Getaway Guide: Hong Kong

From colonial outpost to modern China’s gateway, Hong Kong has always been the epicentre of commerce, culture, and style. But an influx of mainland money has put the already-frenetic island into overdrive. Hotels? The best in the world. Shopping? There are eight Hermès stores with lineups at each. The arts? This city gives London a run for its money. Not bad for a place one-third the size of Rhode Island.



There are more than 62,000 hotel rooms in this bustling city, ranging from Midas-touch luxury to hourly stay (aka “short-time love”) chains. Spoiled for choice, here’s where you need to be


Old money has flocked to the legendary Peninsula Hong Kong (from $620, Salisbury Rd., Kowloon, 852-2920-2888.) since 1928, but even without a trust fund, intrepid travellers should bucket-list this grande dame. Don’t let colonial architecture fool you: after a massive retrofit wraps up in May, it will be the most high-tech hotel in the world. When one of the 14 iconic green Rolls-Royce Phantoms (wifi enabled) fetches you from the airport, get down to business and charter the hotel’s helicopter: it’s the admission price into the China Clipper-part aviation museum, part bar-on the top floor of the hotel (featuring one of only two heli-pads in the city).


The amount of marble and crystal at the Island Shangri-La (from $570, Pacific Place, Supreme Court Rd., Central, 852-2877-3838.) would make the Sun King blush: this is Asian opulence at its finest. The largest silk painting in the world hangs by reception, and a perfectly preserved 130-year-old banyan tree (which cost an extra $3 million to build around) graces the lobby. Rooms come with gilded furniture and crystal chandeliers, but it’s the service that shines brightest-right down to the monogrammed day-of-the-week elevator rugs switched out faithfully.


Iconic French interior designer Christian Liaigre is behind the glossy interior at the newly opened boutique hotel The Jervois (from $240, 89 Jervois St., 852-3994-9000.) where floor-to-ceiling windows in 49 suites offer views of Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong Central, and Victoria Peak. A heavy on marble, light on furniture aesthetic economizes space for the business crowd while a private-lift lobby services each suite (for easier backroom deals).


The sleek new YHA Mei Ho House (Block 41, Shek Kip Mei Estate, Sham Shui Po, 852-2788-1638.) will have you rethinking the hostel experience. It has a squeaky clean urban perch on the Kowloon side, and it comes with a side of cultural history-it was converted from a 1950s public housing project. 


Next up: Where to Play 


In a city famed for its dizzying array of sensory distractions, the real challenge is deciding what to experience first. Here are three ways to kick-start a Hong Kong state of mind


When the White Cube and Larry Gagosian set up shop, you know the art scene has exploded. But it’s the inaugural Art Basel, that mother of all contemporary art fairs, that secures the city’s place in the art firmament (May 23 to 26).


Horse racing is now as much a Chinese institution as dim sum, and the Sha Tin Racecourse (852-2966-5835.) in the New Territories is where you and 85,000 friends will head on the weekend when there’s a big race (though it’s neither as close nor as pretty as the downtown Happy Valley course).


If the Mandarin Oriental is out of your budget, consider a visit to one of the world’s most exclusive hotels by way of its spa. The Oriental Essence Massage treatment (from $130, 5 Connaught Rd., Central, SAR, 852-2522-0111.) aims to realign the mind and emotions with ginger, mandarin, and frankincense. 


Getting There


The hottest seat might just be Cathay Pacific’s new premium economy ticket (usually double the economy fare, but only a third more if you time it right). This new entry gets you what used to be an extendable business-class-calibre seat (before all this lay-flat-bed hullabaloo): Champagne and hot-towel service when you sit down, and an amenity kit from cult-fave Hong Kong retailer Goods of Desire


Next up: Where to Eat 


Hong Kong is home to over 11,000 restaurants, from holes-in-the-wall to grand dining halls. Getting a flavour of the city is always just a step away, but here are rooms worth seeking


Tim Ho Wan (Flat 8, Ground Floor, Phase 2, Tsui Yuen Mansion, 2-20 Kwong Wa St., Kowloon, 852-2332-2896) claims to be the world’s most affordable Michelin-starred restaurant, so expect a gaggle of thrifty foodies clamouring for chef/owner Mak Pui Gor’s (who earned his chops at the Four Seasons) version of dim sum staples like dreamy barbecue pork buns for under $2.


Sevva‘s 25th-floor outdoor rooftop with panoramic views of the city’s neon skyline (Prince’s Bldg., 25th Floor, 10 Charter Rd., Central, 852-2537-1388. is where Hong Kong’s movers meet Hong Kong’s shakers in a U.N. mashup of the wealthy young business elite. (The menu, too, is a modern mashup of European and Asian cuisine.) It’s also where our own chef David Hawksworth sharpened his knives on his recent HK sabbatical.


Insider’s Tip: Hawksworth’s Hong Kong Favourites 


It’s tough to convey the importance of the Hong Kong Jockey Club to the city-it’s both the largest employer and the number one pastime. Membership at the club will set you back north of $50,000, but on Thursday nights mere mortals can book a table at the Happy Valley Racecourse’s Moon Koon restaurant. The food-solid, if expected, Cantonese-is secondary to watching the HK gentry dine while overlooking a racecourse smack in the middle of the city. 


Dive into the vibrant street-food scene at Clay Pot Rice, an outdoor venue in the middle of bustling Temple Street Market (which requires that it have a business license and some degree of health code compliance). Its Chicago stock exchange frenzy screams living-on-the-edge with every bowl of the barbecued rice delicacy that gives the place its name.


At $60, the three-course lunch at the three-Michelin-starred L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (Shop 315&401, The Landmark, Central, 852-2166 9000.) may be the best fine-dining deal in town (maybe even in all of Robuchon’s mini empire).


More wallet-friendly still is the new Al Molo (Shop G63, G/F, Ocean Terminal Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui, 852-2730-7900.) from celebrity New York chef Michael White (Marea, Al Fiori) that blends Italian classics like poached lobster and burrata (under $30) with a cavernous Cactus Club-esque room overlooking the Victoria Harbour. 


Next up: Where to Shop 


Distilling Hong Kong shopping to a handful of destinations is like explaining the Bible in five words or less. Best approach? Take it one neighbourhood at a time


Tsim Sha Tsui


More designer flagships here than Rodeo Drive and Madison Avenue put together (to wit: three Prada stores and three Gucci stores in this neighbourhood alone). Don’t expect to find any deals, but watching commerce in its purest form-i.e., mainlanders with actual suitcases full of cash-is breathtaking. The homegrown Initial, akin to Anthropologie, is the coolest shopping gem for both its boho selection and reasonable prices.


Star Street


The paint is barely dry in this newly gentrified neighbourhood, close to the financial core and all that is corporate Hong Kong, which makes the fact that it houses a Monocle store full of Tyler Brûlé-approved goods a bizarre disconnect. There’s also a Club Monaco pop-up, two outposts of Kapok, and the hidden second-floor-with-balcony café Amical (1/f, 1 Sun St., Wan Chai, 852-5489-5330.) to grab a cup of ethically sourced organic coffee.


Ap Lei Chau


Hong Kong’s heavy on shopping malls, but sale-priced clothing? Not so much. For discounted brands, head to Horizon Plaza (2 Lee Wing St., Ap Lei Chau, 852-2554-9089), 45 minutes by MTR (mass transit railway) from the city’s core. This industrial behemoth houses half-price Christian Louboutins, steals from Paul Smith, and a Lane Crawford outlet (Hong Kong’s storied version of Holt Renfrew). Just around the corner there’s another rare sighting: Hong Kong’s only winery, The 8th Estate (Room 306, 3/F, Harbour Industrial Centre, No. 10 Lee Hing St., Ap Lei Chau, 852-2518-0922.).


Sheung Wan


This ‘hood is hipster central, home to the quirky expat owners of bespoke tailoring house Moustache and current arbiters of HK cool. Radiating out from their shop are other Williamsburg-esque stops including Mr. Blacksmith for industrial-era design and the Agnes B Café, the famed French designer’s blend of Parisian café and artbook emporium.