Hong Kong is on our travel bucket list, and not just for the promise of authentic dim sum and views of Victoria Harbour. Another reason we can't wait to get back to exploring this dynamic city is the West Kowloon neighbourhood that’s becoming more exciting by the day.
Sitting on a reclaimed peninsula with a spectacular outlook, the West Kowloon Cultural District can be easily reached by MTR, bus, mini-bus, private car or taxi. It’s been designed as the home for up to 17 cultural venues including museums, theatres and art galleries. The surrounding area is also packed with hotels, residences, retail and dining venues.
To inspire our next trip – and, of course, yours – we've rounded up a two-day itinerary for the up-and-coming neighbourhood. Consider this your insider must-do list for everything you need to eat, drink, see, do, and shop in West Kowloon during your next visit to Hong Kong.
Fam | Photograph: Supplied/Hong Kong Tourism Board
Day One: West Kowloon Cultural District
Fuel up for the day at Hooman, a café that offers human and pet-friendly treats. Make a breakfast of freshly brewed coffee and açai and yoghurt parfaits – and if you befriend the local pooches while you’re here, buy your new furry BFF a pup-friendly ice cream.
All tuckered out? Head to Fam for contemporary Cantonese dishes served with art, music, and serious views. Dim sum is definitely on the menu, as are heftier plates. Make it special by grabbing a takeaway picnic and enjoying it on one of the nearby lawns.
When you’re ready to resume exploring, venture to M+. The experience begins with the architecturally stunning building, designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron. Inside, the 17,000sqm and 33 galleries hold the world’s largest collection of visual art, featuring everything from paintings to video games and moving images, with a focus on works from the 20th and 21st centuries.
While you’re here, browse The M+ Shop and The Other Shop for art world souvenirs. The former curates a selection of items that go beyond the M+’s exhibitions and translate its cultural ethos into tangible objects; the latter has a fun collection of books, toys, stationery, art prints, athleisure items and local crafts.
Need a lift? Get an upscale coffee or tea from Curator Creative Café at M+. Try a brew made with Yunan Menglian coffee beans and get the barista to print one of your personal photographs or a piece of art on your coffee for an Insta-worthy moment. Enjoy with a side of Asian-inspired snacks, and classic Hong Kong treats.
In the evening, check into W Hong Kong, right in West Kowloon and connected to the Elements shopping mall. The hotel boasts a bright and quirky aesthetic as well as the highest outdoor rooftop pool in Hong Kong – unwind with a dip with incredible views of Victoria Harbour. Or simply soak in the view from your own bathtub – the majority of bathrooms in the hotel also have harbour views!
For dinner, try Rest Coffee Gin. By day, this popular spot brews specialist coffees. By night, you can sip on over 80 gins – with tonic or in custom cocktails – while enjoying bites like the A3 Wagyu beef cutlet sandwich or prawns with Thai sauce.
Xiqu Centre | Photograph: Supplied/Hong Kong Tourism Board
For some post-dinner entertainment, take in a show at the Xiqu Centre. The dazzling building is Hong Kong’s premier destination for Cantonese opera and Chinese theatre and is a great way to enjoy some local culture. The Tea House Theatre Experience is a 90-minute showcase that’s perfect for Cantonese opera newbies, though there are guided tours, talks, and workshops on offer, too.
Wind down your evening at Lau Bak Livehouse, a multipurpose venue that does drinks, food and music. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy craft beers and creative cocktails alongside live music performances by local performers.
Hong Kong Museum of Art | Photograph: Supplied/Hong Kong Tourism Board
Day Two: Tsim Sha Tsui and Jordan
After a good night’s sleep, spend your second day in Tsim Sha Tsui and Jordan, the lively zones east of Kowloon that teem with culture, food and shopping experiences.
Hong Kong Museum of Art houses an art collection of over 17,000 items, spanning Chinese antiquities, Hong Kong art, China trade art and Chinese painting and calligraphy. Having undergone a massive renovation that expanded its exhibiton space by 40 per cent, the museum reopened in 2019.
Fan of Hong Kong movies? Get down to the Avenue of Stars, which pays tribute to stars like Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Michelle Yeoh, Jet Li, Shaw Brothers, John Woo and Wong Kar-wai that have made such an impact. Grab selfies with beloved actors in sculpture form along the waterfront, compare hand sizes on the handprint plaques, and enjoy themed exhibitions to discover more about the rich history of the Hong Kong film industry.
Sky 100 Hong Kong Observation Deck | Photograph: Supplied/Hong Kong Tourism Board
In a similar vein, head to Mido Café: even if you’ve never heard of the place you may certainly recognise its interior from numerous films. A combination of a cha chaan teng (café) and bing sutt (cold drink bar), it hasn’t changed one bit since opening in 1950, with well-worn coloured windows, mosaic tiles and ceiling fans. Grab a seat near the window so you can admire the scenery outside – if you’re lucky, you can even capture the cafe’s glorious neon sign for your Instagram feed – and order a baked spare rib rice with tomato sauce. Walk off your lunch as you head for the Sky 100 Hong Kong Observation Deck for impressive 360° views across the city from up on the 100th floor.
Later, kick back at Tung Nam Lou Art Hotel. This under-the-radar property blends modern artistic sensibilities with uniquely Hong Kong accents inspired by the city’s past. Each room is themed around music, art, design, and books, and you can extend your cultural immersion with multisensory art experiences.
Sindart | Photograph: Supplied/Hong Kong Tourism Board
The art of handcarving mahjong tiles is listed as one of Hong Kong’s ‘Intangible Cultural Heritages’ by the local government. Visit one of the last remaining artisan carvers, Mr Cheung Shun King at Biu Kee Mahjong, and you can even buy a set of old-school tiles as a very special souvenir or gift. Traditional handmade embroidered slippers are another iconic Hong Kong keepsake and you can find them at Sindart, a tiny shop in Jordan founded in 1958 and now run by the original owner’s granddaughter.
Mrs Fong Dessert | Photograph: Supplied/Hong Kong Tourism Board
By now you’ve worked up quite the appetite and you can find no lack of delicious things at the famous Temple Street Night Market. Street food stalls and restaurants sell cheap and authentic Chinese food as well as other Asian and western cuisines. You can catch opera singers and have your fortune told while you’re there. For dessert, why not choose the best? Mrs Fong Dessert sells traditional Cantonese snacks that are so good the shop was recommended in the 2022 Michelin Guide. You may have to wait in line!