This is a bit of a stretch for a weekend, but it’s definitely possible to fly there on Friday evening and have a nice 2 nights and return late Sunday, giving you two full beach days. (Qingdao is also drivable – we did it in 7 hours along perfectly fine highway, with rest areas every 30km or so.)
Qingdao and Dalian are the two most well known beach cities; for Beijingers, both are fairly close by plane. We had a great couple days in Qingdao – and that’s all you need. Highlights include the famous German section, especially the famous Governor’s Mansion. Now a hotel with a museum, it also has a very nice Japanese restaurant, the best non-seafood meal we had in Qingdao.
The beaches #1 and #2, both downtown, are very crowded but fun, and are amidst a huge, multiple kilometer beach walk. It’s great to just park along the water and start walking in either direction. Our favorite “real” beach was further out east, at Beach #3. This beach is clean, wide and long – similar to a southern California beach!
Another usual highlight is Laoshan, but unfortunately there was a landslide blocking the road. But we always hear that this is a highlight and has a spectacular beach as well.
Other highlights include the xxx square, especially at night. It’s fun (and also moving) to spend 10RMB and light a 3-foot paper lantern, watching its red glow as it rises into the night sky.
We stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel, previously the Olympic yaught hotel last year. Unfortunately, we didn’t feel it deserved a 5-star reputation, even if the room was big. And the area is quite dead as well. Next time, we’d consider staying a bit closer downtown, hopefully on a beach.
Another highlight is the seafood – we went to three different places and most had excellent fish that you choose yourself out of the tanks. We concentrated on the shellfish and shrimp and were never disappointed.
Side trips: Shandong peninsula also has Weihai and Yantai towns, a couple hours north of Qingdao by car. We found a great beach in the impressively modern Weihai and stayed in a nice hotel on the beach, called Golden Bay Hotel. And there’s a lovely one hour ocean-side drive east to the peninsula tip and a lovely park called Chengshantou. Note: you don’t have to pay the exorbitant 120RMB entrance fee to enjoy it; just drive to the right-side edge of the parking lot and walk past the building, and there’s a gorgeous beach cliff section for free.
Overall, Qingdao is a good weekend combination of beach, good weather, great seafood, and a taste of European architecture.
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