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The district of Wan Chai is a showcase of modern revitalization. Best known as a nightlife destination in the colonial era, Wan Chai quickly morphed into a popular residential area thanks to its central location connecting the more commercial eastern districts to the up and coming areas in the west. Today, its convenient location remains undisputed, but Wan Chai has continued to evolve. Several old residential buildings have transformed into retail hubs and best-in-class offices, and the district now houses the Convention Center and the Hong Kong Government Headquarters. Yet, much of the old remains- mahjong houses, pawn stores, old residential walk-ups- contributing to its charm and intrigue. A district so dynamic in its offerings, Wan Chai shopping remains exciting and keeps you coming back for more. What’s more, Wan Chai’s restaurants are countless, with many local and international cuisines to choose from. Explore our favorite things to do in Wan Chai in this district guide.
Wan Chai Street Market
Located off Queen Road’s East is Wan Chai’s traditional street market, also known as wet market, which has been operating since the 1930s. Here, merchants bring in the freshest food daily, making it the preferred spot for a daily pilgrimage to find quality ingredients for dinner. This feast for the eyes is not just limited to red meats and fruits – side by side to the food vendors are vendors selling electrical appliances and gadgets – hence the nickname “Toy Street”. Spanning several blocks, walking through Wan Chai’s street market can often feel like a maze, but do get lost in it and explore a slice of authentic Hong Kong.
Lee Tung Avenue
A focal point of Wan Chai’s shopping scene, Lee Tung Avenue is a popular 200-meter long, tree-lined shopping, living and entertainment walkway. Honoring its past reputation as a street selling wedding card invitations (so much that it used to be called Wedding Card Street), the walkway is decorated in a style reminiscent of a Chinese wedding. The architecture is a throwback, inspired by the traditional streetscapes of Hong Kong in the 1950s, capturing the rich heritage of Wan Chai and the evolution of Hong Kong. Overall, the stones and tiles, combined with antique-style lamp posts, make for a stately and impressive mini-community. As for leisurely activities, its many sidewalk cafes and gourmet restaurants offer a wide range of choices, all centering around an outdoor open experience. Finally, Lee Tung Avenue places a strong emphasis on art (both installations and galleries), and art exhibitions are frequently held for the public. The restaurants, events and shopping facilities in Lee Tung Avenue’s beautiful setting make it one of the best things to do in Wan Chai, and a perfect weekend destination for the entire family.
Wan Chai Computer Centre
Wan Chai Computer Centre is an intricate part of Wan Chai’s shopping scene, and many visit the district for this centre alone. You can find anything related to technology here, from the latest gadgets to custom made gaming PCs, electronic repair shops and smart devices. Compare the prices at different shops before your purchase and enjoy the exciting array of product displays as you wander around the Computer Centre with a vibrant mix of locals and visitors from all over the world.
130 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai
One of the top things to do in Wan Chai is to marvel at its rich heritage. There is perhaps no building that better epitomizes the Wan Chai’s proclivity for change than the Blue House. This landmark – so named for its façade color – has an extraordinary past. Originally built in the 1870s, it was conceived as the first hospital in the district. It then became a temple for Wah To, a legendary physician said to have attempted the world’s first brain surgery 1800 years ago (the king did not have the appetite for that risk and had him executed – a decision it is said the king regretted soon after). Demolished in the 1910s, the building came back to life as a 4-story walk-up, a popular type of residential building back then. Subsequently, it became a martial arts school by one of the followers of Wong Fei Hung in the 1950s, and then an osteopathy clinic in the 1960s.
In the 1970s, the government acquired the building and allowed the original residents to stay, while housing a museum in the ground floor – named the Hong Kong House of Stories, designed to exhibit the history of Hong Kong to the public. The museum hosts five or more exhibitions in a year and has a well-run souvenir department (in which you can make your own). Definitely worth a visit.
Previously home to an old pawn shop, The Pawn is another recently revitalized four-story walk-up that has turned into a sophisticated bar and restaurant. Maintaining many of its original features on the outside, including the façade and even the display sign of the old pawnbroker, the building has gained a new audience as its British-inspired fare draws quite a crowd in the weekends for its famous fish and chips. Combining old architecture with innovative cuisines, The Pawn is one of Wan Chai’s best restaurants.
62 Johnston Road, Wan Chai
There are many things to do in Wan Chai, one of Hong Kong’s most vibrant districts offering rich cultural heritage. Explore Wan Chai’s restaurant scene, wander along its many shopping streets, shop for fresh produce at the wet market or venture into the computer centre and discover the latest technology trends. For more information on getting around Wan Chai, feel free to contact your concierge at the V.
Read more about other iconic neighborhoods in Hong Kong in our guides to Causeway Bay and Happy Valley.
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