More than 7 million people live in just 1,100 square kilometres in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) and this incredible population density means visitors will never run out of places to explore. So how do you choose where to spend your time? From hipster haunts to upmarket drinking districts, this is your guide to enjoying the territory's coolest neighbourhoods like a local.
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 but hasn’t lost its old-world Chinese charm – there are still entire streets here dedicated to traditional 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 less ‘discovered’, Sai Ying Pun overflows with trendy bars, hip cafes and excellent eats. It’s one of the city’s oldest areas – with the colonial buildings to prove it – 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 Hong Kong’s new ‘it’ neighbourhood.
Must do: Poke around Above Second, the gallery showcasing the best in forward-thinking urban art.
Lan Kwai Fong
Not so much a neighbourhood as one very 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 one of 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: Grab a drink at Employees Only, the cosy speakeasy regarded as one of the world’s best.
Yes, Wan Chai is Hong Kong’s former red light district. But these days you’re more likely to visit for a meal at one of the neighbourhood’s excellent restaurants or to gaze up at its beautiful colonial architecture. This is also the site of a buzzing arts scene and has some great nightlife, with cheaper prices than Lan Kwai Fong. Plus with (almost) as many skyscrapers as the city’s Central district, it boasts a very photogenic skyline.
Must do: See the historic Blue House, one of Hong Kong’s few remaining old-style tenement buildings.
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 Hong Kong and offers easy access to the neighbourhood’s many cool eateries.
People come to Mong Kok for one reason: to shop. Anything and everything is for sale here, in what’s officially the busiest and most densely populated urban district in the world. 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: Practice your haggling skills at the popular Ladies Markets, which overflows with bargain clothing and accessories.