Steeped in natural and supernatural allure, the Shāndōng (山东) peninsula on China’s northeastern coast is the stuff of legends. Its captivating landscape – a fertile flood plain fed by rivers and underground springs, capped by granite peaks and framed in wild coastline – can’t help but inspire wonder.

A lumpy-headed boy named Confucius was born here and grew up to develop a philosophy of virtue and ethics that would reach far beyond his lectures under an apricot tree. Three centuries later China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, would climb Tài Shān, Shāndōng’s highest peak, to proclaim a unified empire in 219 BCE.

But Shāndōng is more than the sum of its historical parts. The energetic buzz in seaside Qīngdǎo ranks the city among the best places to live in Asia. This is Shāndōng’s real draw: you can climb mountains, feast on fine seafood, quaff beer and still find time to hit the beach.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Shandong.