The skilled German engineers built Qingdao into a small Bavarian town. Fresh air and crowd free streets help complete the transformation. The area around Bada Guan, close to the No. 2 Bathing Beach, is the former German residential area, meaning "eight passes." Bada Guan now sports ten streets line with 100Western villas. Spacious and blessed with greenery, each street is lined with a single type of tree; locals can tell what street they're on just by looking at the trees. Close to the ocean and bathed with a yearlong sea breeze, it's easy to understand why many chose this area for their home. Summers here are breathtaking and some of the historic villas are available for rent.
Next to Bada Guan and east of the beach is a giant outcropping of stone with a Russian styled villa built on top. Built in 1932, this grandiose villa combines an interesting mix of Greek, Roman and Gothic influences. The five-storey structure is made of marble and stone and also features a large turret that adds a Gothic touch. Because of the colorful rocks used in building the villa, the locals have nicknamed the structure "the colorful rock building". There's also a bit of intrigue surrounding the villa, a secret passage used by Chiang Kai-shek leads from the building directly to the seashore.
In 1891, Qing soldiers began building a dock that extended 200minto the ocean. The dock was named Zhan Qiao and was extended to 350mby the Germans who laid railroad tracks beside it and in 1931 the city government rebuilt the dock using concrete. At the end of the dock is the Huilan Pavilion, which offers an unrestricted view of the ocean. Locals like to head out the beach when the tide is out to pick seashells. Watch out for bombarding seagulls when they congregate in Qingdao during the winter.
Zhongshan Lu is Qingdao's major shopping thoroughfare. With a wealth of stores and restaurants, a leisurely stroll will end up with lots of shopping or eating, or both.
A 20-minute drive east on Zhongshan Lu is a commanding Catholic church on top of a hill. The majesty of the church is easily conveyed by two 20m-tall bell towers, each housing four bells and topped with 4.5m wide cross. The church remains an active place of worship and holds regular mass. Entry for churchgoers is free during mass; outside of mass, a RMB 5 ticket is required from 8:30am to 4pm.
A few minutes southeast is the Protestant church. Built in 1910, it was the first German church in Qingdao. This elegant structure features a red-tiled roof and green clock tower with a clock that's still in use. Just north of this church is Signal Hill; flags were once raised here to signal ships in the harbor. Climbers are rewarded with a great view of the coast and the two churches.
On the south slope of the hill is a massive German villa. The magnificently built mansion was the former residence of the German governor and the entire estate covers 26,000m². No extravagance was spared in its construction much of the construction material was shipped from Europe –the governor felt he deserved the utmost in luxury. Unfortunately for him when the Kaiser saw the construction bill, the hapless governor was immediately recalled.
There's more to Qingdao than beaches and villas, the city is also dotted with free parks. Some of the particularly nice ones are Lu Xun Park, Sea World, May Fourth Square and the Sculpture Garden, which has free displays of modern art. For a city that's famous for beer, the Qingdao International Beer Festival is an event that'll whet any beer lovers' thirst. Every late August the city turns into a carnival of beer and sun. Live performances, parades and lots of beers add to the excitement, just watch where you step as some drink a little too much.
The city is now building a boardwalk that will stretch the entire length of the shore for those looking for a quiet walk along the seaside. The boardwalk at the No.1 and No.2 beaches has already been built; construction will be completed by the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.