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22 amazing things to do in Shenzhen

The hottest spots across the border

Fairy Lake Botanical Garden
Calvin Sit
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No longer a place solely for cheap massages and counterfeit handbags, Shenzhen city boasts creative art spaces like OCT – Loft and OCT Contemporary Art Terminal, sprawling shopping malls including Upperhills and Uniwalk and fantastic restaurants, not to mention everyone’s favourite bubble tea HeyTea, making it a great destination for a quick weekend getaway. If you plan to visit our cool Mainland neighbour, here’s a guide to all the things to see, eat and do while you’re there. By Cara Hung, Sarah Moran and Olivia Lai

RECOMMENDED: If you're looking for a break without leaving the 852, head to one of these fabulous day-trip destinations.

Best things to do in Shenzhen

Restaurants

IH Café & Bar

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Social media has been going wild for this Moroccan-inspired café. While there are already four different locations in Shenzhen, the Futian district’s branch remains the most popular of them all. Why? From the Moroccan-style outdoor terrace to the gorgeous blue-and-white patterned tiles on the floor and swimming pool (though it’s empty of water) to the comfy wicker chairs, every corner is a photo shoot waiting to happen. It’s the perfect setting for coffee and conversation.

Restaurants, Pastelerías

Delisen

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Shenzhen may be famous for its local flavours, but there’s a western bakery that’s definitely worth visiting when you’re in town. Delisen’s thick-cut sandwiches are just as iconic as HeyTea’s hand-shaken tea, and each serving is brimming with ingredients – real bang for your buck. The pureed taro with pork floss sandwich and the pureed taro with salted egg option are particularly unique. 

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the haploids@shenzhen
Calvin Sit
Restaurants

The Haploid

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No, we’re not telling you to go visit a convenience store. Hidden behind afully-functional fridge is, in fact, a doorway to a two-storey bar. Prepare to be greeted by a whole different world once you make it to this basement speakeasy, boasting a sleek atmosphere courtesy of the dim lighting and jazz music playing in the background. Have a chat with the resident mixologists to get yourself the perfect drink.  

Fairy Lake Botanical Garden
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Things to do

Fairy Lake Botanical Garden

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If you’re a nature lover, be sure to check out Fairy Lake Botanical Garden. This attraction is a serene wonderland encompassing more than 500 hectares. With thousands of plants, not to mention artificial lakes and temples, you can easily spend a whole day exploring the entire garden. The desert plant area, with a huge arched greenhouse brimming with cacti of various shapes and sizes, is especially popular as an Instagram destination. Though the journey to Fairy Lake Botanical Garden isn’t a short one – you need to take a shuttle bus from the park ($6 one way) then walk about two kilometres – it’s nonetheless definitely worth the trek.

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Laps Laps
Calvin Sit
Restaurants, Diners

Laps Laps

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One of the most Instagrammable spots in the whole of Shenzhen, Laps Laps is an Americana-inspired retro diner dressed in bright pops of pinks and blues. After taking a photo with the hot pink convertible out front, indulge your sweet tooth with one of the decidedly OTT milkshakes topped with donuts and candies.

Upperhills
Calvin Sit
Shopping

Upperhills

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Located in the central downtown area of Futian, Upperhills is known for its colourful loft town with rows of dinky, picturesque buildings. More than 300 brands populate the mall and even though not all of the shops are open yet, there’s already more than enough for you to shop till you drop.

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Oct – Loft
Calvin Sit
Things to do, Cultural centres

OCT – Loft

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Covering more than 60 million square metres of space, OCT – Loft is the largest cultural and creative complex in Shenzhen, bringing together art studios, galleries, bookstores, restaurants, coffee shops and the like. Creative markets are held in the park every first and third weekend of each month, attracting creators from all over the world.

HeyTea
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Restaurants, Bubble tea

HeyTea

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Any foodie worth their salt should pay a visit to HeyTea during their Shenzhen food crawl. Specialising in hand-shaken beverages, this brand has gained widespread popularity on the Mainland, with people queueing for hours to get a taste. Try the rich cheese-cap tea, special fruit tea or bubble tea – all of which will leave you hankering for more. HeyTea outlets are widespread across Shenzhen but, lacking the usual crowds, the cosy and comfortable ambience of the Upperhills branch is a perfect spot to linger and people-watch.

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Hotels

Muji Flagship Store & Hotel

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While you’re at Upperhills, be sure to check out the first-ever Muji Hotel. The property spans six floors and boasts 79 rooms, a library, gym and restaurant. Expect Muji’s signature minimalist style to be a running theme here. If you don’t spend a night at the hotel, China’s biggest Muji flagship store is also worth a visit. The two-storey space includes products from Muji Books, Found Muji, Idée, Open Muji, and an embroidery workshop that’s not even available yet in Hong Kong.

K.Strawberry
Calvin Sit
Restaurants, Cafés

K.Strawberry

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When you get tired from all the intense shopping, rest your feet at the quaint and relaxing K.Strawberry café. The decor is chic and minimalist, the space bright and roomy. The wooden tables and green seats add a rustic touch, perfect for any hipster photos you want to take. Once you’re comfortably settled, sip on the massive strawberry cocktails or take a bite out of one of the exceedingly delicate lemon tarts.

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Seasons Coconut Chicken
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Restaurants

Seasons Coconut Chicken

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Haidilao may be one of the most popular restaurants in Shenzhen, but if you’ve already ticked that off your ‘to eat’ list and want to try something different, then grab a bite at Seasons. This restaurant chain is particularly famous for its coconut chicken hotpot and claypot rice. The former features a soup base brewed with fresh coconut water and the meat and fat from a whole chicken. Rich and refreshing, this is a dish that’s unmissable.

Museum of Contemporary Art & Planning Exhibition, Shenzhen
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Art

Museum of Contemporary Art & Planning Exhibition

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Shenzhen’s newest arts destination, Mocape has already attracted plenty of culture vultures. Part of the attraction is the stunning architectural design, which juxtaposes straight and sloped lines with curvatures and twists to create a bold, futuristic effect. The museum dazzles particularly under the sun, with both the interiors and exteriors reflecting the light to create a perfect display. As well as admiring the architecture, be sure to check out the many stunning, contemporary art pieces on display.

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Old heaven Books
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Restaurants, Cafés

Donkey Bar

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A visit to the cultural and creative hub of Oct – Loft wouldn’t be complete without spending some time at a local hipster coffee shop. Walking into the idyllic Donkey Bar is like walking into the Japanese fantasy film The Secret World of Arrietty. Luscious green plants and blooming flowers surround the alfresco dining space. When the sun shines down, it’s a beautiful picture of serenity and the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon sipping coffee with friends.

Luk Show
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Restaurants, Chinese

Luk Show

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Shenzhen residents adore Sichuan food, especially spicy fish with pickled mustard greens. One of the trendiest restaurants to visit for this dish, Luk Show always attracts a hungry crowd. Definitely order the signature sea bass, which comes in a large vat of sour soup and is topped with chilli, peppercorns, pickled mustard greens and other bold and spicy ingredients. Don’t forget the vermicelli at the bottom, which soaks up all of the dish’s delicious flavours. It’s the perfect thing to eat with some Chinese herbal tea.

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OCT Contemporary Art Terminal
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Art

OCT Contemporary Art Terminal

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The dull grey exterior of this warehouse may seem ordinary and unappealing, but step inside and you’ll find the exhibition space for OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (Ocat), a non-profit art museum that also has branches in Shanghai, Xian, Beijing and Wuhan. The Shenzhen location frequently hosts events, performances and exhibitions to promote contemporary art.

Uniwalk
Calvin Sit
Shopping

Uniwalk

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Famous for being the largest shopping mall in Shenzhen, the 360,000sq m Uniwalk boasts eight floors, more than 400 brands and 100 restaurants. Expect a lot of popular stores, including beverage brand Nai Xue Cha, grilled fish specialist Tan Yu and Jianghu Dongbaiding Barbecue Shop. There’s also a children’s playground and a large cinema, making this retail and leisure spot perfect for a day of family fun.

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Human Entheos Research Organization
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Shopping

Human Entheos Research Organization

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Made to look like a research centre, this place is actually a commercial hub dedicated to handicrafts. The street offers plenty of products from creative brands, and for those who like to get hands-on, there are workshops for carpentry, goldsmithing, leatherwork, flower arranging, pottery and more. Another fun element in this lab-like venue is the monitor that measures various aspects of your life, including luck, romance and career success.

UK KTV
Calvin Sit
Things to do

UK KTV

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Shenzhen is a great place to be if you love karaoke. Sing your heart out at UK KTV, which boasts a stunning environment with areas decked out in different themes, from pretty-in-pink to preppy British, among many others. Aside from providing the perfect backdrop for selfies, UK KTV offers amazing deals and plenty of cool gear, such as rotating mic stands so you can pretend you’re singing at your very own rock concert.

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Nanhai E-Cool
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Things to do

Nanhai E-Cool

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If you’re looking for a little peace and quiet among the hustle and bustle of Sea World (see below), the nearby creative culture park is where you need to go. Nanhai E-Cool was originally an old factory, later transformed into a centre for creative enterprises. The outer walls of this green oasis are covered with plants and within you’ll find speciality boutiques and cafés. Laid-back and free of crowds, this is the perfect place to relax in Shenzhen without having to venture too far out.

Sea World, Shenzhen
Calvin Sit
Things to do

Sea World

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Located on the west coast of Shenzhen, Sea World is instantly recognisable thanks to the iconic Minghua cruise ship, which combines a hotel, bars and restaurants all in one. Here, you can enjoy international cuisine, entertainment and endless activities. We also recommend checking out the exhibitions at the Culture and Arts Centre, which is flooded with natural light, making for a bright and cosy environment. Come nightfall, enjoy the musical fountain shows or head to the bar-lined streets for a drink or two.

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