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Exploring the History and Arts of Wanchai

Show up hungry in Wan Chai and you’ll be sated with great plates of food, along with art and culture in a neighbourhood where history has left its mark among the design-forward buildings and trendy bars.

You can easily become entranced by the inviting vibe and innovative culinary on Ship Street or soak up Hong Kong’s history and heritage at Wan Chai Heritage Trail. Regardless of your preference, the teeming Wan Chai has enough cocktail wizardry, cultural treasures and art for everyone.

Related Article: Why is Wanchai Popular Among Office Workers?

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12:00 pm | The Blue House

Clothed in striking blue, this almost 80-year-old Grade-I heritage site houses the Hong Kong House of Stories exhibition on the ground floor; with long-time residents above living an austere lifestyle, including shared kitchen and toilets without flushing facilities provided.

The protruding tenement in blue is built between the yellow house and the orange house, making up what is known as the “Viva Blue House” cluster on Stone Nullah Lane, adding a colourful touch to the nostalgic atmosphere in the lot.

The Blue House is under renovation and is expected to reopen next year with toilet and kitchen upgrades, as well as the installation of lifts and a clinic. However, concern has been raised that since a wave of hip bars and restaurants arrived in the area a few years ago, the historic charm will be eroded.

72 Stone Nullah Lane
2835 4372

13:00 pm | Tai Lung Fung

One place that stands out among the bar and restaurant pack is Tai Lung Fung, a laid-back local bar devoid of anything of the present – from the giant neon sign on the front door to the vintage decor inside – providing an epic drinking and dining experience with a heavy dose of old Hong Kong vibe.

The Archive, 5-9 Hing Wan St, Wan Chai
2572 0055

14:30 pm | Tai Yuen Street Market

Also a half-century old, Tai Yuen Street Market is a vibrant alleyway lined with stalls selling toys ranging from ordinary plastic toys to rare collections at wallet-friendly rates. If you make the effort and head deep into the street, you’ll be amazed by the diversity of this toy paradise, where you can also find garment and souvenir outlets.

15:00 pm | Lee Tung Avenue

Surrounded by a gentrified residential complex, Lee Tung Avenue, aka Wedding Card Street, is a trendy pedestrian area playing host to a handful of upmarket food franchises ranging from rose-shaped ice-cream scoops, traditional Chinese Gong Fu Tea to peacock-inspired cocktails. The lot is also home to an underground shopping centre, a retail practice that is uncommon in Hong Kong.  

200 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai

16:30 pm | Hong Kong Arts Centre

Located on Harbour Road, this facility is home to a handful of art galleries, workshops, studios, performing arts venues and a cinema supporting a dynamic range of art formats from visual to musical and dramatic to the performing arts. The building façade is itself a piece of contemporary art in striking black and yellow that gives an indication to its aesthetic quality inside.  

2 Harbour Road, Wan Chai
2582 0200

17:45 pm | Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts

Established in 1984, the Academy for Performing Arts is a cradle of artists and musicians who contribute to the local art scene with celebrities such as Jim Chim Sui-man, Athena Chu, Gigi Lai, and Cheung Tat-ming. Designed by Simon Kwan and Associates, the main campus functions as an art institution while also serving as a performance venue.

Due to space constraints, the institution has expanded to Pokfulam with the Béthanie – The Academy’s Landmark Heritage campus, housing the Wellcome Theatre, Sir YK Pao Studio and a historical chapel that has lots of wedding ceremonies.

1 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai
2584 8500

18:30 pm | Ship Street

Once a shipyard enclave back in 1910 because of its geographical adjacency with the pier on Johnston Road, Ship Street is now an exciting address for food lovers, harbouring a slew of dining establishments from Michelin-star restaurants to a dim sum place. Among the hipster diners is a historical treasure, the No.18 Ship Street.

Built in 1937, this three-storey shop house stands out with its profiled edge balconies with art deco-style balustrades that exemplify the classic 1930s architecture, giving this structure an immeasurable heritage value. Now the ground floor is rented by a cigar company the Harbour Cigar Divan. 

20:00 pm | The Pawn by Tom Aikens

Sitting just a few minutes away from No.18 Ship Street, The Pawn is yet another cultural gem that succeeds in striking a delicate balance between revitalising and preserving a heritage building. Its interior underwent a (rather unnecessary) refurbishment in 2014, replacing the original brassy accents and sophisticated dark shades with a prominently lighter tone graced with clean lines, grey walls, light woods and contemporary artworks.

But pleasingly, the menu has been refreshed by renowned British chef Tom Aikens.

A juicy lamb burger with a cold pint of beer on the terrace is an easy joy for happy hour; and a tantalising scallop tartare and macaroni cheese with braised beef would be epic for dinner.

62 Johnston Road Wan Chai
2866 3444