Shandong Province, 318km (197 miles) E of Ji'nan, 890km (551 miles) SE of Beijing

Qingdao's strategic location at the mouth of a natural inlet on the south coast of the Shandong Peninsula has long made it attractive to foreign powers. When two German missionaries were killed in the Boxer Rebellion at the end of the 19th century, that was all the excuse Kaiser Wilhelm II needed to wrest Qingdao, then a small fishing town, from the weak Qing government, which ceded the port to the Germans on November 14, 1897, for 99 years. The Germans moved in, set up the Tsingtao Brewery, established churches and missions, built a railway to Ji'nan, and stationed 2,000 men in the garrison. But they were forced out at the beginning of World War I in 1914, and the Japanese took over, staying on after the 1919 Treaty of Versailles granted them authority over all ex-German territories in China. The Japanese ceded Qingdao back to the Kuomintang (Nationalist Government) in 1922 but occupied the town again from 1938 to 1945 during World War II.

Today, Qingdao, which has retained much of its Teutonic architecture, remains one of China's more charming and relaxing cities. With its year-round mild climate, Qingdao also hosts many fairs and festivals throughout the year, the most famous of which is the annual Qingdao International Beer Festival, held the last 2 weeks of August and attracting upwards of a million visitors. Summers see the town packed with Chinese visitors, making spring and fall better times to visit if you hope to avoid the crowds. In recent years, thanks to its vaulted position as host city to the watersports events of the 2008 Olympics, Qingdao has also seen many new hotels, restaurants, and faster connections to major cities. The Olympic Sailing Center is on the far eastern bay, with views of the central business district's sleek and glossy buildings, the international image of Qingdao broadcast worldwide during the XXIX Olympiad.