Shenzhen was a farming and fishing community of 300,000 on the Hong Kong border before it became China's first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in 1979. Today, it's a vast metropolis of 14 million, a UNESCO City of Design, and one of China's most popular tourist destinations.
Besides being a prime shopping spot, Shenzhen is an inspired choice for culture fans. A thriving art district and an impressive range of museums, galleries, theaters, and attractions have earned Shenzhen its place on UNESCO's Creative Cities list.
Discover Shenzhen's beautiful green spaces, its famous theme parks, and some of the best beaches in China. There are lots of great reasons to make this vibrant city your next destination.
See some of the world's most renowned sites (albeit smaller duplicates of them) at Shenzhen's amusement parks. Head to Window of the World, a huge park with scaled-down versions of some of the world's most famous monuments and a nightly parade and fireworks show, or to Splendid China Folk Village with its replicas of famous Chinese sites like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.
Despite its size, Shenzhen is a family-friendly city. Enjoy a beach-based getaway with outings to Dameisha Coastal Park or visit Shiyan Lake Hot Spring Resort for the day. The little ones will enjoy classic playgrounds like Shenzhen Children's Park (Tongle Road), while older kids can try rides that rival those at nearby Disneyland Hong Kong at the Happy Valley Shenzhen theme park.
Shenzhen boasts more parks and gardens than almost any other Chinese city. Lianhua Mountain Park is ideal for families, and you can join an aerobics or yoga group or climb to the top to see the huge statue of Deng Xiaoping. Spot an impressive number of bird species at China's smallest national park, Mangrove National Park, or visit the Hongfa Temple in Fairy Lake Botanical Gardens, one of the country's most beautiful parks.
Shenzhen is one of the country's creative hotspots and art lovers will enjoy the city's 'anything goes' attitude. Explore industrial, fashion, and domestic design at the OCT Art and Design Gallery, or have your favorite work reproduced at Dafen Oil Painting Village.
Shenzhen is one of the world's top golfing destinations. It's home to some of China's oldest courses like Shenzhen Golf Course and to the world's biggest, Mission Hills Golf Course. Other notable courses include the Gary Player-designed Shahe (Sand River) Golf Club.
Shenzhen's famed Window of the World amusement park is a unique project that features replicas of the most famous wonders of the world, from the great pyramids to Niagara Falls. All replicas at the park follow one of three ratios: 1:1, 1:5, and 1:15. If you don't have time to visit Angkor Wat or the Eiffel Tower, seeing the replicas at Window of the World is really the next-best thing. With replicas from each continent, it's truly a globe-trotting adventure. During spring, the park has its own Cherry Festival, and an Indian Cultural Week is a popular time as well. The Pop Music Festival is also a fun time to visit the park.
Originally two different attractions, the Splendid China Folk Village area has over 100 replicas of China's most famous tourist attractions in addition to 25 large-as-life villages that replicate the cultures of China's many different ethnic groups. As you stroll through the grounds, you'll be treated to a unique living history lesson, as well as the art and craftsmanship of artisans who produced 50,000 clay figures on the sites. If you're interested in China's ancient and enduring cultural heritage, there's no better place to take it all in.
Shenzhen's Happy Valley spreads out over more than 86 acres of land and is comprised of different themed areas including Spanish Square, Cartoon City, Mt. Adventure, Gold Mine Town, and the Playa Maya Water Park. All told, there are over 100 different rides and games for visitors of all ages. In addition to the attractions, the theme park hosts exciting performances and dances throughout the day and night. It's simply a must for families, as there are hours of fun for kids of all ages.
Shenzhen's famed Safari Park is China's first zoo with uncaged animals. Thanks to the mountains, which act as natural barriers to the park, the zoo is able to let animals such as south China tigers roam free in the grounds. There are more than 10,000 animals in the Safari Park that hail from all around the world. Glass corridors protect visitors from the free animals. This is also one of the only zoos in the world to have tiger/lion hybrids: tigons and ligers.
For over 300 years, Dongmen Street has been the best place to shop in Shenzhen. With everything from cheap goods to luxury items, the Dongmen Market offers all that any shopper could want. The tightly packed streets are often crowded with visitors, so be warned that this will not be a peaceful shopping experience. There's no feeling quite like getting lost in the hustle and bustle of this vibrant commercial district.
Shenzhen is a year-round destination with a pleasant climate. It can be hot and humid during typhoon season from June to October so many overseas visitors choose the period from October until January when days are warm and sunny. Winter is short in Shenzhen and typically runs from mid-January to mid-February. Take warmer clothing if you're planning a trip to coincide with the city's Chinese New Year festivities.
Those flying to Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport (SZX) can take the subway (Line 1) to the city center for ¥5-7. The airport is around 19 miles northwest of downtown and taxis are also available. Expect to pay ¥100 to Futian or ¥150 to Luohu, including toll fees.
Train is the most popular way to reach Shenzhen from Hong Kong. Regular train services are also available from cities like Guangzhou and Dongguan. High-speed trains from Kowloon, Hong Kong terminate at Futian Railway Station while trains from Guangzhou and further afield arrive at Shenzhen North Railway Station. Futian Railway Station is close to the center of the city and you can take the subway (Lines 1, 2, 3, 4) from the first underground floor. If you're arriving at Shenzhen North Station, take local bus services from the first or second floor of its east square.
You can drive from Hong Kong to the heart of Shenzhen via the Shenzhen Bay Bridge in under two hours. Be aware that you'll need to drive on the left in Hong Kong and then on the right in mainland China. Drivers also need to have a Chinese license or book a local driver.
The city has several long distance bus stations. Luohu Bus Station, which is next to the border crossing and the railway station is the most convenient for travelers, and there are regular services from cities in the Guangdong area such as Dongguan, Guangzhou, Shantou, Zhuhai, Zhongshan, and Foshan.
The city is known for luxury high-rise hotels like the Shangri-La Hotel, the Sheraton Shenzhen Futian Hotel, the Kempinski Hotel Shenzhen, the Ritz-Carlton Shenzhen, and the Four Seasons Hotel Shenzhen. Decent mid-range options include Hotel Novotel Shenzhen Watergate, Century Plaza Hotel and Spa, and Best Western Shenzhen Felicity Hotel.
Futian District - this is the city's CBD (Central Business District). Its impressive skyline is part of its appeal and notable high-rise buildings include the China Merchants Bank Tower and the Ping An International Finance Centre, China's second-tallest building and the world's fourth-tallest at 1969 feet.
Luohu District - Luohu lies to the east of Futian District, and the Shenzhen River is its southern border with Hong Kong's North District. The area is known for the Luohu Commercial City shopping complex, nightlife, and entertainment.
Yantian District - a neighborhood that's popular with visitors, Yantian's famous attractions include Sea World and Dameisha Beach.
The Shenzhen Metro (subway) system is convenient and easy to use. Trains run at three-minute intervals to over 199 stations until 11 pm and fares are from ¥2-9. Local buses cover every part of the city and fares are from ¥1-7, depending on your destination.
Green taxis can only operate within the SEZ, while red taxis can take you anywhere. Fares start at ¥10 for the first 1.24 miles and then ¥0.60 for each 0.155 miles. There is a ¥2 fuel surcharge on each trip and fares increase slightly at night. Tipping isn't expected but it's common to round up the bill to the nearest Yuan.
You must be a Chinese license holder to drive in Shenzhen. Many people book local drivers in order to enjoy the convenience of their own vehicle. You can rent a compact car from ¥266 per day from leading brands like Hertz and Avis.
Chinese and overseas visitors flock to massive malls like Luohu Commercial City for everything from custom clothing to designer copies in over 700 shops spread over five floors. The best bargains on clothing and home accessories can be found at Dong Men Pedestrian Street, and tea lovers should visit the Tea World Terminal Market. The city is also famous for electronics, and hundreds of sellers vie for your attention at the SEG Electronics Market in Huaqiang N Rd.
Popular international supermarkets include Walmart, Ole, and Carrefour. You'll find a dozen large eggs for ¥23 and a quart of whole milk for ¥15.
You'll come across every style of Chinese and international cookery in Shenzhen. Dine on Cantonese dishes and dim sum at Jin Yue Xuan (Shen Nan Avenue 6013), or try the upscale version at Shang Palace, Shangri-La Hotel Shenzhen near Luohu Port. BaShu Feng (AiGuo Road) is great for tasty home-style Sichuan dishes, or book a table at Trattoria D'Angelo at Sea World (subway Line 2 to Sea World Station) for tasty Italian when you feel like a change. A basic dinner is ¥239, while dinner for two in a top restaurant is from ¥453.