Shekou is an amazing neighborhood in Shenzhen, China.
When I first started writing for The Helpful Panda, I should have envisioned the day I would inevitably write about the Shekou bubble.
Once an expat moves to Shekou, they never leave.
And for a tourist in Shenzhen, Shekou offers a little slice of familiarity during your visit to China and a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown Shenzhen.
What is Shekou?
Shekou (蛇口) is a sub-district within the Nanshan district of Shenzhen.
For those who don’t know, Shenzhen is a southern city in Guangdong province which borders directly with Hong Kong.
You can actually see Hong Kong very clearly from many parts of Shekou.
The neighborhood itself is a little over 12 square kilometers (7 square miles) and home to about 100,000 people. More than 6,000 expats from around 54 different countries live here.
There aren’t many other places in China that can boast such figures.
For foreigners in China, Shekou offers all they need to feel at home.
A wide array of cuisine from all over the world, supermarkets with international products, foreign-owned gyms, nice (expensive) apartments and plenty of familiar, Western faces.
It’s not unusual to see many non-Chinese families in this part of the city as it’s home to a lot of international schools.
The adults teach there and the kids attend them as students.
If you don’t already know, teaching is a very common profession for expats living in China. This ex-teacher in China gives you some insight if you think this could be the career for you.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is this: you can easily forget that you’re in China when you visit Shekou.
I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I guess it depends on who you ask.
Shekou’s transport links
Within the city of Shenzhen, Shekou actually isn’t actually very well connected.
Metro line 2 will take you there, but some of the stops are quite spaced out. It’s at least a 45-minute metro ride from downtown Shenzhen.
Taxis are relatively cheap in China, so this is another option. However, do keep in mind that during busier periods the traffic might add a lot of time to your journey.
However, Shekou is also home to Shenzhen’s ferry terminal offering direct routes to Zhuhai, Macao, Hong Kong and Hong Kong International Airport.
It’s really convenient, and taking a boat is always fun!
Seasonal events in Shekou
Being home to so many expats means that Shekou is a good place to visit for a multitude of seasonal and cultural events.
You’ll find Christmas markets complete with a visit from Santa, giant turkeys at Thanksgiving buffets, Halloween pub crawls, all you can eat Diwali feasts, even Super Bowl shots at 7am on a Monday morning because thank you, time difference!
You name it, it’s probably being celebrated somewhere in Shekou.
Of course, Chinese holidays are also celebrated in this part of town, but the Western influence is more notable here than in any other area of Shenzhen.
Sea World Plaza
I have talked about Sea World before in my list of things to do in Shenzhen, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much.
Sea World is the social hub of Shekou. It’s not to be confused with the questionable theme park where dolphins are taught to perform for human entertainment.
Thanks to a plethora of restaurants, you can find cuisine from all over the world centered around a retired cruise ship called the Minghua. The ship was a French liner then cruise ship in the 1960s.
She’s actually had a pretty interesting past, taking part in refugee missions and friendship missions before arriving in Shekou in the 80s.
You can board the Minghua to enjoy some drinks or food from its deck. It’s also a hotel if you’re looking for something a little different in terms of accommodation.
The small area of water surrounding the old ship is the stage for a nightly light and water show.
It’s not exactly the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen, but I do still get a bit excited every time I happen to catch the display.
Also along the lines of the nautical theme, and just across from the plaza, you’ll find the Shenzhen Shekou Mermaid Statue. It’s perfect for all those mermaid lovers.
Sea World Culture and Arts Center
Museums aren’t really my thing, but I did visit this one once. Unfortunately, it was during a holiday and oh wow, was it busy!
However, if art is your thing then this is a wonderful place to check out in Shekou.
It’s partly run by the UK’s V&A Museum and hosts a variety of exhibitions throughout the year. Usually, a few different artists are showcasing their work at any given time.
Tickets can range in price, but shouldn’t be more than 200 yuan (US$30). This is somewhat pricey by Chinese standards.
You can find out all the information you could need right here.
The building is located on the waterfront so a wander along the bay could be nice after soaking up all that culture.
This is probably one of Shenzhen’s most popular hikes for a couple of reasons.
It’s located just behind Sea World so is quite easy to get to. You don’t have to travel out to the sticks to reach it.
The hike itself can be completed in just a few hours as the mountain is a little over 1,000 ft tall at its highest point.
This is ideal if you don’t have a whole day to dedicate to exercise or nature. In the extremely hot summers of Shenzhen, shorter hikes are probably preferable to most people.
The summit offers great views of Shekou, Shenzhen Bay, Hong Kong and on a clear day you can see a lot of Shenzhen in the distance.
I’ve never tried it, but I reckon with binoculars you’d be able to see downtown quite nicely.
Some of my friends have even been fortunate enough to see wild monkeys on the mountain, but I sadly haven’t spotted any myself. (If you’re into wildlife, check out this page on animals in China.)
Note: hikes in China, certainly from my experience, are often paved. This might differ from the muddy trails you have in mind. Expect a lot of steps!
A little luxury in Shekou
You’ll find all the tastes from home in international supermarkets like Carrefour.
Although a number of luxury hotels are located in Shekou giving it a Western feel, there are no high-end retail stores in the neighborhood.
Instead, international designer brands tend to be found in major malls in the central business district of Luohu, which is about 40 minutes away by car, or an hour on Shenzhen’s metro.
G&G Creative Community
This area is around a 10 to 15 minute walk from the main Sea World Plaza.
What was once a factory is now a trendy, repurposed hangout spot.
There are bars where you sit on deck chairs, bakeries where you dine around wooden pallets, coffee shops and even a small skateboarding area.
With graffiti-style murals and artwork on display, it’s a nice spot to grab a caffeinated or alcoholic beverage before you continue with your Shekou adventure.
It’s also not too far from my favorite park in the area.
Shekou is home to a few different parks, but Sihai Park gets my seal of approval.
It’s not too big, not too small. Just right for an afternoon wander after brunch.
There’s a manmade lake in the middle of the park, and a giant bull statue offering an interesting backdrop for your holidays snaps.
You’ll also see groups of elderly people playing cards or mahjong. This is a quintessentially Chinese sight to behold, and one that I never really tire of.
As a foreigner in China, this might be the only time you’ll walk past a group of elderly people and not have them stare at you with intrigue.
As you wander around the park, keep your eyes and ears peeled. Dance troupes and musicians will often use the park as a rehearsal space.
For passersby like you and me, this means a free performance. From jazz, to folk music, to hip hop dance. It’s always a surprise.
Sometimes they’re actually really good! On the whole, it seems to be socially acceptable to stop and enjoy the show for a while.
The overall verdict of Shekou
If you’re in China to escape the West and immerse yourself in Chinese culture, then Shekou is probably not the place for you.
Heck, Shenzhen with its mere 40 years of history might not even be the city for you!
If, however, you have some time to spare and are feeling a little homesick, then it’s ideal.
New attractions and establishments are constantly popping up so it’s particularly great for expats residing in Shenzhen.
Do you think you’ll make some time to check out Shekou during your next visit to Shenzhen? Let me know in the comments below!
More info about Shenzhen
Dig deeper into this amazing part of China:
- Shenzhen travel guide – if you’re coming for a few days
- Living in Shenzhen – if you’re staying a lot longer
- Shenzhen border crossing – an interesting story
- What to do in Shenzhen – the best highlights
Main image credit: Anna Polukhina on Shutterstock.
Frequently asked questions about Shekou
What is Shekou weather like?
Shenzhen is a subtropical city and it can get very muggy in the middle of the year. The summer is long while the winter is relatively short, dry and mild.
What can you do in Shekou?
Sea World Plaza is popular among expats for its international cuisine, museum, and cool vibe. There’s also a park and nearby mountain for hiking.
How do you get from Shekou to Shenzhen?
You can catch the Metro (45 minutes) or take a taxi or rideshare (up to an hour depending on traffic).
Where is Shekou Port?
It’s part of the Shekou area in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, southern China.