Hong Kong Asia's World City

Wan Chai

Wan Chai

A night owl’s guide

“I don’t get paid for working here, but I do earn a lot from human kindness. Here, we represent community power,” says Kayla Tsang Kit Wah, a volunteer at House of Stories.

Wan Chai has witnessed a rapid transformation over the past 150 years: from a mid-19th century fishing village into the buzzing social beacon of Hong Kong today. Wan Chai in fact owes its bright lights and all-night entertainment to its maritime ties, being the destination of choice for war-time sailors who came ashore looking for a good time. There is a lot of fun to be had here, from dusk ’til dawn, but as well as a multitude of bars, restaurants and clubs to fill your night, there’s a lot more to Wan Chai that’s worth exploring.

For some fascinating insights into Wan Chai’s community spirit, duck into House of Stories. Run by the charity St. James’ Settlement, this center housed in an old tong lau tenement building, literally throws open its doors to visitors who want to hear old neighborhood tales, take guided tours of Wan Chai’s historic streets (don’t miss the nighttime haunted tour), and get involved in creative workshops.

Kayla Tsang Kit Wah

Kayla Tsang Kit Wah is a volunteer at House of Stories and is keen to help the public understand the area. She explains: “The relationship between neighbors is a very close one in Wan Chai. I live in an old building here and we rarely close our doors—children from different families all play together in the corridor.” Even residents who’ve since moved on often return for the House of Stories activities. Ms. Tsang said: “One grandpa who is good at Chinese calligraphy, he comes back every year and writes fai chun (New Year greetings) to the neighbors. We have different free activities such as screenings, music and drawing sessions, and weekly courses. I have been teaching how to make different fruit cocktails and also planting skills. We share what we know and solve problems together. I don’t get paid for working here, but I do earn a lot from human kindness. Here, we represent community power.”

Ho Wah Cafe

Wan Chai is learning to preserve its historical and cultural character in another way as well, with streets of old tong laus being gentrified for modern use. Mallory Street is one such narrow lane that’s home to restaurant Ho Wah Cafe, a 60-year-old streetside dai pai dong (tea cart) that moved into a tong lau in the 1980s. It’s a really popular local spot for a bite to eat after a long night out in Wan Chai: from as early as 5am you’ll have partygoers queuing up with early risers for its specialties—thick toast and milk tea. Nearby Ship Street is another old road that now contains many of the district’s trendy restaurants and bars. As you wander through here, you can’t miss the distinctive Ham & Sherry tapas restaurant that’s decked out in floor-to-ceiling Azulejo tiles. Pop down the side alley to its hidden back bar for an inventive selection of sherry-based cocktails.

Well into the early hours of the morning, Wan Chai residents can always be found in one of the district’s many late-night restaurants. Joy Hing Roasted Meat is a time-honored tradition, having been serving up Cantonese char siu (barbecue meat) since the end of the Qing dynasty. The Chow family started the restaurant in Guangdong before moving to Hong Kong in the early 1900s and still uses a special oven to achieve rich barbecue flavors in its meat. Alternatively, follow the locals as they make an obligatory stop for dessert. Day or night, Chong Sao Star Dessert will have throngs of people queuing outside for its Chinese delights: think tofu pudding, warm sweet soups or refreshing ices. Try the grass jelly—a herbal jelly that’s common in South East Asia—served here with mashed red beans.

Happy Wednesdays

For the quintessential Wan Chai nighttime experience, make sure you’re here on a Wednesday—more commonly known as “Happy Wednesdays.” This is when the Hong Kong Jockey Club Happy Valley Racecourse is floodlit for horse racing action, live entertainment and, of course, beer. You’ll see the stands divided into hardcore racing fans and the socialites just soaking up the atmosphere. After the races, the crowds divide up and head to one of Wan Chai’s other nightly offerings.

Shopping in the Wan Chai neighborhood of Causeway Bay is a popular pastime no matter what the time of day, with shops often open past 10pm. Eslite Bookstore is a much-frequented evening spot away from the hustle and bustle of malls, with lots of little corners for quiet contemplation. You can come and settle down with a good book or magazine, making use of the coffee shop hidden in here too.

Billidart Bar & Restaurant

A livelier end to the night can be found along Lockhart or Jaffe Roads in Wan Chai. From end to end these streets are filled with bars and clubs of all sorts and sizes, with venues that keep pumping until dawn. Billidart Bar & Restaurant is an American-styled sports bar that keeps punters busy all night long with its raft of pool tables, dart boards and screens showing the big sports matches, as well as dedicated beer pong tables.

As Hong Kong’s all-time district-that-never-sleeps, Wan Chai boasts a large number of alternative options for a great night out, so that whatever your inclination you’ll be sure to find something to suit your tastes.

 

Do-it-Yourself

Afternoon
  • House of Stories
    Take a guided tour
    House of Stories
    For some fascinating insights into Wan Chai’s close-knit community, take a guided tour with one of the volunteers at House of Stories. This charitable organization, run by charity St. James’ Settlement, is committed to preserving the neighborhood’s buildings, its stories and its community spirit. The Wanchai Haunted Tour ($60 a person, book one month in advance) explains the district’s traditions, culture and history with a series of myths and spooky tales, and sheds light on the local religions and beliefs.
    Address:
    G/F, 4 Hing Wan Street, 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. It’s about an 8-minute walk.
  • Ham & Sherry
    Discover a hidden bar
    Ham & Sherry
    Ham & Sherry is distinctively decked out in floor-to-ceiling Azulejo tiles, but what is a bit of a secret here its back bar: pop in through the side alley for an inventive selection of sherry-based cocktails. If you fancy your sherry straight up, the menu is extensive but the staff will happily recommend you something to get you started. Don’t leave without ordering some of the delicious tapas, made in the neighboring open kitchen.
    Address:
    1-7 Ship Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2555 0628
    How to Get There:
    MTR Wan Chai Station, Exit A3. Turn right on Johnston Road and left onto Ship Street. It’s about a 5-minute walk.
Evening
  • Joy Hing Roasted Meat
    Fulfil your BBQ cravings
    Joy Hing Roasted Meat
    Joy Hing Roasted Meat is an old favorite, having been serving up Cantonese char sui since the end of the Qing dynasty. The Chow family started the restaurant in Guangdong before moving to Hong Kong in the early 1900s. Joy Hing still has a pre-war style of cooking, using a special oven to achieve rich barbecue flavors. Come here for everything from roasted duck to barbecued pork, all coated in a soy, rice wine and honey sauce.
    Address:
    Block C, 265-267 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2519 6639
    How to Get There:
    MTR Wan Chai Station, Exit A2. Turn left and walk along Hennessy Road. It’s about a 5-minute walk.
  • Chong Sao Star Dessert
    Make room for dessert
    Chong Sao Star Dessert
    Day or night, Chong Sao Star Dessert will have throngs of people queuing outside for its Chinese delights: think tofu pudding, warm sweet soups or refreshing ices. It is famous for its fruit puddings in particular, with durian and mango the firm favorites. Try the grass jelly—a herbal jelly that’s common in South East Asia—served here with smashed red beans.
    Address:
    11 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2278 2622
    How to Get There:
    MTR Causeway Bay Station, Exit A. Turn right on Matheson Street and right onto Yiu Wa Street. It’s about a 2-minute walk.
  • Billidart Bar & Restaurant
    Shoot some pool
    Billidart Bar & Restaurant
    Billidart Bar & Restaurant is an American-styled sports bar spread over two floors that keeps punters busy all night long with its raft of pool tables, dart boards and screens showing the big sports matches, as well as dedicated beer pong tables. It’s nestled amid the lively bars and clubs around Lockhart and Jaffe Roads so there will always be something nearby to hold your attention.
    Address:
    7-8/F, Kwan Chart Tower, 6 Tonnochy Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2144 3010
    How to Get There:
    MTR Wan Chai Station, Exit A1. Turn right on Lockart Road and left on Tonnochy Road. It’s about an 8-minute walk.
  • Ho Wah Cafe
    Pick up breakfast
    Ho Wah Cafe
    Restaurant Ho Wah Cafe started off as a dai pai dong (tea cart) before moving into a tong lau in the 1980s. It’s a popular local spot after a long night out: from as early as 5am party goers queue up with early risers for its specialty thick toast and milk tea. The simple slice of bread is transformed here with any number of toppings—from sweet condensed milk to kaya (a homemade, sugary jam-like topping) or fresh eggs.
    Address:
    Shop A, G/F, Comix Home Base, 1-11 Mallory Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2574 3069
    How to Get There:
    MTR Wan Chai Station, Exit A3. Walk along Johnston Road for approximately 10 minutes and turn right onto Mallory Road.
Others
  • Hong Kong Jockey Club Happy Valley Racecourse
    Place your bets
    Hong Kong Jockey Club Happy Valley Racecourse
    For the quintessential Wan Chai experience, make sure you’re here on a Wednesday night when everyone heads to the horse races. Known as “Happy Wednesdays”, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Happy Valley Racecourse is floodlit for a line-up of fast-paced racing, live entertainment and, of course, beer. You’ll see the stands divided into hardcore racing fans and socialites soaking up the atmosphere. And with entry to the main arena just $10, it’s a hard-to-beat night out.
    Address:
    Wong Nai Chung Road, Happy Valley, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2895 1523
    +852 2966 8111
    Website:
    How to Get There:
    MTR Causeway Station, Exit A. Turn right on Matheson Street and pick up a tram to the stadium on Leighton Road. It’s about a 10-minute journey.
  • Eslite Bookstore
    Indulge your creative side
    Eslite Bookstore
    Eslite Bookstore is a relaxed spot for an evening away from the busy shopping streets. This Taiwanese chain sprawls over three floors and has lots of little corners for quiet contemplation. It’s perfectly normal to come up here and settle down with a good book or magazine, making use of the tranquil coffee shop hidden in here too. Books are held in a wide variety of languages, plus you’ll find various pop-ups selling unique gifts on each floor.
    Address:
    8-10/F Hysan Place, 500 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 3419 6789
    Website:
    How to Get There:
    MTR Causeway Bay Station, Exit F2 onto Hennessy Road. Hysan Place is next door.

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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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While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this guide, the Hong Kong Tourism Board and HK Magazine accept no responsibility for any obsolescence, errors or omissions contained herein.

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