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Once a sleepy fishing village, Shenzhen is now a mega-modern metropolis with one of the youngest average populations of any city in China. Its location as a pathway between Hong Kong and mainland China is reflected in its melting pot of Chinese cultures and cuisines, glittering skyscrapers, glitzy shopping malls and quirky theme parks. For a kaleidoscope of experiences, trace your way through the futuristic central business district, the UNESCO Creative City-awarded street art, and its mangrove nature reserve.
A Shenzhen hostel is as cosmopolitan as the city itself. You can stay in former industrial buildings in an art park, contemporary dorms in the central business district, or a homey hostel right next to the metro station. As well as shared and private rooms, hostels in Shenzhen have space-age capsules. Most have free Wi-Fi, and usually come with cosy communal areas – and the occasional billiard table. Shenzhen hostels have chic shared kitchens and rooftop terraces offer spaces to make new friends.
Futian District is home to a forest of skyscrapers in the centre, theme parks and museums to the west, and beaches and malls to the east. In Luohu District, there's Cantonese seafood on Leyuan Street, as well as OCT Loft's galleries, chic bars and music venues. Outside the city are Nanshan Mountains' verdant slopes. Shenzhen's mosaic of scenery continues with Dameisha and Xiaomeisha's golden-sand beaches.
There's plenty to see in Shenzhen. You can scale the Ping An IFC skyscraper for a panoramic city view from its 550-metre-tall observation deck. Or climb Lianhua Mountain's boxy, grass-capped ridges to find its famous lotus stone. You'll be able to discover Shenzhen's history at sites such as Dàpéng Fortress, with its 600-year-old fortifications, or learn about China's different ethnic groups at the China Folk Culture Village theme park. Look out for miniature Terracotta Warriors, full-size Beijing courtyard houses and replica Hakka walled villages.
From Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport you can catch a shuttle bus to the city centre – with a journey time of around 45 minutes. Otherwise, Metro Line 1 will get you into the city in under an hour. Shenzhen is well connected to its island neighbour, with a bullet train from Hong Kong's West Kowloon station reaching Shenzhen Futian in less than 20 minutes. Buses depart from a range of central and suburban stations to cities such as Guangzhou and Guilin. The metro system is an efficient way to get around Shenzhen itself.