A telepathy trick: first, find a Hong Kong native. Second, ask them to word-associate your next phrase. Third, declaim "Shenzhen!" in a slightly hysterical voice. Fourth, amaze (and unsettle) them by already having the words ‘shopping' and ‘fake' inscribed on each palm/forearm/eyelid. Fifth, loudly demand payment for your psychic skills in order to go buy aforesaid fakes at the Luohu Commercial City mall (you know, the place the Hong Kong chap or chap-ess actually thought about when you said Shenzhen in the first place) and feel miffed when they half-sprint away. In truth, the all-pervasive influence of this giant monument to the knock-off is somewhat of a stumbling block for Shenzhen. Its reputation for fakes and frauds is well-founded, but LCC isn't representative of the city as a whole and can lead to the assumption that all Shenzhen can offer is already on display here. In reality, the city has plenty of places to go shop for things, and with the Christmas holidays rapidly approaching, you couldn't ask for a city with more gift-shopping options.
1) Dafen Oil Painting Village, Buji Sub-DistrictView In Map
This place is an absolute find. Just over the Longgang border, and six stops north from Lao Jie on the blue Longgang line, lies Dafen Oil Painting Village. Here, the locals have managed to do the unthinkable: turn ugly, semi-high-rise Chinese buildings into a fairly colourful, quaint little neighbourhood. Each building is painted in a different pastel colour and adds up to create a quite aesthetically pleasing environment. The shopping is quite good too. Dafen specialises in (surprise, surprise) replica paintings, and hundreds of studios line the streets. Literally thousands of artists work inside to make replicas of the great works of famous painters; Dali, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Rembrandt and Warhol are all here, in one form or other, as are traditional Chinese artworks and portraits of famous people. The quality can vary drastically, but – with a bit of haggling – it is more than possible to find a cool painting for a very reasonable price. Providing transportation it isn't an issue, a painting might make a better gift than that "Vouis Luitton" handbag from LCC you bought last year that disintegrated after three days...
Add: Dafen Oil Painting Village, Longgang District, Shenzhen
Getting there: blue Longgang line to Dafen (大芬), Exit A
2) Coastal City Mall, Nanshan DistrictView In Map
Coastal City is still something of a secret to the majority of expats in Shenzhen. Locals the length and breadth of the city have heard of it, but for whatever reason this place seems to lose out to nearby Shekou and Window of the World in the eyes of Westerners. Coastal City is a sprawling retail area with hundreds of shops, boutiques, malls and markets spread over several floors. The large mall after which the whole area takes its name is your standard upmarket China mall (in the same vein as Holiday Plaza or the MixC), but above, behind, beneath and between this giant structure are hundreds of smaller specialty shops, offering the perfect place to find an unusual gift: clothes stores, bric-a-brac boutiques, toy-shops, electronic accessories emporiums are everywhere here. However, perhaps the best place to find a decent Christmas gift is on the weekends, when enterprising locals set up tiny table-top stalls on the upper concourse, just down from Starbucks. Different things are on sale every single day but past examples include beautiful iron sculptures, wooden artworks, books, clothes, toys and even furniture. They also get properly into the Christmas spirit in CC, with giant Christmas trees and decorations all around. Expect the open-air market to take a distinctly festive turn mid-December.
Add: Coastal City Mall, 33 Wenxin Wu Lum Nanshan District, Shenzhen
Getting there: orange Shekou line to Houhai (后海), Exit E
3) Citic Plaza, Kexueguan, FutianView In Map
Occupying a strange sort of limbo zone between Futian and Luohu, Citic plaza is usually bumped to the bottom of the list in favour of Coco Park to the West and the siren-calls of Luohu to the East. Above ground, the Citic plaza seems to be your run-of-the-mill overpriced Chinese shopping mall, complete with Starbucks, Burberry stores and billboards with improbably photo-shopped Western models; so far so boring. However, take a trip underground and you will find the most outrageous selection of tiny shops and boutiques outside of Dongmen. Spilling out of the Science Museum metro station, these small shops occupy a labyrinth of underground tunnels. There are food stores, tailors, clothes shops, gadget shops and cosmetics places – everything! The places are all independently owned so there is plenty of haggle room, and because of its underground artificially-lit nature, you can spend hours there without really realising time is passing. Good for gifts, bad for wallets.
Add: Citic Plaza, Shennan Zhong Lu, Futian District, Shenzhen
Getting there: green Luobao line to Science Museum, exit D (stay underground)
4) Dongmen, LuohuView In Map
I include this at the end of the list because a great amount has been written on Dongmen already. Despite its dirt-strewn streets, Dongmen is unbeatable for shopping. Many people find the frenetic pace of everything and the sheer over-crowding too hard to deal with, but for those who persevere, the rewards are there to be reaped. Ever the opportunists, Dongmen vendors will start stocking up on Christmas fare around the beginning of December so there will be plenty of choice. The shopping area is slightly sprawl-y, but the most useful tip I can give is that underground is arguably better than over ground. The subterranean shopping area (the bit immediately upon exiting the metro Exit A) has hundreds of different shops to choose from: artwork, clothes, electronics, DVDs, glasses, trinkets and so on. Above ground there are plenty of options, but underground strikes me as the best place to find something special.
Add: Dongmen Jiefang Lu, Luohu District, Shenzhen
Getting there: blue or green (luobao or longgang) metro to Lao Jie, Exit A
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Keywords: Shenzhen seasonal shopping Shenzhen gift shopping Shenzhen Christmas shopping gift giving guide to Shenzhen
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