There’s barely time to catch your breath in Hong Kong, so frenetic is the pace of crowded city life. It’s even harder to keep a secret, so well-trodden are its maze of bustling streets and narrow alleyways. But, if you take time to peel away the cosmopolitan layer, embrace the city like a native and open your eyes to possibilities right on your doorstep, there are still plenty of surprises to be had in this constantly evolving city. From little known rooftop bars offering the best vantage points for Hong Kong sunsets, to the best basement cafés for tomato soup, here are just a few of the best at the heart of the world’s most live-able city!
Best Bar With A View: Ava Bar and Restaurant
38/F, Hotel Panorama, 8A Hart Ave, Tsim Sha Tsui
With it’s lofty situ on the 38th floor of the aptly named Hotel Panorama, it’s pretty much a guarantee that Ava Bar and Restaurant offers views not to be sniffed at. What the name fails to allude to, however, is the fact these panoramic views encompass some 270 degrees of the Hong Kong skyline. Located in the Tsim Sha Tsui suburb of Southern Kowloon, the swanky high-rise hotel avoids much of the overcrowding of its more centrally located counterparts, yet surpasses many in terms of the sheer variety and standard of cocktails on offer – including the acclaimed Pineapple Mojito and fruity Canton-ease. Sunset heralds the beginning of a memorable night beneath the stars, enhanced by the latest in funky house courtesy of Ava’s resident DJ’s. If you’re not the clubby type, you can still appreciate all that Ava has to offer from the Sky Garden lounge two floors up!
Best Beachfront and Restaurant: The Bay
(Mo Tat Wan), 7 Beach Front, Mo Tat Wan, Lamma Island
Accessible, acclaimed and offering some of the best panoramic ocean views of any central restaurant, Stoep at Lower Cheung Sha Wan seems like an ideal choice for an early dinner followed by one or two cocktails. Unfortunately, like many inner city restaurants, the upscale eatery suffers somewhat due to over publicity, making it difficult to bag a table even two days in advance. But, if you don’t mind jumping on a sampan at Aberdeen’s Fish Market and heading away from the familiar central area, Lamma Island offers an equally stimulating alternative.
Situated beside a vast swathe of caramel sand on the South coast of the island, The Bay enjoys a relatively peaceful location far from the maddening crowds of the city. Simple and unpretentious, the menu offers a sublime choice of Mediterranean dishes ranging from Grilled Salmon Risotto with Parmesan, to Steamed Mussels in a White Wine Sauce with Shallots. Even if you don’t stick around for dessert, the sunset makes it a worthwhile stop off for a glass of wine or two, and you can always enjoy a romantic walk along the beach afterwards!
Oldest Temple in Hong Kong: Pak Tai
Cheung Chau Island
Hong Kong is teeming with fascinating landmarks and icons, yet they’re often overcrowded and only worth visiting if you’re prepared to get up at the crack of dawn. Unless you venture further afield that is.
Just 30 minutes from the city centre by ferry, Cheung Chau Island is a peaceful alternative to the likes of Lantau, and arguably has better seafood restaurants! It’s also the location of Pak Thai, Hong Kong’s oldest temple. Dedicated to the Supreme Emperor of the Northern Heaven, this fascinating cultural gem dates back to the early Shang Dynasty. According to legend, the Supreme Emperor was actually a prince who, along with a 12-strong army, defeated the Demon King after the fall of Shang, thus saving the people of Cheung Chau from certain death. Whether or not you believe in Taoist legends, the temple houses some fascinating cultural relics, including a Song Dynasty iron sword and gold-plated sculptures dating back to the 10th Century.
Best Undiscovered Heritage Site: Sam Tung Uk Museum
Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong
Few visitors to Hong Kong ever venture beyond the perimeter of the central area when sightseeing, and they’re definitely missing out. Less than 20 minutes by bus from the city, the New Territories area is a fascinating territory crammed with hidden cultural relics, including opulent temples, desolate sandy beaches and ruinous clan villages dating as far back as the Qing Dynasty.
Located beside the bay in Tsuen Wan, the Hakka museum village of Sam Tung Uk offers visitors a unique insight into the layout and culture of these curious walled villages, with carefully restored ancestral halls and twelve individual houses preserved just as they were left a hundred years ago. The main exhibition hall at the far end of the complex showcases some fascinating exhibits recovered over the years, including agricultural tools, jewelery, ceremonial swords and art.