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The Shenzhen Rundown

Shenzhen is a gleaming, sprawling metropolis of industry and glass and steel towers across Kowloon Peninsula from Hong Kong. The most prominent poster child of capitalist urban reforms under former People's Republic leader Deng Xiaoping is a Special Economic Zone par excellence that teems with migrant factory workers, foreign business executives on the make, expat knowledge workers and plucky young Chinese professionals eager to stake a claim in the new China. It is almost impossible to imagine that less than four decades ago, Shenzhen was a sleepy, moribund village.

The rapid reboot of that village into one of the world’s primary centers of economic and commercial growth is now legend in Shenzhen. This is a proud, dynamic city that has come into its own not just in the PRC but, indeed, Asia and the world. The skyline expansion has run unfaltered at a breakneck clip, new suburbs pop up every year and the subway system has gone from non-existent to one of the most extensive on the planet in what seems like the blink of an eye.

The busy Pearl River Delta port city has strides to make in the arts and culture and quality of life departments in order to catch up with neighbors Hong Kong and Guangzhou. Still, given Shenzhen’s improbable metamorphosis, the city has already demonstrated a dramatic and flagrant ability to reach for the sky.

Shenzhen’s Top 10

10. Xin’an Ancient City marks the site of a town in existence since the 4th century.

5. Lake of the Immortals is hands down the best park in Shenzhen.

9. Chiwan Tin Hau Temple dates back to the early 15th century.

4. He Xiangning Art Gallery unfurls some fine art of interest from East Asia.

8. Shiyan Lake Hot Spring Resort is difficult to find but well worth the trek for a restorative dip.

3. OCT Contemporary Art Terminal and Loft Area is proof positive that Shenzhen has arty ambitions.

7. Splendid China is a corny but popular folk village recreation.

2. Dapeng Fortress is a citadel village 55 km from Shenzhen proper.

6. Wutong Mountain is the dominant natural landmark in Shenzhen.

1. Shenzhen Museum is the ultimate repository and archive in the city.

Shenzhen History

  • Dapeng Fortress – Built 600 years ago, this walled town was the centre of the 19th-century Opium Wars.
  • Minsk World – This military theme park has a decommissioned aircraft and uniformed Russian dancers.
  • Chung Ying Street – This border street between China and Hong Kong has had a colourful history.
  • Shenzhen Museum (Old) – A museum of ancient arts featuring 20,000 bronze, porcelain and jade artefacts.
  • Nantou Ancient City – Built in 1394, this area contains Shenzhen’s well-preserved city gate.

Shenzhen Art & Culture

  • Splendid China Folk Village – A theme park that features various aspects of China’s 56 ethnic groups.
  • Shenzhen Cultural Center – This building contains a concert hall and the Shenzhen’s library.
  • OCT-Loft Art Terminal – This art museum and studio space display pieces from local and international artists.
  • Dafen Oil Painting Village – Home to 600 art studios where 10,000 artists create copies of famous masterpieces like the Mona Lisa.
  • Di Wang-Land King Building – The tallest building in Shenzhen at 69 stories high.

Shenzhen Shopping

  • SEG Electronics Market – This plaza contains eight floors of booths selling all manner of computer components.
  • Dongmen Market – A popular marketplace selling a variety of goods, including suits, ready-to-wear clothing and electronics.
  • Luohu Commercial City – This mall contains over 700 shops selling clothes and fabric.
  • China Sports House – A place where you can get custom, hand-painted shoes.
  • Shenzhen Musical Heaven Market – The biggest musical instrument store in the Shenzhen.

Shenzhen Gay & Lesbian

  • Auld Lang Syne – A nightclub with live shows (with some nudity) every night.
  • Why Not Bar – A popular nightclub featuring a karaoke bar and disco.
  • Century Kingdom Hotel – A five-star, GLBT-friendly hotel.
  • Phoenix House – This tea house is GLBT friendly and serves a variety of Shenzhen dim-sum dishes.
  • Barden-Barden Disco Club – A disco club that is gay-owned and offers nightly shows.

Shenzhen Outdoor

  • Shenzhen Happy Valley – This outdoor amusement park has rides and games for adults and children.
  • Window of the World – A theme park located in Western Shenzhen that features 130 replications of the world’s most famous attractions.
  • Safari Park – A small wildlife park with a variety of sub-Saharan animals, including giraffes and rhinoceroses.
  • OCT East – An upscale, multibillion-dollar theme park similar to Disney World.
  • Dameisha & Xiaomeisha Scenic Area – Two beaches that provide beautiful views of the city’s coastline.

Shenzhen Sport

  • Watch bike riders compete in the Asia Fixed Gear Championships at the end of May.
  • Go golfing at the Spring City Golf & Lake Resort or the Shenzhen Golf Club.
  • Cool off with a nice wade in a public swimming pool.
  • Hit the (indoor) slopes at the Alps Ski Resort.
  • Watch popular table-tennis competitions at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre.

Shenzhen Local

Like any good sub-provincial metropolis in the People’s Republic of China with over 10 million people, Shenzhen is big and envelops many city-like districts.

Futian is the primary hub of Shenzhen and is home to some 1.3 million people. The district is the scene of frantic high-rise development and has the skyline to prove it. Points of interest include Lianhua Mountain Park, Shenzhen Garden and Flower Exposition Center, Guan Shan Yue Art Gallery, Mangrove National Park and Shenzhen Cultural Center.

Luohu has just under 1 million people and is the home of Wutong Mountain, Lake of the Immortals Botanical Gardens, Dong Men Pedestrian Street, Tea World Terminal Market, Hubei Village Eat Street, and Jiahua Foreign Trade Market.

Nanshan has over 1 million people and points of interest like Chiwan Fort, Xin’an Ancient City and Happy Valley and Window of the World theme parks.

Yantian has just over 200,000 people and desirable tourist targets like Dameisha beach, Xiaomeisha beach and Chung Ying Street.

Bao’an, with close to 5 million people, is tops in Shenzhen. The suburban district outside the Special Economic Zone is, for the most part, a behemoth factory city.

Longgang has over 2 million people and while a busy suburban district, is home to some desolate coastal areas, such as Ju Diao Sha, Dong Chong and Xi Chong beach. The Longgang Museum of Hakka culture is worth a visit as well.

Shenzhen Eat & Drink

As a prominent migrant and expat city that moves at the furious pace of business, Shenzhen has a big and eclectic restaurant scene. From regional mainland fare to branché continental, wine bars to sushi bars, mealtime need not be dull in the city.

Ju’s Fusion (2nd floor 1001 Shennan Donglu Shenzhen 999 Royal Suites and Towers) is as plush a Cantonese restaurant as Shenzhen has.

The Terrace (Sea World Square, Tai Zi Lu) is a popular expat bar and restaurant with live entertainment.

Grand Prince (Shop 45 Bao'an Nanlu 5th fl, The MixC) is a swish spot that serves pan-Chinese fare for lunch and dinner.

Sushifu (Fumin Road) is one of the best Japanese restaurants in Shenzhen.

Milano (1/F, Anhui Building, Shennan Road 6007) serves - what else - Italian cuisine. The quality is up there with the best in the city.

Dan Gui Xuan (5/F, Louhu Commercial City, Renmin Road) is a solid bet for dim sum.

West Lake Spring (3019 Sungang Lu 2nd-3rd fl, Parkway Tower) cranks out authentic seafood and vegetable dishes.

Belle Epoque (Bao’an Nanlu Shop 299, 2nd floor, The MixC) caters to upscale clientele with a good wine list and menu of French cuisine classics.

Phoenix House (4002 Huaqiang Beilu East Wing, Pavilion Hotel) is a wildly popular Cantonese restaurant.

Made in Kitchen (7th floor 2028 Renmin Lu Shenzen Kingglory Plaza) has a colossal menu for carnivores and lovers of Southeast Asian staples.

Shenzhen Events

Shenzhen has been in such feverish expansion mode over the last two decades that it has yet to develop a bona fide international festival scene in the mold of a Shanghai or Hong Kong. Still, a few annual events do stand out.

The month-long Shenzhen Nanshan Litchi Cultural Tourism Festival runs from late June to late July and, aside from a lot of ripe lychees, features a diverse program of events.

The Dragon Dance Art Festival is one of the most popular festivals in Shenzhen and takes place in Longgang District.

The Grand Theater Festival is held in January and features a diverse lineup of traditional and contemporary performances.

Shenzhen Cultural Center has a regular program of events and exhibits on rotation. The home of Shenzhen Concert Hall and Shenzhen Library is impressive, thanks in no small part to the efforts of avant-garde architect Arata Isozaki.

New Shenzhen Stadium, host of the 2011 Summer Universiade, or World University Games, has a capacity of 60,334 and is the stadium of record for football, athletics et al.

When To Go

Shenzhen has a subtropical climate with a discernible monsoon effect. The wet season features heavy rain, typhoon thunderstorms and brutal humidity from May to September, with significant showers in April and October as well. Summer temperatures range from 76°F (24°C) to 90°F (32°C).

The mild winter and dry season is unquestionably more comfortable. Conditions from December to February waver between 53°F (12°C) and 71°F (22°C), with minimal rain. The months of March and November are warmer but not altogether unpleasant.

What To Miss

Rogue taxi drivers, patent tourist trap attractions and city tour swindles form three obvious pitfalls to avert in Shenzhen.

While not facile to identify a scam artist cab driver before you reach your destination, get some help from a hotel concierge or local if your Mandarin or Cantonese is weak. Otherwise, you could wind up with a “special” tourist rate.

Shenzhen has a profusion of amusement park attractions that were purpose-built with domestic tourists in mind and, perhaps more cynically, as opiate-like diversions for a spent, underpaid labor class. The point is that whatever novelty places like Sea World Shekou, Happy Valley Theme Park, Minsk World and Safari Park Shenzhen have hastily dissolves once you get past the gates.

Shenzhen “city tours” that ferry busloads of tourists from factory to factory, for a tidy payola on subsequent wholesale purchases, on top of the per head tour price, need to be put out of business. If you want to see the ins and outs of a jade jewelry factory, for example, hire a driver and book a private tour through a local connection. Otherwise, give these tours a wide berth and experience the city on your own.

Getting Around

Shenzhen is 40 km from Hong Kong and connects to the city via ferry, MTR, bus and taxi. Visitors do need to apply for a visa before they cross over to the People’s Republic mainland, however. A short list of nationals from the likes of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the EU can obtain a five-day Special Economic Zone Tourism Visa on arrival, after the rigamarole of Hong Kong immigration and customs that is. Alas, those with a valid U.S. passport, good for six months minimum, must apply for a regular multiple-entry visa.

Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport has yet to undergo a significant expansion and upgrade and is still one of the top 25 airports in the world. In China it ranks in the top 5 in total passenger movements and is a formidable competitor to Hong Kong International and Guangzhou Baiyun International. Although the hub currently processes up to 27 million passengers a year, Shenzhen’s sharp rise requires more capacity - and soon. For the moment, Shenzhen Bao'an serves the likes of Beijing-Capital, Shanghai-Pudong, Ho Chi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur, Macau, Seoul-Incheon, Singapore, Taipei and Tokyo-Narita. Visitors can also access the city by train from a host of spots on the mainland.

The Shenzhen Metro has 5 lines, 137 stations and is by far the best way to get around the city. By 2020 the number of lines, stations and total track will double. The city also operates a decent bus and minibus network. Taxis proliferate but since drivers are rarely conversant in English, be sure to ask your hotel for assistance with place-names in Chinese characters.

Hotels in Shenzhen

Recommended hotels

From US$143

1 The Langham Shenzhen

5 stars
5.0 / 5 1 reviews

7888 Shennan Boulevard, Futian District, Map

Stay 5 Nights & Save 20%

Boasting lavish units, rich spaces and top-of-the-class conveniences, The Langham Shenzhen creates an ideal base for discerning travellers in the vibrant metropolis. Guests at this Shenzhen hotel... More

Simply perfect
It all starts with a warm welcoming greeting by staff as you enter the beautiful lobby (the fragrant scent of fresh flowers is intoxicating). Rooms are amazing; comfortable and clean with excellent...
7 Oct 2014
From US$69

2 The Bauhinia Hotel Shenzhen

3 stars
4.0 / 5 1 reviews

City Square Podium, 4055 Jiabin Road Map

Offering comfortable accommodation and friendly atmosphere, The Bauhinia Hotel Shenzhen is an ideal place for a pleasant as well as a relaxing stay. GeneralAfter an exhausting day, guests at The... More

Good Hotel
We stayed 3 days there, nothing else to complain than the smelly toilet smell when u enter the room for first time, so everytime we enter the room, we need to turn on the exhaust and open the door...
23 Apr 2014
From US$88

3 Sunshine Hotel Shenzhen

5 stars
4.0 / 5 3 reviews

2001 Jia Bin Road Map

Book 7 Days in Advance & Save 20%

A landmark of hospitality and luxury, Sunshine Hotel Shenzhen offers superior accommodation, warm personal service and comprehensive meeting facilities, and has earned a reputation as the leading... More

Great accommodation
The hotell exceeds my expections for the value it offers. good location, near GuomaoTrain Station that can get you any where in Shengzhen. Unfortunate, the pool was under renovation during my visit.
26 Mar 2015
From US$65

4 BEST WESTERN Shenzhen Felicity Hotel

5 stars
4.0 / 5 24 reviews

1085 Heping Road Map

Executive Room Benefit

Overlooking the border into Hong Kong, the BEST WESTERN Shenzhen Felicity Hotel offers a fantastic location, exceptional accommodation and convenient facilities for you to enjoy during your... More

k k
A little bit old hotel. Smell in room. But in convenience location. Staff nice but not problem soving.
23 Jan 2015
From US$51

5 ZTL Hotel Shenzhen (previously Days Inn Shenzhen)

4 stars
4.2 / 5 61 reviews

57 YongXin Street Jiefang Road Map

Book 5 Days In Advance & Save 5%

The first ZTL Hotel hotel in Shenzhen, ZTL Hotel Shenzhen (previously Days Inn Shenzhen) takes all the efforts to value your every day's stay by offering dedicated staff, convenient facilities and... More

ZTL Hotel
ZTL hotel is a good location in Lao Jie, which is easily accessible by metro train station exit E. Do request for non-smoking room if you dislike cigarettes smell. Weather is hot during summer...
10 Aug 2015
From US$121

6 Crowne Plaza HOTEL&SUITES LANDMARK SHENZHEN

5 stars
4.3 / 5 3 reviews

3018 Nanhu Rd Map

Offering an unbeatable combination of comfort, convenience and outstanding personal service, the Landmark Shenzhen is a perfect place for business travellers and holidaymakers. GeneralThe Landmark... More

best hotel stay in Shenzhen
a very enjoyable experience. after dealing with some minor issues at check in, the check in manager upgraded me to a larger room. bed was heavenly to sleep in. room extremely comfortable, clean,...
5 May 2015
From US$91

7 Hyatt Place Shenzhen Dongmen

4 stars
4.5 / 5 2 reviews

3018 Jianshe Road Luo Hu District Map

Save 15% on your stay

Hyatt Place Shenzhen Dongmen welcomes travellers to cosy accommodations in contemporary design in this vibrant city in southern China. Vacationers at this modern Shenzhen hotel head out and learn... More

Lively and central
I've stayed at this hotel twice now for work and also recommended it to fellow colleagues. The feedback has always been positive. Rooms are spacious and clean. Restaurants and shops of the dongmen...
25 Aug 2015
From US$59

8 Metropark Hotel Shenzhen

4 stars
4.7 / 5 17 reviews

2088 Dongman Road Map

Book 7 Days In Advance & Save 5%

Offering comfortable accommodation and quality services, this property is the perfect base for you to reside whether you are in Shenzhen for business or pleasure. GeneralFrom a corporate gathering... More

Great Hotel!
A really excellent hotel based on value for money. Very friendly staff, most can speak english and problems likfe wifi connection, are immediately rectified. They even upgraded my room- excellent...
28 Jul 2015
From US$114

9 Pavilion Hotel Shenzhen

5 stars
4.5 / 5 2 reviews

4002 Huaqiang Road North Map

Book 3 Days In Advance & Save 10%

With a peaceful, relaxing touch of nature, this business hotel creates an exceptional atmosphere of luxury, grandeur and elegance to make your stay a pleasant one. GeneralThe Pavilion banquet and... More

From US$101

10 Marco Polo Shenzhen

5 stars
4.4 / 5 12 reviews

Fuhua 1st Road Map

Book 30 Days In Advance & Save 25%

Marco Polo Shenzhen makes for an ideal base with its deluxe accommodations, sophisticated and stylish surroundings and convenient access to the CBD and local attractions like the Civic Center.... More

Small and run down room
The room is very small and the furnishing run down. i guess this hotel can only be considered 4 star and looking at the way they price thing, i am not surprised that they wills ell the property to...
4 Feb 2015
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