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Tai Kwun exterior
Tai Kwun I Photograph: Calvin Sit

The best things to do in Old Town Central

From heritage buildings and street art to local eats and quirky souvenirs, this neighbourhood is perfect to experience on foot

Time Out Hong Kong in partnership with Hong Kong Tourism Board
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One of the oldest yet also most dynamic districts in the city, Old Town Central – encompassing the sloped streets and small alleys of Central and Sheung Wan with Hollywood Road at the heart of it all – encapsulates Hong Kong’s rich and diverse spirit. A place where century-old temples share the same streets as fashion-forward concept stores, or where authentic tea houses coexist with modern art galleries, this colourful neighbourhood is both old and new while also being proudly local and unmistakably global.

Art plays also a huge role in Old Town Central as well. Home to heritage buildings revamped into stunning destinations like Tai Kwun and PMQ, sleek art institutions such as H Queen’s that house world-class galleries and auction houses, not to mention numerous captivating street art that graces the walls of alleyways, Old Town Central is bursting at the seams with creativity.

Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in our city’s rich history and culture or satisfy your inner foodie with tasty local treats, this guide will lead you to some of the best things that Old Town Central has to offer. 

RECOMMENDED: Keen to explore every nook and cranny of this wondrous neighbourhood? You can discover more in this comprehensive guide to Old Town Central complete with walking routes. 

Best things to do in Old Town Central

  • Art
  • Central

Boasting a history of more than 170 years, the former Central Police Station Compound has been preserved and transformed into a massive, all-encompassing arts and culture hub after extensive conservation efforts. Comprising of 16 heritage buildings and two newly built ones to house contemporary art gallery spaces, visit Tai Kwun to marvel at the beautiful Neoclassical architecture, as well as original structures that have been repurposed into retail shops and various bars and restaurants. Tai Kwun also hosts curated art exhibitions, performances, workshops, film screenings and guided tours, so be sure to check ahead for schedules and details.

Find serenity at Man Mo Temple
  • Things to do
  • Sheung Wan

Here’s where you can find zen in the heart of this bustling neighbourhood of Old Town Central. Estimated to have been built more than 150 years ago, Man Mo Temple is a well-preserved, stunning complex that pays tribute to the God of Literature and the God of War. There are fantastic historical nuggets dotted throughout the temples, including a bronze bell dating back to 1847, a sedan chair from 1862 and ancient mural paintings. From spiralling incense dangling from the ceilings to the smokey atmosphere inside, the temple is a stunning sight to behold. Come and pray for good fortune while you’re there. 

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  • Museums
  • Sheung Wan

The former Bridges Street Market (and a Grade III historic building) has undergone a major transformation to become the Hong Kong News-Expo, Asia’s first exhibition and education facility to showcase and celebrate the role of media and journalism in Hong Kong. Inside the centre, see permanent and rolling interactive exhibitions demonstrating the development of local media, spanning from its infancy in the form of newspaper and radio to television and digital media. Join the free seminars, workshops and guided tours for a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Hong Kong press.

Whether you’re history buff and simply looking to walk down memory, this guide will make a time traveller out of you by taking you through some of the city’s oldest streets where traces of Hong Kong’s rich history remained intact.

Discover local designer talents at PMQ
  • Attractions
  • Sheung Wan

Much like Tai Kwun, PMQ has been another huge undertaking to preserve and revitalise a historical site. Formerly the Police Married Quarters, PMQ is now a centre for all things creative and design-based. More than 100 creative enterprises can be found at PMQ, where old residential units have been converted into small boutiques and design studios selling handmade products from jewellery to homeware goods. This extensive arts hub is also home to a wide variety of creative studios, offering classes and workshops that range from dim sum candle making to fabric dyeing. What’s more, this creative space doubles as an art canvas as well – be sure to check out the 20 flights of staircases here that have been decorated by groups of talented artists, as well as the comic-style street art by local illustrator Little Thunder on the pillars near the main entrance.  

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Explore a diverse range of street art

Explore a diverse range of street art

The renowned Central to Mid-Levels escalator is a must-visit for many travellers, as well as a daily commute for many Hongkongers. But to help brighten up the famous attraction, Japanese celebrity Shingo Katori has created a vibrant, red piece of street art underneath one section of the escalator on Shelley Street (Intersection of Hollywood Rd and Shelley St). The choice of colour, the Bauhinia motifs and the miniature skyline are all in tribute to Hong Kong. Take a step back and you’ll find that together, these elements form an image of a dragon. 

Shingo’s eye-catching artwork is only one of many street art pieces that are peppered along the streets of Old Town Central. There are other works that are unmissable, such as Danish artist Christian Storm’s colourful mural of two giant koi fish swimming. Some pieces are hidden in unassuming alleyways and staircases, including the mosaic-style mural of Bruce Lee by Korean graffiti artist Xeva, and Dan Kitchener’s romantic depiction of a rainy New York evening, which is tucked in between two buildings. You never know what masterpieces you’ll discover as you stroll along this neighbourhood. So if you’re crazy for it, here’s more

  • Restaurants
  • Central

There’s no local snack more iconic than the piping hot, silky egg tart. And to sample one of the best in town, make a beeline for Tai Cheong Bakery, a time-tested shop that used to be a favourite of Hong Kong’s last colonial governor, Chris Patten. Although the bakery now has branches all across the city, the original location on Lyndhurst Terrace remains the top dog. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Central
  • price 4 of 4

Dim sum in Hong Kong is the stuff of legend. But this Michelin-starred restaurant takes it to the next level by marrying art and fine dining in their menu. On top of its exquisite dim sum,  Duddell’s offers modern takes on traditional Cantonese cuisine with signatures such as barbecued iberico pork with honey glaze and supreme lobster noodles. Why not enjoy innovative, Asian-inspired cocktails at the spacious terrace while you’re there? 

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sheung Wan
  • price 2 of 4

Ranked tenth by the World 50 Best Bars awards, The Old Man is undoubtedly one of the finest spots for a drink in the whole of Hong Kong. There’s impeccable attention to detail here, as demonstrated by the L-shaped bar, which has a cooling strip running down the middle to keep drinks chilled. Expect excellent and elegant cocktails – many of which take inspiration from the words and stories of esteemed American novelist, Ernest Hemingway.

Salivating for more local flavours and fantastic cocktails? Satisfy your inner foodie with this guide to all the best restaurants and bars in Old Town Central, from traditional dim sum to swanky rooftop bars. 

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  • Shopping
  • Sheung Wan

See that unassuming shop on Possession Street spilling with crockery and kitchenware? You wouldn’t think it but this beloved and iconic neighbourhood homeware shop is a treasure trove of household goods from a time gone by. A dwindling sight in Hong Kong, Chu Wing Kee is a place where you can find stacks of retro teapots, bamboo baskets dangling from the ceiling and feather dusters and kerosene stoves tucked away in corners. Come and shop for classic and affordable Hong Kong products, which also make for great souvenirs.

  • Shopping
  • Ap Lei Chau

Step into the past and reminisce about the good old days with a visit to this blue-clad vintage store on Tai Ping Shan Street, the backbone of a bohemian neighbourhood of galleries, teahouses and design studios known as Poho. The store houses a dizzying collection of vintage goods, ranging from decanters and old-school film posters to vinyl records and lapel pins. InBetween is also an advocate for local creatives and stocks a range of Hong Kong designer products too. 

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  • Shopping
  • Boutiques
  • Sheung Wan

A homegrown brand through and through, Hong Kong Oapes takes inspiration from local culture and characteristics to deliver handcrafted jewellery that features motifs such as egg tarts, pineapple buns, Chinese lanterns and even the iconic Victoria Harbour. From gold-plated sterling silver to semi-precious stones, adorn yourself with one-of-a-kind accessories and memories of the city.

  • Shopping
  • Sheung Wan

As the name suggests, this quaint shop houses a plethora of refined products and carefully curated collection of trendy clothes, accessories and lifestyle brands from every corner of the globe. Be amused by wacky phone cases and accessories like giant banana earrings and animal-shaped speakers, as well as limited-edition beauty items you won’t find anywhere else in the city. You’ll definitely stand out from the crowd with any purchase from this shop. 

Become a bona fide treasure hunter and discover rare finds with this guide to the eclectic mix of boutique and vintages shops in Old Town Central.  

Don’t miss a single thing in Old Town Central

Not sure how and where to start in Old Town Central? You can check out this helpful guide for even more historical gems, a wealth of food and arts, as well as hidden treasures. There are even self-guided walks you could follow according to your personal preferences, too. Enjoy! 

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