Shenzhen - City Intro and Travel Guide

Shenzhen - City Intro and Travel Guide

By Kimi HuangUpdated Oct. 2, 2021
Shenzhen's location in ChinaShenzhen's location in China

Just 40 years ago, Shenzhen was a small seaside town. Now it's one of China's biggest and most important cities.

The opening of the new bullet train line to Hong Kong in 2018 has made Shenzhen a much more popular place for tourists. Now tourists can reach Shenzhen from downtown Kowloon in about 19 minutes!

The city has been named one of China's most livable cities and one of the world's 25 top high-tech development cities. Lonely Planet's list of the top 10 cities to visit in 2019 ranks Shenzhen as second in the world! Tourists are recognizing Shenzhen as one of the best tourist destinations in the world.

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Where is Shenzhen?

Shenzhen is located on the southern tip of central Chinese mainland, It is the city in Guangdong Province that is adjacent to Hong Kong on the Mainland China border and roughly 100 kilometres (62 mile) southeast of the provincial capital of Guangzhou. It has flourished in this favorable location and become the Mainland's “coolest city”.

  • Longitude and  latitude :  longitude 113°46 'to 114°37' east , latitude 22°24 'to 22°52' north 

What Shenzhen is Famous For?

During 40 years of rapid development, Shenzhen has become China's biggest electronics manufacturing and export city, a key part of China’s "factory of the world". Thanks to a booming trade in electronics, Shenzhen has become China's richest city on the mainland with the highest GDP per capita.

Shenzhen’s high-tech industries are developing rapidly. Home to a host of world-famous companies, including Huawei, Tencent, ZTE, and DJI, Shenzhen is also known as China's "Silicon Valley".

Contact us for a customized tour in Shenzhen.

Shenzhen’s Development from a Village to Metropolis

Night view of Shenzhen Nanshan districtNight view of Shenzhen Nanshan district

The name of "Shenzhen" was first recorded in 1410 (the 8th year of Emperor Yongle in the Ming Dynasty). In the local dialect, the ditches between the fields are commonly known as zhen (/jnn/) or yong, the name Shenzhen (‘deep ditch’ /shnn-jnn/) came from the fact that there was a deep irrigation ditch near the village. It started to grow with trade in the early Qing Dynasty (1644–1912).

The most striking thing about Shenzhen is its development history as a Special Economic Zone in China and its meteoric rise from a small fishing town in the Pearl River Delta to being one of China’s most innovative modern metropolises.

In May 1980, the Central Committee designated Shenzhen as a Special Economic Zone, and Shenzhen implemented special economic policies and economic management systems to create a favorable investment environment, encourage foreign investment, and adhere to an export-oriented economy model as the goal of development.

In the past 40 years, Shenzhen's GDP grew from less than 200 million yuan to 2.7 trillion yuan, and the population grew by 19.5 million people!

  • 1980–1990: The Special Economic Zone was set up. Shenzhen was endowed with an economic management authority equivalent to provincial level status. The first stock exchange in the People's Republic of China was born in Shenzhen.
  • 1991–2000: Luohu, Bao’an, Nanshan, Longgang, and Yantian districts were established.
  • 2001–2010: Shenzhen was the first city in China to be awarded the “no rural areas and no farmers city” status. Guangming and Pinshan districts were established.
  • 2010–present: Longhua New District and Dapeng New District were set up. The China (Guangdong) Pilot Free Trade Zone in the Qianhai and Shekou Area was officially established. The CPC Central Committee and the State Council supported Shenzhen in building a pilot demonstration zone for socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Shenzhen Weather

Shenzhen Lianhuashan ParkShenzhen Lianhuashan Park

Shenzhen is in a humid subtropical climate zone with wet, scorching summers and mild, sunny winters. Its coastal maritime weather is changeable and keeps the pollution away, making Shenzhen one of the better major cities of China for air quality.

The best time to visit Shenzhen is from October to April. The weather during this period is pleasant with much less rainfall and the occurrence of a typhoon is very rare compared to the summer months. See more details on Shenzhen Weather.

Recommend tour: 4-Day Essence of Guangzhou and Shenzhen Tour

Is Shenzhen Safe for Travel?

Shenzhen is definitely a safe city for travel. China is a country with strict gun controls and penalties for crime, and now police patrols and CCTV are everywhere on the streets, visitors don't have to worry too much about safety even if they are out at 4 or 5 a.m.

However, Shenzhen is a migrant city with a complex population structure, so pickpocketing and theft can still happen occasionally. Generally, as an international metropolis, the safety of Shenzhen must be among the top cities in the world.

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Shenzhen Food

Sticky rice with red sugarSticky rice with red sugar

Shenzhen is nowhere near being a gastronomical capital like neighboring Hong Kong, but you'll find cuisines from all over China due to the migration of large numbers of people from across the country.

There are also many Asian restaurants and Western-style restaurants. They are notably less expensive than those in Hong Kong. Click for more about Shenzhen restaurants and food.

Contact us to customize a Shenzhen Food tour.

Shenzhen Shopping

Shenzhen Dongmen comercial areaShenzhen Dongmen comercial area

Shenzhen has good shopping opportunities, and it is well-located next to Hong Kong. The better buys include electrical appliances, digital products, clothing produced in China, and jewelry.

Shopping in Shenzhen is not just about buying items: it is a good way to get to know the city from another perspective. For example, you can find everything you need to create a smartphone in Huaqiangbei, and there is a lot more for you to discover.

Check out more on Shenzhen Shopping. or contact us to customize a Shenzhen shopping tour.

Top Things to Do in Shenzhen

1. Experience a Metropolis Atmosphere

Night view of Shenzhen KingKey 100 TowerNight view of Shenzhen KingKey 100 Tower

The Ping An Finance Centre in Futian District is the tallest skyscraper in Shenzhen.

When ascending the skyscraper, it might be hard to imagine that the view below used to be small villages. In this young, active, and creative city, you will never get bored of the stunning architecture, interesting theme parks, and restaurants offering gourmet food from all over the world.

Shenzhen is also a sleepless city. At night, the view of the downtown area is possibly more beautiful than it is in the daytime. There are also countless bars and clubs for you to enjoy at night.

Also read: China's 10 Tallest Skyscrapers — about half of the world's tallest skyscrapers.

Explore more about New Shenzhen

2. Visit Shenzhen's Interesting Theme Parks

Shenzhen Window of the WorldShenzhen Window of the World

Although the theme parks in Shenzhen are not world class like the ones in Hong Kong, they are fun options to spend a day or half a day in, especially if you are traveling with your kids. They are clustered just north of Shenzhen Bay around the Window of the World.

  • Window of the World covers about 4,000 square meters and has miniature replicas of famous places.
  • Folk Culture Village has dancers and musicians and artists representing China's various ethnic people groups.

3. Discover Shenzhen’s “Urban Villages”

Shenzhen Dafen Oil Painting VillageShenzhen Dafen Oil Painting Village

When you step away from the downtown area, you will discover the urban villages of Shenzhen. Different from the slums in some countries and cities, the urban villages in Shenzhen are not dirty and disorderly, but are tightly-packed, less-high-rise, and lively places for people who go to Shenzhen to realize their dreams.

Dafen Oil Painting Village might be the most famous one. At its peak, over 60% of oil paintings sold on the market originated from Dafen. Although most of the paintings there are copies, it is a great place to get closer to the local painters and hear their storiess.

4. Discover Shenzhen Outdoors

Shenzhen Qianhai ParkShenzhen Qianhai Park

Shenzhen's city parks are places to exercise and to see the local people and scenery. See more on these on Free Things to Do in Shenzhen.

Shenzhen has mountains, hills, and beaches. They are also good places for exercise and a scenic break from the big city. For example, Wutong Mountain is the second tallest mountain in the Pearl River Delta after Hong Kong's Tai Mo Shan.

Contact us for a bespoke private tour or join our 4-Day Guangzhou and Shenzhen Essence Tour

Shenzhen Transportation

Shenzhen north railway stationShenzhen north railway station

Shenzhen’s transportation system is well developed. It is easy for visitors to get there quickly and comfortably by air, train, or ship. Check out Shenzhen Transportation for details of different ways to Shenzhen.

Transportation between Hong Kong and Shenzhen

Currently, there are railway, highway, and waterway options available between Hongkong and Shenzhen. For tourists and travelers, the Shenzhen – Hong Kong high-speed train that opened in 2018 makes going between Hong Kong and Shenzhen much quicker and more convenient than previously.

High-speed trains from Hong Kong to Shenzhen depart from Hong Kong's newly-built West Kowloon Railway Station (Chinese: 香港西九龙站). They stop at Shenzhen Futian and Shenzhen North railway stations. From West Kowloon, they quickly and conveniently whisk people across the border in about 16 minutes to Futian and about 19 minutes to Shenzhen North. See more on Shenzhen to Hong Kong Transport and Ports (Border Crossings) .

Transport from Shenzhen to Hongkong/MacauTransport from Shenzhen to Hongkong/Macau

The recommended Hongkong tours:

Transportation between Shenzhen to Guangzhou

Transport between these two big cities in South China is very convenient and efficient. Travelers can take a coach or a train (ordinary or bullet) to come and go between Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Check out Guangzhou to Shenzhen Transportation for details.

Recommended tour: 4-Day Essence of Guangzhou and Shenzhen Tour

Transportation from Shenzhen to Macau

The direct distance between these two cities is only about 80 kilometers, but a bay separates the Shenzhen and Macau.

The most common way to travel from Shenzhen to Macau is to take a ferry. If you have no concerns about budget, enjoying a helicopter ride is a luxury option, or you can transit via Hong Kong or Zhuhai. See more on Shenzhen to Macau Transport.

Shenzhen Visas

Shenzhen Visa on arrivalShenzhen Visa on arrival

People from most countries don’t need to apply for a full China visa to visit Shenzhen. Instead, applying for a Visa on Arrival (VOA) is both swift and convenient.

No matter whether you arrive in Shenzhen by air or travel from Hong Kong to Shenzhen by land or water, you can apply for a VOA at the port with just your passport.

Check out our Shenzhen Visa page to see if you are eligible to apply for a VOA and how to get one.

Shenzhen Hotels

Shenzhen OCTShenzhen OCT

As a tier 1 city in China, Shenzhen’s hotel industry is well developed. Different areas of the city have different advantages or benefits for visitors. Visitors can select from a huge range of options: from high-grade star hotels to all kinds of chain hotels, youth hostels, etc.

The best place to stay in Shenzhen depends on who you are and why you’re visiting:

  • If you are paying your first visit to Shenzhen: Luohu District or Futian Districte
  • If you are traveling with your family and going to visit some theme parks: Nanshan District or Overseas Chinese Town (OCT)
  • If you are traveling with the one you love: near Dameisha Beach
  • If you are traveling on a budget: Longhua District
  • If you only have a one-night layover: stay near Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport.

See more on Best Places to Stay and Recommended Hotels in Shenzhen.

Touring Shenzhen Your Way

We can help you explore Shenzhen, discover more about the area, and much more. We could start by customizing a popular tour plan or from your ideas.

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