Just across the Hong Kong border lies UNESCO-awarded city of design Shenzhen, a southern Chinese metropolis that has exploded in size since it became a Special Economic Zone in 1979. Once a market town of 300,000, it is now the stomping ground of over 10 million citizens across ten districts. While it is home to mainland China’s first stock market and MacDonald’s, the city has a lot more to offer than the window it has provided into the world of capitalism. Read our guide below for tips on how to make the most of Shenzhen’s historical, design, shopping and culinary offerings.
Meridian View Centre
Those wanting to gawp at the breathtaking views of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong border would be advised to head to Diwang Mansion, one of the city’s tallest buildings. Located on the 69th floor at a height of 384 meters, the Meridian View Centre supplies telescopes with which you can view the mega-city in all its sprawling glory. You’ll see strips of green entwined with the glimmering skyscrapers and modern architectural wonders.
Like it’s hilly neighbor Hong Kong, Shenzhen is much more than cityscapes and shopping malls. Escaping into the countryside is a must. The Nanshan mountains in Shekou prove to be a particularly pleasurable getaway. With beautiful views of the ocean and moderate climbs, its tranquillity and remoteness provide a wonderful contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city.
This western-style entertainment zone got a total revamp in 2003 when the government chose to capitalize on the reputation it had garnered as a spot popular for its international scene. With chilled out beer gardens and more raucous clubs, it’s just as good a place to spend a boozy afternoon as it is for going on a heady night out. Sea World is not to be confused with Shenzhen’s marine park in Xiaomeisha.
Futian Central Business District
The economic heart of the city, Futian CBD is a must-see for those fascinated by modern architecture. Home to a gleaming new city government building alongside a vast library, concert hall and youth palace, the district is emblematic of the Shenzhen story—it’s bold, futuristic, impressive and only started to come into its own after the ’90s. Stretching into the sky is the (as yet) unfinished Ping An Finance Centre, which will be one of the world’s tallest buildings when completed.
Shenzhen might be famous for its flashy modernity, but this doesn’t mean it’s devoid of history. In fact, records of human habitation in the region stretch back centuries. Shenzhen museum gives a good overview of the area’s history, ranging from prehistoric times to present day. Highlights of the displays found within include replica streets and extensive information on its boom following 1979’s dramatic policy reforms.
Window of the World
A visit to China would not be complete without a truly kitsch experience. This can be found at Window of the World, a ‘mini-globe’, where you can find replicas of the Eiffel tower, the Niagara falls and the leaning tower of Pisa—all in miniature. Around 130 tributes to global attractions are dotted around the park, which offers a curious glimpse at how entertainment developers portray the outside world in a country that opened up to the global market thirty years ago, after decades of insularity.
Dameisha and Xiaomeisha beaches
To the east of Shenzhen stretches a coastline that’s 19 kilometers in length. Asides from the beach, Dameisha is abundant in reefs, islands, caves and picturesque cliff sides. With its modern marina alongside traditional seafood restaurants serving live fish plucked from tanks, it’s well furnished, and free, but sometimes gets a bit busy—especially on public holidays. Beach revelers seeking a quieter spot might prefer Xiaomeisha beach, situated further along the coast.
Dafen oil painting village
As the world’s largest producer of replica oil paintings, Dafen proves to be a unique experience, consisting of over 1,200 galleries containing masterpieces from Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans and Klimt’s Embrace. Covering less than half a square kilometer, this fine arts workshop was set up as an artists’ colony in 1989, drawing in painters with its low rental prices. Nowadays, it also serves as a springboard for artists showcasing their original works.
Luohu Commercial City
While we’d like to impress the diversity of experiences on offer beyond shopping in Shenzhen, no list of activities would be complete without mentioning its vast shopping malls. Of these, Luoho might well be its most popular and famous, boasting designer bags going for high street prices alongside businesses offering tailor-made suit services. While you’re there, you might want to go for a soothing and inexpensive massage, as is customary for travelers visiting Shenzhen.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.