Shenzhen has gone through immense change.
Just over 30 years ago, it was a quiet Chinese fishing village on the border with Hong Kong.
Now, Shenzhen is a sprawling megacity located in southern Guangdong province, or more specifically, the Greater Bay Area.
I’ve written before about the things I enjoy doing in Shenzhen and so today I thought I’d give you an overview of each of the 10 districts which make up the city.
For the sake of keeping things fair, I’ve opted for alphabetical order. I would never play favorites!
1. Bao’an District 宝安区
If you’ve ever looked into flying to Shenzhen, the name of this district should be familiar.
Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport (SZX) is the city’s only airport and it can be found, of course, in Bao’an District. From here you can fly to destinations across the country and the world.
Bao’an has been rapidly expanding over the past few years.
What was once a relatively quiet district on the outskirts of Shenzhen is quickly becoming a major pull for visitors to the city.
Recent additions include a giant convention center conveniently located not too far from the airport and a ferris wheel providing views across Qianhai Bay.
In my humble opinion, this district is one to watch. New development projects are constantly sprouting up all over Bao’an and I reckon in a few years it will be just about as bustling as other parts of the city.
2. Dapeng New District 大鹏新区
Dapeng is a haven.
It’s home to the better beaches Shenzhen has to offer – Nan’ao, Xichong and Dongchong – yet is still pretty much a part of the city.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you could even take a speedboat to Sanmen Island, which was once a military base, and camp for the night.
Those who enjoy a little bit of history can pay a visit to Dapeng Fortress which dates back to the Ming Dynasty. The small alleyways within the fortress now contain plenty of cafes, shops and restaurants.
Dapeng is an ideal spot to spend your weekend when the hustle and bustle of city life gets too much. If you have an extended period of time in Shenzhen, why not check it out?
Even if only to say you went to a Chinese megacity and visited a beach!
3. Futian District 福田区
Futian is arguably the heart of the city of Shenzhen.
If you have only a short time in town, this might just be the district to spend it in.
Huaqiangbei, one of the world’s largest electronics markets, is located here. At Huaqiangbei you can buy everything from smartphones to headphones, GoPros to drones, handheld fans to Segways.
If it’s electronic, you can get it here.
Be careful though, as many items may be replicas, albeit pretty convincing ones. While you can generally barter for a bargain, do keep in mind that you will get what you pay for.
Even if you’re not in the market for a new electronic, it’s still a pretty interesting street to walk down.
Free-to-use public pianos can be found dotted along the street, so you may be lucky enough to enjoy an al fresco concert.
Other notable sights in Futian are:
- Ping An International Finance Centre, the fifth tallest building in the world
- Civic Centre, a government building with an iconic wave shaped roof
- Lianhuashan Park with its boating pond, kite field and small hike to a lovely view point
- Shenzhen Museum, which is just jam-packed with history.
If you wish to stay in Futian, you can choose from many well-known Western hotel chains.
4. Guangming New District 光明区
Often a forgotten about part of Shenzhen, Guangming is very much on the outskirts.
In fact, in four years of living in Shenzhen, I’ve been to this district only once.
There are plenty of green spaces and farms up here in northwest Shenzhen so it can be nice for a bit of a break from the concrete jungle.
The most notable of these is Hongqiao Park, or Red Bridge Park. The park is aptly named after a 4 km (2.5 mi) long red bridge which allows you to explore the area from up among the treetops.
Guangming also has a tourist attraction which is pitched as a farm. I’ve never been to it myself but it apparently includes activities such as grass skiing, archery and fishing alongside dairy cows and various crops.
Not to disregard any part of the city, but if you’re visiting Shenzhen, it’s somewhat unlikely that you’d find yourself in Guangming unless you had a fair bit of time to kill.
5. Longgang District 龙岗区
Dafen Oil Painting Village is without a doubt the biggest reason to visit Longgang.
An art lovers’ paradise and a perfect location for a lazy Sunday stroll, the streets here are filled with artwork of all different types.
If you’re artistically inclined, you may even want to try your hand at creating your own masterpiece at one of the many workshops here.
Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre is another reason to find yourself in Longgang.
This multi-use sports stadium has previously played host to international sporting events. Back in 2019, I actually saw Paris-Saint-Germain take on Rennes for the French Super Cup at this very location!
6. Longhua District 龙华区
Longhua is home to a fair few foreign residents. Not as many as Nanshan, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Located to the north of the city, you definitely get more bang for your buck in terms of rent prices, but probably wouldn’t choose it as a home base for a visit to Shenzhen.
There’s not terribly much to do in the way of tourist attractions up here. Although, some foreign-favored bars and restaurants are beginning to set up shop up north.
Most notably there’s Craft Head, a local brewery which recently opened its second branch in this neck of the woods. (You can read my article about craft beer in China for more about Chinese breweries.)
The main reason you would probably find yourself in Longhua is to travel from Shenzhen North Railway Station.
This provides high-speed rail links between many cities across Mainland China and Hong Kong.
7. Luohu District 罗湖区
I’ve heard rumors that this is the oldest district in Shenzhen.
While I’ve never come across anything to back up these claims, it does have an older feel to it that other parts of Shenzhen.
The main tourist attractions in this part of the city are Wutong, which is Shenzhen’s highest peak at 943 meters (over 3,000 feet), and Fairy Lake Botanical Gardens.
If the great outdoors are not really your thing, you could opt to visit Dongmen Pedestrian Street instead.
You’ll find chain brand stores inside air-conditioned malls as well as underground markets flogging cheap clothing and knock-off designer goods.
There’s also plenty of street food options so be sure to arrive hungry.
There’s really no need for me to recommend any particular snack here. Just let your nose and eyes do all the hard work and follow the smells you like.
Fun fact: The first McDonald’s in mainland China was opened in Dongmen in October, 1990.
(I’ve actually written an entire blog on fun facts about China for you to enjoy!)
8. Nanshan District 南山区
This district has the most pull for foreigners residing in Shenzhen.
This is mainly due to the Sea World and Shekou area in the south of the district, which I’ve written about before. It provides all that an expat in China could need to feel right at home.
There’s also a ferry port with direct routes to Hong Kong, Hong Kong Airport, Macao and Zhuhai.
Nanshan is a huge district with a lot to offer.
From Shenzhen Bay Park, which offers a lovely biking and walking route along the coast, you can head all the way up to the Xili area. This is where Shenzhen’s local animal shelter, Karuna Rescue, and safari park are located.
Heading more towards the center of the city you’ll find theme parks such as Window of the World, Splendid and Happy Valley, all without ever leaving Nanshan.
9. Pingshan District 坪山区
Once a part of Longgang District, Pingshan is now a district in its own right.
Here you can find remains of Hakka influence in the area in the form of a preserved village called Dawanwei.
I’ve mentioned that Shenzhen is a relatively new city, but some of these Hakka relics are said to date back to the late 1700s!
The area also made headlines in 2018 when workers from Jasic Technology Company demonstrated here in protest of their poor working conditions.
It’ll be cool to see what Pingshan has to offer a few years from now.
10. Yantian District 盐田区
Heading towards the outskirts of the city, and along the coast of eastern China, we find ourselves surrounded by shipping containers and docks.
Power past that and you’ll get to Shenzhen’s closest beach resorts: Dameisha and Xiaomeisha.
Now these are not the nicest beaches in the world, but they’re fine for a quick trip out of the city! The Intercontinental at Dameisha is a popular spot for staycations with a little luxury.
The government website for Yantian states that the ultimate goal for the district is to become an international tourist destination.
We’ll see about that.
Shenzhen’s districts are amazing
As you probably managed to conclude, Shenzhen is a massive, ever-developing city.
If feels like every few months, something new and exciting pops up in a part of town I’d never even heard of before.
So, while some places will inevitably always be more popular than others, don’t rule out those districts with lesser known tourist spots.
Are you heading to Shenzhen? Or if you’ve already been, what’s your favorite Shenzhen district? Let me know in the comments!
Discover more about China
I’ve also written an article on how living in Shenzhen has made me a better person. I think you’ll enjoy reading it.
Main image credit: Davizro Photography on Shutterstock.