Hong Kong Asia's World City

Old Meets New

Old meets new

Uncover Hong Kong’s rich history by exploring its unique, revitalized historical buildings

Hong Kong’s revitalized historical buildings provide a window into the city’s rich architecture and heritage. Below you’ll find an introduction to the city’s old-meets-new character: where new businesses exist alongside old and where run-down tenements have been revitalized into modern urban projects. You can also take a closer look at how this Hong Kong characteristic is in play in the district of Sham Shui Po, or how the old and new live side-by-side in Tsuen Wan.

Picture Hong Kong and the first image that springs to mind is usually a dramatic cityscape, with towering skyscrapers jutting into the sky. While the city certainly has no shortage of big, glitzy high-rises, remnants of old Hong Kong remain apparent in its many historical buildings.

Thanks to efforts in the past few years to preserve these beautiful older buildings via adaptive reuse, visitors to the city can explore these fascinating sites. While some have been repurposed as museums, others have become restaurants, theaters and shops, ensuring that they remain part of Hong Kong’s vibrant street culture.

Blue House

One well-known example of successful heritage preservation is Wan Chai’s Blue House. This rare example of a wooden tenement building, known in Cantonese as a tong lau, dates back to the 1920s and is classed as a Grade 1 Historical Building. A successful revitalization campaign has resulted in a vibrant neighborhood landmark, with tenants still living inside the building. A Chinese medicine shop, a dessert parlor, and the Wan Chai Livelihood Museum occupy the ground-level.

The Blue House has delivered a boost to its neighborhood. While traditional businesses continue to ply a successful trade in the area, the appeal of the Blue House has attracted a trendier crowd to this portion of Wan Chai. Tai Lung Fung is a stylish bar decorated in a classic “nostalgic Hong Kong style”—a perfect place for happy hour after a day of sightseeing. Or if you’re looking for a bite to eat, nearby Maureen offers a gourmet, molecular twist on Chinese noodles. Just a stone’s throw from there is the Stone Nullah Tavern, an American gastropub located in a refurbished tong lau.

Hollywood Road

Another “old-meets-new” hub is the well-trodden Hollywood Road. Home to antique shops and art galleries, the area is becoming increasingly gentrified as the hip SoHo crowd expands westwards. Start in Sheung Wan and walk to Central along this road and you’ll find kitschy souvenirs on sale alongside designer clothes, and traditional tea parlors standing beside European-style cafes and restaurants. Spend an afternoon soaking up the atmosphere along and around this famous road, being sure to take in the Man Mo Temple, which dates back to 1847. While you’re there, it’s just a few minutes to the newly opened Man Mo Café, which sells contemporary fusion dim sum in among the traditional curio stalls of Cat Street.

PMQ

To walk off all that dumpling goodness, head down neighboring Aberdeen Street to the recently-opened PMQ. After nearly 14 years of being closed off to the public, the former Police Married Quarters has reopened as a creative hub for young designers. The stated mission is to give young talents a hand in developing their brands, by bringing them face-to-face with potential clients and other designers. There are many floors to explore which include studios and shops, plus hip food and drink outlets from well-known UK chef Jason Atherton and restaurateur Yenn Wong.

The conservation extends to an “underground interpretation area,” where the foundation stones of Hong Kong’s first secondary school, the Central School, are preserved in-situ. Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung and his predecessor Donald Tsang are both former residents of the married quarters – both their fathers were in the force.

Finally, if you want to take an extra flavor of old Hong Kong back home with you, pay a visit to the homeware and knick-knack store G.O.D. Also located on Hollywood Road, this shop is well known among locals for its tongue-in-cheek take on quintessential Hong Kong design. Within such a compact and varied city, there are myriad examples of how Hong Kong’s historic tapestry is etched onto its architectural façade. Dig a little deeper – take a tour, push open those ancient doors - and you’ll uncover how this cultural heritage is being preserved, but also how it’s being renovated and adapted for the city’s future generations.

Get Going

  • The Blue House
    The Blue House
    A 1920s wooden tenement building, known in Cantonese as a tong lau, now classed as a Grade 1 Historical Building.
    Address:
    72 Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2835 4372
    How to Get There:
    MTR Wan Chai Station, Exit A3. Walk along Tai Yuen Street to Queen's Road East, then turn left to Stone Nullah Lane.
  • Tai Lung Fung
    Tai Lung Fung
    A stylish bar decorated in a classic “nostalgic Hong Kong style”—a perfect place for happy hour after a day of sightseeing
    Address:
    5 Hing Wan Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2572 0055
    How to Get There:
    MTR Wan Chai Station, Exit A3. Cross Johnston Road and walk along Tai Yuen Street. Turn left on Queen's Road East and right onto Stone Nullah Lane. Hing Wan Street is the second street on the left. It’s about a 10-minute walk.
  • Maureen
    Maureen
    A restaurant with a gourmet twist on classic Chinese noodles.
    Address:
    G/F, 11 Hing Wan Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2915 2261
    How to Get There:
    MTR Wan Chai Station, Exit A3. Cross Johnston Road and walk along Tai Yuen Street. Turn left on Queen's Road East and right onto Stone Nullah Lane. Hing Wan Street is the second street on the left. It’s about a 10-minute walk.
  • Stone Nullah Tavern
    Stone Nullah Tavern
    An American gastropub located in a redeveloped tong lau tenement building near Wan Chai’s Blue House.
    Address:
    G/F, 69 Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 3182 0128
    How to Get There:
    MTR Wan Chai Station, Exit A3. Cross Johnston Road and walk along Tai Yuen Street. Turn left on Queen's Road East and right onto Stone Nullah Lane. It’s about a 10-minute walk.
  • Man Mo Temple
    Man Mo Temple
    This historical structure dates to 1847 and worshippers pay their respects here to the Gods of Literature (Man) and War (Mo).
    Address:
    124-126 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2540 0350
    How to Get There:
    • Bus 26 outside Pacific Place at Admiralty to Hollywood Road and get off near Man Mo Temple.
    • MTR Central Station Exit D2 and turn right to Theatre Lane. Walk along Queen's Road Central towards The Center. Then take the Central—Mid-Levels Escalator to Hollywood Road.
    • MTR Sheung Wan Station Exit A2 then walk along Hillier Street to Queen's Road Central. Then proceed up Ladder Street (next to Lok Ku Road) to Hollywood Road to the Man Mo Temple.
  • Man Mo Café
    Man Mo Café
    Trendy, contemporary fusion dim sum in among the traditional curio stalls of Cat Street.
    Address:
    40 Upper Lascar Row, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2644 5644
    How to Get There:
    MTR Sheung Wan Station, Exit A2. Walk along Wing Lok Street and turn left on Cleverly Street up to Queen's Road Central. Turn left and then go right up the steps of Ladder Street. Turn right off onto Upper Lascar Row.
  • PMQ
    PMQ
    The former Police Married Quarters is now a funky creative hub for young designers, with studios and shops, plus hip food and drink outlets.
    Address:
    35 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong Island
    Website:
    How to Get There:
    • MTR Sheung Wan Station, Exit E1. Turn right to Des Voeux Road Central, then turn right to Gilman’s Bazaar. Go straight towards Queen’s Road Central. Walk along Aberdeen Street for around 7 minutes to reach PMQ.
    • MTR Central Station Exit C. Walk along Des Voeux Road to the Hang Seng Bank Headquarters, which is linked to the Central–Mid-Levels Escalator. Take the escalator to Staunton Street and turn right. Walk for about three minutes to reach PMQ. The whole walk takes about 15 minutes.
  • G.O.D.
    G.O.D.
    A homeware and knick-knack store selling trendy tongue-in-cheek products inspired by vintage Hong Kong design trends.
    Address:
    G/F & 1/F, 48 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2805 1876
    Website:
    How to Get There:
    MTR Central Station, Exit D1. Walk west along Queen’s Road Central until you come to the Central-Mid Levels escalator. Take this up to Hollywood Road, turn right and walk for 2 minutes.

Old Meets New ‘Musts’

  • The Pawn
    Drink like a broker
    The Pawn
    The multi-story British bar/restaurant The Pawn is located in the former Woo Cheong Pawn Shop, right in the heart of Wan Chai. The building itself dates back to the 1880s and was once owned by a well-known family of pawnbrokers. After an extensive renovation, it was reopened as a restaurant in 2007. Visitors are now welcome to sit out on one of the many balconies with a cocktail, dine on the second floor, or even chill out on the rooftop garden, the latter of which is in fact open to the public; you don’t need to be a patron to spend some time on this pleasant terrace.
    Address:
    62 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2866 3444
    How to Get There:
    MTR Wan Chai Station Exit B2, walk along Southorn Playground to Johnston Road.
  • Comix Home Base
    Check out graphic art
    Comix Home Base
    Jointly run by the Hong Kong Arts Centre and the Urban Renewal Authority, Comix Home Base in Wan Chai is a cluster of 10 tong lau shophouses that provide exhibition, studio and shop spaces to illustrators and graphic artists. The Home Base has made it a mission to assimilate into the local community, which is why you’ll still find traditional Chinese cha chaan teng east-meets-west cafés on the rent-controlled ground floor.
    Address:
    7 Mallory Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2824 5303
    How to Get There:
    MTR Wan Chai Station, Exit A3. Walk along Johnston Road for approximately 10 minutes and turn right onto Mallory Road.
  • Western Market
    Shop in ancient surrounds
    Western Market
    Western Market, an Edwardian-era former wet market, dates back to 1906, when it served as a place where locals could buy and sell fresh produce. After being replaced by a more modern market complex in the 1980s, the northern block was preserved as a declared monument in 1990. It now houses fabric stores on the first floor, and The Grand Stage, a large, high-ceilinged Chinese restaurant that serves tasty dim sum in pleasant surroundings.
    Address:
    323 Des Voeux Road Central, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 6029 2675
    How to Get There:
    MTR Sheung Wan Station, Exit B or C.
  • Graham Street Market
    Get snap happy
    Graham Street Market
    Weaving in and out of Central’s skyscrapers, the 160-year-old Graham Street Market is Hong Kong’s last functioning open-air wet market. Stalls are clustered around Graham Street, but also extend to Peel, Gage and Stanley Streets. The lively sights, sounds and smells of the hawkers selling their fresh produce to their loyal customers, a market frozen in time among the ever-changing, fast-paced Central Business District, is something you’ll only find in Hong Kong.
    Address:
    Peel Street, Gage Street, Graham Street, Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong Island
    How to Get There:
    MTR Central Station, Exit D1. Walk east along Queen’s Road Central for about 10 minutes before turning left up Graham Street.
  • Yau Ma Tei Theatre
    See Cantonese opera
    Yau Ma Tei Theatre
    Yau Ma Tei Theatre is a former cinema, dating back to the 1930s, which reopened in 2012 to provide a space for smaller scale Cantonese opera performances. Jointly run by the government and the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong, there are just 300 seats in the space, making it a cozy, intimate venue where audiences can get up close to the colorful costumes, and where budding performers can take on larger roles.
    Address:
    6 Waterloo Road, Kowloon
    Tel:
    +852 2264 8108
    How to Get There:
    MTR Yau Ma Tei Station, Exit B2. Walk along Waterloo Road for approximately five minutes to Reclamation Road.
  • Lui Seng Chun
    Experience Chinese medicine
    Lui Seng Chun
    Lui Seng Chun is an original tong lau shophouse, which was built in 1931 by Lui Leung, co-founder of KMB Ltd. Lui’s brother operated a Chinese medicine shop on the ground floor, while the family lived upstairs, and the medicines became so popular they were exported internationally. Sadly after nearly two decades of operation, the building fell into disuse. The Grade I listed building has since been renovated and in 2012, the Lui Seng Chun building reopened as a Chinese medicine and healthcare center of Baptist University. This not only preserved the building’s façade, it also conserved its function and role in the community.
    Address:
    119 Lai Chi Kok Road, Mong Kok, Kowloon
    Tel:
    +852 3411 0628
    How to Get There:
    MTR Prince Edward Station Exit C2. Walk along Prince Edward Road West to Lai Chi Kok Road. Proceed along Lai Chi Kok Road until you reach Lui Seng Chun.
  • Tai O Heritage Hotel
    Lock yourself away
    Tai O Heritage Hotel
    Lauded as a highly successful heritage preservation project, the Tai O Heritage Hotel is another former police station-turned-boutique-hotel—this time, tucked away in the remote fishing village of Tai O on Lantau Island. Awarded by UNESCO, this small hotel is well worth a visit; even if you can’t get a room, pay a visit to the glass-ceilinged Tai O Lookout restaurant, which uses shrimp paste and mountain begonia—two of Tai O’s indigenous ingredients—in its dishes.
    Address:
    Shek Tsai Po Street, Tai O, Lantau Island, Outlying Islands
    Tel:
    +852 2985 8383
    How to Get There:
    Walk for five minutes from the Tai O bus terminus to the Rope-drawn Ferry Bridge. Cross the bridge and walk along Tai O Market Street. Turn left to Shek Tsai Po Street and walk another 30 minutes to the street's end.

This guide was produced by HK Magazine Media Group from 2014-2015.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board disclaims any liability as to the quality or fitness for purpose of third party products and services; and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy, adequacy or reliability of any information contained herein.

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