Shenzhen is less than an hour from Hong Kong by train or ferry yet it is still off the radar for many international tourists who go no further than the shops on the border. Less than 40 years ago it was just a small fishing village but since then it has become one of the largest and wealthiest cities in China and home to more than 12 million people.
While shopping and theme parks have been the most popular attractions for visitors, there is a lot more to discover, from historical sites, parks and gardens to modern architecture, bars, restaurants and an active arts scene. For example, Shenzhen is one of China's greenest cities and there are parks all over the city, from the Fairy Lake Botanical Garden (featuring more than 7800 species of plants) and Lychee Park (with bee farm and lake) to Lianhuashan Park which covers 150 hectares and provides iconic views of the city.
It's also a golfing mecca and home to the world's largest golf course - Mission Hills has 216 holes, if you care to play each of the 12x18-hole courses consecutively.
Besides the museums, historical sites, particularly those related to the Hakka culture, are scattered throughout the metro area and contrast sharply with ultra-modern design, not only of public buildings but also boutique hotels such as the latticed framework and white cubes that define Art Inn, in the village of Guanhu on the coast east of the city and on the way to historic Dapeng Fortress.
Shenzhen is also a crossroads of regional cuisine, from Cantonese dim sum and congee to the fiery Sichuan hot pots. But Shenzhen is also the gateway to China's great attractions with easy transport connections to Hong Kong and Guangzhou plus Hainan Airlines connects to 69 cities on its network in China.
A ride on the Peak Tram is one of the highlights of visiting Hong Kong, which is only an hour from Shenzhen by train or ferry. Find great shopping and dining from the world's longest escalator that runs from Central through SoHo to the Mid Levels, and take a break from serious sightseeing with a wander through Hong Kong Park in the middle of the city.
There's much to see in China's capital, from the Forbidden City to the Great Wall which stretches almost 21,200km from east to west. Several hiking points are accessible from Beijing, some providing more rugged paths (Jiankou) and farmhouse rest stops along the way (Huangyaguan). Flight time from Shenzhen approximately 3 hours 10 minutes.
Home of the giant pandas that are considered a national treasure in China. Also don't miss the old-world Jinli Street, lined with stores selling traditional crafts such as embroidery and calligraphies and watch pop-up performances of Sichuan opera, street puppetry and more. Flight time from Shenzhen approximately 2 hours 40 minutes.
Best known for the site of the Terracotta Army where work is ongoing, exposing thousands of life-size, hand-moulded figures that were buried with China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. More than 7000 pottery soldiers, horses, chariots, even weapons, have been un earthed and most restored to their former grandeur. Flight time from Shenzhen approximately 2 hours 45 minutes.
A little over 100km north of Shenzhen and less than an hour away by high speed train China's third largest city is a contrast of old temples and modern architectural masterpieces. It is also a city for foodies, with more restaurants per capita than anywhere else in China and a reputation for the best dim sum in the world.