11 incredible Hong Kong markets
Unlike Bangkok or Taiwan, it’s rare to find a night market in Hong Kong, a situation that gives instant fame to Temple Street. After the sun goes down, the stalls pop up. The tourists come for the ‘I heart HK’ T-shirts and watches of dubious provenance, (and the occasional sex toy available here and there). Sit down for a fortune telling session and find out what’s in store for you – but do take everything with a grain of salt. Better yet, why not join in the street side karaoke performances that take place every night?
Want to buy brand name clothes and accessories for less? Dive into the Ladies’ Market! That is, if you don’t mind going about town decked out in Hugo Boos or Dolce & Banana. It’s not all dodgy knock-offs, though. There are plenty of cheap and basic clothes on offer, too. Sometimes, you can hunt down surprisingly decent products at low prices. And ladies, make sure to be on the lookout for sexy lingerie. Once you’ve tackled the entire stretch, venture over to the adjacent Fa Yuen Street, aka Sneaker Street, for a dizzying range of kicks and footwear at decent prices.
This is a flea market for second-hand and low-cost items, mainly audio-visual equipment, assorted electronic devices and mobile accessories. So if you’re on the lookout for drones, cheap phones cases, the random wires and oddities, this is the place to go. There’re significant variations in price – the same phone case can range from $25 to $65 depending on the stall. Be a smart shopper: take your time and scour the market for the best value.
There’s more to Cat Street (aka Upper Lascar Row) than just antiques. During the colonial period, the street was a market for stolen items – referred to as ‘rat goods’ in Cantonese. Cats search out rats, and therefore it’s the customers that Cat Street market is named after. The stalls are clustered together along the street. Chairman Mao figurines, brass Buddha statues, vintage Bruce Lee movie posters, old coins and ceramic vases conjure up images of Hong Kong’s past. Not somewhere to look for Antiques Roadshow-style undervalued heirlooms, rather a place for tourists in search of an exotic souvenir, you can still bag a decent trinket if you know what you’re after.
It’s not really a street market as opposed to a long avenue lined with dozens of florists and purveyors of all things botanical where their floral offerings spill onto the pavement. That being said, the moment you reach there you’re greeted by explosions of colours and fragrance, much like steeping in a lush garden decked out with flowers of every kind. In the build-up to Chinese New Year, the place is filled with plants that promise good luck and families squeeze in looking to make a purchase that will guarantee their fortune for the next lunar cycle.
Goldfish are a symbol of good luck in Chinese culture as the first character means ‘gold’ while the second sounds like ‘jade’. Typically, the fish are displayed in either immense aquariums or little plastic bags hung at the entrance to stores. Besides these little repositories of luck, colourful tropical species and full-on saltwater aquarium setups are also available.
Say hello to the city’s largest emporium of jade, pearls and gems. In Chinese culture, jade is associated with longevity and good health, and on this canopied Yau Ma Tei street, you can discover every jade accessory imaginable, from necklaces to earrings to the all-important bangles. The various statues of Buddha and other carved curiosities are worth having a look at too. And since you’re at Yau Ma Tei, make a detour to the century-old fruit market that’s home to more than 200 fruit stalls and various exotic produce.
While Sheung Wan has been slowly gentrified with hipster cafés and trendy restaurants, there remains a street with a rich history (and smell). About 50 years ago, the Dried Seafood Market was dominated by simple, salted fish stalls. These days, the road is taken up by a cluster of high-end stores and apothecaries that sell a diverse range of dried seafood – an important part of Cantonese cuisine – including dried abalone, scallop and sea cucumber. It’s a sight to see when faced with piles of papery-looking seafood and fish being sun-dried on the side of the road.
Kids may be all about iPads and PlayStations these days, but old-fashioned toys haven’t gone the way of the dinosaur just yet. Tai Yuen Street has a wide variety of old school and retro toys – think Hello Kitty plastic beach balls and toy figurines. You can hunt down Lego sets at much lower prices as well as cartoon-themed stationery. The toy market is also unique for its graffiti shop fronts created in collaboration with art project HK Urban Canvas. Walk around and discover gorgeous murals that represent community history.
Spanning from Connaught Road Central to Bonham Strand, ‘Chop Alley’ is 400m in length with more than 20 vintage stalls specialising in the production of chops and name cards. Need something quick? You can hand vendors your own design of corporate chop and business card and they’ll have them finished within the day.
Famous for its high-grade pork, veggies and American beef stalls, Kowloon City’s wet market is one of the city’s best markets for picking up quality food. Stalls like Siu Tin Tin (stall M22), Tao Kee (stall V14) and Lee Fai Kee (stall M14) have won the hearts of numerous customers. So it should come as no surprise to bump into the odd celeb on the lookout for fresh produce, such as Chow Yun-fat himself.