As border restrictions ease, Hong Kong’s West Kowloon district is a top contender on our travel bucket lists. From a bookstore hidden in the iconic Tin Hau Temple, to a seafood shop-turned-art hotel, here are a couple of reasons why.
With a glittering skyline flanked by green mountain peaks, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a city as exciting and vibrant as Hong Kong. Yet, a large part of the city’s appeal lies not only in its sky-scraping views, but the eclectic mix of old meets new. Enter Hong Kong’s West Kowloon district and you’ll find yourself surrounded by some of the city’s oldest restaurants, iconic markets, and a captivating creative scene. For when travel resumes, we’ve put together a list of our favourite hidden gems in the neighbourhood. For those who think you’ve seen it all, these lesser-known, highly elevated experiences might just change your mind, and are a must for your post-pandemic travels.
If you have a penchant for art and design:
Hong Kong Museum of Art (HKMOA)
For design lovers
Known for its extensive collection of artwork, the Hong Kong Museum of Art is somewhat of a landmark for design-lovers in the city. With gleaming exteriors, the newly refurbished destination rises with a facade of rippling glass — bringing to mind the nearby harbour. Expect a deep dive into local artistry, with exhibitions that take you from traditional ceramics, to calligraphic scrolls, and even more contemporary works from modern-day artists.
Tip: For seasoned museum visitors who enjoy guided tours, the museum offers its own application, fully equipped with audio guides. The app even includes fun games that can be re-shared on your social media accounts — further proof, of course, that you really were there.
10 Salisbury Rd. Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tung Nam Lou Art Hotel
For artful experiences and a taste of nostalgia
Fun fact — before it became a hotel, Tung Nam Lou was originally a traditional seafood restaurant. The destination has become somewhat of an urban oasis for design lovers, with an art gallery, shared workspaces, and interiors that seem to take you back in time. Loosely translated as the ‘East South Building’, it’s perfect for travellers looking to delve into the local artistry.
Tip: Not only does it double as an art store, but Tung Nam Lou Art Hotel also hosts frequent workshops and themed exhibitions. Stay tuned for the latest happenings via their Official Facebook and Instagram pages.
5/F, 68 Portland Street, Yau Ma Tei
If you’re in search of hidden treasures:
Liu Ma Kee
For century-old secret recipes
While Hong Kong buzzes with striking skyscrapers and neon lights, seasoned travellers are no stranger to the city’s breathtaking old-world charms. A fitting example is Liu Ma Kee. Over a century old, the storied shop is known for witty soybean creations, made using a traditional stone mill and secret family recipes passed down across the generations. Products range from traditional condiments to modern tofu treats.
Tip: Be sure not to miss out on their garlic-flavoured fermented tofu paste. Invented exclusively to complement western pasta dishes, this particular flavour is best worked into a fusion carbonara — think creamy goodness, topped with a savoury hint of fermented tofu. An absolute delight.
1 Min Street, Yau Ma Tei
Cheung Shing Fans Factory
For that highly-coveted sandalwood fan
A profound part of the local culture, sandalwood fans are known for their intricate illustrations, as well as the soft, subtle fragrance of wood they give off when used. Today, authentic ones are hard to come by — Cheung Shing Fans Factory stands as one of the few remaining makers in Hong Kong still in operation. Drop by during your travels and get your hands on a fun memento to take home with you.
Tip: In recent years, the factory has also started producing incense to meet the needs of urban consumers. While you’re there, take the time to check out their electrical incense burners and pots — a fascinatingly modern take on the traditional artefacts.
185 Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei
For almost every type of accessory made from the auspicious stone
Hong Kong’s largest hub for jade, accessories and gemstones, the Jade Market is where the city’s most voracious jade hunters gather. They do for good reason — here you’ll find pretty much everything you could make with the precious stone, from talismans to hand carved pendants, jewellery and more. In local culture, jade is considered to bring good luck, good health, and longevity, which makes it an ideal option for gift-buyers. If you haven’t found a design that hits the mark, you can also get one custom made by the talented jewellers on-site.
Tip: For a memorable souvenir, why not pamper yourself with a jade pendant in the shape of your Chinese zodiac sign? These make for charming reminders of a fulfilling trip, and are also thought to be very auspicious.
261 Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei
Shanghai Baoxing Qipao
For handmade traditional dresses
Enter this traditional storefront and you’ll find Master Yan, who has made exquisite handcrafted qipaos and Chinese cotton jackets in the city, for the past 65 years. Everything here is tailor-made, making it an ideal destination if you’re looking for something exclusively yours. If you’re lucky, you might even come upon one of Master Yan’s regular classes, which he hosts with fashion and design students on the art of qipao making.
Prestige Tip: If you’re looking for design inspiration, many of the qipaos and jackets in this store have been worn by world-renowned celebrities, including the likes of Michelle Yeoh and Maggie Cheung. You’ll also find a lot of his work featured in classic Wong Kar-wai films.
Shop 13, 1/F, Bowring Commercial Centre, 150-164 Woo Sung Street, Jordan
Koon Nam Wah
For exquisite Chinese bridal wear
Got plans to tie the knot soon? Why not step away from your typical nuptials, by getting yourself something from Hong Kong’s renowned bridal store. Having operated since the 1920s, the shop specialises in intricately embroidered gowns and jackets. Designs are adorned with regal motifs, delicately sewn by hand. The entire production process can take up to weeks, or even a whole year, so rest assured that you will be getting something truly of great quality.
Prestige Tip: When choosing your patterning, popular designs include the majestic dragon-and-phoenix pattern. Such motifs are considered to be highly auspicious, and are brought to life through striking gold and silver threadwork.
Shop 16, G/F & 1/F, 383 Nathan Road, Ping On Building, Yau Ma Tei
Sindart Embroidered Slippers
For dainty, locally-made additions to your footwear collection
Back in the day, embroidered slippers were a symbol of wealth, and a big hit among the well-heeled and stylish. Today, this unique cultural heritage is kept alive at Sindart — one of the oldest handmade slipper stores in the bustling city. Adorned with exquisite embroidery, these traditional designs make a great option if you’re in search of elegant footwear to wear out on the streets or at home.
Prestige Tip: While many of the available designs are beautifully unique, Sindart also offers the option to create customised slippers based on your own preferences. Look closely, and you’ll also find many options that come with a modern twist — a new development by the current third-generation owner, Miru Wong.
Shop 16-17, 1/F, Bowring Commercial Centre, 150-164 Woo Sung Street, Jordan
If you want to immerse yourself in the local culture (and take photos while you’re at it):
Mido Cafe Mural
For the avid Instagrammer
An Instagrammer’s dream come true, Mido Cafe oozes nostalgia and old-world glamour. A referential nod to Hong Kong in the 1960s, the local landmark has hardly strayed from its original design. Retro wooden tables ring with foreign familiarity, while the ceiling fans and mosaic flooring offer a whimsical trip down memory lane. When taking your customary check-in snapshot, be sure to include the cafe’s iconic neon sign.
Prestige Tip: For the best seats, we recommend heading up to the second floor, where you’ll be treated to a view of the dreamy surroundings. The menu here is quintessentially cha chaan teng — “Hong Kong-style café”. Opt for classics like their crispy French toast, or play it up a bit with a creamy milk tea. Their renowned baked pork chop rice is, of course, not to be missed.
63 Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei
Tin Hau Temple
For paying respects to the goddess of the sea
Declared a monument back in 2020, Tin Hau Temple is dedicated to Tin Hau, the goddess of the sea. Also known as the Empress of Heaven, she is believed to protect local fishermen who set sail into the oceans. If you look closely enough, inside the temple’s southern chambers you’ll find a hidden self-service bookstore, with a varied selection of books and cultural products on offer.
Prestige Tip: Within the temple are a series of charming photo-ops perfect for your social media feeds. Among them is a mini banyan tree, as well as a cart noodle kiosk to help you recreate iconic scenes from the neighbourhood.
Temple Street, Public Square Street, Yau Ma Tei
West Kowloon Promenade
For anything from jogging and biking, to romantic sunset strolls
Buzzing with modernity, open green spaces are somewhat of a rarity in Hong Kong, which makes the West Kowloon Promenade all the more special. The expansive, green heart of the city’s cultural district, it’s got everything you need to properly unwind — cue picture-perfect views and a slew of waterfront cafes, bars, and exciting restaurant concepts. It’s scenic, calming, and pet friendly to boot. Pack yourself a picnic, bring a frisbee, or simply let yourself wander along the waterfront. While there, you can also make full use of their shared bikes, which allow visitors to easily travel across Art Park’s various facilities.
Prestige Tip: If you’re planning a visit, make it in time for golden hour. In those brief moments before the sun dips beneath the horizon, the skies in the area are known to turn a glorious warm hue. A definite must for seasoned ‘grammers.
Art Park, West Kowloon Cultural District
To help you better experience the city’s many hidden destinations, explore West Kowloon through five thematic walking routes, that take you all across the secret corners of the neighbourhood. The routes are available via an interactive e-map, which is sure to come in handy once international travel resumes.
To find out more about Hong Kong’s hidden gems, and the five thematic routes, visit Discover Hong Kong.
(Featured Image: Growing Up Pavilion)
This story first appeared on Prestige Thailand.