Jinan carries the nickname City of Springs (泉城 quánchéng) because of the many artesian wells that bubble up within the city limits. The water from these springs flows North towards the main landmark, Daming Lake (大明湖 dàmíng hú), and onwards to the Yellow River.
While it doesn't always make the short list of tourists visiting China, there is certainly enough to be done in Jinan to warrant a couple days stay. It is also a perfect base for exploring the region, notably Qufu, the hometown of Confucius, and Mount Tai, the foremost of the sacred Five Great Mountains known in Taoism.
The Yellow River basin was China's cultural centre during the Neolithic period, and so it comes as no surprise that the area around present day Jinan has been inhabited for over 4,000 years. The oldest finds in the region are from the Longshan culture, a Late Neolithic culture noted for its advanced black 'egg-shell pottery', sometimes as thin as a millimetre.
Fast forward past the Shang and Zhou dynasty. After the fall of the Zhou dynasty many independent states arose during a time known as the Spring and Autumn period. Eventually only a handful remained, striving for power during the Warring States period. During this era Jinan lay on the border of the state of Qi and the state of Lu. The great wall of Qi, to the East of Jinan, is a remnant of this age. It is the oldest Great Wall in China, and portions are accessible as open air museum. Lu (鲁） on the other hand was the home state of Confucius, and the character is still used as abbreviation for Shandong.
It was during the Han dynasty that Jinan became an important economic and cultural hub, and its role only became more prominent during the following dynasties. Some well known poets, painters and even a Han dynasty ruler all called Jinan their home.
Two events which both connected Jinan to the outside world in a new way spurred development and brought Jinan firmly into the modern age. The first was a natural evolution. In 1852 the Yellow River shifted it course, moving to the bedding of the Ji river from which Jinan derives its name. The Yellow River, being connected to the Grand Canal, now connected Jinan both to the Imperial capital in the North, and to agricultural areas in the South.
By the end of the 19th century the Germany Empire had established a concession in Qingdao on the Shandong coast, and a similar German area was built in what is now the area around the train station. The Germans built a railway connecting Jinan and Qingdao, this however was met with strong local resistance, which eventually led to the anti-foreign Boxer Rebellion. Despite all this the railway was opened for traffic in 1904, opening up Jinan to foreign trade.
Jinan is in basin region. The heat can be crushing in the summer when the breeze doesn't get down in the basin. Infamously hot in summer.
Jinan is the hub of traffic for the region and province so you'll likely end up here if heading elsewhere in Shandong, notably Qingdao and Yantai. Most people will arrive by bus or train.
You can fly to Jinan, but the airport is located 40km northeast of downtown. A taxi will take an hour and cost about CNY100 (foreigners might be asked to pay a higher fixed price or be taken a detour). There is a shuttle bus between the airport and downtown that runs hourly from 6 am to 5 pm. It takes just as long and costs CNY20. A subroute of bus 16 also goes to the airport.
You can find flights from most major cities with Shandong Airlines  being the major carrier. (Shandong Airlines code-shares with Air China, so your ticket and check-in may well say Air China.)
For the train, you will likely arrive at the main train station, north of town. Getting a taxi is chaotic and navigating the terminal is difficult so if you can get someone to meet you, it's advisable.
Jinan is on the major line from Shanghai to Beijing so you can take the bullet train. It's about 3.5 hours from Beijing and 5 from Shanghai. There's plenty of transport outside the station: bus 83 stops nearby to take you downtown to more options, K51 takes you to Quancheng Square and Thousand Buddha Mountain.
Several travel agencies around the city sell train tickets for an additional CNY5.
It is very easy to get to Jinan with lots of buses running all day and some at night. Be sure to ask which station the bus will arrive in as there are two main ones, the long distance bus station (长途汽车站) and the train station bus station (客运汽车站).
Several expressways connect to Jinan.
First thing you have to consider is, do you really need to take the Bus? Taxis are the easiest options. Other options are various motorcycles, and other vehicles that are either unsigned or a bit flimsy-looking. These are hard to use as you have to negotiate not only the destination, but also the fare.
Buses are often overcrowded. Still, if you are interested in traveling as the locals do, hop on.
Buses are CNY1 yuan, or CNY2 for air-conditioned. Buses that begin with K are supposedly air-conditioned and even if the a/c is off or not working, you are likely to get a seat on these buses as they are much less crowded than the CNY1 (no a/c) buses. It should be noted though, that a line either is a K-line or not, same lines don't have K buses and non K buses operating on them, so mostly it is not possible to prefer either type without some walking being involved.
Most busses with two digits serve the central city (which is tiny). Three digit ones are either coming from or going to the suburbs (may be very far). Bus stops are easily identifiable and bus numbers are written in the Western numbers both on the busses and at the bus stops. The lists of stops for a given route are posted at every bus stop, but in Chinese only, although the beginning and end stations are written in pinyin.
Taxis drivers do not speak English, and they will often not be able to read maps or your destination in pinyin. So to be certain to reach your destination, make sure you have it written out in Chinese. Price for shorter trips from CNY7.50. It can be difficult to get a taxi between 7am-8am and 6pm-7pm.
Hero Mountain (Yingxiongshan), SE of downtown, at the curve of Ma'anshan Rd, near intersection of Jingshi Yi Rd (bus 32, 42, 75). Good for a climb and a stroll. On weekends it's overcrowded so choose a weekday. Also nearby is the Jinan Hero Mountain Culture Square, a shopping area known as the "Culture Market" (see below under Markets).free.
Jinan has 72 springs and is famous for them from ancient times. However, nowadays some of them do not have much water.
Baotu Springs, (Many buses (5 41 49 66 K51 K52 K54 K59 72 80 82 85 102 106)). Has several temples and pavilions. Especially beautiful late in the afternoon, when the locals come to hang out with their feet in the river.
Black Tiger Spring. Sounding like the roar of a tiger gurgles out through three carved tiger heads into the city moat.free.
Five Dragon Pool (Wu Long Tan), (Located on the outside of Ximen of old city of Jinan and on the north of Leyuan Bridge. On the west end of Quancheng Road (the main padestrian shopping street) and near Wal-Mart. Many buses (1,3,5,41,85,K50,K54,K55,K95,66,101,104)). It has a very deep pool of spring water and a few natural springs. Very tranquil park with lush greens and ancient Chinese architecture. It also has a temple for a Tang Dynasty army general Qin Qiong who was living in Jinan. In summer, people can walk on the stone tiled floor with spring water flowing on them and kids can have water fights.
Shandong Provincial Museum, On the end of Lishan Lu (In south Jinan near the Thousand Buddha Hill). Sometimes has travelling exhibits of interest. Check out the calendar dating from 134BC, and bronzes from the Shang and Zhou eras (1766-770BC). That is old.
Scientific and Technical Museum, (East of the Spring City Square). Or just browse the interminable shiny floored shopping malls, such as the Silver Plaza next to the Hotel Sofitel, near the Square, and marvel at the new wealth of this emerging powerful nation.
Daming Lake Park (Dàmínghú Gōngyuán; 大明湖公园), Daming Lake Street (Dàmínghúlù; 大明湖路) (In the centre of city; buses 6, 11, 31, 33, 37, 36, 41). 6.30am - 6pm. Large park with pagodas, temples and an amusement park. The largest Taoist temple in Jinan is located here as well as a temple in memorial of some local official. Also large natural lake formed from a number of springs and with a large fountain. There are boats for rent. Nice landscaping with willow trees and lotus flowers. Festivals and exhibitions take place in the park.CNY30; boat CNY200.
Thousand-Buddha Hill (Qianfoshan), (2.5 km south east). 7am-6pm. A small hill (with many steps) you can climb to view the smog haze and overlook the city itself on clearer days. Allow about half and hour to reach the top. Features temples, caves, pavilions, terraces, towers, and er Buddhas. On the eastern side of mountain stands the Shandong Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery for Revolution of 1911, a key historical relic site under provincial protection. Other scenic spots on the Mountain include the Tang-Dynasty Pagoda Tree Pavilion, Shandong Nine Clouds, and Cloud Passing Zen Temple, etc. If you prefer a bus ride, then you can go by bus to the top of the mountain along a mountain road winding up the eastern side of the mountain. A ski lift system and a slide also operate on the mountain, so if the buddhas get boring, you can always slide down the mountain.CNY30.
Spring City Square (Qian Cheng Guang Chang). A great place to go any weeknight, and observe why China has relatively few obese people. You can join people dancing, playing many sports, writing poetry (calligraphy) with water, etc.
Hongyegu (Red Leaves Valley), (Outside Jinan and to the north. An hour by bus (65, 29, 88) and up in the mountains). Beautiful area which is always in a splendour of color in the fall. Red Leaf valley is a private park which encompasses mountains and lakes of great beauty. However, getting there is next to impossible without being fluent in Mandarin or having a Chinese translator due to the obscure address of the bus service and the weird rule of having to buy your tickets one day in advance.
Longdong Cave. Apparently good in Autumn
Jinan Zoo, (To the north).
The Great Wall of the Qi State (dating back to 408BC).
Horse Running Mountain, (40km southeast). Boasts the Jinan Wild Life World forest safari park and is first class even in Asia."
Five Peak Mountain, (20km southwest). Peaks, pavilions, terraces, bridges, including the fascinatingly named Fairy-Greeting Bridge.CNY25.
Four Door Pagoda (Simen Ta), (It is on the Qinglong mountain, 33km southeast of Jinan. Take a bus from the Long Distance East bus station 0800 returning 1500). Constructed in 611AD (Sui Dynasty) with Buddha, and 1000 year old pine tree.
Lingyan Temple, (There is a bus going there from Jiefangqiao Bus Station). Founded about 1600 years ago and "one of the Four Scenic Spots of Temple in the World". Pavilions, bridges, halls, ponds, terraces, Buddhas, stone tablets, caves. The attractions include "One Line of Sky, Double Pine Bridge, and other grotesque spots like Spring on Mirror Pond.
Huge bookshop, (Just east of Maccas on the main drag (Quancheng Road)). Includes a mediocre foreign languages section (mostly old classic novels and dictionaries). The management seems to tolerate the thousands of non-customers, using it as a reading room. It is well worth a visit - Borders could learn a thing or two!
Quancheng Square or Spring City Square (the main square). At night you can watch kids compete in in-line skating, kung fu, or other competitions. Lots of people hang out there so prepeare to be stared at, as Jinan residents do not often see foreigners. If you are not comfortable to be the center of attention maybe it is best to avoid this spot.
Spring City (Quancheng) Park (formerly Jinan Botanical Gardens), SE of downtown, bordered by Jingshi Rd, Shungeng Rd, Ma'anshanRd, Yuhan Rd (bus 2, 3, 16, 32, 34, 42, 75, K93), . Spring City Park was formerly called the Botanical Gardens. It's quite shady, with a lake and lots of places to sit and relax or have a picnic, so it's a very good place to visit during the hot Jinan summer. It also has a small amusement park at the west end.free.
The campuses of Shandong University, Shandong Medical University, and Shandong Normal University. Leafy, serene, and pleasant to stroll, especially the Medical University. Avoid the weekends.
Karaoke, various places. One of the most popular activities among the young Chinese. Dong Fang Zhi Yun (used to be called Top Party) on Wen Hua Xi Lu (Culture West Street) is a big karaoke bar which includes a pretty decent buffet. Large rooms can accommodate up to 30 people.Between 20-50 per person for a 3-5 hour session. Prices also depend on how many people there are and whether you consume snacks and drinks (most places sell alcohol).
New Century Movies (Xin Shi Ji), Quancheng Road (Upstairs of Wal Mart in the shopping mall).
Tea Houses and Cafes. Yuan Yuan Yuan on Luo Wen Road (near Quancheng Square) has food and drinks. It provides poker cards, Ma Jiang and board games, etc. There might even be Wi-fi in there. If you are after traditioal Chinese tea houses, there are some more traditional looking ones scattered around. They are more popular among business people for the quietness. Tea can be served in traditional Chinese ritual.
Glasses, Jinan Glasses Market, Tian qiao District. Many glasses outlets in the market. It caters for both wholesale and retail customers. Very good place to get a pair or two of prescription glasses, sunglasses and contact lenses. Much much cheaper than the big stores in the city.
For clothes make your way over to Shanshi East Road (山师东路 shānshī dōng lù). There you will find a handful of adjoining buildings each full with tiny stores, and tiny aisles between them. It might be hard to find something here to satisfy a western taste, but at least you pay Chinese prices.
For much more upmarket shopping experience head over to a newly developed area called Joiwalk (泉乐坊 quán lè fāng), sitting on Xian West Lane (县西巷 xiàn xī xiàng), just off Quancheng Road. Spread over three levels with streaming water and elevated walkways, this open air shopping complex provides a great afternoon strolling opportunity. Note that prices are what you would pay in Europe, so don't come here looking for a bargain. But window shoppers might be happy to know there is also some delicious food to be had, Italian ice cream, chocolate cake, and even a reasonably priced Japanese restaurant.
For daily supplies, food, clothing, and stuff like that try one of the following. There is little in the way of western food (eg cheese) but you may be pleasantly surprised.
Wal-Mart Supercenter, (Just west of the huge bookshop next to the Pizza Hut on Quancheng Rd).
Carrefour, (North of Jiefan Lu on Lishan Lu).
A number of RT Marts.
Unimart. Caters for the culturally deprived expat who wants his cornflakes.
Markets, (Next to Jenny's Cafe). There are markets in several locations, but you're likely only to find plastic tubs, brooms, hair products, bed sheets, clothing, etc., that's pretty much the same as what you find in the shops or just on the street at about the same prices. Make sure to bring your bargaining skills, especially being a foreigner.
Culture market (文化市场), Ma'an Shan Rd (马鞍山路). Ask a cab to drop you off at 'Wen hwa shr chang'. The actual market is a pedestrian only area behind a row of houses, but you should be able to find it by just following the crowds. On sale are all kinds of items, pottery, wooden sculptures, painting, calligraphy supplies, even old coins, notes and stamps. During the week it's usually pretty quiet, so come during weekends, when much more is on offer. This is a great place to find small souvenirs. Some of it is said to be real antique, but don't be fooled in spending top dollar. Unless you bring, or consider yourself, an expert. When you get tired of shopping head to nearby Hero mountain for a change of scenery.
Technology Market, Shanda South Rd (山大南路 shāndà nán lù) (Take bus #1 or any bus up Jiefang Rd, from the main square east and get off at the giant building that looks like it's pregnant, at crossing of Jiefang Rd and Shanda South Rd). The stretch of road on Shanda South Rd between Jiefang Rd and Shanda Rd houses several big stores catering for all your technological needs. You will even find people sitting on the side of the road selling second hand motherboards and hard drives! For some products you might get a good deal compared to your home country, for others prices are pretty much the same. Make sure to compare several dealers and then haggle to get the best price.
This guide uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Shandong cuisine is known as Lu cai (named after the ancient Lu State) and is one of the eight culinary traditions of China and a major influence on the present day food in northeastern China. Jinan cuisine represents a branch of Shandong cuisine famous for its soups.
There are the usual mediocre international fast food chains, plenty of street food, scores of little restaurants, etc. The easiest is either street food or one of the many buffets where you can see the food and order that way. Or if you want expensive and exotic (eg Japanese, go to the 4-5 star hotels). There are some nice local restaurants, but if you can't read Chinese it is not worth the hassle and the free entertainment you provide to onlookers. Each restaurant seems to specialise in a style of cooking and a special dish or two. However, finding what you might like can be quite a challenge, as many restaurants don't have menus with pictures, and next to none have English menus. Some of the smaller places have a part of their menu printed into a large poster on the wall, with photos, and provides an easy way to get something you want.
Quanjude, (Down Heping Lu near Shan Da Lu). A good roast duck restaurant
Dingy-looking restaurant street [name], (Just off of Quancheng Lu). Twists and turns for about 2 blocks. Despite the narrow and pitted road, there are some nice restaurants here.
Bbq places and beer, (Behind the big mosque at Yongchang Lu). The muslim quarter of town. The food is fresh, as earlier in the day sheep where standing where you are now eating (look for the red stain on the ground). You can't get fresher than that. However, the smell is off putting in the summer with no refridgeration and swarms of flies laying eggs in your about to be eaten lamb (cat meat according to local news sources has been used in these places to boost profits and keep the cat population down).
Pakistani restaurant, (In the Muslim quarter). Great restaurant, which Westerners seem to frequent.
Night market, Jing Er Lu (In the NW of the city). Sidestreets full of food.
Lydia restaurant, 38 Shanda Road (山大路38号; Shandalu) (Not far from the technology market), ☎ +86 531 88918866. An italian restaurant. Fauvorite place of foreign students and young chinese. The food is not as good and tasty as in Jenny's, but cheaper.About ¥40 for a lunch with drinks.
Xiaochi Cheng, Jingshiyi Road (Under Yingxiong (Hero) Hill). A cluster of restaurants, cheap and expensive, different Chinese and western cuisines.
Da Guan Yuan, (A central shopping area with plenty of restaurants, shops, a big shopping mall and a big book store. Buses K51, 18 and many others can take you there.). Big restaurant like Da Guan Yuan Beijing Duck and Gou Bu Li Baozi. Small snack stalls selling Jinan specialties including You Xuan and lamb skewers.
Jinan does not have much to offer in terms in Western style drinking places. However, there are plenty of Chinese style outdoor drinking places with impossibly low tables and chairs, which dish up skewers of meats for a few cents along with a few other things like soybeans or such. Beer flows freely.
English Corner, (Near the Sofitel Hotel). Is a nice bar in a basement. Offers bottled, cold beer. Foreigners hang around, also locals are there.
Jenny's Cafe, (Right across the street from the Bank of China on LiShan Lu). Offers a wide range of cuisines including Italian and Mexican. This place used to be a foreigner hangout until management changed and the staff became unfriendly, the dishes halved in size and the prices doubled. Expensive western food in addition to many expensive drinks. Prices are like European prices, but at least you can eat something else than garlic beans and tofu. They also serve imported beer (Paulaner, Erdinger, Guinness etc) if you want a quality beer for a change. There's a small store next door that sells imported products like cheese.
Wei Wei's. Although it looks like any other Muslim BBQ place in the area, the owner, Wei Wei, has befriended so many foreigners over the years that now they form the majority of his clientèle. Especially on Wednesdays people get together here. Wei Wei himself is quite a character, and though he might not be able to communicate in English, he can swear in a way that would make a sailor blush. To get there take a cab to the Muslim quarter (Hui min xiao qu). You will turn from Jing Qi Lu into a street with BBQ places, one after the other. Continue until the street opens up into a small square with more BBQ places and lots of smoke. Take the alley on your right, it's about two buildings in. A popular activity here is to do the 100 stick and beer challenge, this is good if you want to spend another week recovering in hospital replacing body fluids (Bring plenty of imodium pills).
Lang Kwui Fong 兰佳方, Wenhua Dong Rd (Between Shanda Rd and Shan Shi Dong Street, on the South site of the street.). Cheaper than the clubs and more lively than English Corner. This is a favorite of many foreign students, although some locals come here as well.¥15 for a beer.
Banjo bar, (Further up the street from English Corner). This place has bands playing on most evenings.
Soho Disco. Western oriented disco. Populair with foreign students. Different kinds of beer are available.Beers around ¥20.
1+1, Lishan Rd/Heping Rd. The latest club in town.
Cinderella, Jingshi Lu, underneath the big sports stadium. A big club, mostly locals visiting. The main alternative to 1+1.
There are plenty of places to choose from in the CNY200 range. There is a complex of fancy hotels in the swank SE of the city at the end of Lishan Lu, which are all surprisingly affordable for what they are, considering they have beautiful grounds, five star services and facilities, etc., for maybe $70-80. Also good hotels downtown. There are also hotels at the transport nexus at the train station, but that's a little removed from the sites.
Jinan Tianjia Bussiness Affairs Hotel, 2 Fukang Street, ☎ 86531-81772177. Free internet. Meeting facilities, ticket office and laundry service available. Chinese restaurant and room service.Disounted rates for doubles of ¥128; breakfast ¥8.
Joyinn&Suites-Shanda, 77 Shanda North Road (Next to Shandong University), ☎ 86531-88028588. Free internet. Meeting facilities, ticket office, laundry service and chess/poker room available. Chinese restaurant and room service. Discounted rates for double rooms from ¥130 including breakfast.
Jinan Railway Hotel, 19 Rail Station Street (Chezhan Jie 19; 车站接19号), ☎ 86531-58980088. Three star hotel from 1996. Internet available against payment. Meeting facilities, ticket office, laundry service and sauna available. Chinese restaurant, tea house and room service.Discounted doubles from ¥170; Breakfast ¥15.
Jinjiang Inn, Lishan Branch, 山大南路西廷长线1号, ☎ 0531-86981999, . This 130 room hotel opened its doors in 2009. It is located along a new Eastern extension of Shanda South Road. It's located just outside the city moat, so one could easily walk from here to Black Tiger Spring and the city Square, or to Daming Lake. There is wired internet in the rooms for your laptop.¥159-229.
Middle and top end
Crowne Plaza, (On the nicest street in town).
Zhong Hao Grand Hotel, (In Lixia District), . Quite affordable. It particularly boasts beautiful business suites as well as conference facilities. Online booking available on the website.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!