Shenzhen, which connects Hong Kong to China's mainland, is one of the most popular cities in southeast China. It is best known for shopping and entertainment, thanks to its large malls and many family-friendly amusement parks.
Nearly 50 years ago, Shenzhen was little more than a fishing village, but have evolved into a city of more than 8 million people and is rapidly expanding to become a top retail destination. Some believe that the best sights of Shenzhen are its multitude of shops that cover everything from clothing to electronics, but there are also some major attractions, such as mini Eiffel Towers and bohemian artist's villages.
If you are making a trip to China and planning on staying overnight in Shenzhen, spend some time exploring some of its sights and recreational opportunities, beyond the shopping.
Amble Through Lianhuashan Park
Located in the heart of Shenzhen, the 370-acre Lianhuashan Park offers a bit of green space amidst the sprawling concrete city. The park is centered by a 350-foot hill with a bronze statue of politician Deng Xiaoping at the top. From here, you'll find sweeping views of the city as well as places where families enjoy sitting to picnic and fly kites. There is also a large lake where you can rent paddle boats for a small fee.
Watch Art in Action at Da Fen Oil Painting Village
Most major Chinese cities now host artist's villages, where thousands of artists live and create replicas of the world's best paintings. Da Fen, which became an artist's hub in the 1980s, stands out for its impressive past—it once produced more than 60 percent of the world's oil paintings. Just don't expect a quaint artist's retreat—the over 5,000 artists in Da Fen often produce the paintings in factory conditions, turning them out like cars on a production line.
There are also hundreds of individual artists who will paint a replica of Rembrandt or Monet in just a few hours with paintings cost as little as $40.00. Even if you don't plan on buying a piece of art, it's a fascinating cultural phenomenon and walking through the dusty streets, lined with works by the great masters, is nothing short of surreal.
Explore Window of the World
Window of the World is Shenzhen's number one attraction. It is a collection of about 130 replicas of world sights and landmarks, all within the 120-acre theme park. The word "miniature" doesn't really do the re-creations justice as in some cases they are two-thirds of the size of the original.
The focus is firmly on Europe, with recreations of London's Houses of Parliament, Paris's Eiffel Tower, and Rome's Coliseum. Elsewhere, there are substantial American and Asian collections.
On top of the replicas, you'll find themed streets and food as well as dance shows. The park also puts on an impressive laser and light show. With its amusement park atmosphere, Window of the World is an excellent way to keep the kids entertained all day.
See the Terracotta Warriors at the Folk Village
If you like Window of the World, check out Splendid China Folk Village, the sister site to Window of the World. This attraction focuses on the history, art, architecture, and culture of Mother China. It offers replicas of the country's best sights, such as the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors.
You can see all the way to the Shenzhen-Hong Kong border from Diwang Mansion, one of the Shenzhen’s tallest buildings. On the 69th floor of the Meridian View Centre, there are telescopes you can use to view the details of the city streets, the skyscrapers, and urban parks.
Enjoy the Creativity at OCT Loft
Shenzhen is much more than a center for copying the Old Masters. It's becoming China’s creative capital attracting modern designers, inventors, and artists. The up and coming artsy community at OCT Loft is housed in what was once a manufacturing district. There are art galleries, bookstores, coffee shops, bars, and bistros. The Art Terminal is huge and fun to explore.
This nightlight mecca is not your family-type sea world. It's a western-type entertainment zone where you can find beer gardens and nightclubs that draw an international clientele. There is a real ship that is the centerpiece of the complex, and the area is surrounded by water—thus the name, Seaworld.
At night, enjoy the musical water fountains and find cuisines from across the globe. There are Chinese, Korean, Indian, Mexican, and American steak house restaurants. After dinner and drinks, walk down to the docks and catch the nighttime view of Shekou harbor.
Shenzhen seems like a contemporary city, but the Shenzhen Museum is a great place to learn about the area’s centuries-old culture. The museum provides a detailed history and background so visitors can better understand the timeline of events leading up to the current contemporary boom.
Eating Dim Sum is a can't miss experience while in China. The Shang Palace in the Shangri-La Hotel is one of the best places to enjoy this Cantonese delight.
The dining room is upscale and beautifully decorated. In this lux setting, you'll select from a broad variety of dumplings, rice, and meat dishes. Dim Sum is only a small part of the varied menu with specialties from many regions of China. Huaiyang cold dishes are available as well as Sichuan and Chiu Chow dishes.
There are shopping centers for almost anything you want to buy, but you'll save money if you plan ahead and do a little research.
Luohu Commercial City is where most day-trippers from Hong Kong shop. Featuring over 700 shops on over five floors, Commercial City is an intense shopping experience with hundreds of salespeople and hustlers all jostling for your attention. It is here that you'll find some knock-offs, but at Commercial City you're going to the quality that matches the amount you pay. The best buys here are clothing, tailored suits, and even cut-rate massages.
Hike the Wutong Shan
Wutong Shan, Shenzhen’s highest mountain, is 3,094 feet (943 meters) in altitude. You can hike the scenic trails or take the stairs for the hike which is a little over 6.2 miles up and back.
Most trails begin at Wutong Village and will take almost 4 hours to complete. Once you are at the top, enjoy the views of Shenzhen. It will be faster going back down—about half the time.
Overseas Chinese Town (OCT) is a massive complex consisting of nature parks, theme parks, and cultural villages. In OCT East are two main theme parks: Knight Valley and Tea Stream Valley.
Knight Valley has a water park, a tropical forest, and a skywalk made of glass. Tea Stream Valley is the more calming area where you can enjoy the natural setting of the Wetland Garden, take tea in the Sanzhou Tea Garden or the Ancient Tea Town.
The Mangrove Seashore Ecology Park, a small nature preserve, is a draw for bird watchers. It's a nice place to stroll where you can enjoy the marsh life, view Hong Kong across the bay, and even catch sight of some birds making a stop while migrating from Siberia.
Climb Nanshan Mountain
The trailhead for the Nanshan Mountain trail is not far from the entrance to Seaworld. The path consists of about 700 steps and takes several hours to go up and return down. You'll be able to rest on benches along the way and at the top be rewarded by a spectacular vista of the Nanshan District.
There is also a trail on the other side of the mountain which is accessed via a gated entrance on the right side of the gate to the Shanhaiyun Community.
The Huaquangbei District in Futian has the biggest electronics market in China. Here you'll find the latest inventions, parts for older electronics, and cameras. There are three main markets in the district: SEG Electronics, Huaqiang Electronics, and Cyber.
One of the best places in the world to buy electronics and computer goods, the SEG computer market is packed with eight floors of small, independent dealers of both software and hardware for computers and all types of electronics.
You'll find knock-offs, so buyer beware. If you can get your product in the original, unopened box at a reasonable (not cheap) price, you probably have the real deal.
A crowded, bustling old-fashioned Chinese shopping experience, Dongmen Old Street is several blocks long and has malls, market stalls, winding side streets, and plazas. The vendors sell shirts, food, handbags, shoes, underwear, and more. Be prepared to bargain at the market stalls and look for heavy discounts at the malls.
Relax at the Beach
Enjoy the sand and water at Dameisha and Xiaomeisha beaches, both in the Yantian district.
Dameisha Beach is a sandy beach with sculptures set along clear water and some rock formations dotting the shore. A Sheraton resort sits next to the beach if you want a bit more of a luxury experience. Xiaomeisha, a smaller beach, is quieter and very pretty but there is an entrance fee.
Visit the Fortress
Dapeng Fortress, about an hour from Shenzhen, is a Ming Dynasty walled city that once defended the mainland from pirates. In some ways, its a living history village as people still reside in the preserved town. You can walk the narrow streets, go shopping, stop for a meal or stay overnight at a quaint guesthouse.
The trip from the city takes about 1 hour by taxi—which is the recommended means of transport as the public bus will extend the journey to about 2.5 or 3 hours.
Reflect at Tianhou Temple
Tianhou Temple was built as an act of appreciation to the goddess of the sea for saving Chinese explorer Zheng He after he encountered a devastating storm at sea.
The temple is not original—it has been rebuilt several times over the years, but is a classic example of a traditional Chinese temple. There is a museum to visit, rooms to explore and you'll likely see locals coming to pray.
Walk Historic Nantou
Nantou, Shenzhen has been a town for 1,700 years. While there are modern buildings, the location has preserved much of its history.
If you enter at the town’s South Gate, you will see the original town wall that was built in the 14th century. While there are the expected modern shopping venues, you can still find old shops selling traditional Chinese herbs and household goods tucked in some of the buildings on ancient streets.