Hong Kong is a sensory overload. It’s a visual feast with its glittering highrises, blazing neon signs and bustling market stalls. Spanning more than 250 islands and a swathe of mainland China, it’s home to almost 7.3 million residents. Located north of Hong Kong island and fringed by Victoria Harbour, Kowloon is one of the buzziest districts to base yourself, with dazzling eateries, a thriving nightlife and tranquil temples to explore. Here’s our guide to the best things to do in Kowloon.
What to do in Kowloon
Get lost in K11 Musea
Is it a mall? A museum? A food court on steroids? The large K11 Musea on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront successfully blurs the line between all three (and more) within its mesmerising reaches. You’ll barely know where to look: in one direction, there’s Yohji Yamamoto’s Chinese flagship store; in another, a rooftop farm and biodiversity museum. The mixed-use space is as visually striking as it is engulfing in its variety, with twisted walls housing contemporary art pieces alongside retail outlets. You’ll happily lose hours in this labyrinth.
Admire art at M+ museum
Dedicated to exploring visual culture, M+ museum is a celebration of Hong Kong’s thriving art scene, with a prime position on Victoria Harbour at the top of the West Kowloon Cultural District. Characterised by imposing concrete columns, the Brutalist space weaves warmth through the design with vast open-air spaces that peer over the city’s harbour. The extensive catalogue of modern and contemporary art is just as impressive — the dots of Yayoi Kusama, an innovative display of neon lights and brightly-coloured, hyperreal photography have all formed the focus of previous exhibitions.
Wong Tai Sin Temple
Hong Kong is liberally spotted with historic temples dedicated to Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, many of which are still actively visited by locals and visitors. The 102-year-old Taoist Wong Tai Sin Temple in Kowloon’s north encompasses a sprawling 18, 000 square metres and is devoted to the god of healing. The various red-and-gold pavilions and halls in the complex are wreathed in incense and guests are encouraged to have their fortune told by way of shaking a box of bamboo sticks inscribed with Chinese proverbs; the first stick to fall loose pertains to one’s future.
Temple Street Night Market
Take a wander through the bustling Temple Street Night Market and discover a different side to Hong Kong’s vibrant shopping scene. A dramatic contrast to the city’s ultra-glossy malls, the markets open at 2pm, with the real fun beginning after sundown as the streets come to frenetic life. Sizzling street-food stalls stand side-by-side with shouting hawkers advertising their myriad wares – clothes, handbags, novelty trinkets and more – as warbling opera singers entertain passersby (every day except Wednesday) and fortune tellers vye for your attention – it’s a multi-sensory feast.
Where to eat in Kowloon
Tin Lung Heen
No visit to Hong Kong would be complete without spending a morning sipping tea and ordering classic dim sum dishes at yum cha. Perched on the 102nd floor of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel at the International Commerce Centre, Tin Lung Heen in West Kowloon has two Michelin stars under its belt. Here, quintessential yum cha dishes are taken to a whole new level: think, wagyu and coriander steamed in silky rice noodle rolls and crab and shrimp dumplings topped with jewel-like salmon roe. Tip: You’ll need to book in advance, but when you do, request a seat by the window – you’ll be rewarded with sky-high views of the harbour and peninsula.
Keung Kee Dai Pai Dong
Locals’ favourite Keung Kee Dai Pai Dong, an open-air food stall in Hong Kong’s Sham Shui Po district, has been plating up traditional Cantonese fare for decades. Chef Anthony Bourdain zoomed in on this casual hotspot in Parts Unknown, ordering the drunken chicken (a Shanghainese specialty soaked in rice wine and served cold), fish tripe and an egg custard claypot with a side of youtiao (chewy fried dough sticks). Due to its relaxed nature, you won’t be able to book ahead, but the food is well worth the wait.
Shop 4, Yiu Tung Street, Sham Shui Po
Lai Ching Heen
Executive chef Lau Yiu Fai was part of the team that opened this jewellery box of a restaurant, formerly known as Yan Toh Heen, in 1984. Its elevated Cantonese fare has earned consecutive Michelin stars for the past 13 years. Housed within the Regent Hotel, the restaurant offers spectacular views of Victoria Harbour and a refined jade-themed interior. Opt for Chef Lau’s Prestigious Dinner Menu for an evening to remember and taste some of the restaurant’s signature dishes such as “Buddha Jumping Over a Wall” (double-boiled abalone, bird’s nest and black chicken soup) and the fluffy double-boiled egg white with taro soup dessert.
Where to stay in Kowloon
Cordis, Hong Kong
With a wide range of room options, including a Family Quad which comes with one king bed, two single beds and a kitchenette and a two bedroom Family offering, Cordis, Hong Kong in Mong Kok is designed to keep the whole group together. Kids will find a bag of red panda-themed goodies waiting upon arrival (that comes with crayons and a colouring-in book) as well as child-size robes and slippers. If your little ones are aged under 12, they’ll also enjoy breakfast for free. Staying in? The hotel houses a library filled with educational games and toys for guests to borrow.
The Langham, Hong Kong
Crystal chandeliers, handcrafted silk furniture and marble bathrooms make a stay in The Langham’s opulent Chairman Suite a holiday to remember. Find a moment of calm in the city with a dip in the heated outdoor pool on the 15th floor before unwinding with an acupressure massage at the elegant Chuan Body + Soul spa. Pop into the award-winning bar, Artesian, for a pre-dinner drink – it’s home to some 400 different gins – and get ready to ignite your tastebuds at the in-house three-Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant, T’ang Court. Step outside and you’re a seven-minute walk to the Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre and a seven-minute drive to K11 Musea.
Image credit: Nikada, Ritz-Carlton Hotel