5 Experiential Routes To Explore Hong Kong Old Town Central

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Explore the sights and sounds of Hong Kong Old Town Central at your own pace! Stroll through the streets of Central and neighbouring Sheung Wan on a self-guided walk while exploring Hong Kong’s rich history, culture, art and entertainment scenes. Five experiential routes have been thoughtfully designed in a form of a walking trail to reveal over 100 years of Hong Kong history.

Central is well-known as a bustling financial district that is cramped with skyscrapers. However, beneath the stunning skyline, you can discover history, art, food and culture that have taken root in this once colonial neighbourhood. Along the way, witness the dramatic transformations that have characterised Central’s short but colourful history, and explore a city that is constantly changing but has never forgotten its origins.

The 5 Routes 

The ‘Old Town Central’ walking guide encapsulates the greatest charms from East and West, where the past and present, tradition and innovation, and bustle and tranquillity coexist, blend and collide. To best discover and experience the vibrant Central district including its colonial monuments, temples, art galleries, street art displays, antique stores, hip boutiques, trending restaurants, rooftop bars and local delicacies; here are the five experiential routes:

1. Time Traveller Heritage Route

The journey of history and heritage through Central and Sheung Wan was where the story of modern Hong Kong began. From Possession Point, where the British flag was first officially raised, to the Tai Ping Shan area, where many Chinese first settled in the 1840s, this journey passes through some of the city’s oldest, historic streets and offers glimpses of what life was like when the future world city was still in its infancy.

“This area was well connected with several exits and hence revolutionaries could escape easily once they picked up any winds of ambush.” Local heritage expert Paul Chan talks about the area around Pak Tsz Lane Park, between Aberdeen and Peel Street, which once housed the Furen Wenshe, the intellectual group which provided assistance to various abortive revolts against the Qing dynasty before the eventual successful revolution in 1911.

Heritage Route

Chu Wing Kee, a store on Possession Street, has a 60-year history.

The Tai Kwun Complex housed the offices of the police, the magistracy and a prison in the mid-19th century

Pak Tsz Lane Park was the site of an important historic event in 1892, involving the great Chinese revolutionary Dr Sun Yat-sen.

2. Crazy for Art

A stroll down the picturesque Hollywood Road, one of the oldest streets in Hong Kong, lined with galleries offers a huge range of artworks, from ancient to contemporary and from Asian to Western. Artists and art connoisseurs of all levels can seek inspiration and enjoy the creative graffiti art on the walls of the many side alleys leading off the street.

“It is such an interesting street mix with independent boutiques, modern studios, cafes and much more. The corner has a wonderful relaxed atmosphere and an arty vibe.” At the junction of Upper Station and Tai Ping Shan streets, Hong Kong fashion designer Harrison Wong finds a vibe he can call his own. Inspired by day-to-day life, his collections are elegant but edgy, a mix that overflows at Aberdeen Street’s PMQ, home to his menswear boutique Harrison’s Shop. “It is a city full of hardworking people and at the same time a city that is compatible with an enriching lifestyle. I travel a lot, but I always like to come home. Hong Kong is incomparable really.”

Art Route

PMQ, the former Police Married Quarters, now houses works by promising young artists and designers.

Hollywood Road, where upscale galleries meet street art.

The traditional green metal stall of Yuk Yip Desserts, a traditional dai pai dong, forms an interesting contrast with the murals of the urban pubs behind it on Elgin Street.

3. Tasting Hong Kong

Central is a paradise for food lovers; this route offers a world of choices only steps from each other. From traditional dim sum to international and fusion cuisine to local dai pai dongs and tantalising street food, there is something to cater to every taste bud.

“Hong Kong is ‘Home Kong’ to me. It feels like I’ve lived here in my previous life.”. She may be Singaporean but Eunice Lim is all about Hong Kong.  She is the @foodtravelbabe and Central is forever satisfying her curiosity. Being a city girl at heart, the vibrancy of Central satisfies her need for new experiences in the midst of old Hong Kong charm.

You might spot her at places like Yardbird, SPIGA or Belon for dinner, but “Sing Kee” the longstanding Dai Pai Dong (open-air food stall) that serves Cantonese stir-fried food is her all-time favourite place for an authentic old Hong Kong experience.

Traditional Chinese dim sum at the century-old Lin Heung Tea House 

Traditional dai pai dong, for a Hong Kong-style alfresco dining experience.

Rooftop bars such as CÉ LA VI at California Tower Hong Kong are ideal spots for taking in the intoxicating night view of Central.

4. Hidden Gems in Back Alleys

For the treasure hunters, the walk begins at Upper Lascar Row, where a fascinating mix of antiques and Chinese calligraphy dealers can be found on this street. The route makes its way uphill to the blooming creative neighbourhood on Tai Ping Shan Street and in the PoHo area, where design studios are nestled between tea houses; and the Bridges Street area – a melting pot of old and new, with secondhand books and knick-knacks that feed your imagination about the city’s past.

“Out of the 21 years I’ve lived here, I lived around nine years in Central. It’s active and you have so many contrasts and differences. Probably that’s the real Hong Kong. From one second to another you can have a very international appeal but then there are very Chinese stores too. It’s not all modernised. You still have a lot of old buildings. It’s a nice place to get lost I think.”, Arnault Castel, owner of Kapok.

Treasure Hunt Route

The stalls in Upper Lascar Row sell antiques, Chinese-style ornaments and pieces of jewellery.

The blue-clad vintage store In Between and the green shop front of Tallensia Floral Art on Tai Ping Shan Street in the PoHo area.

Old bookstores and vintage shops are a common feature on Staunton Street.

5. Something for everyone: Highlights Trip

For those with limited time, this tour covers the top landmarks and points of interest from each thematic tour. Travelers will discover heritage sites, explore art, sample local food and hunt for hidden treasures in a warren of narrow streets and alleys before ending the trip at Pottinger Street in the vibrant heart of the neighbourhood.

The full version of The Old Town Central walking guide can be viewed and downloaded here.

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