It may be only 7 miles (11 km) directly south of Hong Kong’s busy Central district, but Cape D’Aguilar feels like another world. The wild coast-line has wave-lashed rock formations and a marine life so rich that researchers have discovered 20 species “new to science” in these waters.
Hoi Ha Wan
The long inlets and sheltered coves of this 260 hectare marine park in northern Sai Kung are made for snorkelling. Stony coral and reef fish galore.
Mai Po Marsh
Declared a Ramsar site (that is, a wetland of international importance) in 1995, Mai Po is one of China’s most important bird sanctuaries, with hundreds of resident and migra-tory species recorded, including many endangered ones. Other wildlife includes otters, civet cats, bats and numerous amphibians.
The pool is a popular picnic spot. Weekends are best avoided, but visit midweek and, with luck, you will have this glorious, wooded course of rockpools and cascades all to yourself.
Pat Sin Range
Hong Kong’s countryside achieves a quiet grandeur among the empty valleys and sublime uplands of Pat Sin (“eight spirits”). Peaks range up to 639 m (2,095 ft), and the views are humbling.
The Dragon’s Back
This undulating ridge snakes down Hong Kong Island’s south-east corner, with plunging slopes, poetic sea views and (past Pottinger’s Gap) deep wooded valleys and beaches.
Take these steep steps up the rock from Three Fathom’s Cove, and enter an expanse of remote uplands and boulder-strewn paths, leading, in the north, to Mount Hallowes. There are exquisite views of the Tolo Channel.
Sha Lo Tung
This hidden valley is probably the closest Hong Kong comes to stereotypical ideas of classical Chinese landscape, with its old paddy fields, deserted villages, flowing streams and ancient woods. Magical.
Ma On Shan
The plateaus and grassy slopes of the 702-m ((2,302-ft) high Ma On Shan (“Saddle Mountain”) allow wide-screen views of mountainous country, without the insidious intrusion of city skyline in the distance. The effect is truly majestic.
Tai Long Wan
On the Sai Kung Peninsula, survive the knuckle-whitening ascent of Sharp Peak (all loose rocks and narrow paths), and the land plunges down to your well-earned reward: the sparkling waves and white sand of Hong Kong’s finest beach, Tai Long Wan.
Sir Norman Foster’s striking, Bladerunner-esque edifice cost a whopping HK$5.2bn, making it the world’s priciest pile when it opened in 1985. The headquarters of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation are reputed to have some of the best feng shui around – the building sits on a rare confluence of five “dragon lines” and enjoys unimpeded harbour views. The soaring atrium feels like a cathedral, which might explain why on Sundays the ground level is taken over by chattering Filipina maids.
Bank of China
This one is also famous in feng shui circles, but more for dishing it out than possessing it – the glass-skinned tower shoots bad vibes at the old Government House and other entities. Its knife-like edges were the inspiration of American-Chinese master architect I. M. Pei. The 70-storey, 368-m (1,207-ft) stack of prisms opened in 1990. Its viewing platform is the natural place to go for a sweep-ing city perspective.
Tsing Ma Bridge
The suspension bridge stre-tches from Tsing Yi Island to Lan-tau, a mile and a half (2.2 km) long. A striking sight, especially when lit up at night, the bridge carries the road and rail links to Chek Lap Kok airport. It opened in May 1997, having taken five years to build at a cost of HK$7.14 bn. Take the MTR to Tsing Yi or catch an airport bus (but not the airport train) to view it. There’s also a viewing platform at Ting Kau.
Two IFC Tower
Completed in 2003, the streamlined Two International Finance Centre Tower soars above Victoria Harbour. At 420 m (1,378 ft), it is Hong Kong’s tallest building and for now the sixthtallest in the world, soon to be overtaken by Union Square Phase 7. The shopping mall at its base is one of the biggest on the island.
Hong Kong International Airport
Sir Norman Foster strikes again. Landing isn’t quite the thrill ride it was at the old airport, but the new passenger terminal, which opened in July 1998, is impressive. The airport is constructed on a specially flattened island – Chek Lap Kok.
These knobbly megaliths look like they have koalas cling-ing to the sides – a reflection of the original antipodean owner, jailbird Alan Bond.
The one with the pretty col-ours that keep changing all night – fantastic, unless you live next door. One of tycoon Li Ka-shing’s triumphs.
Cheung Kong Centre
Big, boxy and glassy, another one of Li’s babies. He lives on the top of this one. Note how it’s built perfectly parallel to the adjoining Bank of China for optimal feng shui.
Confusingly, this is in Wan Chai, not Central. At 78 storeys, it is two less than The Centre, but at 374 m (1,227 ft), it’s taller. It’s also the world’s tallest reinforced concrete building.
HK Convention and Exhibition Centre
Site of the official Handover ceremony in 1997, the Centre sprawls over a huge area over the harbour and was designed to resemble a bird in flight.
The world’s longest covered escalator system is a sight unto itself.
Some 211,000 people ride the system daily, bypassing the Mid-Levels’traffic snarls.
The escalator begins oppo-site this agreeably raucous fruit and vegetable market.
(“Below Hollywood Road”) The start of the journey takes you through the heart of this hip quarter.
(“South of Hollywood Road”). Alight at the first stop and walk a block uphill for trendy bars and eateries.
Home to antique shops, galleries, nightclubs, bars and the historic Man Mo Temple.
Several en route, many specializing in the bright new wave of Chinese art.
So named because a 19th- century signwriter wrote “Alexander” from right to left, in the Chinese manner. Uncorrected to this day.
Jamia Masjid Mosque
Also known as the Shelly Street Mosque, built in 1915. One of three mosques cater-ing to 70,000 Muslims.
Where SoHo peters out, and the Mid-Levels begins amid forests of upscale apartment blocks.
The series of escalators in the steep Mid-Levels district of northwest Hong Kong Island is designed for commuters, but most appreciated by sightseers who can rest their legs and enjoy the fascinating sights (opposite). Take a stately (and free) ascent past busy street scenes, tradi-tional shops and apartment windows.
Hong Kong’s trams date back to 1904, making this one of the oldest continuously used tram systems in existence. They are still one of the best ways of exploring the Hong Kong Island shoreline. Trainspotter’s trivia: it’s also the only double-decker tram system in the whole world.
The Peak Tram
Since 1888, this funicular railway has made the jaw-dropping ascent of Victoria Peak, and remains a must for visitors. Under the unwritten rules of colonial times, certain seats were reserved for high officials; now, seating is an amiable free-for-all.
Airport Express Link
Should your attention span wane on the fleeting 22-minute ride from the airport to Central, the AEL offers personal TVs in the back of every seat. Bright, shiny and a joy to use.
Hong Kong’s underground railway is a world leader, hand-ling three million people a day with rapid and robotic efficiency. Signs are in both English and Chinese, delays are almost unheard of, and with fares starting from the price of a cup of coffee, a trip around the city is surprisingly affordable, too.
The fabulous Star Ferry connects Hong Kong Island to Kowloon. Pay half the price of a cup of coffee for a first-class view of one of the world’s most remarkable harbours and skylines. Other ferries connect Hong Kong to the outlying islands and parts of the New Territories
There are just seven rickshaws left in all Hong Kong, their elderly drivers earning a living by charging tourists for photos. Don’t ask for a ride, unless you want richly-deserved abuse from passers-by: these old guys can’t make their way halfway down the road without collapsing in an exhausted heap.
Hong Kong cabbies are as psychotic as big city cabbies everywhere. Their rudeness is legendary, but you probably would be too if you had to deal with Hong Kong traffic all day, every day. Fortunately, tighter policing means that overcharging is now a rare occurrence.
On a per capita basis, Hong Kong probably has more Mercedes and Rolls Royces than anywhere else in the world. Some 15 of the latter are owned by the Peninsula Hotel alone – including a Phantom II dating from 1934.
Hong Kong’s double-decker buses are a British legacy, although these mostly come air-conditioned and with onboard TVs blaring ceaseless advertising. The low cost of using them may help you overcome this irritant.
Chinese New Year
Hong Kong’s most celebrated festival is a riot of neon and noise. Skyscrapers on both sides of the harbour are lit up to varying deg-rees depending on the vicissitudes of the economy, fireworks explode over the harbour, shops shut down and doormen suddenly turn nice, hoping for a handout of lai see (lucky money).
Spring Lantern (Yuen Siu) FestivalAlso known as Chinese Valentine’s Day, this festival marks the end of the traditional Lunar New Year celebrations.
Tin Hau Festival
This is the big one if you make your living from the sea. Fishermen make floral paper offerings to Tin Hau, the goddess of the sea, hoping for fine wea-ther and full nets. (Her views on overfishing and dragnetting aren’t clear.) Try the temples at Stanley, Joss House Bay or Tin Hau Temple Road.
Cheung Chau Bun Festival
Talk about a bunfight. Young men used to scale 8-m (26-ft) towers covered in buns until in the 1970s they started falling off and the practice was banned. It was revived in a tamer form in2005.
Also known as the grave-sweeping festival, ching ming literally means “clear and bright”. Chinese families visit the graves of their ancestors to burn “Hell money”, which resembles Monop-oly money.
Dragon Boat (Tuen Ng) Festival
Drums thunder and paddles churn the less-than-pristine waters of Hong Kong as garish craft vie for top honours. The festival commemorates Qu Yuan, a 3th century poet statesman who drowned himself to protest against corrupt rulers.
Hungry Ghost (Yue Laan) Festival
From the 14th day of the seventh moon, Chinese believe the gates of hell are thrown open and the undead run riot on earth for a month. Lots more “Hell money” goes up in smoke, as do various hillsides. Not a good time for hiking.
One of the most picturesque of Hong Kong’s festivals. Families brave the most appalling traffic jams to venture out into the country parks to burn candles and feast on yolk-centred moon-cakes. Unfortunately, the intricate paper lanterns have increasingly been supplanted by glowing, blow-up Hello Kitty, Doraemon and Pokémon dolls.
Chung Yeung Festival
Put on your hiking boots. This festival commemorates a Han Dynasty scholar who took his family up a hill and came back to find the rest of his village murdered.
Not a traditional Chinese festival, of course, but Hong Kongers have wholeheartedly embraced the more commercial aspects of Christmas.
Comes alive at night. Hundreds of stalls are jam-packed by 9pm, offering all manner of goods. It used to be known as Men’s Street, and many stalls still stock less-than-fashionable attire. Venture past the market and you’ll stumble onto a lamplit coterie of fortune-tellers and possibly a Chinese Opera recital.
The Western Market (in the northwest of Hong Kong Island) is situated in a gorgeous old Edwardian building, but the pickings are slim. Best bet is the excellent selection of antique and second-hand watches on the ground floor. Also a good range of fabric shops, although bargains are scarce. In a former life it housed a meat and vegetable market.
No designer labels – unless they’re fake. What you’ll find here is inexpensive women’s clothing from lingerie to shoes. There’s a decent selection of jeans, cheap food and knick-knacks galore.
Jardine’s Bazaar and Jardine’s Crescent
An open-air market area in the heart of Causeway Bay, one of Hong Kong’s busiest shopping districts. All sorts of goodies here, from run-of-the-mill fashion shops to traditional barbers and Chinese medicine sellers. Sample a glass of fresh soy bean milk.
No, there are no more cats here than anywhere else in Hong Kong. Cat Street refers instead to the Chinese slang for odds and ends. It and nearby Hollywood Road are chock full of antique and curio shops. This is the place for silk carpets, elegant Chinese furniture, Ming dynasty ceramic horsemen.
As you might suppose, jade sellers abound – more than 450 of them at last count. Don’t attempt to buy the top-grade stuff unless you’re an expert and know what you are doing. But there are plenty of cheaper pieces to be found.
Full of tourists of the badge-sporting, flag-following variety. If you’re not claustrophobic, join the hordes thronging the narrow lanes to gorge on tacky rubbish.
More than 70 stalls showcasing all manner of songbirds and (mostly legal) exotica, bounded by elegant courtyards, full of old men with white singlets rolled up to bare their bellies (one of Hong Kong’s odder fashion statements). A flower market is also nearby.
Popular spot for locals, as a fishtank in the right spot is thought to ward off bad luck. Hook a bargain on underwater furniture with an oriental flavour.
This one is worth a peek if you happen to be in Central but hardly worth a special visit. Lots of blood and guts, especially for early birds.
The local patois, which freely uses sinicized English words like sahmunjee (sand-wich), bahsee (bus), lumbah (number) and kayleem (cream).
Many borrowings, including praya (waterfront road), joss (a corruption of deus, or god) and amah (maid).
Several words, including shroff (cashier), nullah (channel or watercourse) and tiffin (lunch).
Mo Lei Tau
The impenetrable slang used by young Cantonese. Based on surreal and seem-ingly nonsensical phrasing.
All-purpose slang term meaning “cool”, “excellent”. (As used in the Hollywood film Wayne’s World.)
“Yau Mehr Liu?”
Translates roughly as “What’s your talent?” but used as a streetwise greeting; a bit like “what’s up?” or “wassup?”
Hong Kong English for warehouse or storage facility; a contraction of “go put your load down”.
Hong Kong police slang for “white trash”
The universal exclamation of disappointment, surprise or regret.
Prefix added to names when denoting affection, as in “Ah-Timothy”, “Ah-Belinda”.
With a history of revolution, migration, incessant trading, the witty and streetwise Cantonese are the New Yorkers of China, and make up the majority of Hong Kong’s population. There are also large communities of Shanghainese, Hakka (Kejia) and Chiu Chow (Chaozhou) people.
A large British population remains, including a small but influential community of native-born. Influences are everywhere, from street names (“Lambeth Walk”, “Rutland Quadrant”) to school blazers.
The traditional role of this community of mixed European and Asian descent – as cultural and commercial brokers between East and West – remains undim-inished. If anyone can claim to truly embody Hong Kong’s intriguing duality, it is this young, wealthy and internationally-minded community.
In the Pearl River Delta since the arrival of traders in the 16th century, the Portuguese have inter-married extensively with the Cantonese. Aside from a clutch of surnames (da Silva, Sequeira, Remedios), a lasting influence has been the fostering of an addiction to egg tarts and pastries.
The history of Hong Kong’s substantial Indian population (there are Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs) dates from the arrival of the British in 1841. Like the Eurasians, young Indians have rejected purely Western or Asian notions of identity, pioneering instead a synthesis of both.
Hong Kong has one of the oldest Jewish communities in east Asia, producing patrician business dynasties (the Sassoons, the Kadoories) and one of the most colourful governors (Sir Matthew Nathan, 1903–1906).
Hong Kong’s White Russians were once numerous, and you still find borsch on the menu of every takeaway and coffee shop.
The surging growth in British-, American- and Canadian-born Chinese has been a characteristic of the last two decades, as the well-educated children of emigrants return in search of roots and white-collar work.
Most members of the largest ethnic minority stoically perform the low-paid occupations that Hong Kongers shun, working as domestic servants, drivers, wait-ing staff and bar room musicians, and remitting most of their income back home to the Philippines. Filipinas promenade in their thousands every Sunday at Statue Square.
Working mostly in business and the media, the size of this community is reflected in the fact that it boasts the largest Australian Chamber of Commerce outside of Australia, and one of only two Australian International Schools in the world.
Spend a Night at the Opera
Cantonese opera might sound like discordant screeching to the untrained ear, but make no mistake, this is a fine and ancient art. It combines song, mime, dancing, martial arts and fantastic costumes and make-up and can go on for six hours or more. Call the HKTB for details of performances.
Ride on a Junk
We’ve all seen that iconic image of the junk, blood-red bat-wing sails unfurled as the sun sets over Victoria Harbour. Unfortunately, it’s usually the same boat. The Duk Ling is one of the few masted sailing junks left.
Feast on Dim Sum
Dim sum is commonly translated as “touch the heart”, although in some establishments it may also touch your wallet. The small steamed snacks in bamboo baskets are delivered by grumpy old ladies with trolleys.
Visit a Market
Hong Kong’s wet markets can bring on instant culture shock for those tourists who are more used to the orderly atmosphere of supermarkets. Tiptoe through rivers of blood, past gizzards and buzz-ing flies as hawkers yell and housewives bargain.
Go for a Traditional Tonic
For a taste of the real China, try a tonic restaurant. Chefs whip up dishes with all sorts of herbs and spices, in accordance with the principles of “heating” or “cooling” foods. A tonic lunch at the Treasure Inn Seafood Restaurant includes fried snowfrog and bamboo fungi.
Try Foot Reflexology
Hands seek out pressure points linked to vital organs. The procedure is painful, and you might be embarrassed about your feet, but you will feel so good when they stop. Reflexologists abound in Happy Valley. Try On Wo Tong.
Aim for Everything Zen
For a modern take on ancient China, check out the Chi Lin Nunnery in Kowloon. This gorgeous replica of a seven-hall Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907) complex took 10 years to build, using traditional techniques and materials. Bliss out as stubble-headed nuns chant to the Sakyamuni Buddha.
Experience Unbelievable Gall
She Wong Lam in the northeast of Hong Kong Island is the place to sup on snake wine, a traditional winter tonic. The speciality is a fiery brew containing the gall bladders of five snakes.
Watch a Lion Dance
Lions are thought to bring luck, which explains why the opening of a new building often features a troupe of wiry youths prancing about beneath a stylised lion’s head. Common around Chinese New Year.
Practise Tai Chi
Turn up at the clock tower near the Star Ferry in Tsim Sha Tsui at 8am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and you can enjoy an hour’s free instruction in this gentlest of martial arts.
Check into the Peninsula for a stress-busting retreat at th brand new ESPA spa.
Rubbed the Right Way
Go for a deep-tissue Chinese massage and get the blood circulating.
Breath of Fresh Air
Enjoy the buzz at Oxyvital’s Central “oxygen bar”.
In a Lather
A Shanghai-style shave at the Mandarin Oriental will leave your face feeling like a baby’s bottom.
Love Potion No. 9
Boost your staying power with a tonic drink from one of the many kerbside Chinese medicine shops.
Geomancing the Stone
Make sure your house and garden are in tune with the elements with a private feng shui consultation.
Pins and Needles
Loosen up with an acupuncture session.
Splash out at the Grand Hyatt’s 11th-floor spa with outdoor pool.
Put Your Feet Up
Fans rave about the traditional Shanghai pedicure at the Mandarin Oriental.
The Doctor Is In
Try some alternative medicine from a traditional Chinese doctor.
Although only a few miles from urban Hong Kong, the re-mote, pristine beaches on the eastern edge of the rugged Sai Kung Peninsula seem like another country. There is no rail link and few roads, so you will have to make an early start, taking a bus to Sai Kung town, another bus to Pak Tam Au, then walk the hilly 4-mile footpath to the beach. The reward for your effort will be glorious surf, delightful hidden pools and shaded cafes.
There are three excellent beaches at Tai Long Wan. Tai Wan is the most remote and unspoiled; the smallest beach, Ham Tin, has a good café and camping area; Tai Long Sai Wan is the busiest.
Natural Swimming Pools
A lovely series of waterfalls and natural swimming pools is the area’s best-kept secret. Reach them from the path running alongside the small river at the northwestern end of Tai Long Sai Wan beach.
Noodles, fried rice and hot and cold drinks are available from the modest, reasonably priced cafés on Tai Long Sai Wan and the Hoi Fung cafe at Ham Tin.
Ham Tin to Tai Long Path
Take the steep half-mile path between Ham Tin and Tai Long Sai Wan for lovely views down onto Ham Tin, Tai Wan and the mountains behind.
Tai Wan usually has reasonably good surf. Gentle body-boarding should always be possible, and you may even be able to surf properly when storms raise bigger swells.
Most privately hired junks drop anchor at Tai Long Sai Wan, and their passengers head to the beach in smaller craft, making this the busiest of the three beaches.
Tai Long village may have been first settled in prehistoric times. It was a thriving Hakka fishing village until the 1950s, when most people migrated to the city or abroad. A few elderly residents remain.
The area just east of Ham Tin village is the best place for overnight campers, with flat ground, public toilets and a stream for fresh water. There are no hotels.
The prominent 468-m summit of Sharp Peak is clearly visible from Ham Tin and Tai Wan. The arduous climb up its very steep slopes rewards with spectacular views over the peninsula.
Ham Tin Bridge
If you want to keep your feet dry, the only way onto the beach from Ham Tin village is via a rickety bridge. Marvel at the makeshift engineering from nailed-together driftwood and offcuts.
Hong Kong’s newest museum, on the outskirts of Sha Tin in the New Territories, is by far its best (although the revamped History Museum in Kowloon is also worth a visit). Opened in 2000, the Heritage Museum covers the culture, arts and natural history of Hong Kong and the New Territories. Exciting audio-visual exhibits and a good interactive section for children make for a fun day out.
Architecture and Design
The Heritage Museum building is based on the traditional Chinese si he yuan style, built around a courtyard. The style is still visible in the walled villages of the New Territories
For a brief overview of the museum, visit the Orientation Theatre on the ground floor opposite the ticket office. A short film in English and Cantonese explains the exhibits and the main aims of the museum.
Children’s Discovery Gallery
The brightly colored gallery is a vibrant, fun way to introduce children to local nature and archaeology, and the history of toys. Interactive exhibits and the child-size 3-D models are very popular with young children.
Cantonese Opera Hall
Cantonese opera is an obscure subject. However, the sumptuous costumes, intricate stage sets and snatches of song from the elaborate operas of Guangdong and Guanxi go some way to illustrating the attraction.
Five halls on the first and second floors house temporary exhibitions focusing on subjects varying from popular culture, contemporary art and social issues in Hong Kong, to traditional Chinese art and history.
Chao Shaoan Gallery
The delicate ink on scroll paintings of artist and one-time Hong Kong resident Chao Shaoan are known far beyond China. There are dozens of fine examples in the gallery
For fresh air and interesting surroundings, head to the shaded courtyard in the centre of the complex.
New Territories Culture
Large mock-ups of old maritime and village scenes recreate the old days. The growth of the new towns, such as Sha Tin, are also covered.
New Territories History
The rich fauna and flora of the region are exhibited along with 6000-year-old artifacts from the early days of human habitation in Hong Kong.
TT Tsui Gallery
The works of art dating from Neolithic times to the 20th century include porcelain, bronze, jade and stone artifacts, furniture, laquerware and Tibetan religious statues.
Beneath the bleaching glare of a thousand light bulbs, tourists and locals alike pick their way among the stalls crowding the lanes of Yau Ma Tei’s Temple Street. The overwhelming array of cheap goods includes clothes, shoes, accessories, CDs, and a generous helping. Prices here may be a bit higher than in Shenzhen, just over some of Hong Kong’s less well-known markets, but Temple Street is unbeatable for atmosphere.
A dozen fortune tellers operate around the junction of Temple and Market streets. Most are face and palm readers. The caged white finches are trained to pick a for-tune card from the pack in return for some seeds.
Canto Opera Street Performers
On some evenings musicians and singers perform popular Cantonese Opera numbers next door to the fortune tellers.
Dai Pai Dong
Tighter health regulations have made dai pai dong food stalls a rare sight, but they are alive and well at Temple Street, selling a variety of Chinese snacks, savoury pancakes, fishballs, seafood kebabs and meat offerings.
Reclamation St Canteens
If you haven’t had your fill from the dai pai dong, try the cheap noodles and rice-based food at the covered stalls on Reclamation Street.
It’s likely to be a decent timekeeper but with no guarantees. The local makes and Western are usually good value for money. One stall offers genuine, secondhand watches.
Good buys include cheap t-shirts, elaborate silks, beaded tops and cotton dresses. Have a look at the stall on the corner of Kansu St. Further down, tailored trousers can be ordered with a four-day turnaround.
Best Leather Goods
Leather is not really Temple Street’s strong point. But belts are cheap, and there are plenty of leather handbags and shoulder bags.
From the very cheap flip flops to the reasonable suede or leather shoes, bargain footwear is available almost everywhere on Temple Street, although the variety is not huge and the styles not that elegant. Don’t forget to check the shops behind the stalls.
Cheap sunglasses are easy to find in the market. Embroidered and beaded handbags and shoulder bags are also worth looking out for.
Mao memorabilia, old posters, coins, and jade are found on Public Square Street. Temple Street’s northern extremity is rich plastic cartoon merchandise, including Hello Kitty clocks, Afro Ken and Pokemon.
Originally a sleepy fishing haven, Stanley was the largest settlement on Hong Kong Island before the British moved in. The modern town, hugging the southern coast, still makes a peaceful, pleasant escape from the bustle of the city. Traffic is minimal, and the pace of life relaxed, with plenty of excellent places to eat, good beaches and a large market to search for clothes, silks and souvenirs. Stanley is also the place to glimpse old Hong Kong and an older Chinese tradition seen at the Tin Hau Temple.
Reasonably priced clothes, shoes and accessories as well as plenty of tourist tat are to be found among Stanley’s pleasant, ramshackle market stalls. Although it’s not the cheapest or best market in Hong Kong, you may as well potter among the hundred or so stalls before heading to a café or one of the seafront eateries.
Old Police Station
The handsome building was built in 1859 and is Hong Kong’s oldest surviving police station building. Today it houses a restaurant.
The pretty waterfront makes a pleasant promenade between the market area and Murray House. The harbor was once home to a busy fleet of junks and fishing boats, but is now empty.
This fine stretch of sand is perfect for a dip and a paddle. It’s the venue for the fiercely contested dragon boat races in June when the beach fills with competitors and revellers.
Tin Hau Temple
Lined with the grimacing statues of guards to the sea goddess Tin Hau, the gloomy interior of this temple is one of the most evocative in Hong Kong. It’s also one of the oldest Tin Hau temples in the region, dating back to 1767.
The old British army barracks at the end of the peninsula.
St Stephen’s Beach
Another good stretch of sand, St Stephen’s is also the place for sailing and canoeing. The small pier is the departure point for the Sunday boat bound for the remote island of Po Toi.
Pubs and Restaurants
One of Stanley’s best attractions is its excellent range of restaurants and bars. A host of eateries, from Italian to Vietnamese, are lined along Stanley Main Road, facing the sea, many with out-door seating. Murray House also contains good restaurants.
One of Hong Kong’s best-loved institutions, the Star Ferries have plied between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island since 1888. The portly green and white 1950s and 60s relics are still used by commuters despite the advent of rail and road tunnels beneath the harbor. A ferry ride offers a thrilling perspective on the towering skyscrapers and the jungle-clad hills of Hong Kong Island. Take an evening voyage for the harbor’s neon spectacle, especially the elaborate light displays at Christmas.
In the early days, four coal-fired boats went back and forth between Hong Kong and Kowloon. Today 12 diesel-powered vessels operate, each named after a particular star (with the night-time glare and pollution, they may be the only stars you’re likely to see from the harbor).
Standing next to the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry, the landmark clock tower is the last remnant of the old Kowloon railway terminus. This was the poetic final stop for trains from the mainland, including the Orient Express from London. The terminus has since moved east to prosaic Hung Hom.
Star Ferry Crew
Many Star Ferry crew members still sport old-fashioned sailor-style uniforms, making popular subjects for camera-toting visitors. Watch out, too, for the pier crewmen catching the mooring rope with a long billhook.
Star Ferry Routes
The Star Ferries run four routes: between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central; Tsim Sha Tsui and Wanchai; Central and Hung Hom; and Hung Hom and Wanchai.
As you cross Victoria Harbor, on the far left are the glass and flowing lines of the Convention Centre in Wanchai and above it the 373m tower of Central Plaza. Further left are the Bank of China’s striking zigzags, and the struts and spars of the HSBC building. The new kid on the block is Two International Finance Centre, the island’s tallest skyscraper, towering a colossal 420 m above Star Ferry Pier.
Victoria harbor is the busiest stretch of water in Hong Kong, teeming with activity. Keep your eyes peeled at the weekend for the last remaining batwing sailing be found in this part of China.
At HK$1.7 to ride on the lower deck and HK$2.2 to ride the top deck, the Star Ferry is Hong Kong’s best sightseeing bargain.
The lower and upper decks used to be first and second class compartments. Today the extra cents buy access to the air-conditioning section during the hottest months, and afford a better view of the city and refuge from sea spray on choppy days.
Just north of the Tsim Sha Tsui terminal, Hong Kong’s cruise ships dock, including, on occasion, the QE2. Some US warships also dock here during port calls.
As you approach Kowloon with Hong Kong Island behind you, you’ll see the Arts and Cultural Centre, closest to the shore. Behind it rises the grand extension of the Peninsula Hotel and the tapering tower at No. 1 Peking Rd. The craggy hills of the New Territories loom in the background.
Feel the earth move beneath thundering hooves as you cheer the finishers home in the ultimate Hong Kong night out. Races have been held at Happy Valley – the widest stretch of flat land on Hong Kong Island, originally a swamp – since 1846. Today the action takes place beneath twinkling high-rises making for one of the most atmospheric horseracing tracks in the world.
Wednesday Night Races
The most exciting scheduled races are fortnightly on Wednesday evenings. For the full atmosphere, jump on a Happy Valley-bound tram and bone up on the form in the Wednesday Racing Post on the way. The first race is usually at 7:30pm.
The Big Screen
The huge screen facing the stand carries all the statistics race goers need from the results of the last race to odds on the upcoming one. There are also live race pictures or replays, ensuring no one misses any of the action.
The small and neat museum at Happy Valley details Hong Kong’s racing history along with a selection of Chinese art celebrating the horse. Learn the story of the old trade in prized Mongolian and Chinese ponies. Don’t aim to combine it with an evening at the races, however. It is closed during meetings.
View from Moon Koon
For a fantastic track-side view while you eat, head to the Moon Koon Restaurant. Racing and dining packages are available.
Come Horseracing Tour
Splendid Tours and Grey Line both run the Come Horseracing Tour during scheduled race meetings on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tours include entry to the Members’ Enclosure, welcome drink, buffet meal and guide service.
Silver Lining Skeleton
Silver Lining, Hong Kong’s most famous horse, was the first to win more than HK$1m. The equine skeleton takes pride of place in a glass cabinet at the Racing Museum.
Happy Valley has a 55,000 capacity but is so popular that it sometimes sells out before the day. Stand in the open next to the track where you’ll get the full effect of the roar from the stands and a good view of the finishing line.
Types of Bet
Different ways to bet include simply guessing the winner; a place; a quinella; and a quinella place (predicting any two of the first three horses in any order).
Where to Bet
Bets are placed at the counters at the back of each floor of the main stand. Pick up the right betting slips next to the counters, fill them in and take them to the counter with your stake money. If you win, wait for a few minutes after the race, then go to the same counter to collect your winnings.
Jockey Club Booths
For help and advice on placing bets go to the friendly, helpful Jockey Club officials at the booths between the main entrance and the racetrack. The Jockey Club is the only organization allowed to take bets in Hong Kong. Jockey Club profits go to local charities.
With Hong Kong’s most spectacular views, cooler climes and quiet wooded walks, it’s no wonder Victoria Peak is so popular with tourists and the super rich who occupy the exclusive properties clinging to its high slopes. The Peak Tram takes under 10 minutes to reach Victoria Gap, pinning you to your seat as it’s hauled up the sheer slope at the end of a single cable.
The Peak Tram empties into this mall, revamped in 2005, containing shops, cafes, restaurants and viewing gallery. The refreshment and tourist trinkets inside don’t inspire, but children may enjoy the fantastical motion simulator Peak Explorer ride or Madame Tussaud’s waxworks.
Although the imposing Peak Tower mall is hardly sensitive to its grand setting there is a good range of places to eat and drink inside its Galleria, with great views down onto city and harbor, and across to Lamma Island.
The Peak Lookout
The new incarnation of this much-loved, up-market drinking and dining favorite retains a lovely garden terrace, great food and friendly ambience.
Barker and Plantation Roads
These usually quiet roads are worth wandering for a peep at some of the Peak’s pricier properties, including 23 Severn Road. Most have amazing harbor views. But dream on. You would have to be a millionaire just to afford a two-bedroom flat here.
Pok Fu Lam Country Park
For a gentle half-hour ramble, head down Pok Fu Lam Reservoir Road, then catch a bus back into town.
Victoria Peak Garden
The steep struggle up Mount Austin Road or the longer route along the Governor’s Walk to these well-tended gardens is worth the effort. The viewing platform faces Lamma Island.
Old Peak Rd
The old footpath up to the Peak before the Peak Tram arrived is pleasant and shaded. But the traffic can be busy at the bottom of Peak Road so it’s best to detour onto Tregunter Path near the bottom.
View near Summit
The summit itself is fenced off and covered by telecom masts, but the views from the edges of Victoria Peak Garden are excellent.
Lugard and Harlech Roads
The effortless way to see most of the best views on offer from the Peak is on the shaded, well-paved, 2-mile circular walk along Lugard Road and Harlech Road. It also makes a terrific jogging track with a view.
Stand in Central district’s Statue Square and you’re right in the region’s financial, political, historical and social heart. Among the steel and glass of sleek skyscrapers surrounding the square are a few old remnants, including the handsome Neo-Classical Legislation Council Building where Hong Kong’s usually low-key. Shopping, a much more popular Hong Kong pursuit, goes on inside the swanky boutiques opposite.
Bank of China Tower
Looming over the HSBC building is the imposing 70-storey Bank of China Tower. It was designed by the renowned architect I M Pei. The tower is a dizzying 368 m high.
Two of Hong Kong’s most up market and, of course, pricey shopping malls – the busy Landmark Centre and the less busy Prince’s Building – sit next to Statue Square. Within these hallowed temples to conspicuous overspending are many of the city’s most exclusive and elegant boutiques, including the likes of Armani, Gucci and Prada.
Standing at the northern edge of Statue Square, the Cenotaphis a memorial to those who died in the two World Wars.
Despite the prime real-estate value on the site of what used to be the old pitch of the Hong Kong Cricket Club, the small but well-tended Chater Garden sprang up instead of a skyscraper. It’s free to enter and makes a good place to enjoy a cold drink and rest tired legs.
Court of Final Appeal
Behind the HSBC building, a hand-some 150-year-old redbrick building used to house a French Catholic mission and the old first Government House. Today it serves as one of Hong Kong’s courts of law.
The Legislative Council Building
One of Hong Kong’s last remaining old buildings, the elegant Neo-Classical Legislative Council building, which used to house the Supreme Court, now serves as Hong Kong’s parliament.
It’s hard to believe, but the Mandarin Oriental was once Hong Kong’s tallest building. Today its graceful exterior seems overwhelmed by the ceaseless traffic, but inside it’s still one of Hong Kong’s finest hotels.
Thomas Jackson Statue
Appropriately enough, one of Hong Kong’s few remaining statues, of a 19th-century banker, is in Statue Square.
HSBC Bank Headquarters
On its completion in 1985, Sir Norman Foster’s bold building was the most expensive ever built, costing more than HK$5bn. The edifice is said to have the strongest feng shui in Hong Kong. Rubbing the paws of the bank’s hand-some lions is said to bring good luck.
Sunday Filipino Fiesta
Hundreds of young Filipinos and Indonesians, mostly domestic workers enjoying their only day off, occupy almost every spare bit of public space in Central.
“A dream of Manhattan, arising from the South China Sea.” For succinctness, modern travel writer Pico Iyer describes Hong Kong. This is the hedonistic engine room of cultural fusion: East meets West in high style, and the results astonish and delight. Prepare to experience one of the most dramatic urban environments ever conceived.
Take the tram to the lofty heights of Victoria Peak for an amazing view of the city.
Hong Kong Island’s northeast is the region’s admin-istrative centre. old remnants and exciting modern architecture stand next to each other around Statue Square.
Happy Valley Races
Horseracing below the high-rises: Happy Valley is where Hong Kongers go to play.
Ignore the subterranean road and rail links between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. The thrilling way to cross the water is on the Star Ferry.
An old fort steeped in old history and reminders of World War II, Stanley on the Southside of Hong Kong Island is a peaceful diversion from the frenetic city.
Temple Street Night Market
Kowloon is at its most atmospheric at night. Head up the peninsula to the narrow lanes of Yau Ma Tei for some serious haggling.
Near Sha Tin in the New Territories, Hong Kong’s best museum is a must. Splendid high-tech audio-visual displays cover the region’s rich cultural heritage and natural history.
Tai Long Wan Coastline
The remote, rugged Sai Kung Peninsula in the New Territories is the place to find Hong Kong’s finest beaches.
Cheung Chau Island
Of the many islands around Hong Kong, tiny Cheung Chau is arguably the loveliest, with traces of old China.
Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery
In the middle of hilly Lantau Island, Po Lin Monastery is a major destination for devotees and tourists alike. The extraordinary seated Big Buddha image facing the monastery can be seen from miles away.
Food plays such an important role in Chinese culture that when people meet, they often greet each other with the words, “Have you eaten” (Chi le ma?). For the visitor to China, food will (or should) be one of the highlights of your trip. If you’re traveling on a group tour, you’ll likely be fed fare that is fairly ordinary and generic, and above all inexpensive. Try to sneak out for an independent Chinese meal if possible. Mealtimes are practically sacred, and you’ll find, especially if you are on an organized tour, that visits and events are often scheduled around meals, which are usually taken early (11:30am–noon for lunch and 5:30–6pm for dinner). In a city such as Shanghai, few businesses or tourist attractions close for the lunch hour, though this is more common in smaller Chinese towns.
Following Daoist principles, Chinese cooking aims for a balance of flavors, textures, and ingredients. Certain foods are thought to have yang (warming) or yin (cooling) properties, and the presence of one should ideally be offset by the presence of its opposite. Seldom is one ingredient used exclusively, and meals should reflect that harmonious blend of meat and vegetables, spicy and bland, and so forth. China has a staggering variety of regional cuisines, which reflect the different ingredients available in a particular environment, and also emphasize different cooking methods, and you are encouraged to try as many of these as possible while you are in the country. Chances are that little of it will taste like the food from the neighborhood Chinese restaurant back home; if anything, it’ll taste better.
While you can sample almost any of the diverse Chinese cuisines in Shanghai (though admittedly, few ethnic Chinese cuisines make it here entirely intact, as the local preference for sweet invariably finds its way onto most menus), the emphasis here is on Shanghai’s traditional cuisine, also known locally as benbang cai. Considered a branch of the Huaiyang style of cooking, Shanghai cooking favors sugar, soy sauce, and oil, and seafood is featured prominently. While it is true, as some critics allege, that traditional Shanghai cooking does tend towards the oily and the over-sweet, many typical Shanghai dishes are simply delicious and deserve to be tried, as it’s likely you won’t find much like it back home. You can find the following typical Shanghai dishes in any local restaurant serving benbang cai: cold appetizers such as xunyu (smoked fish), kaofu (braised gluten), zui ji (drunken chicken marinated in Shaoxing wine), and pidan doufu (tofu with “thousand-year-old” eggs); snacks like xiaolong bao (steamed pork dumplings with gelatinous broth), shengjian bao (pork-stuffed fried bread dumplings), and jiucai hezi (leek pie); traditional dishes such as chao niangao (fried rice cakes), Shanghai chaomian (Shanghai fried thick noodles), shizi tou (braised “lion’s head” meatballs), tipang (braised pig trotters), meicai kourou (braised pork with preserved vegetables), youmen sun (braised fresh winter shoots), jiaobai (wild rice stems), shuijing xiaren(crystal prawns), dazha xie (hairy crab), and the soup yiduxian (pork-based broth with ham, bamboo shoots, and bean curd skin). Desserts include babaofan (eight treasure glutinous rice) and dousha su bing (red bean paste in flaky pastry).
Regional differences notwithstanding, Chinese food is usually eaten family style, with a number of dishes to be shared by all. If you find yourself dining solo, you can ask for xiao pan (small portions), usually about 70% of the full dish and the full cost, though not all restaurants will accommodate this request. Dishes can arrive in random order, though most meals usually begin with cold appetizers (liang cai), then move on to seafood, meat, and vegetable main dishes. Except in Cantonese cuisine when it’s taken as one of the first courses, soup is usually served last. In your average Chinese restaurant, dessert, if it exists, usually consists of a few orange wedges and not much else, though Shanghai and Cantonese cuisines feature a slightly wider choice of sweets such as red bean pastries, and sesame seed paste (zhi ma hu). Tea is usually served free, though if you’re asked what kind of tea you want, you’ll probably be charged for it. A vintage like longjing tea (from the Hangzhou) is considerably more expensive than something like your average chrysanthemum (juhua cha) or jasmine tea (molihua cha). Napkins and chopsticks should be free, though if you’re given a pre-wrapped package of tissues, you’ll likely be charged for opening it, and possibly for the peanuts as well. In general, there is no tipping, though a few restaurants outside the major hotels may add on a service charge, which usually guarantees you won’t get much in the way of service.
Shanghai is a super city in China. No one knows quite how large China’s largest city really is. Official figures population is at over 20 million. When Shanghai’s unique architectural legacy and its recent economic transformation are factored in, it is easy to see why 7 of every 10 visitors to China come to Shanghai. This is China’s economic, financial, and commercial center, its largest city, and the heart of China’s future.
Shanghai has just 1.5% of China’s population, but Shanghai accounts for 5% of China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 11% of its financial services, 12% of China’s total industrial output, and 25% of the country’s trade. Textiles, steel, manufacturing, shipbuilding, and increasingly the retail sector, dominate the city’s economy, which reports double digit growth year after year. At the same time, Shanghai accounts for around 10% of China’s foreign investment, with firms from Volkswagen and Buick to Mary Kay, Amway, Hallmark, and Coca-Cola having invested billions in plants and personnel here.
Today’s business, both domestic and foreign, has made Shanghai quite wealthy by Chinese standards, with rising salaries creating an increasingly affluent middle class. The latter is comprised mostly of white-collar managers, many of whom earn upwards of RMB100,000 a year. As China’s longtime center of shopping, there are also plenty of upscale places to dispose of the increased income. Residents are not only forward-looking and business-oriented, but fashionable. Shanghai is a city of boutiques, malls, and up-to-date department stores. Year by year, it is catching up with Hong Kong as one of Asia’s paradises for shoppers. Everything is writ large here. Shanghai is not only home to China’s first and largest stock exchange, it also contains over two dozen McDonald’s, 50 KFCs, over 46 Starbucks, and over one million mobile phone users-not to mention the world’s second largest department store and the tallest hotel on Earth.
Shanghai is a city of big dreams. City planners promise that Shanghai will soon be not only China’s financial and manufacturing capital, but its “green” capital as well. Already, Shanghai has converted Nanjing Lu to a pedestrian mall, remodeled the Bund and its promenade, revitalized many avenues and villas, and created 1,800 hectares of greenway with trees and lawns (an area equivalent to 4,000 football fields). Also on tap is the Huangpu River Renovation Project, covering 20km of downtown riverfront on both shores, whereby the harbor will be transformed by green corridors, an elliptical canal, a maritime museum, marinas, riverside parks, and new housing estates. The latest environmental project is the most ambitious yet: the building of an eco-city-the first self-sustaining city in the world.
Simply put, no city on Earth seems more optimistic about its future than Shanghai. A quick look through business and travel magazines and newspapers in the last year reveals that today’s Shanghai is being hailed, once again, as the New York City or the Paris of China. Perhaps these comparisons are currently necessary to give foreigners a sense of the character and importance of the new Shanghai (and to entice visitors), but the pace and unique nature of Shanghai’s current evolution suggest that one day in the not too distant future, Shanghai is a rapidly developing super city.
Old Shanghai was the Hollywood of China. Many of its films were produced at the Shanghai Film Studios during the 1930s and 1940s. Today, Shanghai is no longer the center of Chinese filmmaking although the Shanghai Film Studio continues to churn out some movie and television projects and the occasional joint-venture film with foreign filmmakers. At the same time, China limits the release of new Hollywood films to just 20 a year. In the past, most of these movies were dubbed in Chinese, but recently, some have been shown in Shanghai in their original language with Chinese subtitles. In the last two decades, Chinese directors have made some of the best films in the world. The Shanghai International Film Festival Originated in 1993, when Oliver Stone chaired the jury, the festival attracts over 250,000 viewers to the screenings.
In the long interval between festivals, cinephiles can also get their fix at regular screenings sponsored by the Canadian Consulate, German Consulate, and Cine-Club de l’Alliance Fran?aise. The following are the best venues for flicks in Shanghai, which still has a long road to travel to regain its reputation as China’s Hollywood. Tickets range from RMB30 to RMB120 depending on the theater and the movie shown.
Cathay Theatre (Guotai Dianyingyuan)
Chinese and Hollywood movies are screened in this 1930s Art Deco theater.
Paradise Theatre (Yong Le Gong)
Many English-language films with Chinese subtitles are screened here (part of the Shanghai Drama Arts Centre complex).
Peace Cinema (Heping Yingdu)
This big multiplex located in the Raffles City mall has wide screens, DTS and Dolby sound systems, and all the up-to-date conveniences. Hollywood and foreign films are often shown here, sometimes dubbed and sometimes in the original language.
Shanghai Film Art Center (Shanghai Yingcheng)
The leading venue during the Shanghai International Film Festival, this modern cinema complex with five spacious theaters features Hollywood releases on the big screen.
Studio City (Huanyi Dianyingcheng)
One of Shanghai’s top multiplex theaters with six cinemas, it features Dolby surround-sound system, seats with built-in cup holders, and popcorn from the concession in the lobby.
UME International Cineplex
The latest, greatest multiplex in the Xintiandi complex, it’s fully modern and screens Hollywood movies in their original language, just like you never left home. English schedule follows Chinese when you call.
The big hotels often have elegant lounges on their top floors and some of Shanghai’s best bars in their lobbies. At press time, Tongren Lu was again the hippest and hottest bar street, with Hengshan Lu staying competitive, Maoming Lu having gone somewhat to seed but still in the mix, and Julu Lu somewhat abandoned save for a couple of dives. Expect drink prices, especially for imports, to be the same as, if not more than, you’d pay in the bars of a large city in the West. Tipping is not necessary, although it does make the bartenders happy.
Perched atop 18 on the Bund, Bar Rouge, with its glamorous vibe, great views, grand terrace, and creative cocktails, is the bar of choice for Shanghai’s beautiful jet set glamming it up on velvet couches. Late at night, international DJs ratchet it up a notch. Monday through Friday 3pm to 2am (to 4am Fri-Sat); Saturday and Sunday brunch noon to 4pm.
Built on the lake in the middle of People’s Park, this Moroccan-themed fantasia features 4 floors of drinking, dining, dancing and, most popularly, Sheesha pipes for the smoking. With panoramic views of the park and the surrounding skyscrapers, both indoor and outdoor seating on chairs and cushions, and those exotic fragrances wafting from the pipes, this is a popular stop on any evening, even if it’s not your final destination. Sunday through Thursday 11am to 2am (to 3am Fri-Sat).
Considered by many expats to be a better sports bar than longtime titleholder Malone’s just down the street, this relaxed and friendly joint has your usual quotient of dart boards, foosball and pool tables, and two floors of big screen tellys broadcasting every major sport event you can think of (except perhaps synchronized swimming). It also helps that the ale is hearty and the food substantial. Daily 11am to 2am.
Blue Frog (Lan Wan)
Brought to you by Kathleen of the KABB American bistro fame, this popular, unpretentious “just-the-drinks-ma’am” kind of bar has expanded in the last 2 years to four locations, though the most popular are those at Tongren Lu and on Maoming Lu. Draft beers are reasonably priced. The crowd starts off mostly foreign, which has a funny way of drawing in the locals. Daily 11am to 2am.
Cloud Nine and the Sky Lounge
A top reason to spend the evening on the other (east) side of the river, this lounge atop the Grand Hyatt Hotel is the highest hotel lounge in Asia. It takes three elevators just to reach Cloud Nine on the 87th floor; you then walk up yet another flight to the intimate Sky Lounge on the 88th floor. Extraordinary panoramas abound, but there have been some complaints lately of overpriced and weak drinks. Daily 5pm to 1am.
A perennial favorite for its setting inside an elegant mansion (on the grounds of the Ruijin Hotel), Face has a cozy curving bar, but even more cozy beds you can curl up on. Drink prices are a little above average but the sophisticated locals and out-of-towners don’t seem fazed. Faces serves the two superb restaurants in the mansion (Lan Na Thai and Hazara), and you can order Thai and Indian snacks in the bar as well. Daily noon to 1:30am.
Jade on 36
Perched on the 36th floor of the Shangri-La Hotel Tower, this bar is part of the hotel’s signature restaurant and has probably the best views of the Bund and Puxi, especially at night. Daily 5:30pm to 2am.
Shanghai has some of the most sophisticated and elaborate dance clubs and discos in China. The bar scene is lively, too, but clubs and discos are for those who want to party on the dance floor as well as at the bar—or at least for those who want to observe Shanghai nightlife at a pitch it hasn’t reached since the 1930s. Here’s a list of the top venues, which like all trends are subject to overnight revisions.
Having moved from its original Maoming Lu location, Babyface is as popular, crowded, and as ultra pretentious as ever. A DJ spins pop music but the sleek, sophisticated crowd is usually more interested in sizing up all who walk through the door. Daily 8:30pm to 2am.
California Club (Jiazhou Julebu)
Very upscale dance club with international DJs and red decor. Extremely popular with the stylish Hong Kong set, expatriates, and all who would emulate them, this is a place where appearance (and money) counts. Sunday through Thursday 9pm to 2am (to 4am Fri-Sat).
One of Shanghai’s early (1999) big clubs still going strong with bookings of major international DJs and local ones too. Music spans tech funk, high-tech trance, and progressive house. This crowd likes to be seen. Daily 9pm to 3am (to 5am Fri-Sat).
Located in another of Shanghai’s trendy factory-turned-industrial-art warehouse complexes, The Bridge 8, Fabrique gets kudos for an excellent sound system and dance floor, and for consistently landing some of the world’s most famous DJs. Tuesday through Sunday 9pm to 2am (to 4am Fri-Sat).
Judy’s Too (Jiedi Xicanting)
Flashing lights, sweaty bodies, and a crowded dance floor (and bar) all make this longtime institution an extremely popular dance spot with expatriates. The carousing here starts early and often spills out into the streets on the weekends. Food is served on the second floor, which helps if you have to load up for the night ahead. Daily 8pm to 2am (to 4am Fri-Sat).
M-Box (Yinyue He)
A longtime favorite with local 20-somethings, M-box got a face-lift in 2004. Local live bands kick things off at 9pm nightly, with reservations often required for good seats. Daily 6pm to 2am.
Located on the second floor of the renovated “Green House” gem designed by old Shanghai Czech architect Ladislau Hudec, the popular red-themed Mint gets their disco ball rolling with nightly DJs, international ones on weekends. There are sofas in the back for lounging. Monday through Thursday 6pm to 2am; Friday and Saturday 9pm to 5am.
Shanghai is the site of major national and international music, drama, and dance performances nearly every day of the year. The most frequent venues are listed here. In addition, local and international dramatic productions are often mounted at the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre, Anfu Lu 288, Xuhui, and at the Shanghai Theatre Academy, Huashan Lu 630, Jing An, where experimental plays are sometimes presented.
Heluting Concert Hall
On the grounds of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, this concert hall plays host mostly to a variety of classical music performances and chamber concerts.
Shanghai Concert Hall
This classical concert hall used to be the former home of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, which still continues to perform here occasionally despite its move to more permanent quarters in Pudong.
Shanghai Grand Stage (Shanghai Da Wutai)
This stage, located inside the Shanghai Sports Stadium, is mostly used for large rock and pop concerts, including the Rolling Stones.
Shanghai Grand Theatre (Da Juyuan)
This stunning space-age complex with three theaters (the largest seating 1,800) is the city’s premier venue for international performers and concerts, ranging from Yo-Yo Ma to the touring company of Cats and The Lion King. Prices are usually ¥80 or more, and can top ¥1,200 for the best seats to popular world-class groups.
Shanghai Oriental Art Center (Shanghai Dongfang Yishu Zhongxin)
This modern, Paul Andreu–designed complex is Pudong’s answer to the Shanghai Grand Theatre. The 1,953-seat symphony hall is now a permanent home for the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and the center also has two smaller theaters.
Shanghai’s jazz legacy has been revived for the 21st century: Not only are the old standards being played once again at that most nostalgic of locales—the Peace Hotel bar—but more modern and improvisational sounds can now be heard around town, and there’s a greater influx of international jazz artists to these shores than ever before. Hotel lounges and bars are the most obvious venues for jazz performances, though what you get here is mostly easy-listening jazz. Once a year, the jazz scene perks up with the Shanghai International Jazz Concert Series, a spillover from the Beijing Jazz Festival that has been held in the second week of November each year since 1996, and that draws headline groups from America, Europe, Japan, and Australia. During the rest of the year, live jazz can be heard at the following places.
CJW (Xuejia Jueshi Hongjiu)
Hoping to lure the affluent “cigar, jazz, wine” crowd, this darkly moody bar on the top floor of the Bund Center is strictly for those with expense accounts. Happy hour runs from 5:30 to 7:30pm, an international jazz band plays from 9pm to midnight, the lounge is open until 2am, and there’s a small dance floor. A more intimate branch at Xintiandi is a little more frequented.
Established by two musicians as a kind of informal jazz “living room,” this is one of Shanghai’s more popular venues for live jazz as it boasts a talented house band, good acoustics, and an intimate environment. The crowd, largely other jazz musicians, is obviously here for the music, which tends towards more improvisational jams. Daily 8pm to 2am; band plays 9:30pm to 1am.
Cotton Club (Mianhua Julebu)
Live jazz nightly is the hallmark of this local institution, Shanghai’s longest running and still the best venue for live jazz and blues. The bands are skilled, the tunes are tight, and the informal, darkly atmospheric club often attracts standing-room-only crowds on weekends. Daily 7:30pm to 2am. Live music plays from 9:30pm to midnight during the week and from 10:30pm to 1:30am on Friday and Saturday.
House of Blues and Jazz (Bulusi Jueshi Zhi Wu)
Another consistently excellent spot to sing the blues, this intimate joint has a lovely, relaxed, unpretentious vibe. It’s the music (international bands are the norm), not the crowd or the drinks, that takes center stage. Tuesday through Sunday 4pm to 2am; band plays 9:30pm to 1am.
Peace Hotel Old Jazz Bar
This is an institution, with nearly continuous performances since the 1930s and an octogenarian member or two from pre-1949 days still playing. The drinks are predictably expensive and the music (old New Orleans standards) isn’t always super, but the atmosphere is sheer nostalgia and no evening could be more Old Shanghai than this. Heads of state have dropped in here to hear Shanghai renditions of all the old standards. Performances start nightly at 8pm in the historic Art Deco jazz bar at the rear of the main lobby.
Shanghai has its own troupe that performs Beijing opera (Jing Xi) regularly at the Yifu Theatre. Beijing opera is derived from 8 centuries of touring song and dance troupes, but became institutionalized in its present form in the 1700s under the Qing Dynasty. It helps to know the plot, which most Chinese do. Songs are performed on a five-note scale (not the eight-note scale familiar in the West), and gongs, cymbals, and string and wind instruments accompany the action on the stage. Faces are painted with colors symbolizing qualities such as valor or villainy, and masks and costumes announce the performer’s role in society, from emperor to peasant. Most Beijing opera these days consists of abridgements, lasting 2 hours or less (as opposed to 5 hr. or more in the old days). With martial arts choreography, spirited acrobatics, and brilliant costumes, these performances can be a delight even to the unaccustomed, untrained eye. Regional operas, including the Kunju form, are also performed in Shanghai. Kunju, born near Shanghai in the old city of Kunshan, is the oldest form of opera in China, and Shanghai has China’s leading troupe. This opera tradition uses traditional stories and characters, as does Beijing opera, but it is known for being more melodic. Regular venues for opera include:
Opera in Chinese is occasionally performed by local and touring groups in one of Shanghai’s oldest and most ornate theatres. The theatre is worth attending just for the traditional atmosphere.
This is the premier venue for Shanghai’s opera companies. The Shanghai Peking Opera House Troupe, featuring some of China’s greatest opera stars, performs here regularly, as do the Shanghai Kunju Opera Troupe and other visiting companies. Performances most nights at 7:15pm; occasional matinees on weekends at 1:30pm.
Chinese acrobats are justifiably world famous, their international reputation cemented in no small part by the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe, formed in 1951. While the troupe, one of the world’s best, frequently tours internationally, they also perform at home, and an acrobatic show has become one of the most popular evening entertainments for tourists. You can catch your share of gravity-defying contortionism, juggling, unicycling, chair-stacking, and plate-spinning acts at the following stages.
Shanghai Centre Theatre
A favorite venue with foreign tour groups, this luxurious, modern, 1,000-seat auditorium at Shanghai Centre is equipped for a variety of performances but specializes in performances by the Shanghai Acrobatic Theater, which almost nightly gives a 90-minute variety show featuring about 30 standard and inventive acts, from plate-spinning and tightrope walking to clowns and magic. Shows are held most nights at 7:30pm with some seasonal variation.
Shanghai Circus World
The new home of the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe, this glittering arena in the northern suburbs houses a 1,672-seat circus theater with computer-controlled lighting, state-of-the-art acoustics, and a motorized revolving stage, all the more to impress the already impressed crowd. Acrobatic performances are not always held here, so check with your hotel for the current schedule and tickets.
Shanghai’s hotels might have a small shop with some Western snacks and bottled water, or a deli stand, but for a broad range of familiar groceries, try one of the large scale supermarkets listed here. There is also a well-stocked Parkson Shop in the basement of Parkson’s.
This highly popular French commodities giant offers an extensive range of imported Western groceries, along with fresh fruits, vegetables, sporting goods, clothing, shoes, music, electronic items, books, bicycles, and film developing. Daily 8am to 10pm.
City Supermarket (Chengshi Chaoshi)
There’s a wide assortment of classic Yixing teapots (made in the adjacent province) and loose Chinese teas sold by weight here. Daily 10am to 10pm.
The South Bund Fabric Market, formerly Dongjiadu Fabric Market, is the best place to shop for a variety of inexpensive fabrics, though you’d have to bargain hard; tailors here also generally do yeoman’s work in churning out suits, dresses, and other garments.
Chinese Printed Blue Nankeen Exhibition Hall (Zhongguo Lanyinhua Bu Guan)
In business for over 20 years, this exhibition hall/shop started by Madam Kubo , Bales of this nankeen (as indigo batik is known in China) cloth, so fashionable in ethnic restaurants and on fashion runways these days, are sold here, along with ready-made nankeen shirts, tablecloths, and craft souvenirs. Daily 9am to 5pm.
Dave’s Custom Tailoring
Dave’s specializes in men’s fashion, with custom-made Saville Row three-piece suits starting from RMB 3,500. Turnaround is normally 3 to 10 days but can be shorter for a hefty fee. Daily 10am to 8pm.
Silk King (Zhensi Da Wang)
Silk and wool yardage and a good selection of shirts, blouses, skirts, dresses, ties, sheets, and other finished silk goods have make Silk King one of the top silk retailers in Shanghai, and a favorite stop for visiting heads of state and other VIPs. Silk or wool suits can be custom tailored in as few as 24 hours. Silk starts around RMB 100 per meter, while more delicate cashmere is almost 10 times that. Daily 9:30am to 10pm. There are several Silk King branches.