Insider Travel Tips
Whether you’re living in or visiting Hong Kong, Shenzhen is too near of a destination to miss. A day trip to Shenzhen might mean getting a much-needed massage or finding a good bargain in Lo Hu, but our neighbour offers much more than that. Whether you’re travelling with the kids in tow, or heading for a quick mamas-only shopping trip, Shenzhen is perfect for a family weekend getaway (just an hour and half away by train). Like all places, insider tips always help to make the most of a quick trip!
How to get there: Take the East Rail Line to Lo Wu or Lok Ma Chau stations, depending on where you want to go in Shenzhen. Lo Wu is the most popular crossing point as it has the huge Luo Ho shopping centre, and offers quick connections to downtown Shenzhen. The Lok Ma Chau crossing is better for some Shenzhen hotels. Both are connected to the Shenzhen metro.
Leave the littles tucked in bed and indulge in some pampering. Spas in Shenzhen are built on an industrial scale and usually charge a fraction of what you pay in Hong Kong. Some even offer complimentary gym facilities, fruit and drinks – SLF International Spa Club is one of them. Located right next to the Lok Ma Chau train station (perfect if you take the train from Hong Kong), SLF International Spa Club is the best place to start the day with a relaxing massage. The lobby resembles the interior of a five-star hotel, and you are welcomed with a clear price list of the services as you enter. The massages are reasonably priced, with Thai massages going for 178RMB (approx $205) and Chinese style massages at 158RMB (approx $182) – and plenty of offer other spa options. The massage itself is decent and the massage rooms are clean and quiet. The best bit? Unlimited, complimentary fruit dishes, ice-cream and drinks are served in the common area and you can enjoy the free WiFi while unwinding on the comfy couches. Stay for as long as you wish.
Top tip: Take a dip in the hydro massage pool located between the changing room and massage rooms – they provide disposable swimwear and it’s FREE!
SLF International Spa Club, 1-6/F Gangcheng Huating (Huanggang Border Crossing), Futian District, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China
If I could only recommend one place in Shenzhen to a friend, it would be OCT-LOFT. Originally an old industrial area with abandoned factory buildings, the OCT-LOFT complex is now an artistic space that houses contemporary art galleries, bohemian coffee shops, fashion boutiques, tasty restaurants and so much more. With low-level architecture and garden beds among street sculptures, it offers an alternative slice of Shenzhen life. The lovely, spacious area is great to explore whether you’re alone, with friends or the family. Head over to admire some contemporary art, or just relax around the lush area with a beer or a cuppa. Once you enter OCT-LOFT, you’re welcomed by a quirky Starbucks surrounded by greenery, followed by instagram-worthy graffiti and art walls on the refurbished warehouses. You could easily spend hours at OCT-LOFT taking pictures (that would lead people to believe you’re somewhere in Europe), buying souvenirs at little crafts shops and soaking in the art and design world. Don’t know where to start? Here’s some must-visit spots in OCT-LOFT:
A major player in OCT-LOFT, Idutang is not just another hipster bar. Visit in the evening for live performances by independent musicians from both China and abroad, occasional movie screenings, or simply kick back with a brew (on tap!) on the relaxing terrace, in between art appreciation sessions.
Idutang, Building 3, Creative Culture Park, Tel: 0755 8610 6046
T-Street Creative Bazaar
Held in the first and third weekend of every month, more than 60 local gadget designers, collectors and handicraft enthusiasts set up stalls at the open-air, T-Street Creative Bazaar at OCT-LOFT. From personalised jewellery and accessories to vintage clothes and art books, you’ll find all things creative here.
Don’t let the name fool you – LSD party is in fact a restaurant that doubles up as an art space. The plush internal decorations are coupled with stylish Mediterranean cuisine, traditional Italian food and wine, to make it a solid dining option. Great for date nights, a relaxing meal with friends, or the whole kiddo clan. LSD Party has previously exhibited work from some of the world’s top household design brands, including Bretz, Vitra, Walter Knoll, and Fendi.
Top tip: For serious foodies (and picky toddlers…) out there, you can have the chefs cook you up your own special dish, as long as you call in advance and let them know what you fancy eating.
LSD Party, 105A, Building F1, Creative Culture Park. Tel: 0755 8610 6344
Visit My Coffee to unwind from the hustle of bustle of Shenzhen. One special feature about the café is that you can choose which coffee mug you drink from. My Coffee features a whole myriad of interesting and beautifully designed cups that you can pick from. While sipping away on your cappuccino or latte, indulge in the café’s collections of art and photography books for a truly bohemian experience. On the snack front, the pineapple cakes are worth a try and compliment the freshly made coffee nicely.
My Coffee, 101-104, Building F1, Creative Culture Park,Tel: 0755 8609 5101/8299 8288
How to get to OCT-LOFT: Take metro line 1, get off at Qiaochengdong station (OCT East subway station), take exit A, turn right on Enping Street and walk for around five minutes.
4pm: HEYTEA at Galaxy Coco Park
HEYTEA is Gong Cha, but better. While the Galaxy Coco Park might be similar to malls in Hong Kong (but bigger), you only need one reason to make a stop here and it is HEYTEA. You won’t miss it because there’s always a long queue outside the shop and you will see people holding the HEYTEA cup everywhere. Their popular cheese-topped style tea (nai gai cha) is what attracts the crowd. You have the options of low-fat for the cheese, low-sugar for the tea, or the original (the real deal). Better share this tea if you plan on eating dinner – the thick, creamy and rich cheese layer (totally guilty but glorious) can go a long way in the stomach.
What to order: Jinfeng Tea King (Cheese Green Tea)
HEYTEA has quite a few tea selections to choose from and Jinfeng Tea King is the most popular choice among all. Jinfeng Tea King comes with a layer of cheese about an inch thick and holds a mixture of cream cheese lightly seasoned with salt and beautifully poured over Jinfeng tea, an oolong tea from Alishan, Taiwan.
Galaxy Coco Park, 268 Fuhua 3rd Rd, FuTian CBD, Futian Qu, Shenzhen Shi, Guangdong Sheng, China
6pm: COCO Park
COCO Park in Shenzhen is like Lan Kwai Fong in Hong Kong. Located in central Shenzhen, it’s stuck right between Nanshan and Luohu Districts, and is rapidly becoming a nightlife destination for both Chinese and expats alike. Looking for a fun night out with the girls? Here are some of my favourites:
La Casa itself is pretty small, but it features a vast outdoor seating area, perfect for relaxing on long warm evenings. With regular quiz nights and a famous open mic night every Sunday evening, Dave Seymore, the owner has brought together many of Shenzhen’s aspiring poets and musicians. A well-priced selection of wines, coupled with delicious homemade pizzas and pasta have made La Casa a popular, if slightly artsy hangout for expats.
La Casa, Shop 139, COCO Park North (Behind Fuhua Lu), Futian District, Shenzhen, Tel: 0775 8290 3279
McCawley’s Irish Pub
Looking for a quiet pint in a traditional pub? McCawley’s ticks all the boxes. From wood-panelled walls to the sweeping staircase leading to the second floor, this pub oozes old-world charm and has many features you would expect from a quality city pub in Ireland or the UK. The traditional pub menu caters to expats who miss the comforts of home, including roast chicken, Irish stew and imported steaks. Although McCawley’s is slightly more expensive than other bars in COCO Park, it remains popular for its good service, weekly live music and comprehensive sports coverage.
McCawley’s Irish Pub, Shop 151-2, Fuhua Lu, near Mingtian Lu, COCO Park, Futian District, Shenzhen, Tel: 0775 2668 4496
We know partying into the wee hours is no longer the dream (the dream is tucking into bed around 10:30pm), but if you are looking for a night on the town, this is the place. This nightclub is popular among locals and expats, especially for weekend parties (expect pounding dance music all night long). Unlike clubs in Hong Kong, Club Viva features a massive terrace, serves shisha and tapas-style snacks to keep you going through the night.
Club Viva, Shop 140, COCO Park North (Behind Fuhua Lu), Futian District, Shenzhen, Tel: 137 9825 6176
How to get to COCO Park: Take the metro and get off at Shopping Park Station on Line 1 (Luobao) and Line 3 (Longgang) and then take exit C