From the much-loved M+ museum to the historic streets of Yau Ma Tei and Jordan, the arts and culture district of West Kowloon is the new must-visit in Hong Kong.
Sleek cocktail bars materialize beside 1950s cha chaan teng diners. Bamboo scaffolding scales glossy high-rises. Retro pawn shops rub shoulders with designer boutiques. Everywhere you look, Hong Kong blends modernity and tradition – and nowhere does this brilliant contrast come into focus more than West Kowloon. Every traveler with a creative side will want to make a beeline to these artsy West Kowloon hotspots.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
West Kowloon Cultural District
In the works since the 1990s, the 40ha (99-acre) West Kowloon Cultural District on Victoria Harbour signals Hong Kong’s grand ambition to become the top arts destination in Asia. That goal appears well within reach, as the vast cultural quarter plans to add yet another 17 state-of-the-art museums, performance venues and theaters to the existing offerings. While a few major landmarks – such as the Hong Kong Palace Museum, which is due to open mid-2022, and Lyric Theatre Complex – are still in progress, there’s already much to experience. Immerse yourself in the diverse world of visual arts at the M+, catch a Cantonese opera at the Xiqu Centre, enjoy live music at Freespace, dine along Victoria Harbour and explore the network of peaceful green spaces.
Within the West Kowloon Cultural District, M+ is undoubtedly the star of the show. Having opened on 12 November 2021, the concrete-clad museum of visual arts and culture is one of the largest in the world, and houses a long list of attributes: more than 65,000sqm (700,000sqft) of space, thousands of artworks, 33 galleries, a trio of cinemas, an animated LED façade, great restaurants, sweeping harbor views, and a gift shop that you’ll actually want to visit.
If you appreciate design, cinema and thought-provoking installations, you could easily spend a day here working through the exhibitions. They run Conserving Neon Culture, which unpacks the creation, typography and design of the disappearing city street signs, and Hong Kong: Here and Beyond, tracing the metamorphosis of the city since the 1960s.
Brought to life by Herzog & de Meuron, the industrial architecture is as notable as the collections. A dark, upside-down T simultaneously guides the eye upwards and outward, while multiple outdoor spaces ensure there are plenty of spots for performances, dining and relaxation.
If M+ feels angular and brutalist, the Xiqu Centre ventures in the opposite direction with a curved, wave-like façade that seems to ripple under the subtropical sun. Designed to look like a pair of opening stage curtains, this dramatic building is the perfect place to experience one of the most ancient city traditions: Chinese opera. The intimate Tea House Theatre is designed to ease new audiences into Cantonese opera. Or visit the 1,000-seat Grand Theatre, which marries state-of-the-art technology with the traditional art form.
Rest Coffee Gin
The name says it all: Rest Coffee Gin promises a relaxed setting where you can unwind day or night. Set on the banks of Victoria Harbour within the Cultural District, the two-in-one address has become synonymous with single-origin coffees, matcha lattes and upscale cafe food (think uni orzo, fried oysters and wagyu sandwiches). The fun continues into the evening, when the industrial-chic cafe transforms into a jazz bar, serving more than 80 types of gin and an array of sophisticated drinks designed by Wallace Lau, one of the top mixologists in the city. Don’t miss the signature tea cocktails, which tap into the city’s affection for the beverage.
Playful cabaret. Classical music. Boundary-defying choreography. Local bands. Freespace, the Cultural District’s dedicated hub for contemporary performances, is where it’s at. Within this harbor-front facility, you’ll discover year-round events thanks to the largest black box theater in the city, plus workshop studios and a ground-floor bar for al fresco concerts.
The Competition Pavilion
Trace the lush pathways of the Cultural District to the western edge and you’ll come across the Competition Pavilion, a grand timber structure titled Growing Up. Designed by Paul Tse and Evelyn Ting, the winners of Hong Kong’s inaugural Young Architects & Designers Competition in 2017, the contemporary structure borrows inspiration from the narrow alleyways, traditional roof tiles and bamboo scaffolding of Hong Kong, while framing the crown jewel of the city: Victoria Harbour. It also happens to be an ideal place to catch a concert or watch the sun dip behind the outlying islands.
The artistic energy continues throughout the Yau Ma Tei and Jordan districts, just northeast of the West Kowloon Cultural District. Known for their mom-and-pop stores, 1950s diners, hidden temples and neon signage, these low-key neighbourhoods are an excellent showcase of the modern twists on old Hong Kong. They’re also a treasure trove of contemporary culture, evidenced by the street art murals and mosaics.
Start on Shanghai Street, where you’ll discover a surrealist mural by Italian artist Pixel Pancho stretching up an old tong lau (tenement-style residential building), right across the street from the historic Red Brick Building (the service facilities of a former pumping station).
Next, walk northwest to Ferry Street to visit the Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market (founded in 1913), where a colorful, ceramic-tile mural runs for nearly a block, then head a few minutes north to Vision Signage Production. Not only has this humble store produced signboards, billboards and props for many a Hong Kong film, but it also showcases a mural of the friendly owner, Mr Sin, at work on the metal door shutter. Continue north to find a few more shutter murals along Reclamation and Shanghai streets.
Showing arthouse indie movies, plus more mainstream flicks, Broadway Cinematheque is an established feature in West Kowloon, having been founded in 1996. The cinema hosts movie festivals, retrospectives and events all year round, plus documentaries and anime. An independent cafe within the complex doubles as a bookstore and triples as an events space, so there’s always something exciting going on.
Yau Sang Cheong
As one of the most ancient crafts in Chinese culture, calligraphy remains a revered art form. You can learn all about the techniques and traditions at the local arts and crafts supply store Yau Sang Cheong, which carries beautiful hand-painted scrolls, high-quality paper, professional brushes, silk fans, ink stones, art books and a wide variety of drawing tools. The only obstacle? Finding this nondescript spot, hidden away in a commercial building.
Temple Street Night Market
You can’t visit Hong Kong without a trip to the Temple Street Night Market. Long a gathering place for local vendors and artisans, the al fresco bazaar has expanded and evolved since its founding years in the 1920s. Dine on wok-fried noodles, clay pot rice, and garlic chili crab at a quintessential dai pai dong (outdoor cafe), then swim through the sea of modern trinkets and phone accessories to find beautiful ceramics, paintings, jade and antiques. Maybe even sit down to have your fortune told while you’re at it.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.