The Top 22 Things to See and Do in Shenzhen

Shenzhen at night
Shenzhen at night | © fuyu liu/Shutterstock
Sarah Karacs

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.

1. OCT Loft Creative Culture Park


Think Shenzhen is a cultural desert? Think again. Fast becoming China’s creative capital, the city has become a magnet for designers, innovators and artists. Many feel more than at home in the city’s boho enclave, OCT Loft. Located in a former factory district, it now plays host to numerous art galleries, bookstores, quirky coffee shops, live music venues and fun watering holes. With its contemporary Art Terminal alone covering 3,000 square meters, you’ll want devote at least one afternoon to exploring this curious and vibrant corner of Shenzhen.

2. Window of the World

Architectural Landmark

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.

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.

Nanshan mountains

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.

Nanshan Mountains

Sea World

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, China financial district skyline

Shenzhen Museum

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.

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.

A female painter painting a Vincent van Gogh masterpice in her studio in Dafen

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.

MixC Shopping Mall

Pay a visit to Mainland China’s first stock exchange

Mainland China’s economic opening up saw Shenzhen transformed from a series of small villages into a bustling powerhouse over a mindbogglingly short time period. The first stock exchange in China (excluding former British colony Hong Kong, of course) can now be found in an impressive 49 storey skyscraper in Futian district, where it has been located since 2013. The stock exchange itself was officially opened in 1987 and is now the world’s 8th largest.

Dive into the technology treasure trove that is Huaqiangbei street

Fancy an virtual reality headset at a knock off price? Or what about a 3D printer? Whether you’re into innovation and consider yourself a “maker” with strong tech know, or you just want to find the cable that’s been eluding you, a visit this vibrant district will be an experience like no other. The spirit of Shenzhen – a city transitioning from being a electronics manufacturing hub to one of tech innovation – is embodied in this street like nowhere else.

Explore the urban villages

Shenzhen mght be a young city, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of legacies of older times. Wedged between the shiny skyscrapers and massive roads you’ll find a unique slice of city life. These urban villages are found in the locations of the original villages that existed before Shenzhen became a Special Administrative region. It’s evolved organically, frenetically and outside the remit of urban planners and is home to many migrants trying to survive in the city on a shoestring.

Visit what claims to be the world’s biggest bookstore

China is famous for many things, but what tends to go under the radar is the huge love of books its citizens share. This reverential respect for the written word can be found in Book City, which on a weekend will have a lively vibe akin to that of a music festival. This vast store also boasts a 24 hour book bar, if you want to pull an all nighter with a novel you just can’t put down.

Watch birds migrating from Siberia in the mangroves of Shenzhen Bay

China’s smallest national park boasts coconut palm tree shaded walks and rare sightings of birds making their winter homes. Though there were plans to build a freeway through the habitat, environmentalists protested and the freeway moved north by 200 metres.

Witness jazz musicians from across the world

A city of young, daring and intrepid types, Shenzhen does not get the attention it deserves as creative, happening place for the offbeat arts. But that is starting to change. Its month long jazz festival is hosted by curators at B10 Livehouse in the converted factory complex OCT Loft. Its success is testament to the increasing demand for cultural offerings in the city.

Wander through a Hakka beach village

There are a number of beaches in Shenzhen, but one of the most charming is also home to an ethnic minority village well worth exploring. Meaning “southern inlet” Na’nao is a hamlet of Hakka origins, Hakka being an ethnic minority in China with its own culture and dialect.

Visit Dapeng fortress

Built in 1349 to fend off marauding Japanese pirates, the fortress offers a rare glimpse at South Chinese military history. It later developed into a town during the Ming and the Qing dynasty. Its historic streets are well worth a visit, boasting mansions built for admirals of yore.

Hear Edgy Local Acts at Brown Sugar Jar

While you might be temped to stick to more established watering holes and drinking districts, a trip to underground live music venues will offer a window into the world of local music tastes and subcultures. Hong Tang Guan (Brown Sugar Jar) is known for putting on experimental acts that push musical boundaries and attract interesting people. It has two branches: Those particularly keen on punk music will want to visit their branch in Chenggongmiao for lively night out.

Revel in History at Chiwan Old Fort

Shenzhen might only technically be less than half a century old, but that doesn’t mean the place itself doesn’t have much history. This small and secluded fort might not be the easiest to find, but it’s worth a visit for those interested in the Opium Wars and military forts. Built in 1717 during the Qing dynasty to protect the Pearl River from the British, what remains is the “left fort” complete with a cannon and a statue of Lin Zexu, the scholar-official who forcefully opposed the Opium trade and such became a catalyst for the start of the First Opium War.

Rent a Bike at Shenzhen Bay Park

Occupying a 13 kilometre long stretch along Shenzhen’s southern coast, Shenzhen Bay Park proves a popular day out and offers an different slice of Pearl River Delta life away from the high rise hustle and bustle. Nearby you’ll also find an ecological park and nature reserve that’s home to many species of endangered birds and mangroves.

Lose Yourself in Baishizhou

Baishizhou is one of Shenzhen’s largest urban villages. Explore this dense warren of activity that is home to migrant workers trying to scrape together a living in the city of colliding worlds. Urban villages are fascinating facets of Shenzhen life, owing to their history as the locality’s original villages and the unique and the organic ways they have developed.

Culture Trips 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. 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 places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.?>

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,100 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article