Hong Kong: the city where more than 7 million people live in just 1,100 square kilometres. This incredible population density means visitors will never run out of places to explore which can make itinerary planning a little overwhelming. So, where should you spend your time? From hipster haunts to upmarket drinking districts, this is your guide to enjoying the city's coolest neighbourhoods like a local.

Sheung Wan

Man Mo Temple

Sheung Wan isn’t just the coolest neighbourhood in Hong Kong, it might be one of the best in the world. The city’s hipster hub boasts independent cafes, cutting-edge art galleries and boutique shops while retaining its old-world Chinese charm – there are still entire streets here dedicated to Chinese herbal medicine and dried seafood. With quieter footpaths and a slower pace than elsewhere in the metropolis, it’s the perfect place to spend a day exploring.

Must do: Pay a visit to the fortune tellers at Man Mo Temple, one of the city’s oldest temples.

Sai Ying Pun

Just as cool as Sheung Wan but a little less ‘discovered’, Sai Ying Pun overflows with stylish bars, hip cafes and excellent eats. It’s one of the city’s oldest areas – but only took off as a contemporary favourite in 2015 after a new MTR station made it easier to access. Come here to chow down on Korean fried chicken, linger over a flat white, hit an art gallery or just enjoy people-watching in one of Hong Kong’s trendiest neighbourhoods.

Must do: Take a walk through the colourful alleyways of Art Lane where local and international artists have made their mark with vibrant murals along the walls.

Mong Kok

Mong Kok

If you’re in the market for retail therapy, head to Mong Kok. As the busiest and one of the most densely populated urban districts in the world, it’s a vibrant place to pick up a keepsake or twelve — anything and everything is for sale here. Fight through the crowds to see street market vendors peddle goldfish and gadgets, or seek out hidden record stores while neon signs flash and apartment buildings tower above. This is Hong Kong at its most thrilling.

Must do: Practise your haggling skills at the popular Ladies Markets, which overflows with bargain clothing and accessories.

Lan Kwai Fong

Less a neighbourhood and more a single busy street, Lan Kwai Fong is Hong Kong’s favourite place to go for a tipple. The city’s nightlife capital draws crowds of tourists and locals each night, all of which come here to dance until dawn or sip cocktails in the city’s best bars. Over 100 bars and restaurants are crammed into the district, so you won’t leave hungry (or thirsty).

Must do: Go bar hopping!

SoHo

New York is not the only city with a SoHo to show off. The Hong Kong district (named for being “South of Hollywood Road”) is a cluster of windy streets near the city centre lined with sophisticated shops, bars and restaurants. It has a reputation as Lan Kwai Fong’s upmarket cousin – an entertainment district for the discerning crowd and a popular expat haunt.

Must do: Ride the world’s longest outdoor escalator, which links SoHo to Central and offers easy access to the neighbourhood’s many cool eateries.

Wan Chai

Yes, Wan Chai is one of Hong Kong's earliest developed areas but these days, it has a reputation for being a food lover’s paradise. Dig into dinner at one of its many excellent restaurants or head to a rooftop bar to gaze up at the surrounding colonial architecture. The area also has a buzzing arts scene, lively nightlife and is a little more affordable than nearby Central. 

Must see: The historic Blue House, one of Hong Kong’s few remaining old-style tenement buildings.

Sham Shui Po

Sham Shui Po

Sham Shui Po’s charm is in its vibrant contrasts. Trawl the busy streets and you’ll find everything from textile factories to tofu-dedicated eateries and Michelin-starred dim sum spots packed into winding alleyways. It’s also heaven for shoppers, with speciality stores spanning artisan soaps, rare vinyl records and handmade leather goods.

Must do: Sample some of Hong Kong's best dishes on a food tour.

West Kowloon

The sprawling West Kowloon Cultural District curves along the harbourfront, delivering water views from almost every vantage point. The incredible M+ Museum — the concrete megalith museum of visual culture — forms the district’s heart, with sections of manicured lawns, pockets of green gardens and meandering bike paths all overlooking Victoria Harbour. Culture buffs have endless activities at their disposal day or night here; we recommend a traditional opera performance at the incredible Xiqu Centre for the latter.

Must do: Swing by the Hong Kong Palace Museum – it houses an extensive collection of historic artefacts spanning from the Qing dynasty.

Old Town Central

Art lovers gather in Old Town Central, a fascinating fusion of trendy bars, cute boutiques and reclaimed buildings sprawled with street art. The area's best exemplification of the contrast is Tai Kwun, a former police station is now an ever-changing arts centre of exhibitions, performances and workshops. 

Must do: Old Town Central houses some of the area's coolest drinking dens including the subterranean Behind Bars , which is housed in former jail cells.

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SEE ALSO: The Secret Spots to Find Outdoors in Hong Kong

*Commencing June 2023 subject to government and regulatory approval.

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