The vibrant district of Old Town Central is teeming with life and creativity. Hike up sloped pavements to explore art hubs and heritage buildings, and traverse through countless lanes to discover hidden cafes and excellent java. Whether you’re in need of a quick escape from the daily grind or simply looking for a place to rest your feet, one of these locations will provide the perfect sanctuary for you.
Tai Kwun, one of Old Town Central’s oldest historical landmarks, often plays host to a diverse range of art exhibitions. Ying Kwok has devoted her life to creating one-of-a-kind art experiences for locals and visitors. As a Hong Kong-based curator, Ying Kwok works with a diverse range of local and internationally recognised art and cultural institutions, putting together numerous art shows small and large, most notably the Hong Kong Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017.
Now working as the senior curator of the Digital and Heritage Department at Tai Kwun, Kwok finds that Old Town Central differs from other parts of the city — a unique neighbourhood in Hong Kong where old antique shops, avant-garde designer shops, and a high concentration of renowned contemporary art galleries are all within walking distance from each other. Kwok especially enjoys visiting heritage buildings within the area such as Fringe Club and Tai Kwun. “The buildings and architecture is a live exhibit in its own right,” she says. “There are various regular and themed exhibitions throughout the year that add to my perfect weekend.”
“Try strolling around in Old Town Central, get lost in the hidden routes, and you will discover many interesting interactions and adaptations from the community,” suggests Kwok, who believes that it offers opportunities for locals to interact in an organic and creative way. For inspiration, Kwok enjoys visiting cafes in the neighbourhood and settling down to people-watch when her mind is in need of clarity. Many cafes in the area, such as 15squarestreet and Stain+, are art spaces themselves, offering artfully crafted drinks alongside handcrafted goods and creative workshops. If she is after some excitement, there are many independent shops in the area that Kwok likes to visit, which sell second-hand items, artist books, and designer products. For Kwok, nothing is more inspiring than beautiful things and smart designs.
Art and creativity can be found in every corner around Old Town Central. Follow Kwok’s recommendations and bask in the historic ambience and the artistic energy of the neighbourhood!
Currently housing five world-class art galleries, including David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth, Pace Gallery, Tang Contemporary Art, and Whitestone Gallery, H Queen’s was built to promote arts in the city. Giving visitors a new art-viewing experience with spacious venues that allow for large-scale installations, H Queen's also boasts a string of top-quality eateries within its sleek 24-storey complex. If you need somewhere to settle for an artsy afternoon tea after a visit to the galleries, Vive Cake Boutique is the ideal place. Renowned for its photogenic and decorative cakes that look almost too good to eat, you’ll find this minimalist and feminine space on the first floor of the building (shop entrance on Stanley Street).
Get familiar with the history of Old Town Central and see the history of Pedder Street come alive with CITY IN TIME’s colourful AR-enabled poles. Using the CITY IN TIME mobile app to scan the AR clock on the poles, users can see illustrations of Pedder Street’s past instantly appear with a slider in place to showcase the contrasting scenery of old versus new. At Pedder Street, illustrations by talented local artist Flyingpig can be seen, while works by local artist Pen So can be found at the CITY IN TIME poles in other areas of Central.
A hub for independent art performances, stand-up comedy shows, and unique art exhibitions, the Fringe Club is known for its open platform which allows anyone with creative material to put on a show. Formerly known as the Old Dairy Farm Depot, the iconic red and white brick building also houses The Fringe Vault, a multi-purpose coffee shop that transforms into an art space for art exhibitions, pop-up stores and book launches, among many other cultural events.
Both a cafe and a vintage shop, this cosy spot serves up strong-bodied and flavourful coffee in a nostalgic, laid-back environment. Visitors can enjoy their brews in colourful retro Fire King mugs, which are also charmingly displayed by the window of the cafe, and browse through a large collection of vintage band tees, sweatshirts, vinyl records, and posters. Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur, a vinyl collector, or just a lover of all-things-vintage, Artisan Cafe Central can easily satisfy your caffeine dose while giving you an unmatched shopping experience.
Revitalised from the former Central Police Station, Central Magistracy, and Victoria Prison, Tai Kwun is one of the city’s biggest art and creative spaces where curated art exhibitions and immersive programmes such as cultural performances and workshops are regularly held. Other than art exhibitions, pay a visit to Between Coffee, a Japanese-style cafe that aims to build a community that integrates art and culture. Led by head barista Zac Wu, who came third place in the 2018 Hong Kong Coffee in Good Spirits Championship, the cafe creates an excellent range of home blended coffee, hand-brewed coffee, and specialty coffee cocktails.
Painted during Hong Kong Arts Month in 2018, the Shingo Art mural located on Shelley Street was created by Japanese celebrity Shingo Katori. Adding a vibrant burst of red to the area, the dragon-themed art piece, drawn freehand by the artist, pays homage to Hong Kong with colourful Bauhinia motifs and a miniature skyline in the centre.
Home to over a hundred young artists and entrepreneurs, PMQ is a quintessential hub for creative development in Hong Kong. Whether you’re looking for stylish gifts or art and lifestyle inspiration, the independent brands at PMQ will have you covered. Besides the array of design studios, shops and restaurants, visitors can explore the semi-open space in the courtyard, where festive art fairs, pop-ups, workshops, and exhibitions are often held.
Bringing a touch of ‘Fika’ to Hong Kong, KAFFE is a multi-brand Scandinavian boutique that doubles up as Hong Kong’s only Swedish coffee shop. Sip on a hot brew at the cafe, where hand-printed maps of Hong Kong neighbourhoods, made using an old-world silkscreen technique, adorn the space. Alternatively, take away a piece of Scandanavian art with you and have your coffee-to-go in one of their beautiful takeaway cups decorated with a traditional style of folk art painting called ‘Kurbits’ from the Dalarna region in central Sweden. While you wait for your coffee, check out their fashionable handcrafted watches as well as other stylish lifestyle products on display.
Stain+ is a place for serious coffee drinkers. With a curated selection of locally roasted coffee beans to choose from, along with bottled cold brew coffee for takeaway, Stain+ allows every customer to find what best suits their palate. Take a seat by the wooden tables and benches, handcrafted by a local carpenter from Cheung Mei Design Workshop, or head upstairs for an idyllic afternoon of people-watching. Before popping inside, don't forget to check out the cafe's ever-changing facade, which is often covered with different murals in collaboration with various artists and brands.
A purveyor of 100 per cent plant-based bagels, 404 Plant first began as an online shop before opening its two-storey cafe in Sheung Wan. Designed by Hong Kong artist 2timesperday, the cafe is decked out in a blue and white theme with quirky decor, posters, and graffiti splashed across the walls. Food-wise, the cafe plates up a range of sweet and savoury bagels, all of which are freshly baked each day and completely dairy- and egg-free. Aside from plant-based bagels, vegan milk alternatives such as almond, oat, macadamia, and soy milk are available. 404 Plant also boasts a small outdoor space on the ground floor, which serves as a highly Instagrammable backdrop for your all-important food pic.
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