Where Modern Classics Meet Historical Charm

Where Modern Classics Meet Historical Charm
Wan Chai — Where Modern Classics Meet Historical Charm map

If ‘East meets West’ is what you see in Hong Kong, Wan Chai is where you soak up the gist of it!

While the adjacent areas of Central and Admiralty were mostly inhabited by Westerners and functioned as the centre of commerce and politics, Wan Chai was, from very early on, settled by the Chinese population. Today, the area has developed a fashionable charm, but there are still a number of well-preserved temples and historical Chinese architecture. Explore the heritage of traditional Hong Kong culture in this neighbourhood.

1. Golden Bauhinia Square & HKCEC
Golden Bauhinia Square & HKCEC

From MTR Wan Chai station you have easy access to the extensive seaside promenade, where the sculpture of a blooming bauhinia overlooks the gorgeous Victoria Harbour — it was a gift from the Chinese Central Government to commemorate the 1997 Handover. Start your day with a panoramic view of the Central and Tsim Sha Tsui skyline at Golden Bauhinia Square & HKCEC.

Next to the Golden Bauhinia lies the state-of-the-art Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC), which is a major exhibition venue and where the Handover took place. If there happens to be an expo that catches your eyes, like the annual Book Fair or Food Expo, get a ticket and drop in!

How to get there

MTR Wan Chai Station Exit A5, walk along the footbridge of O’Brien Road, pass through Immigration Tower and Central Plaza to the Convention Plaza and HKCEC. Turn right and head straight to the footbridge to Great Eagle Centre. Get off the footbridge on the first exit. From there, follow the signs and head to Golden Bauhinia Square through Fleming Road and Expo Drive East.

2. Ani-Com Park@Harbour"FUN"
Ani-Com Park@Harbour

Have more fun at the harbourfront! Meet the 36 local animation and comic statues installed at Ani-Com Park@Harbour"FUN" at the Wan Chai Temporary Promenade. It’s a selfie-themed garden where visitors can immerse themselves in comic scenes that reflect Hong Kong culture and interact with classic characters.

How to get there

Just next to the Golden Bauhinia Square.

3. The Pawn
The Pawn

In the earlier years before Hong Kong’s economy took off, the pawn shop business flourished by helping to tide those with financial difficulties over. It was not uncommon for people to make ends meet by exchanging their belongings for quick cash to last them till the next paycheque. As evidence to this heritage, The Pawn is renovated from four conjoint tong lau buildings (old-style tenement) housing the former Woo Cheong Pawn Shop and some more neighbouring shops such as beauty salons, photo studios and bird shops. The Urban Renewal Authority took over in 2002, kept the building façade on G/F and the shop sign of Woo Cheong while introducing a gourmet restaurant and a furniture shop. Savour a good meal here overlooking the the iconic trams passing by.

On your way to The Pawn, stop by the quiet tree-lined Lee Tung Avenue to check out quirky shops and catch the latest exhibitions and events.

How to get there

Get back to the O’Brien Road footbridge. Walk till the end down to Johnston Road, turn right, walk two minutes.

Did you Know

At pawn shops, the loan period is usually four months, during which customers can get the item back at any time by repaying the loan plus the interest, or choose to extend the loan period by paying the interest. The pawning counter is usually higher than the height of a standing person, showing that the pawnbroker has a higher status so that the customer would not bargain with him.

4. Hung Shing Temple
Hung Shing Temple

Hung Shing Temple was an altar built on a rock that stood on what used to be the shoreline, since Hung Shing is the deity of the ocean and weather, worshipped by fishermen, farmers and sea traders. But now, it has been ‘pushed’ into the heart of Wan Chai after land reclamation throughout the years.

Estimated to be built between 1847 to 1852, it underwent its first renovation in 2015. It is now reopened and continues to preserve traditions and accommodate worshippers.

How to get there

From The Pawn, walk along Tai Wong Street East till the end and you’ll see Hung Shing Temple on the opposite street.

5. The Blue House Cluster
The Blue House Cluster

Its eye-catching colour reminds us of The Smurfs, when in fact it is an old residential building which took on the dazzling shade unwittingly during a renovation on its walls in the 1990s and caused it to remain standing to this day. The Blue House is a typical Lingnan-style house built in 1922 with wide balconies. Its tenants once included kung fu studios, Chinese clinics and a free school. There are still residents living here.

The nearby Yellow House and Orange House share a similar fate. Here, you will find Hong Kong House of Stories, with everyday home articles from Hong Kong residents in the past for a glimpse of Hongkongers' lives in the bygone era.

How to get there

Walk along Queen’s Road East, turn right at Stone Nullah Lane.

Did you Know

Blue House is an example of tong lau — a century-old architectural style which is unique to southern China, Hong Kong, Macao and Chinese communities in Southeast China that merges local and Western influences while adapting to local environment. In the case of Blue House, its primarily wooden interior is oriental, while the paired windows and carved railings of the balcony reflect Western styles.

Residents of these houses have stuck to the lifestyle of decades ago — there are no modern conveniences such as flush toilets.

6. Pak Tai Temple
Pak Tai Temple

Officially named ‘Yuk Hui Kung’ (Jade Void Palace), Pak Tai Temple was built by Wan Chai residents during 1863 (Qing Dynasty, second year of Emperor Tongzhi’s reign). The Pak Tai statue inside the main hall is three metres tall and about 400 years old, much older than the temple itself. On either side there are halls for the Three Pristine Ones, Lung Mo (Dragon Mother), and the God of Wealth. Don't miss the murals inside the halls which reveal life in the olden times — such as how Cantonese opera was staged.

How to get there

Walk up Stone Nullah Lane until you reach Pak Tai Temple.

Did you Know

Pak Tai, literally ‘Emperor of the North’, is the God of Water, believed to be capable of preventing floods and fires, and blessing you with longevity. Pak Tai also symbolises the Polaris which guides ships on seas.

7. 7 Mallory Street
7 Mallory Street

Comprising a cluster of 10 pre-war Grade 2 historic buildings, 7 Mallory Street retains and preserves original structures such as balconies, a tiled pitched roof, timber French doors and a timber staircase.

7 Mallory Street serves as the venue for different events and activities such as art and cultural exhibitions, community workshops, performances, screenings and special events. The site is open for the public to visit free of charge, while some events might charge a fee. The cluster includes a 300-square-metre open space for the enjoyment of the community, exhibition areas and multi-function rooms for public hiring, as well as retail and food and beverage outlets. If you are interested in culture and historic buildings, this place is not to be missed.

7 Mallory Street was formerly named Comix Home Base and has been renamed since August 2018.

How to get there

Walk back down Stone Nullah Lane, cross Queen’s Road East to reach Wan Chai Road. Continue along Wan Chai Road, then turn left onto Mallory Street.

8. Tai Yuen Street (Toy Street) & Cross Street Bazaar
Tai Yuen Street (Toy Street)

Looking to add to your toy collection? Come to this long-established bazaar at the junction of Tai Yuen Street and Cross Street. Apart from the array of daily goods, clothing and souvenirs sold for affordable prices in green hawking carts, Tai Yuen Street is also home to a cluster of shops with everything from classic local toys to the latest anime figures. The area near Wan Chai Road is an open-air wet market that is also worth a gander.

Getting hungry? Grab a bite at local cha chaan teng diners or one of the many eateries nearby.

How to get there

Go left from 7 Mallory Street, turn left onto Johnston Road and walk for about five minutes before turning left onto Tai Yuen Street.

9. Star Street Precinct
Star Street Precinct

Star Street, Moon Street and Sun Street, as their names suggest, shine when the night gets darker. During the day, the Star Street Precinct is a peaceful residential area with boutiques, galleries, art workshops and chic cafés; at night, you’ll see it transform into a cool wine-and-dine neighbourhood, featuring everything from high-end restaurants to cosy pubs. Take a stroll around the area and enjoy its quaint charm! Don’t forget to walk through St. Francis Yard, where there is a staircase leading to Sau Wa Fong, an even quieter cluster of intimate cafés and boutiques.

How to get there

Turn right onto Queen’s Road East, walk about five minutes before turning left into St. Francis Street. Enter the precinct through St. Francis Yard.

Did you Know

Star Street, Moon Street and Sun Street used to be home to Hong Kong’s first power plant.