There are very few cities in China that are like Shenzhen. It borders not only the tourist hotspot that is Hong Kong, but is also surrounded by the industrial region of the Pearl River Delta — better known as China’s manufacturing powerhouse.
The city is best described as an economic marvel, having been transformed from a marshy fishing village of 30,000 people into an 12 million-strong community that powers the great industrial engine of China –all in less than half a century. That means it’s also responsible for most of your electronic devices, so you’re a lot more connected to the booming city than you realise.
No surprise then, that it’s dubbed the ‘Silicon Valley’ of tech hardware, joining the ranks of other big names like Shanghai and Beijing to attract entrepreneurs and investors from all over the world.
Yet what it lacks in historic monuments and ancient heritage is make up by its cosmopolitan haven. Whether you’re making a trip down for work, or simply looking for a dynamic new city to explore, here’s how to make the best of your time in Shenzhen.
WHERE TO STAY
This is a five-star property in the Huaqiangbei area of Shenzhen, and sits 10 minutes away from the bustling city centre. The building is an architectural beauty and a curious sight for passers-by with its stark white facade with random cube-like formations protruding from its side. This captivation continues within; to evoke a homely environment in the city, the 85-key property employs earthy tones throughout its interiors. This palette continues into the spacious rooms and its minimalist furnishings.
3015 Hongli Road, Huaqiang North, Futian District, Shenzhen, Chin
Ritz Carlton Shenzhen
Another hotel well-versed in convenience and luxury is the 280-room Ritz Carlton Shenzhen that’s located in the heart of Futian district. The city’s centre of commerce is accessible to Shenzhen’s new metro system, which connects the city to the Hong Kong border. Here, you’ll be able to surround yourself with the city’s high-octane energy while still finding respite in its serene mix of natural elements.
Seven dining options are on hand for any occasion. Xingli offers a journey through China’s culinary best with Chiu Chow, Cantonese and Szechuan dishes served in opulent private dining settings, while Paletto is a favourite for its modern Italian cuisine. To unwind, head to the hotel’s spa, where treatments rooted in Chinese rituals and ingredients are highly recommended.
116 Fuhua San Rd, , Futian District, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China
OCT Bay Breeze Hotel
Besides being situated just a stone’s throw away from Window of the World, Happy Valley, and Exhibition Center, Oct Bay Breeze Hotel also has bragging rights as the best-designed boutique hotel in South China. Located in Shenzhen’s Nanshan neighbourhood, the five-star establishment is your stepping stone to plenty of the city’s best attractions, but it’s also a stylish respite to return to at the end of the day. Inside, the rooms are contemporary, with plenty of wood finishings and warm lighting to exude a homely environment.
No. 9 Haiyuan 2nd Road, Nanshan District, Shenzhen, China
Those who’ve always lived by Muji’s ethos of living minimally can now fully immerse themselves in this philosphy at Shenzhen’s Futian district. The cosy-zen aesthetic that’s now become synonymous with the Japanese lifestyle brand was translated into its first ever hotel earlier this year. This effortlessly stylish design code finds its way onto every nook and cranny here, from the hotel’s lobby to its 79 rooms.
Fans will also revel in the fact that the country’s largest Muji store is integrated into the hotel, alongside a restaurant and a library filled with literature on interior design and architecture.
UpperHills, No. 5001 Huanggang Road, Futian District, Shenzhen, China
The St Regis Shenzhen
It’s easy to see why this hotel is easily the city’s most luxurious property to stay at. Located on the 75th to 100th floor of the KK100, the St. Regis Shenzhen offers a chance to wake up to some of the most impressive views you’ll ever have of the city and beyond. The rooms here are well-appointed with luxurious finishings, a spacious marbled bathroom, and a Bang & Olufsen sound system.
Like every St. Regis property, your epicurean and wellness journey is just as important as your stay. Tian Gong’s interpretation of timeless Chinese creations have been lauded over the years for its authenticity, but those who craving Italian cuisine will find themselves equally satisfied at Elba. For some proper downtime, the Iridium Spa offers relaxing treatments with Aromatherapy Associate products.
No. 5016 Shennan Road East, Luohu District, Shenzhen, China
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Shenzhen might not boast as much culinary cred as its neighbouring cities, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, but it has a dining scene that’s slowly coming into its own.
Ensue is one that’s been under the spotlight for its haute take on local cuisine. Led by California-based chef Christopher Kostow — who also helms the three-Michelin-starred The Restaurant at Meadowood — Ensue offers five- or nine-course dinner degustation menus. Kostow might employ Californian culinary techniques here, but he still holds a high reverence for local flavours and produce. Expect dishes that incorporate regional delicacies, such as river eel from Guangdong and abalone from Dalian.
Address: 40F Futian Shangri-La Hotel, 4088, Yitian Rd, Futian District, Shenzhen, China.
For a more localised dining experience, Leyuan Street in Louhu offers the best seafood dishes the city can offer at reasonable prices. Thanks to its geographical location by the Pearl River Delta, Shenzhen is no stranger to high-quality seafood, and this ‘Seafood Street’ is a shining example.
While there are many eateries here that offer extensive menus of local dishes, it’s definitely way more interesting to personally select your preferred seafood from the endless rows of aquariums. Dishes such as the salt and pepper mantis prawns and steamed Turbot fish are always hot favourites here.
Address: Leyuan Road, Luohu District, Shenzhen, China.
A trip to the southern Guangdong province isn’t complete without a taste of authentic Cantonese fare. Jade Garden is well versed in the fine art of dim sum, and promises an extensive menu filled with decadent baskets of dumplings, buns and lotus leaf-wrapped glutinous rice. Yet the ultimate indulgence here remains to be the massive Napoleon, a flaky pastry dessert that sees fresh cream and fruit sandwiched between for a decadent end to your meal.
Address: 9028 Shennan Ave, Hua Qiao Cheng, Nanshan, Shenzhen, China
First impressions are everything, and Shark nails just that with that with not only an extensive wine list, but also its sign. Suspended above its entrance is a tank filled with live baby sharks as a literal interpretation of its very name. Novelty aside, the quality wines — handpicked by international sommeliers — and food here make it a popular spot for both locals and expats to spend the evening at.
Address: Shop 133, Block B, Coco Park, Fuhua Lu, by Yitian Lu, Shenzhen, China
THINGS TO DO
Shop at Nanhai E-Cool
Peace and quiet isn’t something you’ll often come by in a city as industrious as Shenzhen, but it still offers little pockets of peace and quiet beyond your hotel room. Nanhai E-Cool is one such spot. The industrial-park-turned-hipster-enclave is located at the intersection of Shekou Industrial 3rd Road and Taizi Road. Within the transformed area are quaint alleys and ivy-covered buildings that houses over 50 restaurants, bars, cafes and specialty boutiques.
Address: 6 Xinghua Rd, Shekou, Nanshan District, Shenzhen, China
Unwind at Missions Hills Golf Club (Shenzhen & Dongguan)
Shenzhen might be known as the tech mecca of the East, but it’s also a firm favourite for avid golfers. Of the dozens that dot the city, Missions Hills Golf Club was certified by the Guinness World Records for being the world’s largest golf facility in 2004. It currently has 11 championship courses and an 18-hole par three course, each designed by a different famous golf personality — think Jack Nicklaus, Ernie Els, and Vijay Singh. Little wonder then, that this course has attracted so many golfers looking to check this legendary name off their bucket lists.
Even if you’re not a fan of the greens, Mission Hills also has a spa, a five-star resort, and a country club incorporated into its premises, so there’s something for the entire family. The latter features Asia’s largest tennis centre with 51 courts on its compound.
Address: 1 Guanlan Gaoerfu Avenue, Longhua District, Shenzhen, China.
Visit historic Huizhou
When the city’s commotion becomes too much to handle, Huizhou is the perfect antidote from the bustle of modern China. Located adjacent to Shenzhen and within the Pearl River Delta economic zone, this historical city of Guangdong province is endowed with scenic spots, verdant hills, and tranquil waterways.
Today, its best tourist attraction is the West Lake. Beyond the facade of a sleepy neighbourhood lies a host of chic cafes, boutique hotels and restaurants serving Cantonese fare. Historical buildings, bridges and pavilions are still impeccably maintained, with ancient footpaths that allow for romantic lakeside wanders. The Huizhou West Lake Scenic Area pays great homage to Song Dynasty scholar Su Dongpo, who was said to be awestruck during his visit there. His lyrical ingenuity is now immortalised today at the very same spot with sculptures bearing his poems.
Looming over the Chinese city of Shenzhen at 442m high is the KK100 skyscraper. The world’s 15th tallest building (and Shenzhen’s second tallest) is now a quintessential part of the city’s skyline. Designed by Terry Farrell — the same architect behind the MI6 building in London — the KK100 is a colossus whose curved form and parabolic arch is said to evoke the image of a fountain, a Chinese symbol of wealth and prosperity.
If you dare, the 100th floor sees an observation deck that will impress you with one of the best views of Shenzhen. A bar awaits up there, and it’s one of the most breath-taking spots to enjoy a tipple come sundown.
Address: No. 5016 Shennan Road East, Luohu District, Shenzhen, China
This story first appeared in Lifestyle Asia Singapore