in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a city often associated with the future, from the contactless Octopus card (used to pay for everything from public transportation to convenience store purchases) to the brightly-lit towering skyscrapers that frame the postcard view.
But don’t be surprised if an accidental turn from a main road leads to areas that are vastly different from the gleaming glass buildings typically associated with city. Across the city, different pockets of the city capture many unique aspects of the Hong Kong way of life.
Here are some of the city’s most intriguing neighbourhoods to visit:
Old Town Central
Just a short walk from the city’s financial heart brings you to one of Hong Kong’s oldest neighbourhoods, Old Town Central. It has definitely changed over the decades, but has maintained its origins of nurturing the soul, the heart and the stomach. Old Town Central, comprised of sloped streets, alleys, walkways and pathways, is famous for its old places of worship that line up alongside modern art galleries, interspersed with souvenir shops selling ceramics and mom-and-pop-run teahouses and stores, including the famous Luk Yu Tea House. Be sure to try out some local favourites, too, such as Hong Kong–style milk tea at dai pai dongs (open-air food stalls) at Lan Fong Yuen and Sing Heung Yuen. Some of the city’s most fascinating architecture from the late 19th and early 20th centuries can also be found here such as the Fringe Club, Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences and the Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong. Century-old temples and religious sites include Man Mo Temple, Jamia Mosque and the Hong Kong Catholic Cathedral of The Immaculate Conception.
Sham Shui Po
You may recognize Sham Shui Po from movies like Infernal Affairs, Transformers: Age of Extinction and Ghost in the Shell. As depicted, the district has always been – and continues to be – primarily a working-class area, offering a stark contrast to Hong Kong’s more aesthetic areas. But it’s an area that packs an authentic punch.
The area grew into particular prominence the 1950s and 1960s as a textile hotspot, including Ki Lung Street (Button Street), which is famous for the variety of vendors offering garment fasteners. Naturally, the areas around it were a haven for those seeking tailored outfits or custom-embroidered clothes, as well as specialty fabrics.
For authentic Hong Kong–style cuisine, there’s perhaps no better region than Sham Shui Po. From housing an outlet of dim sum spot Tim Ho Wan (the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the city), to a slew of local eateries serving some of the best noodles around, you could easily spend the whole day gorging on a variety of local cuisines.
Perhaps no area of Hong Kong mixes the old with the new as well as Causeway Bay, where the old sits in between the new, rather than being a short walk away. Old Town Central might be the city’s financial heart, but Causeway Bay has long been the city’s retail heart, having been a shopping district since the mid-19th century. This experience is best captured just outside the Causeway Bay MTR Exit F – Jardine’s Crescent. Turn right from the exit (or take the inside exit through the mall), and about 100 feet away you’ll end up at one of the city’s largest Apple stores. If you choose to walk straight ahead from the exit, you’ll end up at Jardine’s Bazaar, a street market that sells bargain clothes, accessories, household items and flowers. You’ll also find a wet market at the end of the junction.
This theme of old and new continues throughout the district. SOGO, one of the city’s largest department stores, Times Square (a multistorey shopping mall) and the city’s largest IKEA exist alongside casual street stalls on Jaffe Road and Yee Wo Street. These street stalls sell a variety of food, including cheung fan (rice noodle rolls), chi fan (rice rolls wrapped around fried bread and meat floss) and curry fish balls.
This is the region that will connect Hong Kong’s past to its future and act as the city’s main arts and cultural centre. Although the district is new, the area draws inspiration from the older neighbourhoods that flank it, namely Yau Ma Tei and Jordan. Both were formerly the predominant arts and cultural hubs, and you can still visit the Yau Ma Tei Theatre and the Hobby and Toy Museum.
Primarily built on reclaimed land, the 484-metre-high International Commerce Centre, the city’s tallest building, towers over the West Kowloon district. The uniquely structured Xiqu Centre, which draws architectural inspiration from curtains and lanterns, is a performing arts theatre built to be the city’s hub for Cantonese opera and Chinese traditional theatre. The Tea House Theatre housed inside offers a 90-minute introduction to the art form, performed by the resident Tea House Rising Stars Troupe, replete with complimentary servings of tea and dim sum.
Also notable are new communal green spaces such as Art Park, a green promenade perfect for sunset photography and walks along the promenade overlooking the Hong Kong island skyline. Freespace Livehouse, a small bar with performance space for live music, will also promote new artists and performers in the community.
Mixing the old and the new again, the M+ Museum, which currently has a remote home within the city, focuses primarily on showcasing 20th- and 21st-century artists, both local and international. The M+ Museum will soon have a permanent home nearby in the custom-built M+ Building, which is scheduled to open in 2021 in West Kowloon.
This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's Globe Content Studio.
The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.