Hong Kong is many things – financial centre, transport hub, tourist mecca – but while its glittering skyline suggests it’s all business, there’s plenty of avant-garde glitz and glam to go around.
The breadth and scope of Hong Kong can sometimes overshadow the very parts of the city that make it so special. But Hong Kong is no different from other cities in that its neighbourhoods define its personality.
Old Town Central is one district that refuses to submit to the high-rise uniformity of the surrounding Central region.
From groovy rooftop bars and trendy restaurants, to flashy stores and art galleries, and treasured city monuments and temples, exploring Old Town Central is a colourful adventure.
Bordered by Wyndham Street, Caine Road, Possession Street and Queen’s Road Central, the district is often described as a place where east meets west, where the past and the present come together and where the dazzling city’s charming attributes co-exist, blend and sometimes collide.
It’s the perfect place for visitors to begin their Hong Kong journey. The best way to experience Old Town Central is to set out on one of the five self-guided walking tours, each showcasing a unique aspect of this cultural and entertainment district.
Tasting Hong Kong
Nothing defines a city like its food and Old Town Central offers some of the best in town. Dim sum, local dai pai and international fare are all within steps from each other. Enjoy local tastes from an array of street food vendors, sample fusion dishes, or, if you’re craving something more lavish, there are plenty of swanky fine dining venues.
Be sure to stop by Sing Heung Yuen, an open-air food stall (dai pai dong), for its signature tomato noodle soup and crispy buns with lemon and honey. The soup is made with fresh tomatoes and is a little sweet and sour, packed with thick egg noodles. The simple dessert bun is crispy on the outside, topped with butter, honey and fresh lemon juice. Pull up a plastic stool and eat with locals at this Old Town favourite. Find it at 2 Mee Lun Street, Central.
On this route you’ll discover the old and the new. Start your walk at Possession Point where British colonisation began with the raising of the Union Jack in 1841. Continue to the area known as Tai Ping Shan and walk the old streets where Chinese settlers converged in the 1840s. The area is also home to historic temples, as well as the first police and judicial buildings.
A must-do is Pottinger Street. Walk the steps for a sense of life in the nineteenth century when merchants once crowded the streets with market stalls selling household goods and services such as pot repairs and alterations.
Take note of the stone slabs as you stroll along Hollywood Road and Connaught Road. These slabs were purposely aligned to make the walk easier for commuters and merchants and they allowed rainwater to flow more easily during heavy storms.
Today, the only thing that has changed is what’s for sale – now it’s handicrafts, garments and knick-knacks.
Crazy for Art
This walking tour highlights the best of Old Town Central’s art and entertainment scene. You’ll find everything from colourful painted murals and street art, to fashionable galleries and live venues.
If Old Town is where the past meets the present, it’s also a place where quirky meets chic – from poetry readings and performance art at the colourful orange and white striped Fringe Club, to the classy art galleries on Hollywood Road, it’s all here.
Find the staircase between Hollywood Road and Square Street for an impressive mosaic mural of Hong Kong’s most famous ‘export’ – Bruce Lee.
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For those looking for that hidden treasure or memorable collector’s item, this is the tour to take.
It’s best begun on Upper Lascar Row where the numerous antique stores will keep you happily occupied for hours, as will the eclectic collections of traditional Chinese calligraphy, local arts and vintage furniture.
On Tai Ping Shan Street in the PoHo area, the mix of bohemian tea houses and stores provide a relaxed vibe for some vintage and second-hand shopping.
Check out Blue-Clad Vintage (6B Tai Ping Shan Street) which houses an international collection of vintage goods, vinyl records, lapel pins, film posters and a unique range of local designer products.
This is a comprehensive walk that encompasses the best of each of the themed excursions.
For all things homewares, be sure to drop by Gough Street. Nordic Room by Homeless (29 Gough St) is a showcase of playful Scandinavia homewares.
All that walking can be thirsty work so drop by one of the many herbal tea houses, a quintessential part of life in Hong Kong. Founded in the 1940s, Kung Lee (60 Hollywood Road) is a remarkable example of decor from the 1950s and 60s. Try the leung cha (cooling tea), said to expel heat and dampness from the body and treat various ailments from the common cold to even acne.