Things to do in Hong Kong Central

Things to do in Hong Kong Central

David Durán

Hong Kong might be one of the most vibrant cities in the world. It’s full of skyscrapers, luxury hotels, some of the best restaurants in the world, over the top designer shopping and of course, people. With any large metropolis, after time, new construction and inhabitants bring about change. But there is still one part of Hong Kong that is clinging on to its past while also playing host to a new breed of hipsters; a wealthier, more established, yet not fully into the scene type of person. Old Town Central, which really isn’t a district, but more of an area with imaginary borders, lays in the heart of central Hong Kong and its mixture of old and new are carefully scattered throughout.

There’s something extra special about walking around Hong Kong if you can manage to navigate through the zombies on their cell phones walking slower than one could ever imagine in a big city, or blocking the sidewalks as they check the new Snapchat filters. It’s a bit of sensory overload as there are retail windows and restaurants filling every piece of real estate on every street. A world-class fine dining restaurant can be right next to a mom and pop noodle shop that’s been there for decades upon decades, while a designer fashion store is next to a 7-Eleven, which literally are on every corner. Wondering what to do in central Hong Kong? Mr Hudson has got you covered.

Photo: David Durán

Photo: David Durán

Exploring the old Hong Kong Central

When walking around Old Town Central, it’s hard to miss the Western Market due to its unique architecture. The four-story building is in Queen Anne Revival style, which was popular in the British Empire during the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods. The building was once blue but now is a bright red that helps set it apart from the surrounding tall structures. The building is one of the oldest structures in the areas and is the oldest surviving market building in the city. There are a few retails shops in the modernised inside, but the one oddity inside that’s fun to see (if you dare), is the old weight scale that takes a coin and then prints your weight on a piece of paper. Apparently, these weight machines were once everywhere, and they are a great way to remind you to put down the egg tarts.

Also worth stopping for is the Kwong Fuk Ancestral Hall, a small red building occupying a street corner where family members go to honour their dead relatives. The incense burns strong, as there are hundreds of incense coils hanging from the ceiling. There is no fee to enter but remember not to take photographs of the images of the deceased in the back room – we’ve all seen those scary Asian films where spirits and souls are sucked into photographs and well…better to just skip the photos. Nearby is the Man Mo Temple, a tourist hot spot, and another incense filled structure, but unlike Kwong Fuk, this is a place where people come to pray, worship and ask for assistance. All the way in the back, there is a statue of a hand holding a pen…make sure to rub the pen for luck in writing, education, work, or anything that could be associated with a pen and paper. The pen is frequently visited by parents wishing their kids luck on their college entrance exams.

If you’ve never tried sugarcane juice, there’s a tiny corner shop that isn’t very impressive at first glance, but what’s inside is well worth your time. Kung Lee has been at that corner for generations and their sugarcane pudding, and juice are famous throughout Hong Kong. The place is so in demand that Uber Eats is constantly in and out of that place, delivering to offices and homes all throughout the city, all day long. And while you are enjoying some sweets, it’s also worth stopping by Tai Cheong Bakery for the famous egg tarts – they are irresistibly delicious.

Soul Art Shop

Soul Art Shop

Exploring the new Hong Kong Central

Hollywood Road is definitely not new, as it was the second road to be built when the colony of Hong Kong was founded, but it’s an integral part of what makes up Old Town Central. There’s a lot going on there, including a lot of what is detailed here. It’s a fun place to stroll and explore the street art, find boutique retail therapy and discover the best happy hour spots. If craft beer is your thing, Craftissimo is a beer shop that has tonnes of different beers, including local Hong Kong craft beers. There’s even beer on tap with some wooden stools in the back alleyway to sit and enjoy some refreshing cold ones. Another intimate setting with a back alley seating area is teakha, a place for tea, baked goods and conversation – a great escape from the busy streets. And for something completely unexpected but truly welcomed is Reserva Iberica, a ham shop from Barcelona, randomly placed in Old Town Central, offering premium ham products worthy of any Spanish table setting. Nearby is also La Cabane, a cute wine bistro and wine cellar. It’s places like these that make the area so special. And mixed in with the consumables are interesting boutique shops like Soul Art Shop, which sells one-of-a-kind items, including quirky same-sex alternatives to traditional Chinese figurines in pairs, and InBetween Shop.

In a perfect example of repurposing the old for something creative, new and needed is PMQ. What once was the first school providing Western education at the upper primary and secondary levels to Chinese students, in 1951 it became the Hollywood Road Police Married Quarters, encouraging young men to join the police force, in a time when recruits were low. In 2009, the site was listed as a conservation site as architecturally, it represents the typical modern style commonly found in the post-Second World War period. The site is now PMQ – a hub for design and creative industries. The once residential units are now design studios and shops, offices for creative designers and lodging for visiting designers. There are over 100 enterprises that make PMQ home, and it’s a fabulous place to go and support local artists by shopping and spending some HK coin.

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