10 Must Sees in Shenzhen China

(Last Updated On: March 11, 2019)

Guidebook writers say Shenzhen, China is a pointless destination. It’s new, it’s gaudy, it has no soul or history. They are wrong. The city has been unfairly maligned. There is a lot to see and do in Shenzhen, China.  In case you’re in the neighborhood, my list of 10 Must Sees in Shenzhen, China.

Shenzhen China at night.
Shenzhen China at night.

Shenzhen City
Shenzhen is the third largest city in China, no small feat for a city only 30 years-old. What started as a fishing village of 30,000 has grown into a modern metropolis of 12 million. A city, with a population of one-third of Canada’s: Tell me that’s not something you must see?

Visit the Diwang Building
The Diwang building in Shenzhen’s downtown is the ninth largest building in the world and the largest steel skyscraper in China. Visitors can ride to the observation deck and look out over the city, Guangdong province, and on a clear day, Hong Kong. A nighttime visit offers stunning views of some of Asia’s newest and most creative buildings.

Shop in Dongmen
Definately another of the must sees in Shenzhen. Near the Hong Kong border is Dongmen Shopping Street (East Gate), a mecca for shoppers. Clothes, housewares, electronics: Anything you can imagine can be bought at Dongmen in the Luohu District of Shenzhen. Hone your bargaining skills beforehand, and haggle for the best deal while shopping in Shenzhen.

Fairy Lake Botanical Gardens
This huge park in east Shenzhen features walking trails, a petrified forest, and museum. Fairy Lake is also home to Hong Fa Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Shenzhen. Another attraction is a tree planted by former Chinese leader Deng Xiao Ping. The late Chairman Deng, who conceived of Shenzhen and its special economic zone status, is revered in the city.

prayer tree
The prayer tree at the Tianhou Temple.

Tianhou Temple
Chiwan Village, part of western Shenzhen, features an ancient temple to Tianhou, (or Matsu) the Mother of Heaven, and goddess of fisherman. She is worshiped across Asia. The original temple was built in 1410 after the fleet of Admiral and Explorer Zheng He was caught in a typhoon in the South China Sea. The temple offers visitors a glimpse of Chinese religion and myth – one of the must sees in Shenzhen – off the beaten path.

Royal Tomb
Nearby the Tianhou Temple in Chiwan is the tomb of the boy-emperor Song Shao, Last Emperor of the Southern Song Dynasty. He died when the Mongols chased the remnants of the Song court to China’s southern coast in 1279. A court official leaped into the sea with the boy, lest he be taken by the invaders.

Crane Lake Hakka Village
Another of the must sees in Shenzhen if you’re history buff. The Hakka were Northern Chinese, driven south by war. Their migration south started in the third century and lasted hundreds of years. They made their homes in walled communal villages in South China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. During the cold war the American military thought these villages (many round in shape) were missile silos. Crane Lake was the home of the Luo clan, and was completed in the 1800s. Visitors can see the partially restored buildings of the settlement, and learn more about the Hakka people and their culture.

Dapeng Fortress
Still on history, another must sees in Shenzhen is the Dapeng Fortress. Built during the Ming Dynasty, the Dapeng Fotresss once protected eastern Shenzhen and Hong Kong from Japanese pirates. In 1939 the British Navy, in an act that is considered the first of the Opium War, launched an attack. Chinese troops, in fishing boats, defeat the modern and better-equipped navy. The old fort features the residence of General Lai, General Liu Qilong, and three temples. Dapeng Fortress is a piece of history, witnessing almost 600 years of tumultuous events.

Flowers for the Chinese Goddess Guanyin.
Flowers for the Chinese Goddess Guanyin.

See Phoenix Mountain Temple and the Dragon King Temple
Very close to each other, these temples, are located in Shenzhen’s northwest. Legends say that sometime during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) a phoenix lived in a cave on a nearby mountain. During the Southern Song Dynasty a General walking in the area had a dream of Guanyin, the Goddess of mercy. She asked him to build a temple near the famous cave.  The Buddhist temple is a popular site, attracting worshipers and tourists. Nearby is a temple to the Dragon King, famous in Chinese folk tales. The temple is small but extremely ornate. The area of the two temples has been developed into a large park with walking trails and green spaces

Visit Xinan Old Town – Nantou Ancient City
Shenzhen’s Nanshan District is the home of Xinan Old Town also called Nantou Ancient City, a former government county seat, dating to the Ming Dynasty. The area was first constructed in 331 and was designated a heritage site. Archeological digs at the ancient city have uncovered more than 3000 artifacts, now stored in a nearby museum. Some of the original city walls and gate, as well as ancient wells and buildings, and a temple to Chinese Hero Guan Gong, still remain.

Eat and Drink at Sea World
When you hear Seaworld, you think of Shamu and leaping dolphins. Not the case in Shenzhen. Sea World in the Shekou area is Shenzhen’s expatriate hangout.  The centerpiece of the promenade is a former French cruise ship cemented into the ground, now being used as a hotel, and containing several restaurants and bars. The area also has international eateries, and offer visitors a chance to eat and drink something different than Chinese fare.

16 thoughts on “10 Must Sees in Shenzhen China

  1. Great list, Stevo. I’m surprised to read that people think Shenzhen is a pointless destination. John and I have been there several times, and we always found something interesting to do. We’ve been to SeaWorld and Window on China. We also spent a day at the amusement park there. Shopping in Dongmen also made for a successful day. We also enjoyed Crane Lake Village. In fact, some of the most interesting people we’ve met on the road were in Shenzhen. We had a good old night of drinking at a bar down on the wharf, and met some really interesting characters.

    Carrie´s last blog post..Slums Around the World

  2. Carrie: Thanks. I agree. Lonely Planet has a different view of Shenzhen. I think their Shenzhen section was written without visiting the city.

  3. It does sound like there’s a lot of interest. The city itself would probably make me feel claustrophobic, but I love the sounds of the temples, the garden and the tomb.

    You never get to visit a tomb here in Oregon.

    amuirin´s last blog post..The Concept of Story

  4. I am also surprised that any guide book would consider such a huge city a waste of time. I can’t imagine there aren’t totally unique things to experience in a place like Shenzhen. A great list, I certainly won’t let a guide book steer me away in my travels.

  5. amuirin: Yes, it does get claustrophobic at times. I sometime have to retreat from the hustle and bustle.

    Craig: Great idea.

    Shawn: You never know until you try…

    Graham: Guidebooks are useful, to a point. But, you can find something interesting in every place you visit.

  6. I live in Shenzhen, but I think the guidebooks are partially right. Just compare it to Shanghai, Beijing or HongKong and indeed there is little of interest. If you do come to Shenzhen though, there are certainly things to do and see. You listed some good things, but a couple of things you mention are not really convenient to visit because they are just very far away!

    Btw, Seaworld is really not interesting. Dafen oil painting village is much better than Seaworld. For Shenzhen people Wutong Shan is one of the most popular attractions, but for tourists it is indeed less exciting.

    On my website I wrote about several of the sights you mention:

    Thijs (Shenzhen)´s last blog post..Bowling in Shenzhen

  7. Soory we didn’t get to meet up on yer brief visit to Honkers but when my missus comes here we will be venturing to Shenzen for the spa pampering so hopefully meet you then

  8. Thijs: Welcome. Thank you for your thoughts and info.

    Jessie: Long time, no see. Thanks for the comment.

    QR: Sorry we didn’t meet up. I have to come over this week or next. Perhaps this time we’ll be successful. A spa pampering sounds great.

  9. I am in Shenzhen right now. I been to window of the world and the fairylake botanical gardens which are beautiful. It is indeed a busy and crowded city which I am not used to but yes, the shopping is great..if you go to the markets and world of men and women, there is so much you can buy if you can bargain in mandarin!

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