Hong Kong is a city of dichotomies. It’s an appealing mix of traditional and current, drawing from both ancient Cantonese culture and modern Western influences.

Hong Kong is comprised of two main areas; Kowloon, the more traditional and densely populated, and Hong Kong Island, a beacon for business, expats, and those with excessive disposable incomes.

Despite Hong Kong Island’s reputation for formality, conservatism, and capitalism, there’s been a marked shift toward the independent, local, and creative. This adjusment has ushered in swarms of new businesses in the form of restaurants, galleries, and shops that are markedly different than their predecessors.

While travellers should experience the traditional sights and activities to acquaint themselves with the diverse history and strong heritage of Hong Kong, witnessing the evolution of local neighbourhoods is a worthwhile foray in and of itself to better experience and understand a city in flux.


Tai Hang, Hong Kong

This subdistrict of Wan Chai is just south of Causeway Bay, the highly developed and enormously expensive harbour area on Hong Kong Island.

A former slum, Tai Hang more recently had a high concentration of auto repair shops that have been slowly converted into a range new businesses. Many of the stores and eateries are located along the short streets running between Tung Lo Wan Road and Tai Hang Road.

Hip Hong Kong - Unar Coffee Company

Tai Hang is a breeding ground for independent coffee shops with several popping up in this compact area. Most prominent, and most popular, is Unar Coffee Company a walkup cafe counter where caffeine fiends sit on the outside bench or stand when it gets too busy to get their espresso fix.

The food scene in Tai Hang is a mix of cuisines; Cantonese, Japanese, Italian, and American are all represented. Despite the style, expect to find neighbourhood locals pulling up a plastic chair outside to grab a bite.

For a taste of Spain in Hong Kong check out Guay! for tapas and unique cocktails. The mellow interior is inviting, making it easy to hunker down and spend the evening trying as many dishes as your stomach can handle. Standouts include patatas bravas and steak tostadas.

There are a few prominent Ramen spots in Tai Hang but BB Ramen stands apart from the others. Complete customization from the broth to the noodle consistency ensures that you get your ramen just the way you like it.

Infusing science with dessert, Lab Made’s liquid nitrogen ice cream is the most unique dessert in Tai Hang. Frozen at -195 degrees celsius as you order, Lab Made offers a range of rotating flavours from classic to odd, such as black sesame, custard bun, and strawberry shortcake.

Hip Hong Kong - Feel So Good Store

There are a few quirky shops in Tai Hang worthy of a perusal. In the same building as Unar Coffee, Feel So Good is a design shop featuring lots of eclectic home piece and even hosts the odd event. Volume One is a hybrid shop selling funky jewelry and apparel as well as fresh breads and baked goods at the front counter. Papabubble offers artisanal candies, which are not only addictively delicious, but stunning little works of art in a myriad of flavours.


Starstreet Precinct, Hong Kong

3a_Sun_Street-by-Hkcm

It’s easy to miss Starstreet Precinct entirely, a wonderfully subdued area nestled behind the hectic Queen’s Road in Wan Chai. Restaurants, shops, and galleries are dotted along Star, Sun, and Moon streets, all named upon the opening of Hong Kong’s first power plant nearby. At the same time trendy and mellow, Starstreet Precint is a hip oasis in the hustle and bustle of Wan Chai.

If you’re in the mood for meat, Beef & Liberty offers an array of hearty burgers and a range non-beef choices like chicken and lamb. Thick diner style shakes are the perfect burger companion, with some spiked options such as the decadent Southern Slur composed of vanilla ice cream with caramel and bourbon. For those who can’t handle all of that lactose, a few solid craft beers are on tap.

Hip Hong Kong - Teds Lookout

It’s hard to pass by ‘hood favourite Ted’s Lookout and not be intrigued. Sitting at the end of Moon Street, the restaurant’s illuminated sign, large open windows, and vintage theatre seats positioned out front practically pull you in. A range of classic and creative cocktails, heavy on the rum, make this the perfect spot for a drink while in proximity. The food can be hit or miss but the shareable options are your best bet.

Hybrid gallery and cafe Odd One Out on St. Francis Street showcases distinctive yet affordable art. Featuring an array of artist prints, one of a kind home items, cards, and stationary, Odd One Out is a great spot to pick up a unique souvenir or gift. The intimate and cozy adjacent coffee shop offers excellent coffee and espresso drinks.

The Monocle Shop, an outpost of the unwaveringly hip magazine The Monocle, offers the cool international brands and products featured in the magazine with a focus on mens pieces, lifestyle items, and ergonomic luggage. Kapok, showcasing a range of international labels, has two locations in the neighbourhood; St. Francis Street is predominately apparel and accessories while Sun Street is more home and lifestyle items. Despite what its name suggests, Cocktail Jojo is a shop full of fun and quirky items including their bestselling, one of a kind bags.

While technically outside the boundaries of the Starstreet precinct, nearby Ship Street is also worth checking out if you’re in the area. This up and coming street is increasingly a hub for new food ventures including acclaimed tapas restaurant 22 Ships.


Soho, Hong Kong

Hip Hong Kong - Little Bao Sign

Located in the Central district, Soho is found just off of the Mid Level Escalators that run through the city. While Soho, or South of Hollywood, has been established as a spot for youthful expats and visitors for decades, it’s increasingly becoming home to hip new businesses that have been successfully transforming the neighbourhood.

Like much of Hong Kong Island, Soho embraces modernity while looking to preserve its rich history. Along the uneven streets of Staunton and Elgin you’ll find a tonne of indie shops, eateries, and hip bars, making this a great neighbourhood to be in from day ’til dark.

Hip Hong Kong - Little Bao

Always jam packed with hungry patrons, Little Bao serves traditional Chinese baos, buns with filling, but with a modern twist. These bite sized concoctions are soft, melt-in-your-mouth buns filled with the most deliciously flavourful ingredients such as classic pork belly, Szechuan chicken, and fish tempura. Save room for dessert as the salted caramel ice cream bao is out-of-this-world good.

With points for the cheekiest restaurant name, Ho Lee Fook is acclaimed Taiwanese-Canadian chef Jawett Yu’s interpretation of Chinese cuisine. All the cooking is done on the main level and the dining takes place on the lower floor, a cool, dark, loud space that provides an excellent ambiance to devour Yu’s delicious dishes. Standouts include Yunnan style wagyu beef tartare, shrimp lo mein, and “mom’s mostly cabbage and a little bit of pork dumplings”.

Yardbird - Hip Hong Kong - Premshree-Pillai

Izayaka style restaurant Yardbird focuses on yakitori, sticks of skewered meat. Pretty much all parts of a chicken are up for grilling here from neck to knee, as well as some non-meat dishes like fried cauliflower. Yardbird also has a good offering of cocktails, shochu, and sake to complement the eclectic meal.

While watering holes are a dime a dozen in Soho, head to Little Lab for inventive cocktails evoking the traditional flavours of the city and infusing local ingredients. For beer enthusiasts, Craft Brew & Co is the premier spot on the island to sample a range of local and international craft beers.

Check out PMQ for a unique shopping experience in the former “Police Married Quarters”, a building now transformed into an art, event, and shopping space encouraging and recognizing creativity. While Hong Kong is full of mega malls, this one strays from the rest with a focus on small, local businesses including an array of craftsmen, designers, and jewellers.


Po Hing Fong and Tai Ping Shan, Hong Kong

Hip Hong Kong Blake Gardens

While technically two distinct areas in Sheung Wan, Po Hing Fong (“PoHo”) and Tai Ping Shan are just around the corner from each other and compact enough to see in one go. Both areas border Blake Garden, a small park within the thick urban area.

The neighbourhoods are an excellent spot for a stroll with many diversions starting with the Man Ho Temple, the Western Market, and ending with antique hunting on Upper Lascar Row. A noticeable mix of the traditional and modern are evident, where dried fish stalls coexist with trendy shops and restaurants.

Hip Hong Kong - Street Art

For some of the best Thai food in Hong Kong check out Chachawan on Hollywood Road, just parallel to Tai Ping Shan Street. Chachawan specializes in Isaan cuisine, a region of northeastern Thailand known for spicy foods offset with fresh herbs. With a laid back and informal vibe it’s the perfect spot for excellent Thai dishes like Pla Phao Glua (whole fried sea bass) and Gai Yung (chicken thighs marinated for over a 24 hours).

Get your carb fix on the other side of the park at Po’s Atelier, a French bakery with a Japanese twist serving up fresh and delicious baked goods. Adjacent restaurant Cafe Deadend offers decadent dishes using Po’s breads that are sold to eager local residents and hungry passerby.

Hip Hong Kong - Teakha

Offering a diverse selection of teas and a treats, Teakha is a must-see spot at the end of Tai Ping Shan Street. The small yet airy cafe emphasizes fresh and local teas as well as a large menu of organic meals. On nice days join the crowd sitting outside on the window ledge or sprawled out on the green, grass-like rug out front.

Just up the stairs at the end of Po Hing Fong is cafe Lof10The minimalist design and airy ambience make this coffee shop feel more LA than HK, where patrons are encouraged to stay awhile at the communal wood table or grab a stool outside to take in the elements.

Hip Hong Kong - In Between

Scope out the selection of vintage items at InBetween on Tai Ping Shan. The small store is packed with quirky accessories, jewellery, and vintage posters. Just around the corner is Konzepp, a hip concept shop that’s impossible to miss with its shockingly yellow facade. Inside you’ll find a uniquely curated mix of independent designer labels from around the world.

So that’s it for the hip Hong Kong districts that we explored while in town. Got any hip Hong Kong spots of your own? Let us know in the comment section below.


“Hip Hong Kong” photos courtesy of JP Bervoets, Lauren Barth; Flickr, Premshree Pillai (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0); Wikimedia Commons, Hkcm (CC BY 3.0)


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Lauren Barth

Lauren Barth

Lauren Barth co-founded Departful in 2012 and is the Managing Director of Departful Media. Since then she has worked between North America and Europe and has published content in partnership with a variety of tourism boards and businesses based around the world. Lauren is currently based in Toronto, Canada.

Departful is a travel magazine that provides accessible, relevant, and thoughtful travel tips and ideas to inspire people to explore the world around them. We feature travel articles, travel tips, and photography based on our own experiences from over 100 countries covering all things adventure, culture, food and drink, technology, and gear. Made with ❤ in Toronto.

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