Jinan, the capital of China’s Shandong province, boasts a rich history and a unique and individual culture. Known as the ‘City of Springs’ thanks to the more than seventy natural springs that bubble up throughout the district, Jinan has become a firm fixture on the schedules of many tourists, thanks not only to the glorious natural surroundings but also because of the warmth and beauty of the local people too.
While the main springs and parks of Jinan can be done in a day trip from Beijing, the city has much more to offer the intrepid traveler who chooses to spend two or three days here. Stay longer and use it as a base for exploring the area, and you could visit Qufu, the home of Confucius, and Mount Tai, the most important of the five mountains that are considered sacred in Taoism.
Tours and activities in Jinan
Jinan is a fairly compact city, but even so, it is not easy to navigate as a tourist. Foreign visitors are an unusual sight, and for this reason, there is little in the way of English signage or interpretation available. Seeing the city with the help of an affordable tour guide can be a great way to overcome this obstacle to your enjoyment.
Whether you want to be guided to the springs, to hike up the mountain or to have the museum exhibits explained to you in colourful detail, our local city guides can help. Explore our picks below, or get in touch to let us know what your specific requirements are.
Best time to visit
Jinan is on the North China Plain and therefore has a temperate climate with a four-season year. The best time to plan a trip here is during the autumn months, particularly from September to November. The spring can be OK, although Jinan tends to suffer from frequent high winds at this time, and the summer and winter are too hot and too cold respectively.
Top Attractions in Jinan
There is a lot to explore in Jinan, natural beauty, culture and heritage, museums, architecture, malls and everything you can wish for.
Getting here and getting around
Jinan is a transport hub, so many visitors will pass through this city when headed for any other destinations in Shandong such as Yantai and Qingdao. Trains, buses, and aircraft all connect this city to many Chinese destinations, making it easy to get in and away from Jinan.
The airport is around 40-Km from the city center, so if you fly here, you should budget at least ¥100 for a taxi to downtown. There is a shuttle bus too, which is more affordable at ¥20 but takes well over an hour at most times of the day.
The two train stations provide a better route of arrival the serve the city. The main station is right in the city center, whereas the station at Jinan West is around 20km out. Fast trains arrive from Beijing in just 90 minutes, and from Shanghai in three to four hours. Slow trains are cheaper but will take five and nine hours respectively.
Getting around the city is best done by bus or by taxi. Taxis are by far the most comfortable option, but drivers will not speak English or be able to read letters, so make sure you have your destination written down in Chinese characters. Busses are often overcrowded and difficult to navigate, but are cheap and often it can be an interesting experience to ride along with the locals.
Eating and drinking
Here in Shandong province, you’ll find yourself indulged by one of the eight culinary traditions of China. Also known as Lu Cai, the cuisine of this area focusses on the use of garlic and shallots in its dishes and has had a significant influence on the modern food of all of northeast China. Jinan, in particular, is famous for soups, seafood, offal, and meat. Look for opportunities to try out the braised abalone, sweet and sour carp and any of the city’s delightfully flavourful soups.
Some of the most authentic and fairly priced restaurants can be found in Foshan Lu just off Quancheng Lu, where a narrow, twisty street belies the tremendous culinary delights behind the dingy doors. For a more polished experience, Da Guan Yuan has lots of large restaurants as well as snack stalls selling Jinan specialties.
There’s not much of a nightlife scene in Jinan, and certainly a lack of western style bars and pubs. However, you will find plenty of Chinese style drinking establishments, complete with ridiculously low seating and mystery meat skewers on offer. English Corner is a safe bet for a cold beer and friendly service and is close to the Banjo Bar where live music plays most evenings.
Getting a good night's sleep
If you like your creature comforts, there are plenty of well-known hotel chains present in Jinan. Intercontinental, Sofitel, Sheraton and Crowne Plaza hold central locations, to name but a few. There’s a Hyatt and a Hilton too, which along with the Melia Jinan offer the highest-class accommodation available in the city.
A more mid-range stay is available at the Jinan Mountain and Sea Culture Hotel, which at just five minutes’ walk from Daming Lake and Baotu Spring offers easy access to the city’s main attractions. The Ibis and Holiday Inn are reasonably priced, with expected levels of comfort and services too.
For those on an absolute shoestring, Jinan has plenty of youth hostels, inns, and guesthouses to accommodate even the most meager budget. The Jinjiang Inn Jian Shandong University has been favorably reviewed, as has the 7Days Inn also near to the University.