The 12 Best Things to Do in SoHo, Hong Kong

| Photo by Ruslan Bardash on Unsplash
James Durston

There’s plenty to see and do in Hong Kong’s SoHo. The drinking, dining and entertainment district south of Hollywood Road (hence its name) is home to cool hangouts, art galleries, antique stores, fancy restaurants and hip nightclubs.

While SoHo has become an accidental collection of pop-ups in recent years – rents are so high in this part of town, and trade so competitive, that businesses arrive and close down again in rapid time – the best places have stood the test of time. Still, part of the thrill of the area is that if you don’t visit for a few months, you could miss the opening and closing of numerous boutiques (not to mention rare, vintage finds), restaurants and bars without ever knowing they existed. Always keep your eyes peeled when exploring SoHo, then, however well you think you know the place.

1. Sample the street food

Architectural Landmark

While Hong Kong might be better known for its fine-dining restaurants and wine bars rather than for its street food, there are still some incredibly cheap and delicious places to check out. Make sure you try the dai pai dongs that are scattered all around the city – outdoor plastic-chairs-and-tables affairs where the service is speedy. But at a reasonable rate you can have your fill of steaming broths, slurp-worthy noodle dishes, clams, beef balls and lots more. If you’re in need of inspiration, check out our guide to great street food places in Hong Kong, or join the private 10 Tastings Food Tour.

2. Share a dim sum lunch with friends

Architectural Landmark

If it’s raining outside, or you’re here in the summer and prefer to eat at somewhere air-conditioned, a SoHo dim sum lunch might be the best option. This most Cantonese of cuisines started out as a way for people to have morning tea but has now expanded into full-on gut-bloating meals of everything from fried rice dishes to sliced pork belly strips, as well as traditional sweet items such as custard buns. Ding Dim 1968 on Wyndham Street is one of SoHo’s longest-standing establishments, and offers an extensive menu in both Chinese and English.

3. Shop for arty gifts at PMQ

Shopping Mall

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Photo by Alison Pang on Unsplash

SoHo offers an alternative to the city’s luxury shopping malls in the form of boutique shopping space PMQ. Formerly a police dormitory complex (the name stands for Police Married Quarters), PMQ is a hub of craft and design boutiques, fashion stores, cafés, restaurants and tea houses, many of which are run by independent vendors. Much like Tai Kwun (see below), it’s also a nice space just to hang out in, with an interesting history; it started as a school, was severely damaged during World War II and rebuilt as PMQ, before operating in its current incarnation from 2014. PMQ features on the Highlights and Hidden Gems of Hong Kong Tour.

4. Pick up souvenirs at Cat Street Market

Architectural Landmark

Known locally as Cat Street Market but actually situated on Upper Lascar Row, this fun little street can easily steal hours of your day as you browse stalls selling antiques, art and other trinkets that make for good souvenirs. No one knows for sure where the Cat Street name comes from, but theories include that it’s a reference to prostitutes, cat burglars, pirates or the street peddlers themselves. This is essentially Hong Kong’s version of a flea market, and while there’s fun to be had scouring for a bargain and haggling for the best price, be aware that most of the items for sale are reproductions, not originals. Therefore the experience of buying and haggling is as important as what you walk away with.

5. Visit Pak Sing Ancestral Hall

Cemetery

Pak Sing Ancestral Hall, also known as Kwong Fuk Ancestral Hall, is worth visiting not just for its Instagrammable qualities, but also for the insight it provides into the lives of early Hong Kong settlers. When mainland Chinese who had come to Hong Kong in search of better lives died here, tradition had it that they should be buried in their home towns in China. This temple was built in the 1850s to house the bodies of those awaiting repatriation. It also served as a public memorial hall for families who could not afford to send their departed home. Thousands of the memorial tablets made for these families can still be seen behind the altar.

6. Enjoy a moment of calm at Man Mo Temple

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

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Photo by Rex on Unsplash

Man Mo Temple is an iconic destination for tourists in Hong Kong, so much so that it even has a cameo appearance in the video game Shenmue II. Built in 1847, the temple – now an official monument, meaning its architecture and decor must be preserved – comprises three main areas: one area to worship Man Cheong and Mo Tai (the Gods of Literature and War); Lit Shing Kung, for the worship of other Buddhist and Taoist deities; and Kung Sor, which acted as a kind of court to settle disputes between locals before the official judicial system was created. During festivals, the hanging incense coils, clouds of smoke and shards of sunlight combine to create one of the most atmospheric attractions in the city.

7. Ride the Central–Mid-Levels Escalator

Building

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Photo by Roméo A. on Unsplash

Said to be the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator system, the Central–Mid-Levels Escalator is one of the best (but least appreciated) ways to discover SoHo. Put simply, the elevator (consisting of 20 escalators plus three inclined travelators) is a functional piece of engineering designed to carry hordes of people up and down the Mid-Levels slopes. The entire ride from bottom to top takes about 20 minutes, passing nail salons, massage parlours, fitness gyms, dai pai dongs, art galleries, fashion stores, bars and fine-dining restaurants, as well as offices and homes. Good to know: the escalator travels downwards from 6-10am and upwards from 10am-midnight.

8. Explore everything Tai Kwun has to offer

Art Gallery, Museum

After an eight-year renovation, Hong Kong finally revealed Tai Kwan, a new art and culture complex that was formerly the city’s Central Police Station and Victoria Prison. Accessible via the Central–Mid-Levels Escalator as one of its entrances, the renovation turned the 170-year-old buildings into art exhibition and performance spaces, while adding nearly 20 bars, cafés and restaurants. This is an unusual spot in that it offers peace and tranquillity from the commotion of a congested city. Tai Kwun is a stop on the Hong Kong Walking Tour: History, Stories and Snacks.

9. Drink and jive in SoHo’s bars

Architectural Landmark

SoHo is definitely not shy of a party and a good time. Wyndham Street is chock-full of the see-and-be-seen kinds of places, while further west the ostentation dials down with bars you can hold conversations in. Some worthwhile options include casual and colourful Club 71, James Suckling Wine Central, which is cool and elegant with many top-notch by-the-glass offers, and Sense 99, which is one of the friendliest places in the area (assuming you’ve found the almost invisible door).

10. Check out the art scene

Architectural Landmark

The ‘Ho’ of SoHo, Hollywood Road, is where you can get your fill of local art. Gallery follows gallery along this one-kilometre street. March is an unofficial ‘art month’ in Hong Kong and features Art Basel, though smaller events such as Art Week take place later in the year, too. To explore Asian art further, check out an exhibition at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery and the quirky multimedia work on display at Hanart TZ Gallery on Pedder Street.

11. Little Bao

Restaurant, Taiwanese

This Chinese diner offers classic comfort food with a playful twist, and is the brainchild of Asia’s Best Female Chef 2017, May Chow. As the name Little Bao suggests, the main offerings here are Cantonese buns stuffed with fillings like pork belly and fried chicken. Those with a sweet tooth can go for buns filled with green-tea ice cream or deep-fried bao drizzled with condensed milk. Portions are generous and meant for sharing. The decor is modern and hip: walls are lined with images of vintage Hong Kong mailboxes and diners are seated on bar stools along counter spaces. This popular restaurant has a no-reservations policy, so expect to wait. Recommended by Kalpana Sunder

12. Old Townhouses Mural

Art Gallery

Located on a steep slope at the corner of Graham Street and Hollywood Road is Old Townhouses Mural. It is said to be the most photographed wall in Hong Kong and is surrounded by selfie sticks and snap-happy tourists at almost all hours of the day. Created by Alex Croft, the artwork features rows of traditional Hong Kong tenements on a bright blue background. The mural was commissioned by lifestyle brand G.O.D (Goods of Desire, a shop located in PMQ) and inspired by its signature print, Yaumati. Recommended by Kalpana Sunder

Our debut short film, The Soul of Soho, explores neighborhoods separated by oceans, history and culture but united by craft community and change. Neighborhoods bound by one name: Soho. Intimate portraits of city living in the Sohos of London, New York and Hong Kong reveal rich stories of the people who bring life to these iconic neighborhoods. Explore Soho here.

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