Mention Hong Kong to most people and they usually think of 1. credit card abuse in air conditioned malls or 2. debaucherous nights in Wan Chai or 3. extremely bad hangovers (and most likely a mix of all three). And although tourist draw cards like Victoria Peak and the Star Ferry will always be on my list (and ice cold air conditioning is always a plus) in my opinion there’s so much more to Hong Kong than most visitors get to experience, so I thought I would share a few of my favourite hidden gems in Hong Kong.
1. Mee & Gee – Retro Vintage
Vintage stores are few and far between in Hong Kong – the locals are superstitious about secondhand clothes lest they inherit bad luck from the previous owner – so this store is rarely frequented by Hong Kong people. Racks of decrepit t-shirts out the front disguise what turns out to be a veritable treasure trove of vintage goodies straight from Japan. You’ll find a huge selection of floral prints, silk dresses and pleated skirts, but for the real jackpot head upstairs to the men’s section for genuine retro pieces including mountains of denim, sportswear and patchwork leather all at bargain basement prices.
Address: 9 Li Yuen Street West (the alleyway across Queens Road from H&M in Central).
Hours: 11am – 8/9pm
2. Lock Cha Yau Tea & Dumpling House – Authentic lunch spot
Hong Kong is well known for its dumpling houses, but none is more atmospheric (and more well hidden) than this traditional tea house in Hong Kong Park. Housed in one of the few colonial buildings left in the city, the food is vegetarian, but luckily meat lovers won’t be left wanting, the food is unbelievably delicious and flavoursome in a way that many dumpling joints in Hong Kong aren’t.
Address: Ground Floor, The K.S Low Gallery, Hong Kong Park, Admiralty
Phone: +852 2801 7177 (lunch bookings essential)
Hours: 10am – 8p
3. Pottinger St & Western Markets – Craft & DIY Supplies
Although the area of Sham Shui Po offers loads of choice in terms of DIY and crafts (albeit most often in wholesale quantities), you can actually find a vast array of supplies on the island, without having the brave a trip around the hot and often confusing streets of the New Territories. Stop off at the Pottinger St Staircase for stalls that sell ribbons, buttons and sewing supplies, and then nip over to the top floor of the Western Markets in Sheung Wan (another rare colonial building) for high quality fabrics with sellers who speak English. Be sure to bargain!
Address: Pottinger Street in Central and 323 Des Voeux Road Central, Sheung Wan (Western Markets)
Hours: both around 10am – 7pm
4. Prince Edward – Flower, Bird & Goldfish Markets
An absolute must for all visitors, immerse yourself in the real Hong Kong with a walking tour around the densely populated area of Prince Edward in Kowloon. Start with a pit stop at the flower markets (note the hello kitty bouquets), then take a wander through the bird markets (for pets rather than for eating), then head down the street to the Goldfish markets. To top it all off jump in a taxi and head the few blocks to Tim Ho Wan Dim Sum in Mong Kok (Flat 8, Ground Floor, Phase 2, Tsui Yuen Mansion, 2-20 Kwong Wa Street Mong Kok) for the cheapest Michelin star meal you’ll ever eat, and a chance to study the locals in their natural habitat.
Address: Flower Market Road (Flower and Bird Markets) & Tung Choi Street North (Goldfish Market) both in Mongkok
Hours: 10am – 6pm
5. Cat Street Markets – Antiques and Junk Shops
Looking for a trinket to take home with you? Bypass the tourist tat shops in Central and have a rummage at the Cat Street Markets, where you’ll find genuine as well as replica (sometimes hard to tell which so don’t pay over the odds) communist era antiques, retro furniture and the odd bit of vintage clothing. My favourite cave-like store is tucked down the end of Upper Lascar Row on the corner of Lok Ku Road.
Address: Cat Street (Upper Lascar Row)
Hours: 11am til 6pm
6. Tai Long Wan – Pristine Beaches & Local Fishing Villages
People are always surprised at the number of beaches in Hong Kong, and places like Stanley and Sheko on the Island are always a nice treat. But to experience the best Hong Kong has to offer in the beach department, head out to Tai Long Wan in Sai Kung. The half hour taxi ride and 45 minute hike is well rewarded – you’ll be floored by the crystal clear waters and soft white sand, and most likely you’ll be the only one on the beach when you get there. Have a simple bite to eat at one of the Chinese cafes and indulge in much needed respite from the crowds in Central!
How to get there: Take a taxi to Sai Wan in Sai Kung, and then walk to Tai Long Wan beach (the third and best in a row of beaches). On the weekends you can the return journey by boat from the fishing villages in Sai Wan back to Sai Kung.
7. Stone Nullah Tavern
Tucked down Stone Nullah Lane in Wan Chai and opposite the iconic ‘Blue House’, Stone Nullah Tavern is hidden more in a location sense than in terms of popularity – the cool wood panelled bar is the number one place to get your margarita fix. Busy every night of the week, it’s a delicious choice for your first non-chinese meal in days (sans MSG!).
Address: G/f 69 Stone Nullah Lane
Hours: 6pm – 1am (tues to sun)
8. Central Wet Markets
One of the last outdoor produce markets left in Hong Kong and aptly named the ‘Wet Markets’ (puddles of fishy water linger on the sidewalks), vendors sell fresh food, such as fruits and veggies, live seafood, meat and all manner of other things (toads, live birds for eating etc). Not for the faint hearted, these markets are definitely a place to get in touch with the local flavour of HK.
Address: Downhill on Graham Street between Hollywood Road and Queens Road Central
Hours: 10am – 6pm
9. Chinese Porcelain Shop
My go to place for blue and white Chinese pottery, this hole in the wall will be sure to fulfill all your tableware needs.
Address: 17 Staunton Street Soho
Hours: 11am – 7pm
10. Happy Valley Races
Regardless of whether you’re partial to a bit of a flutter, Happy Valley Races is worth a visit. A true Hong Kong institution, the track itself is completely surreal set amongst the 80 storey buildings of Causeway Bay, and the atmosphere is always electric. And don’t expect to find a Ladies Day style boozefest – Hong Kong locals take their racing very seriously as it’s the only form of gambling allowed.
Address: 2 Sports Road, Happy Valley
Hours: Every Wednesday Night 7pm – 10pm
Geneva has just launched six wallet-friendly DIY accessories kits in collaboration with a new online craft supplies store Wander & Hunt, accessible here.