26 Must-See Places in Hong Kong
August 28, 2014
Fast-paced and frenetic, the city is continually changing, so lace up your walking shoes and get ready to uncover some new urban gems. By Christopher Kucway. Photographed by Philipp Engelhorn.
Published on Aug 27, 2014
Lay of the Land
The first sign that modern Central is creeping west, this part of town continues to evolve.
Sai Ying Pun
Here the focus is on bars and restaurants along First and Second streets, and up the steep Centre Street.
Tucked into a corner of Wanchai, this makes for easy night out.
A minor trek from Central, the south side of the island is home to a handful of galleries and restaurants.
Southeast of Causeway Bay, it sells itself as a slower paced Soho with its constantly changing eateries.
Off the beaten path but still on the MTR, a neighborhood with new book and coffee shops.
The MTR (mtr.com.hk) is the best way around, though it's a crush at rush hour. Taxis are inexpensive, but are divided into cabs serving Hong Kong Island, Kowloon or the New Territories.
Some new addresses and two landmark hotels.
A little bit of the street creeps into the hotel's interiors with eyepopping colors, mixing quirky style with modern comfort. Rooms, while small, make good use of their space—for the most airiness, request a corner room, where two walls are glass. ihg.com.
2. Mira Moon
This 91-room newbie in the depths of Wanchai aims to lend traditional Chinese motifs a contemporary European touch, with mixed results and a slightly cramped feel. On the upside, the funky bathrooms have soak-worthy standalone tubs. miramoonhotel.com.
First hint that something fun is afoot: the signage makes this hotel look like an old cinema. Further evidence includes aged brick walls and reclaimed oak backdropping this playful property that continues with the theme of Hong Kong-inspired touches from local design brand G.O.D. pentahotels.com.
4. Hotel ICON
Call it rooming with roaming: the innovative Hotel ICON offers its guests smartphones loaded with info on Hong Kong, not to mention the ability to make calls locally and to 25 international countries without roaming rates. Rooms are smartly designed and comfortable, but if money is no object (it's HK$30,000 a night, if you must ask) opt for the Designer Suite by Vivienne Tam—it feels like a personal apartment, one with great views of Hong Kong Island. hotel-icon.com.
5. Mandarin Oriental
Since its opening day more than a half-century ago, this grande dame has set the standard for opulence in the SAR. It's lobby remains a place to see and be seen, as does the 25-story M Bar with impeccable cocktails and views of Victoria Harbour. The 501 rooms and suites ooze understated luxury. A staggering three of its 10 dining venues boast Michelin stars. Mandarin Grill + Bar serves contemporary international cuisine often made with organic ingredients. Man Wah offers flawless Cantonese, including what some would consider the best dim sum in town. Finally, the two-starred Pierre features contemporary, seasonal French. There's also an impressive spa, salon and, curiously, traditional gentlemen's barber with vintage 1960's furnishings. mandarinoriental.com/hongkong.
Fresh off its 85th anniversary last year, this landmark isn't slowing down. Many head to the Pen for high tea; for a change of pace, book a table at Spring Moon for dim sum. High-tech rooms are fitted with customized, interactive tablets, along with touch-screen wall panels, to control your stay. hongkong.peninsula.com.
Art, history and hiking this month in Hong Kong.
7. Art Basel
With half of the participating galleries coming from Asia and Asia-Pacific, Art Basel in Hong Kong assumes a significant role in the international artworld, providing a portal to the region's artists. The new show gives galleries from around the world a platform in Asia to demonstrate the way they work with artists, and bring their highest quality work to Hong Kong. artbasel.com.
8 Asia Society
Set on Justice Drive in Admiralty, the Asia Society offers exhibits and talks that simply wouldn't be available elsewhere. The downside is that there's not always a program on offer, so best check ahead. asiasociety.org.hk.
9. Liang Yi Museum
If Chinese antiques are your thing, then this museum with Peter Fung's collection of Ming- and Qing-dynasty furnishings is a must. The former banker views his 1,860-squaremeter showcase as a chance to reunite long-lost pieces of furniture—one pair of chairs took him 20 years to track down and purchase. liangyimuseum.com.
10. Sai Kung
Had enough of culture, cuisine and Central? Take a day to hike the natural side of Hong Kong in Sai Kung. Head to the coast near Long Ke Wan and you'll be amazed at this pristine corner of the South China Sea. En route are Chinese fishing villages, bamboo forests, twisting rock columns and a few simple restaurants that are perfect for a mid-hike lunch. discoverhongkong.com.
Three offbeat takes on retail therapy around the island.
Where else in Hong Kong but in Sheung Wan would you expect to find a watch and leather goods shop run by two Swedish designers? All of the items for sale here—extending to eyeglasses and some jewelry—key in on simplicity and functionality. Designs for both men and women are continually changing, so sign up for the shop's newsletter. squarestreet.se.
12. Chen Mi Ji
This shop is a trip back in time. It's chockablock with rescued European furniture and electronics from the 50's and 60's. Think a bulky Braun radio dating back to 1962 or a coffee table inlaid with hand-painted ceramics and you begin to get the idea. chenmiji.com.
13. Pata Negra House
When on the lookout for new food, tasting is a pleasant necessity. This shop in Sai Ying Pun offers three different sampling menus of its Iberian wines and hams, hand-cut by a slicing master. The Monday to Saturday parties last from 7 to 10 p.m., the only hitch being you need at least eight people to participate. Shopping has never tasted so good. patanegrahouse.com.
Three offbeat takes on retail therapy around the island.
14. Chôm Chôm
There's a laid-back vibe at this Vietnamese outpost with a small, energetic drinks menu. Vietnamese food is made with myriad ingredients that aim to pique your taste rather than overpower. Try the beef spring roll starter and you're well on your way. chomchom.hk; no reservations.
15. 121 BC Hong Kong
Two things to know here: book well in advance and heed the advice of the sommelier. Bianchi Macerati (whites grown like reds) are a specialty. The continually changing chalkboard menu—note the fresh pastas, which never miss a beat—is a winner, so make a point of ordering something you've never had before. 121bc.com.hk.
16. CIAK - In The Kitchen
Another Italian entry with an excellent wine list. The name at this casual stop stems from the onomatopoeic sound of a movie clapperboard closing. And casual it is, based on the idea of an Italian grocery where you can either eat in or take away. Save room for dessert: the much-lauded bakery churns out organic treats made from a yeast produced from Italian grapes. facebook.com/ciakconcept.
17. Serge et le phoque
A contemporary French restaurant in Wanchai that uses Japanese and European ingredients on its constantly rotating menus—think pea gazpacho or lamb atop grilled eggplant. To top things off, wait staff in this minimalist space often seem downright Parisian in their indifference. 3 Wan Chai Rd., Wanchai; +852 5465 2000.
18. Little Bao
Warning: Just before it opens at 6 p.m., there could be a queue of two dozen or more, significant since there are only 17-odd stools in the place. Staff is beyond friendly—not always a given in Hong Kong—despite the hectic pace, and everything on the small menu is a hit. Must order: chicken bao. And please note the sign: "No Bao Cutting." Stop in for a snack or a full-on dinner. facebook.com/littlebaohk.
How do you replace a Michelinstarred chef? Usually, the right answer is that you cannot, but at the Four Seasons that doesn't matter with the arrival of Fabrice Vulin, whose signature dishes—such as frogs' legs Provençale with black olive breadcrumbs—cover French diaspora flavors from Brittany through to Provence and down to Morocco. fourseasons.com/hongkong.
Three residents share their favorite spots in the city.
20. Magnus Renfrew
Curator, Art Basel
"If you want to keep up with the arts in Hong Kong, visit open studios. Contemporary art stops that I recommend include Parasite Art Space (para-site.org.hk) and Asia Art Archives (aaa.org.hk), both in Sheung Wan, and Spring Workshop (springworkshop.org) in Aberdeen. I travel a lot—I've been in London, Paris, Shanghai, Beijing and New York recently—and think that the art scene in Hong Kong is worth more than just a quick look."
21. Johannes Pong
Writer and editor
"In Hong Kong, things aren't always in the most obvious place. Mott No. 32 (mott32.com), a dark, sexy underground cavern oozing industrial Chinoiserie chic, just opened in the basement of the Standard Charter Bank Building. Go for the Peking duck and the creative cocktails. Amid the old Cantonese eateries on Second Street and Pokfulam Road, an old ping-pong gymnasium is now Ping Pong Ginoteria (129 Second St.), a new gin bar with a hipster clientele who prefer the high ceilings and bohemian neighborhood."
22. Umberto Bombana
Chef, 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana
"Though I run an Italian restaurant, my recommendations for eating in Hong Kong revolve around one thing and one thing only: Cantonese food. Try Celebrity Cuisine (+852 3650 0000) at the Lan Kwai Fong Hotel, the dim sum at always popular Maxim Palace (+852 2521 1303) in City Hall, and don't overlook the chain Din Tai Fung (dintaifung.com.hk). While Hong Kong has the best Cantonese food in the world, you can also find food from any other country as well, so I think that makes the city one of the top three places in the world to eat."
23. Ham & Sherry
Like something out of Portuguese Macau, the blue-and-white tile restaurant/bar is the go-to address when it comes to Hong Kong's newfound love of all things iberico. Can't snag a table? Head down the side alley to the small bar in back for Cleansing (beers), Water of Life (vodkas), Botanicals (gins), Sugar Cane (rums) or Agave (tequilas). hamandsherry.hk.
24. Salon No. 10
With the feel of an old gentleman's club but sporting a small dance floor, Salon No. 10 is the spot to chill with a cocktail or two. Sure, you could go for a classic martini—but absinthe is also a late-night option. facebook.com/SalonNumber10.
25. Tipping Point Brewing Co.
An easy choice on a humid night in Hong Kong. There are seven or so well-curated beers on tap on any given evening, a series of offerings from New Zealand's MOA being the most current. MOA Noir, for example, tastes of coffee and chocolate. tippingpointbrewingco.com.
26. The Lounge & Bar
If you're in need of an exclusive spot for a drink, you couldn't do much better than one of the 12 leather seats at the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong's reworked bar. With floor-to-ceiling windows on the 102nd floor, the bar is overseen by mixologist Lewis Tsang. His creations includie a Vesper martini, named after James Bond's first love, Vesper Lynd. ritzcarlton.com.