Today’s Hong Kong City Guide comes from Alison Tang, a Hong Kong-based maker and blogger. Alison currently sells her handmade goods at her online shop, Littleclouds, and recently co-founded HOKOanswers, a Q&A platform for those interested in all things Hong Kong. Today she shares the many wonders of this metropolis, from dining to shopping. Thanks, Alison, for giving us a glimpse of your city! — Stephanie
Read the full guide after the jump . . .
Hong Kong is like a big-tiny city, made up of clusters of concrete buildings, bright lights and noise all efficiently squashed together and somehow living in harmony with the country parks and nature that perfectly frame the allure of this bustling city.
Because it is such a dynamic city, it was pretty hard to narrow down all the wonderful places that I think every visitor should check out, but in the words of Barney Stinson, “Challllenggge accepted!”
Be sure to check out this Google Map with all of the below listings!
Starting with one of the most condensed areas, Causeway Bay is chockablock with all sorts of retail outlets, from little local noodle shops to swanky boutiques that any fashionista would be proud to Instagram.
Eat & Drink
Café Corridor – G/F, 26A, Russell St, +852 2892 2927
Blink and you’ll miss it; this café is a cozy little cave offering a snippet of calm among the madness of Causeway Bay. Far from being just a pretty face, they also know how to make a good cup of coffee, a definite must-sip if you are in the area.
Applegreen – 2-4 Russell St, Causeway Bay, 2368 1263
Just down the road from Café Corridor, this second-floor restaurant offers a wide selection of light and healthy modernized classics. We recommend the thin flatbread pizzas and artichoke spinach dip chips!
Ho Hung Kee – 2 sharp St E, Causeway Bay, +852 2577 6558
This Michelin-starred wonton noodle eatery has been around since the ’70s, founded by a husband-and-wife team. It is a quick bite-and-dash spot, as seating is limited and tables are close together. Chinese kitsch at its tastiest.
La Belle Epoque – G/F 62C, Tung Lo Wan Road, Tai Hang +852 63018893
This tiny adorable shop is a rare gem in Hong Kong, as it predominantly showcases local HK hand crafters and designers, with owners Billie Ng and Mary Cheung hand-picking each product. Located in an up-and-coming area with quirky independent cafes and shops springing up all the time.
Volume One – G/F, 30 Sun Chun St, +852 28080962
Indulgent cakes, jams, breads and macaroons are just some of the edibles you will find at Volume One, but it doesn’t end there! You’ll also discover unusual statement pieces designed by local and international designers.
Laforet – 24-26 East Point Road
This mini shopping mall is spread over two floors above a luxury jewelry shop. It consists of many small independent shops selling everything from accessories, eyewear and party dresses to stylish office wear and lots and lots of shoes.
A vastly more chilled-out area to visit, Sheung Wan is full of history, character and awesome independent businesses. Additional must-dos include the western market and a ride on one of the ancient double decker trams. If you don’t know where to go, just get on one and see where it takes you. Each nostalgic ride is only 50c USD.
Central is Hong Kong’s business district. You’ll find many of the famous buildings that grace HK postcards, but at the bottom of these huge skyscrapers are some fabulous eateries, bars and cafes.
There are so many interesting places to visit in both Central and Sheung Wan that the below is a pretty basic guide. My advice is to take them as pointers and just walk around these streets.
TEAKHA – Shop B, 18 Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan, +852 28589185
An adorable, quaint little teashop that is all about sustainable living and the simple contentment of having a relaxed brew with friends. The menu includes organic tea and coffee, as well as delicious light treats such as pastries and my favorite, bread and butter pudding.
La Rotisserie – 255 Queen’s Road Central,
Sheung Wan, +852 28589185
This French takeaway joint offers MSG-free free-range chicken slow roasted to perfection. Their daily lunch set is the way to order, but go early to avoid the queues and disappointment, as it is often sold out.
Noodlemi – G/F, 2 Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan, +852 2253 1113
Visitors with a sensitive stomach should not fear because Hong Kong has food for every man (and woman!), but some due diligence is needed so you know where to go. Noodlemi is just one option; this 20-seater restaurant prides itself on its gluten-free, wheat-free and MSG-free dishes, which in addition to being tasty, are a healthier alternative to other Asian cuisines. Their crab rice paper rolls are a must-try if you come here.
Café Siam – 2-3/f, 21 D’Aguilar Street, Lan Kwai Fong, Central, +852 2851 4803
If you are a fan of the kitschy décor that most Thai restaurants offer, then you may be disappointed here, as Café Siam’s style is a bit more contemporary, but once you bite into one of their crunchy but juicy prawn starters, all will be forgiven.
Tsui Wah – G/F, 84-86 Des Voeux Road, Central, +852 2815 3000
An absolute must-do when in Hong Kong is to visit a cha chaan teng, as they are an institutional experience of every Hong Kong resident. These establishments often feel too unfamiliar for tourists, but with Tsui Wah, you can dine with ease! Even though they are a chain, the food is tasty; they have a vast menu that offers local info on some of their signature dishes, a great distraction while you hungrily wait for your meal.
Kiss Cupcakes – G/F, No. 24, Gough Street Central, +852 2489 9899
Initially, you may be underwhelmed by the decoration of the standard cupcakes available, and a bit disappointed when you notice that they are a little on the ickle side, but they are super duper tasty. My advice is to order two.
Basement — 29 Gough Street, Central, +852 2489 9899
Like the name suggests, this restaurant is in the basement of Homeless (see the “Shop” section), but don’t let that put you off because this place is worth a visit for the décor alone. They do a pretty good weekend brunch menu, and so far, they are the only place I’ve found that makes my favorite dessert, banoffee pie!
SF Veggie – 10/f Stanley Street, Central, +852 3902 3902
You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy SF veggie because, even sans meat, their burgers are actually delicious! I say actually because, growing up with a vegetarian father, I’ve had my fair share of cardboard veggie burgers, so it’s pretty cool to find a decent vegetarian alternative to your classic burgers, lasagnas and meat skewers. Not only is the food good, but the décor is eclectic with a nostalgic nod to Americana through scattered pictures on the turquoise walls and random road signs hanging from the ceiling. Reservation is advised to avoid disappointment.
ABODE Design – 32-34 Tai Ping Shan Street. Sheung Wan, +852 2858 8619
Situated next to the much larger premises of Secret Ingredient, this interior decor/design store is hard to miss given its own pretty shop front. Not just a retail space, the clever people at Abode Design also offer interior design services as well as bespoke furniture to match exactly what you want.
Konzepp – 50 Lower Ground Floor, Tung St, Sheung Wan, +852 2803 0339
The first thing you will notice and likely remember about this shop is their super awesome shop front! Like some futuristic man cave, this lifestyle store houses many local and international products such as hk honey, Vanmoof bikes, and Insight collectables.
Loveramics – 37 Tung St, Hollywood Rd, Sheung Wan, +852 2915 8018
Gorgeous ceramic wares in various contemporary styles to suit every kitchen. Their products are the real deal —beautifully crafted and long lasting with ergonomic designs to suit urban city living. Best of all, the prices are affordable. Huzzah!
Homeless – g/f, 29 Gough Street, Central, +852 2581 1880
Although Homeless might be considered one of the “big boys” in the land of HK design stores, it just felt wrong not to mention them because (1) they are one of my favorites; (2) they tend to be large so you get to cover a lot in one shop; and (3) you are guaranteed to find at least one item that you can’t leave the store without. With two large shops (by HK standards!) opposite each other, entering each one is like a gallery riddled with interesting products and ideas.
Mushroom – G/F, 14 Aberdeen Street, Central, (+852) 2851 7688
If, like me, you have an inner child who wants to play, then you will like this shop. Entering the shop is like walking into your dream childhood room with so much to ohhhh and ahhhh at, allowing your whimsical daydreams to become that bit more real. They showcase a wide range of products, but the thing that ties everything together is their emphasis on illustrations, which are mostly of animals, people and nature.
Itsie Bitsie – 1/F 45 Hollywood Road, Central, +852 6871 0201
A great example of how, in Hong Kong, looking sideways is not enough; you have to look skyward, too, because many great independent shops and restaurants are located above the ground floor where rents are more affordable. But enough about its location, Itsie Bitsie specializes in chic beachwear, from bikinis and kaftans to dresses and accessories. Stay updated via Facebook for discount codes to use on their website.
Visionaire – G/F, 26 Gough Street, Central, +852 2540 6868
Like great voyagers wandering the globe, the visionaries at Visionaire have brought together bold designs for us to peruse at a leisurely pace. My favorite pieces have to be their faux vegetable tote bags and chair covers with the prints of other chairs . . . sounds confusing, but that is the fun part, like an optical illusion but full of color and pretty.
One of my favourite areas of Hong Kong, it is hard not to fall in love with the place when it has it all — the yummy food, the leisurely shopping, the market lanes, the gorgeous sights, the history, the relaxed vibes. And there are even nice beaches nearby! I suggest spending a good chunk of your day exploring this wonderful area.
Stanley Market – Stanley New Street, Stanley Market Road
One of the main places to shop, the market is comprised of lots of lanes with little shops on both sides, busting at the seams. This market is known for great children’s wear at excellent prices. Remember to haggle like a local; if you’re shy, try walking away after showing some interest to see if they yell at you to come back for a discount.
GOD – Shop 105, 1/F., Stanley Plaza, 22-23 Carmel Road, Stanley, +852 2673 0071
Short for Goods of Desire, GOD predominately features traditional Chinese design but flipped on its side and re-designed to suit more modern times. Their stores are large, and their product range includes furniture, paper goods, clothing and random homewares to funk up your kitchen or bathroom.
Petite Bazaar – 9 Market Road, Stanley, +852 2407 1892)
French chic that is fun, approachable and affordable. The only con is that Petite Bazaar is solely catered for small children. Boooo! Each branch (there are three in HK), has its own unique voice and is worth seeking out if you fall in love with their selection of children’s products. They don’t just sell ridiculously cute clothes, but they also sell ridiculously cute toys and furniture.
Eat & Drink
One of the best places for some al fresco dining is in Stanley. Sitting outside with your dearest family or friends as the sun sets over the South China Sea, surrounded by happy and relaxed people, I can’t think of many more joyful moments. It is advisable to start looking around for food before you get famished because there is a lot on offer; many of the oceanfront restaurants offer competitive set lunches or dinners.
Not exactly a specific restaurant recommendation but an absolutely beautiful historic building with various restaurants on the first and second floors. Even if you don’t eat here, you must at least visit. Personally, I can recommend Saigon (Vietnamese). The meal we had there was scrumptious, and the terrace outside is lovely, perfect for a romantic meal.
Saffron Bakery – Shop G04 Ground Floor, Stanley Plaza, +852 2813-0270
If you aren’t feeling too hungry but are in the mood for something naughty (but nice), then Saffron Bakery is a good bet. This quirky bakery/shop/gallery/café specializes in baked treats, including pastries and sweet pies, but they also provide freshly prepared salads and sandwiches as well as heavier dishes like lasagna.
The Boathouse – 86-88 Stanley Main Street, Stanley, +852 2813 4467
You can’t miss this place — it’s sky blue with white trim and situated on a corner, with wide-open balconies and spanning more than three floors (an uncommon trait in Hong Kong). But the Boathouse isn’t just a pretty face; they do tasty meals with an emphasis on seafood. The “bucket of seafood” is a good, even if it is for the cream sauce alone. If you’re not into seafood, they do a good steak and ribs, too. Booking is advised during peak times.
If you have any crafty tendencies, then this district is a must-visit (I know I keep saying that, but I mean it every time). Sham Shui Po is the wholesale district of HK, but most sell to retail customers. Imagine rows of shops filled to the brim with supplies. One shop sells just beads; another sells only cotton tapes, elastic and ribbons; and between them is a cave of fabrics rolls, stacked floor to ceiling in a way that makes you wonder if death by fabric is possible.
Below are just a couple shops that I’ve visited, but go early and walk around, as these are merely the tip of the iceberg. Shops tend to start closing by 5–6pm.
New Universe Company – G/F, 223a Yu Chau St, Sham Shui Po
Jewelry parts including chains, clasps, jump rings, charms, Swarovski crystals and gems as well as pliers, glue and organization boxes.
Wing Fung Industrial HK LTD – G/F, 201-207 Yu Chau St, Sham Shui Po
Possibly the ultimate shop for cotton tapes. If you can’t find that specific shade, texture and width of cotton tape here, then I’m afraid it probably doesn’t exist.
Sun Hing Lung Leather – G/F, 170 Ki Lung Street, Sham Shui Po
Rolls of colored leather and suede, with boxes of scraps in various sizes at the front for experimental or personal projects.
Wa Fat Piece Goods – 1J Shek Kip Mei St, Sham Shui Po, +852 2393 3525
This is the fabric cave I mentioned earlier. The “paths” between the rolls are very narrow, so visiting this place first with no bags is advised, as there is just no room to maneuver.
Hawker Bazaar – Junction of Yen Chow St & Lai Chi Kok Rd, Sham Shui Po
This outdoor (but undercover) market is basically just little stall after little stall of fabrics. Situated across from the police station, there is more room for finding a bargain here, but the selection can be hit or miss. Arrive early, as many stall owners close when not busy.
Eat & Drink
Most of the eateries around this district are noodle shops catering to locals, and as Sham Shui Po is one of the poorest areas of Hong Kong, meals are very cheap. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s all junk because there are some real diamonds in the rough here. Many restaurants in HK will have one to two English menus that they keep behind the till. If they don’t, you can do what I do and point to photos on the menus or walls, or just point to what someone is eating. This only adds to the adventure, in my opinion, never quite knowing what you’ll get!
Tim Ho Wan – G/F, 9-11 Fuk Wing St, Sham Shui Po, +852 2332 2896
A Michelin-starred dim sum restaurant at pocket money prices. As the queues are long, you are advised to get a table number early and then take turns waiting while others in your party shop nearby. They start taking orders at 10:30 and stop at 2pm to ensure they’ll be able to shut down by 4pm. That’s how popular this place is! If you already like dim sum, then the wait is worth it. If it is your first time, best to try elsewhere first.
九龍餐室 – 282 Tu Chau St, Sham Shui Po
This typical HK café has all sorts of meals, from baked rice dishes and soup noodles to pan-fried Singapore-style vermicelli noodles. But they are popular for their pastries, namely their pineapple buns. Don’t be fooled by its misleading name; this sweet moreish bun tastes nothing like pineapple, but it has a nice flaky crust. This is a popular HK snack along with egg pop waffles, egg tarts and bubble tea.
Dragon Centre – 37 Yen Chow Street, Sham Shui Po
If you are a bit too intimidated or shy to try the very local eateries around Sham Shui Po, then there are more foreigner-friendly restaurants in this shopping mall, including a food court on the eighth floor.
In addition to the above recommendations, there are many other touristy sightseeing things to do, from the obvious (view from the peak, bar hopping in LKF and taking the 30c star ferry) to the more obscure (wild monkeys in Tai Po, hiking in Sai Kung and dolphin spotting in Tai O).
The first question most tourists ask is where to stay for convenience and value. The good news is that HK is very small, and the transport network is really one of the best in the world. It is not only comprehensive and efficient, but it is also very inexpensive, so you’re never too far from the tourist spots or amenities.
Booking in advance is recommended because of the high demand for hotels. If you truly want to be in the thick of it, then staying on HK Island or the Kowloon side is recommended. Unless you are rolling in the dough, you are likely to feel heart palpitations when you look at some of the hotel prices here, which aren’t surprising when there are so many super luxury chains that commonly get featured above more reasonable options. So here are some pocket-friendly options that shouldn’t require years of saving to consider.
Langham Place Hotel – 555 Shanghai Street, Mong Kok MTR, +852 3552 3388
If you want somewhere bustling 24/7 with plenty of street snack shops, then Mong Kok is the place to be. This hotel is located in one of the most architecturally interesting shopping malls in HK, with the higher floors reserved for more independent outlets. Look down from the top on an empty stomach.
W Hotel – 1 Austin Rd west, Kowloon MTR, +852 3717 2222
W Hotel is the type of lodging where I imagine socialites and models stay. It is swanky in a slick, modern and contemporary way, and it boasts one of the highest infinity pools in the world — not surprising, seeing as it’s on the 76th floor. Nope, that isn’t a typo. Prepare for your ears to pop in the elevator.
The Salisbury (YMCA) – 41 Salibury Rd, Kowloon, TST, +852 2268 7888
Worth a mention if you manage to book in advance because the rates are very reasonable compared to nearby hotels such as the Peninsula. Rooms and views are very impressive, a first choice if rooms are available.
Panda Hotel – 3 Tsuen Wah Street, Tsuen Wan, +852 2409 1111
If you are looking for a memorable/wacky staying experience, then you should consider one of the themed rooms in this hotel. You can pick from the Princess Room, the Panda Room, the Forever Friends Room and the Transformers Room.
Silvermine Resort Hotel – Lot 648, Silvermine Bay, Mui Wo, Lantau Island, +852 6810 0111
If you are like me and need a bit of peace and quiet at the end of a mad day, then something like this might be perfect. The hotel itself is nothing to get excited about, as it is fairly basic, but its location is right on a beach, which means you can wake up to waves lapping rather than cars beeping. But don’t worry, this hotel isn’t in the middle of nowhere. In fact, the ferry from Central takes only half an hour, and the walk from the pier is only 10 minutes. Aside from the water activities and the hiking and biking at your doorstep, there are also various restaurants, pubs and cafes to fill your evenings if the buzz of HK Island is beginning to overwhelm you. If you’re lucky, you might even see the wild buffalos lazing on the beach at night.
If you are really on a tight budget but the idea of a hostel makes you quiver with fear, there are quite a few guesthouses on Lamma Island. Their weekday rates are pretty reasonable compared to any hotel you’ll find in HK. Some include Lamma Resort, Bali Resort, Concerto Inn and Man lai Wai.
www.graphicairlines.com – illustrator/artist duo
I just love their style and how far they have managed to push their brand in a city like HK where illustration/art isn’t particularly encouraged.
Cara G – model, entrepreneur
She’s breathtakingly beautiful, smart, into healthy living (she recently opened a juice detox shop: www.thegenieconcept.com), and she is an advocate for rescue dogs in HK, often promoting adoption with local campaigns.
Michael Leung – designer, urban gardener, beekeeper, entrepreneur
Founder of HK Honey and hkfarm, he has managed to make urban farming and beekeeping cool by combining it with design and educational workshops and exhibitions. They promote buying and growing locally by utilizing all the unused HK roof tops. Oh, he is quite handsome, too :D
Allan Zeman – the “father of LKF”
This guy pretty much developed the area of Lan Kwai Fong into what it is today — a very hip, trendy place full of restaurants, bars and cafes that are popular with tourists and locals. He also became chairman of Ocean Park (amazzzzing amusement park/zoo) and vastly improved it. He is a real HK entrepreneur.