The best things to do in Kowloon City
Originally a maritime defense station in the 15th century, the fort that became known as the Kowloon Walled City developed into a slum of poorly built high-rises, notorious as a breeding ground for various kinds of criminal activity (though that representation isn’t entirely accurate). The ‘city’ was torn down in the late 1990s and reopened as a Jiangnan garden-style park boasting impressive water features and traditional gardens.
Tucked away in Ma Tau Kok’s sleepy 13 Streets neighbourhood, Cattle Depot Artist’s Village is one of Hong Kong’s most precious artistic hubs. Notable for its colonial era red brick buildings, the site was formerly a quarantine base and slaughterhouse before it was renovated and converted into a local art community in 2001, well ahead of similar projects like PMQ. Always free to enter, the village is home to approximately 20 art organisations, arguably none more prominent than Videotage, a Unesco-listed media art organisation that focuses on new media. Visit for the historic architecture, stay for the art.
Get ready to be drenched at this annual Thai water festival, which occurs around 13 April every year. The popular event celebrates the Thai New Year and the start of summer – spraying water at each other is a form of blessing. Come armed with water guns and water ballons and take part in the fun-filled action. There’s also a traditional parade to check out, dance performances and even a beauty contest. waterfest.hk.
Bringing back rockabilly and pompadour hair-dos to Hong Kong, The 59 Tattoo and Barber Shop is a 50s motorcycle club-inspired store that offers everything from rockin’ haircuts to tattoos. There’s no other tattoo parlour quite like this retro British barber shop. Step in a square and walk out feeling like a rocker.
What started out as a grocery store in Macao and a street hawker near Kai Tak airport has evolved into a famous clothing store in Kowloon City. Tastefully decorated with bronze birdcages, white ruffled mirrors, a cosy linen sofa and wooden floors, giving it a homely feel, Seven Kee offers trendsetting outfits and vintage dresses which the owners have handpicked from all over the world.
Literally meaning ‘old-age new shop’, browse through an eclectic collection of adorable knick-knacks and quirky homeware exported from countries like Thailand and India at this quaint little shop. True to its name, the range of products embraces the old and new. Discover vintage products and modern accessories that you don’t need but are definitely going to want – think decorative owls and miniature London phone boxes. This is the place to go for alternative gift ideas.
Kowloon City has a rich history dating back to the Sung Dynasty but these Chinese-style residences were built after WWII . Its structural characteristics reflecting the grassroots lifestyle back in the day, a mix of East and West. Visit the houses to view up close the unique architecture and gain insight into life in the 1940s. Then pop along to the themed café to let it soak in with a cup of java.
Okay, so Hong Kong has no shortage of traditional Chinese temples, but this particular one is well-worth visiting at least once. Now a declared monument, the historic site is said to have been built in the 18th century and is one of very few temples in the city to retain a remarkable collection of relics relating to the garrison of the Kowloon Walled City. If you look closely at the walls, you might spot Chinese calligraphy and plaques that dates back centuries.
The best restaurants in Kowloon City
A visit to this renowned dessert shop is must whenever you’re in Kowloon City. Serving up deliciously warming Chiu Chow-style sweet soup since 1955, the menu now features more than 90 desserts featuring both traditional and modernised versions where you can mix and match based on your preference of ingredients. Signature desserts include black sesame dumplings, black glutinous rice, water chestnut sweet soup, lotus seed with tapioca balls and green bean sweet soup.
Hong Kong’s self-proclaimed first-ever go-kart-themed American eatery, at Speedway Diner you can chow down on diner food like burgers, hot dogs, onion rings and milkshakes as well as Hong Kong-style egg waffles and ice cream, before hopping on an electric go-kart and zipping your way around the venue’s specially designed indoor track. Talk about putting a whole new meaning to the phrase fast food...
Clearly spotting a gap in the market, Enos Space Station is proud to be Hong Kong’s first space station-themed restaurant – something we’ve all be dying for. What does one expect from such a themed eatery? Why rocket-shaped waffles served on a popsicle stick, of course. The menu is filled with dishes with inspired names like Space Pasta and Space Rice. You can see where this is going. Still, despite the lack of creativity regarding dish names, Enos shines with its range of Japanese soft-serve ice cream. The egg pudding with cream puff is another must-try – and photogenic too. Don’t forget to take a selfie with the monkey in a spacesuit out front.
Renowned pastry chef Tony Wong injects all his passion into his creations having accumulated 30 years of culinary experience. His signature chocolate truffles and mango napoleons attract the young and old alike who line up outside to get one hell of a sweet treat. And the rose-shaped cakes are one of the most Insta-worthy dessert this side of town.
Clue’s in the name – Yee Heung is all about tofu and they do it well. The unassuming eatery is where you can order traditional Hong Kong-style tofu pudding, freshly made soy milk and fried tofu dishes. The white stuff here is incredibly soft and silky and melts in your mouth. Other snacks worth trying are their siu mai and fish balls.
People come from all corners of Hong Kong for a helping of the Islamic beef patties on offer here. They also come here for the lamb curry and beef brisket noodles. Cheap as chips and tasty as hell if you’re willing to wait.
Acclaimed by many as Hong Kong’s egg tart king, Hoover’s version of these baked goodies use duck eggs to produce a smoother, stronger-flavoured custard filling. The bakery even holds classes for those wanting to learn the art of creating the awesome puffy tarts. The velvety coconut tart and whipped-cream bun also draw in the crowds – the bakery’s queue can sometimes stretch as far as the next block.
Another one for people with a sweet tooth. Golden Hall caters to both for the traditionalist and the adventurous by offering foodies a wide range of classic Chinese desserts and mouth-watering original creations like Malteser truffles, syrup-showered shaved ice and the very popular coconut milk custard served in a coconut shell. You can pick from a variety of flavours including durian, mango and sweet dumpling, all of which are sinfully soothing and refreshing.
Paying tribute to 70s Hong Kong-style cafés, Cha Don – literally meaning ‘tea stall’ – is heaven for Instagram foodies. From old-timey billboards and neon signs to a metal stall-like décor, the local eatery is a portal to the past. Tuck into retro dishes like fried pig intestines, sweet potato buns and egg-white French toast in between your snapshots.
The best Thai food in Kowloon City
Somewhat hidden away from the casual foodie, Amporn Thai Food, housed inside Kowloon City’s cooked food centre, serves a mean pad thai packed full of meaty prawns, peanuts and crunchy green onions. It goes great with just about any dish on the deliciously varied menu and the chefs don’t skimp on the spice either.
Cambo is popular with the resident Thai population of Kowloon City for its authentic flavours and fresh ingredients. The decor and service are pretty rustic, so don’t expect too much on those fronts, but this is a great spot for a genuine Thai meal at a reasonable price. Two signature dishes not to be missed are the fried shrimp balls and the raw shrimp sashimi.
Shrimp sashimi, boiled cockles and grilled chicken are the most frequently ordered dishes at this Nam Kwok Road spot, but we think the main attraction is the grill and hotpot combo. This culinary creation consists of an elevated, sloped charcoal grill surrounded by a moat of broth. A ball of beef lard sits on top, which lubricates the grill and lends the meat an extra flavour. The meat juices then trickle down into the broth, making it perfect for cooking your meatballs, veggies and vermicelli.
A bright and spacious interior with traditional Thai hats adorning its wooden walls, Chalawan predominantly serves up hot and sour tom yum soups and fresh seafood. Drinks are, of course, served in coconuts and the restaurant’s famous ‘birds waiting for love’ – breaded prawns made to look like little chickens – are especially fun. They’re too cute not to gobble up in one go.
Named after one of Bangkok’s many rivers, Chao Phraya serves up all kinds of seafood delights in a funky street food style. Especially good is the soft-shell crab and pumpkin curry – served overflowing from a hollowed out pumpkin – which the restaurant is well known for. You can’t miss Chao Phraya – just look out for the giant neon sign.
Styled like a traditional pagoda on the outside, Friendship serves up seemingly every Thai dish you could imagine, from Thai hot pot and tom yum soup to won tons and curry crab. First-timers have to try their signature spicy fried crab and pineapple seafood fried rice, a perfectly proportioned balance of sweet and salty. Wash it down with a fresh coconut water served in a husky shell.
You wouldn’t think it from its shabby appearance but this is one of the very best of the Thai restaurants in Hong Kong. Try the green and red curries and the tom kha soup too. Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, go for the raw prawns, topped with garlic and chilies and served with a lip-numbingly hot sauce on the side. Don’t forget to cool that burn with a bottle of Chang beer fresh from the motherland.
A safe bet for unpretentious Thai food with flavours that are the real deal, Wong Chun Chun delivers on the price point too with a large menu of bargainous dishes. It’s hard to miss the bright purple building on the corner of Tak Ku Ling Road, which is one of the largest and oldest in the area. The curry fried crab is a must.