Top Five Things to Do in Wan Chai
Wan Chai is one of Hong Kong's busiest commercial areas, home to numerous office towers, hotels and an international conference and exhibition centre. Hong Kong's first circular skyscraper also sits in the neighbourhood: Hopewell Centre, which boasts a revolving restaurant on the 62nd storey. Due to its proximity to Admiralty and the harbour, Wan Chai was one of the first areas developed so several urban renewal projects have been undertaken to improve its older zones.
A night to (not) remember
Wan Chai is famous for its bar district, and it's easy to see why. Lockhart Road is chock full of bars and pubs and is the place to be for good happy hour deals. Our favourite in the area is Back Bar, tucked in the alley next to Ham & Sherry—there are other speakeasies around so do explore. Ophelia is one of Hong Kong's most lavishly decorated watering holes, with its exotic theme, peacock motifs and live performers giving off the distinct vibe of a high-end opium den. Wan Chai used to be a red-light district frequented by the military so there are still strip joints and prostitution dens behind curtained doors, but perhaps the seediness lends to the vibe of debauched fun.
Admire some architecture
Colonial architecture is still part of Hong Kong's identity, and Wan Chai has some beautiful examples. The Pawn on Johnston Road is a magnificent heritage building that was formerly—what else—a pawn shop. It's now a casual chic restaurant serving up rustic seasonal dishes on the second floor, while the first floor houses Botanicals Bar. The verandah of this building is the perfect place to look over the bustling tram road. Nearby Lee Tung Avenue is a pedestrianised road that has graced the social media feeds of many an influencer. Still colloquially referred to as Wedding Invite Street by locals, it used to house shops selling personalised wedding invitation cards and red envelopes, but is now teeming with cafés, gourmet restaurants and other retail outlets. The road is normally decorated with large red lanterns as a nod to its history, but these change with festivities; last year the famous “Spirit of Christmas” from London's Regent Street was on display.
Explore a precinct that's out of this world
Our favourite part of Wan Chai is slightly out of the way, up from St Francis Street, collectively known as the Star Street Precinct. The little group of dead-end roads behind Three Pacific Place retain a peaceful sense of neighbourhood community, complemented by an interesting range of businesses often found nowhere else. Kapok stocks bits and bobs of intriguing design, while jet setter bible Monocle has a lifestyle store well worth a visit (it is one of six in the world). Le Labo, the top-notch fragrance house from New York, lends an industrial chic (and an alluring scent) to Star Street, while Edgar on Moon Street caters for every environmentally conscious culinary and lifestyle need. Ted's Lookout and Maison ES both deserve shout outs for their sliders and truffle fries, and delicious fare in a Parisian florist-like setting, respectively, but the real kudos go to Duk Yu, an old school café which serves a hearty ‘family-style' fried rice and a fantastic cup of milk tea.
Food, glorious food
As with most places in Hong Kong, it's not at all difficult to find good grub. Apart from the aforementioned restaurants, also worth a visit is Samsen, a Thai noodle place near the historic Blue House opened by a former Chachawan chef. The star of their menu is undoubtedly the wagyu beef boat noodles, a flavourful delight bursting with textures and umami. Honbo does a fantastic burger to rival big names like Shake Shack, while Bib n Hops offers interesting twists on Korean classics. The latter has a delicious starter that is corn cooked three different ways, and their kimchi carbonara udon is an absolute delight. Swatow Street, in particular, has great restaurants every few steps. Stop by Cat's Eye for Japanese curry omelette rice, Mansons Lot for coffee, and La Cremerie for French artisan cheeses. Towards the very end of the street lies Bread & Beast, a gourmet sarnie joint popular during lunch time which transforms into KONG at night, serving curated cocktails and a twist on local nibbles—the shelter crab cheesy cheung fun and the crispy Brussel sprouts are must tries.
Geek out over tech products
Techies in Hong Kong will be well familiar with the Wan Chai Computer Centre. This veritable treasure trove of tech products is the most popular place to shop for computers, accessories, software, cameras and other electronics on the island. In general, the further in you go, the more likely prices are to be cheaper. This mall is slightly more upmarket than its Kowloon counterpart, Golden Computer Centre in Sham Shui Po. International warranties can be a bit of a grey area, and those transient to Hong Kong should find out if software or hardware of interest are region locked to Asia. Always haggle fiercely!