Wan Chai’s notoriety as the Mecca of exotic nightlife was cemented in the 1960s, following the movie release of popular novel and play, “The World of Suzie Wong.” Peel away from the western end of Lockhart Road however, and you’ll discover an intoxicating cocktail of wet markets and consumerism, skyscrapers towering over century-old colonial buildings, and all manner of shabby and chic restaurants and bars — not to mention a few dark secrets from one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.
More from our neighborhood guide series.
While the recent redevelopment of Lee Tung Street (once affectionately known as Wedding Card street for the wedding card shops that resided there) has all but killed its charm, we can at least seek solace in the arrival of a number of new establishments. Among a host of hipster bars, restaurants and Japanese confectionary stores, comes Ophelia – an upper-floor peacock-themed watering hole run by Bangkok restaurateur Ashley Sutton. Get your fix of tapas and fancy cocktails while enjoying nightly dance shows by women in qipao.
Shop 39A–41A, 1/F, The Avenue, Lee Tung Avenue, Wan Chai, 2520-1117.
The beautiful and often overlooked Pak Tai Temple was built by local residents in 1863 to honor the powerful martial God, Pak Tai. It’s the biggest temple on Hong Kong Island and arguably its most haunting. Some believe Pak Tai has the spirtual power to abate disasters, so maybe consider stopping by before the next typhoon threatens to roll through? Unless you like time off work that is… Either way, its unique banyan-filled courtyard is worth the visit alone.
Lung On Street, Wan Chai.
Explore Hong Kong’s heritage
Despite the constant threat of rampant redevelopment, Hong Kong’s oldest district still retains many historic buildings. Do your part to raise awareness and learn more about Hong Kong’s fascinating past along the Wan Chai heritage trail. For instance, the historic Blue House is home to Hong Kong House of Stories, a community project that organizes exhibitions, community classes and trains locals as cultural tour guides. It is open daily 11am to 6pm except Wednesdays and public holidays. Note that due to a revitalization project, the Hong Kong House of stories is temporarily located on 4 Hing Wan Street, just behind the Blue House.
72-74A Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai, 2835 4372.
Enjoy the Skyline
Sure, you can tram to The Peak or pay to see Hong Kong’s skyline from the 100th floor of the ICC, but why bother paying when you can get it for free? That’s right: take a lift to the Sky Lobby on the 46th floor of the Central Plaza and you’ll be afforded one of Hong Kong’s best free views.
18 Harbour Road, Wan Chai. Open Monday–Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday 8am–2pm.
Take the Wan Chai Ferry
The beauty of the Wan Chai ferry route is it takes you diagonally across the harbor, to and from the HKCEC, giving an arguably better view than the more conventional Central route.
Hung Hing Road, Wan Chai.
Spend a night in Nam Koo Terrace
Also known as the Red house, or Wan Chai haunted house, Nam Koo Terrace is said to be one of Hong Kong’s most haunted buildings. It is said that during WWII, Japanese soldiers turned Nam Koo Terrace into a military brothel where women were raped and tortured inside. Their spirits allegedly spew green smoke in the building’s dilapidated rooms at night. In 2003, a group of teenagers stayed the night, hoping to catch a glimpse of them. Three of the girls emerged in hysterics, claiming to have been attacked by these ghosts and later sent to hospital to receive psychiatric treatment.
55 Ship Street, Wan Chai.
Wedged between Queen’s Road East and Johnston Road on the western side of Wan Chai are a set of streets populated by many fantastic cafes. Swatow Street in particular has a number to choose from. We love the Piccolo Latte served at Mansons Lot, the ideal spot to kick back with a good book and take a breather.
15 Swatow Street, Wan Chai, 2362 1899.
Bowrington Road Cooked Food Centre
The atmosphere here really gets going at night and gives a true taste of Hong Kong’s dai pai dong culture. Enter via the staircase on Bowrington Road and take a seat at either Wai Kee (open 11am – 6pm) or Wing Kee (open 6pm – 2am). Wai Kee is a halal restaurant famous for roasted duck or chicken served with rice, noodles or curry, while Wing Kee is famous for its seafood.
21 Bowrington Road, Wan Chai.
Le Cafe Winebeast
At Le Cafe Winebeast, you can get intimate French fine dining with wine sold at retail prices. Given the outrageous mark-up most Hong Kong restaurants put on wine, Le Cafe comes with the message that quality French fine dining need not cost an arm and a leg. The extremely personable staff and small intimate space make this one of the best date night spots in Wan Chai. Book ahead.
15 McGregor Street, Wan Chai, 2479-6833.
In a city that never stops popping up new, trendy and often short-lived establishments, it’s nice to have one or two restaurants you can rely on. The Chili Club has remained unchanged for decades and what it lacks in ambience, it more than makes up for in food. Expect authentic Thai food with bags of flavor at very reasonable prices. Great for large groups.
1/F, 88 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, 2527-2872.
Beef and Liberty
Residing in the one of the swankiest spots in the hipster Star Street precinct, Beef and Liberty prides itself on serving only the finest grain-fed Australian beef from Tasmania. The burgers are cooked perfectly to your preference and the menu comes with enough variety to please everyone. Awesome extras include local craft beer and amazing skillet-baked cookies with cream. Stunning floor-to-ceiling windows will leave you wondering how you can get a burger, fries and drink all for under $158.
23 Wing Fung Street, Wan Chai, 2811-3009.
Tamashii’s simple menu contains just 4 choices of ramen, and everything is cooked to perfection and packed full of flavor. The black squid ink variety is particularly popular, but we also love their spinach version. Depending on the time you arrive, expect to queue.
G/F, 18C Sharp Street West, Wan Chai (borders Causeway Bay), 2893-2699.
Maureen serves up a modern take on noodles by slow-cooking everything in a vacuum-sealed bag in water at a controlled temperature. The food is always beautifully prepared and tastes fantastic. Their 48-hour slow-cooked short ribs and salmon noodle sets are particularly good.
G/F, 11 Hing Wan Street, Wan Chai, 2915 2261.
One of a number of Jason Atherton’s enterprises, 22 Ships takes a modern approach on some classic Spanish tapas. Expect tasty creations like baked smoked bone marrow with onion jam and chargrilled Iberico pork and foie gras mini burgers. The quality here is exceptional — but not for those on a budget. There’s also a no booking policy, so we’d suggest coming here early. You can always leave your number and grab a drink nearby until it’s your turn.
22 Ship Street, Wan Chai, 2555-0722.
Enjoy a cheeky Michelin-starred meal in the bustle of the Wan Chai markets at Serge et le Phoque (Tower 1, The Zenith, 3 Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai, 5465-2000), dig into slabs of steaks and unlimited potatoes at Atelier Vivanda (9 Ship Street, Wan Chai, 2109-1768) and bite into exquisite pieces of dim sum at One Harbour Road (7-8/F, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, 1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, 2588-1234) and Dynasty (3/F, Renaissance Harbour View Hotel, 1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, 2584-6971).
Djiboutii? Where’s that? It’s a country in Africa, but it’s also one of Wan Chai’s best kept secrets. Hidden down a small alley off Landale street, you’ll find this wicked hipster hangout serving fantastic tea-infused cocktail creations alongside some delicious Middle Eastern and Mediterranean-inspired fare. The staff are great fun, as is the laid-back purple toned vintage decor.
2 Landale Street, Wan Chai.
Tai Lung Fung
If you fancy a bar with character, hidden away behind the Blue House you’ll find Tai Lung Fung, a watering hole with bags of it. The place is decorated with vintage newspaper clippings and red tinted lighting that hints of a different era, in keeping with the heritage sites still standing nearby. The cocktail list is extensive, if a little hit-or-miss, but decent craft beers and wine provide for happy alternatives.
The Archive, 5-9 Hing Wan Street, Wan Chai, 2572-0055.
Stone Nullah Tavern
Besides its ridiculously amazing happy hour deals ($1 a drink, anyone?), the bar at Stone Nullah Tavern is frequently packed with patrons spilling out onto the streets. You can also get lipsmacking classic American fare like baby back ribs, steak and pizza here.
G/F, 69 Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai, 3182-0128.
Want to combine a bit of Hong Kong heritage with drinks? Then head to newly renovated The Pawn. We’re not overly keen on its new makeover, but you’ll quickly forget that when sipping a cold beer on The Pawn’s magical terrace as you watch the trams and traffic roll by.
62 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, 2866-3444.
For no other reason than the epic view. Opens at 6pm and ideal for sunset drinks before dinner.
256 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai.
Le Quinze Vins
While SoHo might have more wine bars than you can shake a stick at, we’d hazard a guess that few can match the sheer number of French wines available at Le Quinze Vins. Combine that with an intimate setting, knowledgable staff and sumptuous platters of cheeses and cold cuts, and LQV has succeeded in giving us our very own slice of Paris in the heart of Wan Chai.
G/F, 9 Swatow Street, Wan Chai, 2673-7636.
Northern Dumpling Yuan | 北方餃子源
This popular little eatery specializes in northern-style steamed dumplings. As proudly advertised, NDY uses neither lard nor MSG in its cooking. We love the mutton and scallion variety but all their dumplings come weighty and packed with flavor. Ideal for a quick pitstop if you happen to be passing by.
259 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, 3488-6110.
The Butchers Club Burger
Three words: Wu Tang Style – possibly one of the greatest burger creations ever concocted, combing The Butchers Club Burger signature grain-fed Australian angus beef fried in sriracha sauce with cheese, kimchi, kewpie mayo and tempura sweet potato. Add a side order of duck fat chips with a beer as you chow down to some blaring hip-hop and you might have just found Hong Kong’s best burger joint.
G/F, Rialto Building, 2 Landale Street, Wan Chai, 2528-2083.
Prawn Noodle Shop
Something of a Wan Chai institution, Prawn Noodle Shop does some of the best bowls of spicy noodles in town. We love their special spicy prawn and sliced meat variety, which is extremely rich and flavorful. This place gets busy at lunch time so remember to plan an early or late arrival.
Shop 4, G/F, Rialto Building, 2 LanDale Street, Wan Chai, 2520-0268.
Keung Kee is a cheap, no-frills street food outlet specializing in glutinous rice and cheong fun. Think of a tiny hole-in-the-wall with small tables and plastic chairs off a busy road. Great for some cheap and cheerful street food as you the watch the chaos ensue outside.
G/F, Chuang’s Enterprises Building, 382 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, 2572-5207.
Lee Tung Avenue
The aforementioned Lee Tung Street, now known as Lee Tung Avenue, continues to see exciting new openings of restaurants, bars and retail outlets.
Blue House Revitalization Project
The revitalization project of the beautiful Blue and adjacent Yellow houses aims to keep alive some of Wan Chai’s precious heritage for future generations. Expected to be finished early 2017.
To the east lies the shopping mecca of Causeway Bay; southeast is Happy Valley and the racecourse, while westwards you’ll find Admiralty and Central.
Directions: You can get here via tram, train, taxi, bus or ferry. The easiest would be to catch the blue Island MTR line to Wan Chai, but if coming from Tsim Sha Tsui, we highly recommend taking the star ferry.