but they also have political significance in Chinese history ..." says Qingdao-based American Edward Barrington, who is a Chinese political enthusiast.

"No. 2 Beach has ties to Mao and Deng ... even Chiang Kai-shek lived near there for a while." 

The previously restricted beach is now open to the public.

Qingdao No. 2 Bathing Beach (青岛第二海水浴场) 6 ShanhaiguanLu, Shinan District, Qingdao, Shandong 山东省青岛市市南区山海关路6号, +86 532 6657 7309

More on CNN: World's 50 best beaches

3. Walking along Daxue Lu

qingdao beer festival -- qingdao travel -- inline 3One of the most famous structures on Daxue Lu: the Qingdao Municipal Art Museum (formerly the International Red Cross Building).

Daxue Lu in Qingdao is like the former French Concession in Shanghai -- both are the city’s most walkable area with a brew of colonial and Chinese buildings.

"When I first came to Qingdao [in 2011], I fell in love with Daxue Lu," says Peng Jingjing, a Chinese restaurateur who originally comes from Wuhan. "It really is one of the most beautiful streets in China." 

The 1,300-meter-long street is named for its location adjacent to Qingdao's oldest college, Ocean University of China (formerly Qingdao University).

Daxue Lu, as well as Qingdao’s old town around it, has witnessed a certain gentrification in the past few years.

It’s now a tree-lined neighborhood with a craft brewery, numerous cafés, Qingdao Municipal Art Museum and historical period architecture, including the former residence of Chinese author Lao She (老舍), who wrote the classic novel “Rickshaw Boy.”

Overlooking Daxue Lu, Signal Hill affords scenic views over the old town and Jiaozhou Bay.

Qingdao Municipal Art Museum (青岛美术馆), 7 Daxue Lu, Shinan District, Qingdao, Shandong 山东省青岛市市南区山大学路7号, +86 532 8288 8886, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., free entry

Strong Ale Works Craft Brewery, 12 Daxue Lu, Shinan District, Qingdao, Shandong 山东省青岛市市南区山大学路12号 +86 136 0896 4700, reservation required for brewery tour and tasting

4. Exploring German architecture around Zhan Qiao Pier

qingdao beer festival -- qingdao travel -- inline 8Zhan Qiao Prince Hotel is one of the best locations to explore Qingdao's German heritage.

Zhan Qiao Pier area is ground zero for Qingdao’s German architecture. The pier itself became famous as part of the Tsingtao Beer logo.

The neighborhood includes a concentration of Germanic buildings that once housed the British and American consulate buildings and German government offices.

The 101-year-old Zhan Qiao Prince Hotel, designed by the German architect Curt Rothkegel, is one of the remaining original structures on the coastal road.

It is said to have been named after German Emperor William II’s brother Prince Henry, who stayed at this hotel several times during Germany’s colonization (1898-1914).

Kiautschou Coffee in the lobby is operated and frequented by a group of nostalgic Qingdao residents, who are passionate about the preservation of the old buildings.

"I've lived in the old neighborhoods of Qingdao for nine years and Kiautschou Coffee is definitely a good place to learn more about the German past of the city," says John Herrington, an English teacher from the United States.

The coffee shop has a collection of historical publications, illustrations, and photographs of old Qingdao.

Zhan Qiao Prince Hotel (亨利王子饭店) 31 Taiping Lu, Shinan District, Qingdao, Shandong 山东省青岛市市南区太平路31号, +86 532 8288 8666, nightly rate: from RMB 478

More on CNN: 40 beautiful places to visit in China

5. 'Getting hammered' at Tsingtao Brewery Museum

qingdao beer festival -- qingdao travel -- inline 4Visitors come to learn about Tsingtao's history and what getting drunk feels like.

No. 56 Dengzhou Lu appears as the company address on every bottle of Tsingtao beer.

It is the site of the original Tsingtao Brewery, founded in 1903 by an Anglo-German brewery company. The compound continues to function as a factory for Tsingtao beer as well as a beer museum.

The 6,000-square-meter exhibition area includes displays of old promotional materials and bottle designs from the history of China's best-known beer.

There's even a “drunk room” to let visitors experience the feeling of “being hammered” (without the actual drinking).

The specially designed room simulates the different effects of alcohol, such as loss of balance.

Visitors can get a glass of beer -- free but small -- at the end of their museum tour.

Tsingtao Brewery Museum (青岛啤酒博物馆), 56 Dengzhou Lu, Shibei District, Qingdao, Shandong 山东省青岛市市北区登州路56号, +86 532 83833437, 8 a.m.-6 p.m., RMB 50

6. Sailing on the Yellow Sea

qingdao beer festival -- qingdao travel -- inline 5Sailing capital of China.

Qingdao was branded China's Sailing Capital after being named the host of the 2008 Olympic Sailing Regatta.

Qingdao’s Olympic Sailing Museum showcases seafaring Qingdaonese’s passion for the sport (and the Beijing Olympics) with various exhibits like the sailboard, with which the Chinese athletes won the Beijing Olympic gold, and a sailing simulator.

Real go-getters can voyage with Sinan Sailing Club in Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center or charter boats at the Yinhai Marina for recreational fishing and day trips on the Yellow Sea.

Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center (青岛奥林匹克帆船中心),121 Aomen Lu, Shinan District, Qingdao, Shandong 山东省青岛市市南区澳门路121号,

Sinan Sailing Club (司南帆船俱乐部), 1 Jinwan Road, North Slipway, Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center, Shinan District, Qingdao, Shandong 山东省青岛市市南区金湾路1号青岛奥帆基地北下水坡道, +86 152 8898 7909

Qingdao Yinhai Yacht Club and Marina (青岛银海国际游艇俱乐部), 30 Donghai Road, Shinan District, Qingdao, Shandong (山东省青岛市市南区东海中路30号, +86 532 8588 0000

7. Enjoying the weather

qingdao beer festival -- qingdao travel -- inline 6A city by the beach. What else can you wish for?

Qingdao's proximity to the water and a relatively mild climate are the main reasons for its renown as a resort.

Low temperatures and breezy nights lure visitors from other Chinese provinces and cities where it can be five to 10 degrees hotter in July and August. Average temperature for Qingdao’s summer is 25 C.

Also, the sandy beaches are right in town. This distinguishes Qingdao from another northern Chinese coastal city Dalian, where the coast is rocky and further from the city center.

A city of eight million, Qingdao was built right on the sea, so walking around downtown means one is never far from the ocean.

More on CNN: Not just Tsingtao: A guide to Chinese beers

Getting there: Roughly midway between Beijing and Shanghai, Qingdao International Airport is linked to 12 international destinations -- including Tokyo, Seoul and Frankfurt -- and 82 cities in China. The airport is approximately 23 kilometers north of the city center.