Known in China as the "City of Springs", the beautiful city of Jinan is built around Daming Lake. A great base to explore Shandong province, Jinan offers a blend of energy, history, and tranquility at its natural springs.
Jinan grew up around a collection of 72 natural springs, many of which like Baotu also became holy places. See their temples and well pools, and enjoy the tranquility at locations like Five Dragon Pool.
Jinan is just two hours north of Qufu, which was the birthplace of Confucius and is a must-see ancient city in its own right.
A wonderful vantage point to take photos of the city, Thousand-Buddha Hill is a holy mountain with temples, souvenir stalls, and a fascinating graveyard commemorating the martyrs of China's 1911 Revolution.
If you want to shop for traditional calligraphy tools, silk decorations, candles, sculptures, paintings, or coins, Jinan's Culture Market is one of the finest places in China to do so.
Jinan's centerpiece, Daming Lake features one of China's biggest Taoist temples and plenty of pagodas, but it's more of a meeting point than a holy site, with rowing boats to hire, food stalls, and regular musical events.
Located within Jinan's central area, the attractive Baotu Spring Park is home to the Baotu Spring. Established in 1956 and originally covering approximately two-thirds of an acre, it has recently been extended to about 26 acres and is now considered Jinan's main center of attraction, in part due to its marvelous natural springs. Take part in the tea tasting that has been a favorite pursuit for locals since time immemorial. Visit the famous Chrysanthemum Show and Lantern Festival, which serve to highlight the beauty and importance of Baotu Spring Park.
Situated to the south of Jinan can be found the Thousand-Buddha Mountain, known to the locals as Qianfo Shan. The ridge of the hill runs in an east-west direction and at its summit rises 846 feet (258 meters) above sea level. Established in 1959, the park covers a total area of approximately 140 acres (166 hectares). As you wander up to the top, you'll see many scenic spots along the way, as well as various ancient relics. Make a stop at the Shandong Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery to the east, dedicated to those who fell in the 1911 Xinhai Revolution.
In the heart of Jinan is the internationally recognized Daming Lake Park. Along with Thousand-Buddha Mountain and Baotu Spring Park, this is one of the three must-see sites in Jinan. Otherwise known as the Lake of Great Light, Daming Lake is the end result of the outflow of numerous springs. The water level remains constant, even in the midst of drought or rains. Savor the park's cool breeze and enjoy the lotuses in bloom, especially during the summer.
Founded in 1954, but now occupying new buildings, the Shandong Provincial Museum is home to over 210,000 historical artifacts. The fifteen exhibition halls each have about 11 permanent displays that feature Neolithic relics, Buddhist sculpture, Han Dynasty paintings, and items illustrating Shandong's history, as well as a natural history section boasting a remarkable collection of fossils. Of particular interest are items that once belonged to the son of the Ming Dynasty's first emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang.
Also known as Heihu Spring, Black tiger Spring is located to the south of Jinan and to the east of the Springs Plaza. The waters of this artesian karst spring emerge from a limestone cave situated in a steep cliff. From here they are channeled via three stone tiger heads into a pool from which they empty into the old city moat. The leafy trees and sparkling waters make this a place of utter serenity.
The best time to visit Jinan is probably in the fall. Organizing a trip between September and early December will let you enjoy mild weather and the crowds shouldn't be too large either.
Jinan's Yaoqiang International Airport (TNA) is around 25 miles north of the city, and a taxi into town will cost about ¥100.
There are mainline links to Beijing, Qingdao, and Shanghai. It's only around 90 minutes to Beijing and tickets start at ¥195.
If you choose to drive from Beijing, just follow the G2 directly to Jinan. From Shanghai, take the G15.
Long distance buses run into Jinan from all over China. Try to catch services to the Long Distance Bus Station, as this is the city's most central bus stop.
Central Jinan is packed with luxury accommodation options, but standouts include the modern Sofitel Jinan Silver Plaza and the Sheraton Jinan Hotel.
Spring City Square - the major downtown shopping neighborhood, Spring City Square is right next to Thousand-Buddha Hill and Daming Lake.
Yingxiongshan - also known as Hero Mountain, this is a beautiful part of Jinan, with gardens, parks, and the energy of the Culture Market.
Shizhong - located in southwestern Jinan, Shizhong is home to the city's massive university, and is a peaceful place to base yourself.
Buses cover almost all of Jinan. Basic fares are ¥1, and you can pay ¥2 for air conditioned vehicles - a handy option in mid-summer.
Expect taxis to cost a minimum of ¥7.50. Prices aren't standardized, so request a price before you travel.
Local car rental outlets include Jinan Haohua and Avis, and prices can be as low as ¥20 per day.
The best places to shop are the Culture Market (which specializes in artisan crafts and artworks) and the Technology Market, which offers a dizzying variety of high-tech goods.
Supermarkets in Jinan include Xinming, Kangsheng, and Hualian, and a gallon of milk will cost around ¥50.
Jinan has its own spin on Lu Cai cuisine, featuring a heavy emphasis on soups. Lǔxī'nán Flavor Restaurant is a good place to sample local dishes, Quanjude focuses on roasted duck, while Guihe in the Crowne Plaza offers a blend of western and Chinese food. Expect to pay around ¥50-70 for a good meal, and much less for street food.