City-slicking travellers are celebrating the re-opening of Hong Kong. The Fragrant Harbour finally dropped its pandemic-era quarantine restrictions last month. What’s more: the city’s restaurant, nightlife, shopping and art scenes are all unleashing nearly three years of bottled-up energy, with a slew of new and returning marquee events and dozens of new openings.
From ambitious new restaurants to beloved old music festivals and long-awaited revamps of historical venues, here are 16 things to eat, drink and experience on your comeback trip to Hong Kong.
1. Discover stunning contemporary art at the ambitious new M+
One of Hong Kong’s most ambitious undertakings in recent memory, the long-awaited M+ is Asia’s first global museum of contemporary visual culture. Though it officially opened in November 2021, this will be many visitors’ first chance to experience this ambitious and stunning new building. The museum is located in the West Kowloon Cultural District, and houses 33 galleries with curated collections. Collections in the museum range from contemporary visual culture to traditional art, along with content related to the internet and popular culture. Currently, the museum hosts four permanent collections that focus on art related to Asia, as well as other limited-time special exhibitions such as Yayoi Kusama: 1945 to Now and Beeple: Human One.
2. Kickstart your collection at the Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong
Created with the mission to make arts affordable and accessible, the Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong will celebrate its 10th year with a four-day exhibition from 18 to 21 May 2023. Showcasing thousands of artworks from both Hong Kong and international exhibitors, the fair promises fresh and affordable pieces ranging from HK$1,000 to HK$100,000. Check out inspiring artwork, join interactive workshops and take part in engaging tours at the fun-filled artsy fair this May. Early bird tickets go on sale from 9 March.
3. Soak in live music as festivals and concerts return
After a three-year pandemic hiatus, music festivals and concerts are again filling up Hong Kong’s 2023 calendar. From 3 to 5 March, Hong Kong’s biggest international outdoor music and arts festival, Clockenflap 2023, brings headliners such as British rock icons Arctic Monkeys and French multi-instrumentalist FKJ back to the country. Returning to Hong Kong after five years, Singapore’s renowned singer JJ Lin will bring his JJ20 World Tour to the city for shows on 18, 19, 25, and 26 March. Promising an electronic dance music party and rave, Creamfields 2023 is set to take place from 1 to 2 April at Central Harbourfront. The festival, which was postponed twice, will release more details soon.
4. Trace China’s storied history at the new Hong Kong Palace Museum
Commemorating the 25th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Palace Museum officially opened in July 2022 and displays precious artefacts from the National Palace Museum at the Forbidden City in Beijing. The museum houses over 900 valuable antiquities, many of which are on display in Hong Kong for the first time and have never been shown to the public! The museum aims to present special exhibitions that showcase art, culture and history from China and other parts of the world. The current exhibitions include treasures from the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 8 CE), Northern Song dynasty (960 CE to 1127 CE) and Qian Long Period (1736 CE to 1795 CE).
5. Cycle through Hong Kong’s lush New Territories
What makes Hong Kong so special is how the frenetic urban density is balanced by expansive natural vistas. Hop on a bicycle and take in the scenic views from Tuen Mun to Ma On Shan, passing by prominent districts such as Yuen Long, Tai Po, and Sha Tin. The 60 kilometre New Territories Cycle Network connects the Eastern and Western parts of New Territories and passes through picturesque spots, lush greenery, and cultural attractions. Scenic spots along the bikeway include Kam Tin River in Yuen Long, Ho Sheung Heung in Sheung Shui, Tai Po Waterfront Park, and Man Tin Cheung Park in San Tin. The cycling track has an emphasis on safety and offers supporting facilities along the route including entry and exit hubs and dedicated resting stations.
6. Hit the trails for some breathtaking views
Get closer to nature and enjoy glorious views without exhausting yourself with these manageable hikes. The leisurely kilometre-long Bride’s Pool Nature Trail will take you to a chill stream that feeds into a pool and a 15-metre high beautiful waterfall. If you’re up for more of a challenge, take on the 4.3 kilometre High Island Reservoir hiking trail that presents a panoramic coastal view of Long Ke Wan and the hexagonal rock columns formed from volcanic ash and lava over 140 million years ago. Another notable option is the six kilometre trail from Pok Fu Lam to The Peak which might seem long, but is a gentle hike that is suitable for beginners.
7. Take a weekend trip to newly opened parts of Sha Tau Kok
Sneak a glimpse into the mysterious closed town of Sha Tau Kok and discover its fenced history with exploration tours. Located right next to Shenzhen’s Yantian District, visiting the restricted border town once required a closed area permit and a guarantee from a local resident. Since June 2022, the government has opened limited parts of Sha Tau Kok to the public on weekends and public holidays. Visitors need to register for a local tour and admission to the town is limited to a maximum of 500 pax each day. The town features an outdoor bazaar and visitors can visit Sha Tau Kok Pier, Cape of Sha Tau Kok, spot the elusive Chung Ying Street which can only be observed from afar or take a ferry to visit the neighbouring isles of Lai Chi Wo and Kat O.
8. Check out Hong Kong’s island-hopping arts festival at Sai Kung Hoi
A three-year nature and art collaboration held from 2022 to 2024, the Sai Kung Hoi Arts Festival highlights the rich history, local culture and natural environment of the Sai Kung Hoi district’s four isles – Yim Tin Tsai, Sharp Island, Kau Sai Chau and High Island. The first installation of the arts festival ran until 15 January 2023, and eight of the nine unique artworks that were located in Yim Tin Tsai and Sharp Island have been retained at their respective islands for visitors to enjoy their intriguing styles. The 2023 edition of the festival is poised to kick off at the end of the year.
9. Go on the hunt for Hong Kong’s hidden bars
Adventure is part of the experience when it comes to Hong Kong’s speakeasies and hidden bars – which might mean heading down a dark, secluded alley to look for the stairs leading to Stockton. As you enjoy the impressive selection of whiskeys and the literature-inspired cocktail menu, the art and furniture sourced from Parisian flea markets will make you feel like you’ve been invited to a decadent Victorian gentlemen’s club. Please Don’t Tell may not involve shadowy streets, but it’s a delight to find this tiny yet charming jewelbox of a bar hidden behind a telephone booth inside yet another bar. The coppertop bar, taxidermied animals, and cosmopolitan vibe call back to the original New York location, but the Hong Kong-inspired cocktails, including a milk tea rum drink, will definitely remind you of where you are.
10. Look good while doing good for the environment
No musty thrift stores here, just vintage shops featuring handpicked, high-quality pieces. Maggie & Co. Vintage has been curating exclusively high-end designer items. You’ll marvel at a cornucopia of rare and limited-edition shoes, bags, and jewellery, along with other wardrobe must-haves. While Seven Kee focuses on more affordable pieces, you’ll still find charming and unique pieces, including men’s and kids’ items, in a spacious two-storey shop that feels like a sophisticated, well-travelled aunt’s house. Much smaller but just as charming, Luddite features early 20th-century looks for men, mixing together vintage pieces with unusual finds like deerstalker hats and Slovakian hi-tops.
11. Visit a historic market that has reopened after 18 years
Once a bustling wet market, the revitalised Central Market has finally opened its doors with a bang. Harkening back to its previous incarnation, it’s packed with all kinds of stalls selling food and drinks, including Perfume Trees Gin, a local spirit known for its unique flavours, and the Michelin-recommended Mammy Pancake, where you can queue up for an egg waffle. You can also stock up on souvenirs like toys and collectibles from the Hong Kong Tram Store or lifestyle accessories with vintage Hong Kong and traditional Chinese prints from Seon Hong Kong. Stick around to enjoy the musicians performing at the Busking Corner or join a fun workshop or guided tour.
12. Experience Hong Kong’s diversity through its fusion cuisines
The city is no stranger to fusion cooking, but chef de cuisine Frankie Wong, who trained at two Michelin-starred Écriture, brings a fresh approach to French-Japanese 8-seater restaurant Ankôma. The unconventional menu includes sea urchin French toast and three yellow chicken (a chicken breed known for its yellow beak, skin, and feet and exceptionally rich flavour) served with salmon roe and sauce au vin jaune. At Sawadee Chef, acclaimed chef Ronald Shao gives Thai dishes Sichuan-style makeovers, like their signature larb moo cooked Chinese style and served with perilla leaves. However, a fine-dining option without the equivalent price tag means a visit to Daap, where you can enjoy Cantonese-European dishes like Chinese sausage carbonara topped with an onsen egg.
13. Experiment with farm-to-glass cocktails
Behind a minimalist entrance, PENICILLIN’s mad scientists dream up unusual cocktails like the Modernist Science, which uses bread-infused vodka and spiced cheese liquor. PENICILLIN focuses on a sustainable bar experience with a closed-loop creation process and locally sourced ingredients, and you can watch the team brew and ferment their concoctions in the open lab section. With its plain white tiles, Mostly Harmless also feels a bit like a lab if not for the cheerful drawings, notes, and menu items scribbled on the walls. This is the place to find cocktails inspired by 19th-century drink making, and the ever-changing menu that relies solely on what’s locally available means a delicious surprise each visit, like a remarkably complex 37-ingredient strawberry mole.
14. Bite into fresh bread and pastries from artisan bakeries
Good bread is easy to find in Hong Kong as artisan bakeries send out fresh-baked goodies every day. Sourdough reigns supreme here, and of note is Miam Bakery’s cashew and Sichuan peppercorn loaf, but their pies shouldn’t be missed either. Another neighbourhood bakery is Proof HK, which is also known for cinnamon buns and double-baked croissants – all made without artificial preservatives. For a more café-like experience, Bakehouse’s Wanchai shop has a dining space where you can enjoy their flaky signature sourdough egg tarts with a steaming cup of coffee. Also, their Causeway Bay shop has branch-exclusive treats like tiramisu Danish and miso caramel and banana croissant.
15. Shop for quirky and creative Hong Kong knick-knacks
Prepare to gasp “I remember this!” when you browse these quirky shops. At the crammed-to-the-brim Vintage Campus, there’s always a toy or stationery item that triggers the memory each time you visit. Browse neighbourhoood store Dongpo’s handpicked vintage and artisan-made pieces then hang out at the tables outside the shop and meet local creatives. Strange objects also proliferate in the colorful Bunkaya Zakkaten, the Hong Kong branch of the now-closed Harajuku icon. Standouts include three-eyed bakeneko calendars and the shop’s own 60s-inspired clothing line. For a more serene experience, Douguya Hatcharea has vintage furniture and ceramics, some of which have been reworked by Japanese artisans into modern artworks.
16. Nibble on fast food by fine-dining chefs
Fans of the show The Bear – where a chef with a resume peppered with Michelin-starred restaurants returns to his family’s diner to make sandwiches – will want to visit Hong Kong’s fast-food joints and pubs featuring menus created by chefs with haute cuisine backgrounds. Chef Chunwan Lai at Sick! Burger uses his experience as the former sous-chef at The Hong Kong Club and protégé of Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens to cook up luxurious yet affordable burgers with delightfully unexpected toppings like yuzu and shiso leaves. Over at Carbon Brews Central, the menu is presided over by chef Sean Yuen, formerly of three Michelin-starred Caprice and experimental restaurant tfvsjs.syut. Expect a play on flavours and textures like hanger steak frites with smoked bone marrow sauce or crab meat with taramasalata – all with craft beer pairings.
For more information on Singapore Airlines flights to Hong Kong, visit their website.