5 Must-Visit Sites In Hong Kong For A Glimpse Of The City's Cultural Heritage
From appreciating traditional craftsmanship to exploring local culinary heritage, get a taste of old Hong Kong by visiting these hidden gems
Living in a vibrant city like Hong Kong where boasts a sophisticated fusion of East and West cultures, it’s easy to overlook those local traditions which shaped and influenced the city in every facet of lifestyle for decades.
Whether you’re a local or a tourist, you may have been to the most stylish alfresco bars and restaurants for impressive food and cocktails, or a gorgeous boutique hotel for a luxury staycation. But we bet you haven’t seen the best of Hong Kong, until you have checked out these spots for the city's most famous cultural heritage.
Biu Kee Mahjong
It’s impossible to discuss Hong Kong’s traditions without mentioning mahjong—a tile-based strategy game originated from the Qing dynasty—which is about as essential to Chinese culture as Beijing opera, traditional Chinese paintings and traditional Chinese medicine.
Mahjong has long been a favourite pastime amongst locals, and is often played at family gatherings during Chinese New Year and weddings. Today, the game is evolving with electronic tables and magnetic tiles, but Biu Kee Mahjong—one of Hong Kong’s last makers of hand-carved mahjong tiles—has survived through the tide of time, preserving and reviving the dying art.
Pay a visit to this small shop and join a hand-carving mahjong class led by the owner, Uncle King. You’ll be able to appreciate the meticulous work behind the tiles, and bring home a little cultural gem.
Biu Kee Mahjong, 235 Temple Street, Jordan, Hong Kong, +852 2730 4028; facebook.com/biukeemahjong
Des Voeux Road West
Located in Sheung Wan is the buzzing Des Voeux Road West where salty, marine scent fills the air. Home to the city’s most traditional dried seafood stores, the street is often recognised as a treasure trove for exotic fare.
Around 50 years ago, the street was famed for salted fish production and trading. As the area continues to flourish, the business was gradually replaced by dried seafood retailing due to growing demand for more high-end ingredients to craft auspicious dishes.
On Des Voeux Road West today, you will find a wide array of rare and premium delicacies such as dried oysters, dried sea shrimps, sea cucumbers, abalones and fish maws—all kinds of dried seafood beloved by generations of locals. Don’t forget to check out Wing Lok and Ko Shing streets nearby for ancient Chinese tonics with great medicinal value (mostly bird’s nest and ginseng), too!
Des Voeux Road West, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
For those obsessed with acclaimed local film director Wong Kar-wai’s works, it’s likely you’ll find the movie In the Mood For Love (2000) utterly beautiful. It’s not just because of its sentimental plot and unique cinematography, but also all the elegant bespoke cheongsams (or qipao) worn by actress Maggie Cheung in the movie.
But only a few know that these classic, sophisticated Chinese dresses were made by Linva Tailor—an old-fashioned tailor shop operated by master Leung Ching-wah since 1965 in Hong Kong. Whether it’s lovely florals or subtle geometric patterns, Linva Tailor strives to offer authentic and traditional designs.
Book an appointment and meet the reputed designer to get your exquisite made-to-order qipao. You’re required to go for a fitting at least twice, where you'll select fabrics and patterns and have your measurements taken. It’s definitely worth the wait if you’re looking for something to make a statement for important occasions such as Chinese New Year and traditional weddings.
Linva Tailor, 38 Cochrane Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2544 2456
Lin Heung Tea House
No Hong Kong experience is complete with an indulgent dim sum feast—and if you’re looking for something a little bit different, this gem of Hong Kong’s “yum cha”—a traditional Cantonese meal of dim sum paired with hot tea—is sure to impress.
Serving up classic delicacies such as shrimp dumplings, lotus seed paste buns and steamed Chinese sausage rolls since the 1920s, Lin Heung Tea House is one of the very few tea houses still using trolleys to deliver steaming bamboo baskets filled with delicious delights.
The trolleys are wheeled around by old ladies in the dining area. As no ordering service is provided, customers must approach the trolleys to select what they want with a tally card for the ladies to chop. Be quick, though, as all dim sum served at Lin Heung Tea House are made in limited quantities.
Lin Heung Tea House, 160 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2544 4556 (Dinner services are not available)
Hawk Advertising Company Limited
Nestled amidst the hustle and bustle of Jordan, Hawk Advertising is known as the last standing minibus sign painter in Hong Kong, which is a must-visit place for avid art lovers.
From practising calligraphy to carving Chinese characters onto the acrylic board and adding colour, everything is made by hand from start to finish. It’s a painstaking task, and you’d be hard-pressed to find hand-painted signs like these in today’s digital age.
The owner of Hawk Advertising, Mak Kam-sang, boasts close to 50 years of expertise, and his persistence in keeping the tradition alive has won him many loyal customers and new admirers. Apart from offering souvenir keychains with hand-painted place names, Mak also accepts custom orders for any words or slogans you can think of.
Hawk Advertising Company Limited, M/F, 39 Battery Street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon, Hong Kong, +852 9017 9587; facebook.com/HAWKLTD
This article was originally published on October 25, 2019 and was updated on June 30, 2020.