A Perfect Day in Hong Kong for an Art Lover

When you’re completely exhausted by work and ground down by the routine of daily life, it’s too much to wait months and weeks for a summer vacation or winter holiday. Like stolen kisses, a simple weekend getaway is the best cure. Much of our stress is more than just work – it’s people. When you need to recharge, you deserve a break from everyone: including family, friends, and loved ones.

Just you, for yourself. A getaway to fit your liking, hobby, and tastes. Enjoying all the local flavors, but in a safe setting. That’s why a city getaway is the best.

Hong Kong has been the cultural hub of Asia for generations. Of course it’s had its ups and downs in recent years, but especially since its huge success in Art Basel Hong Kong and the launch of the Hong Kong Arts Month (March), it has solidified its status as something of an art hub. If you want to soak yourself in contemporary art, here’s the deal.

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Check-in : Lan Kwai Fong Hotel

Saturday morning, you fly into Hong Kong.

Pick your hotel in or near Central, on Hong Kong island. Here’s a suggestion: Lan Kwai Fong Hotel. It’s a small boutique hotel with a dashing design that mixes traditional Chinese style with modern Chinese art. The hotel’s not new, and the rooms are on the small side (it’s Hong Kong!) – but the service is good and you can’t beat the location. If you want to go fancier, take Mandarin Oriental. If you want to save, go Airbnb.

Lunch : Dim sum, duh.

Before the gallery hopping, have lunch at a nice dim sum place. The best part of solo dining is having good food in small portion, and dim sum is the perfect way to sample the best of Cantonese food. For a traditional treat in a safe bet location, go to Luk Yu Tea House. If you want to feel artsy already, then splurge on the dim sum lunch at Duddell’s.

Afternoon : Gallery hopping at Central

Head to the financial district of Central. Surprisingly, all the high profile galleries are there.

Take the Pedder Building. It’s a beautiful Beaux-Arts style building, built in 1923, and now houses the world-famous galleries like Gagosian, Lehmann Maupin (both from New York), and Pearl Lam Galleries (a force to be reckoned with in the Chinese contemporary art scene). White Cube from London is in walking distance. From there, go feast your eyes at the relatively new H Queen’s tower, which is filled with modern art galleries and luxury retail shops.

Round out your afternoon with a trip to Hollywood Road, where antique shops and small galleries nestle together, side by side. In the middle of the area you can drop by the PMQ. This former Hong Kong Police building has been turned into a creative hub with quirky design shops and artisanal deserts – and sometimes local food and beverage fairs.

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Even though some local galleries driven out by soaring rent (blooming in south part of Hong Kong island), there are still street markets and public art to enjoy in the little alleys off Hollywood Road.

Dinner : Ride a ferry, why not?

If you want to stay in Central, SoHo is full of fun and casual restaurants (Little Bao and Ho Lee Fook, anyone?). Still, it’s worth heading to Kowloon for dinner across the Victoria Harbour. No matter how many times you visit Hong Kong, the evening lights seen from the ferry ride truly inspire an aesthetic awe.

Once you reach the pier, Jade Garden restaurant is right there. The Cantonese food is good, price is reasonable, and this place has a nice mix of local vibe and must-see view. If the service is sub-par, don’t worry. It’s not about you. I’ve been there alone, with family, or as a couple, and their service was consistently disappointing (but the food was consistently good).

Night : Options for both sides

photo of Hong Kong street taken inside the bus (photo: editor)

If you want to spend more time in Kowloon after dinner:

  • The classic: Take a stroll along the harbor, enjoying the marvelous nocturnal panorama of Hong Kong’s illuminated towers.
  • The neon trip: Grab a mango juice from Hui Lau Shan and ride the double-decker bus along the Nathan Road up to the northern part of Kowloon (just up until Mongkok) and enjoy all the famous neon signs of Hong Kong. This is arguably the best way to take in the street lights without torturing your already tired legs.
  • The fancy stop: Head to the Peninsula Hotel for a tea. Everyone raves about the afternoon tea, but it’s usually too packed to experience the proper service. In the evenings it is more accessible and more romantic (you need romance for yourself).

If you want to come back near the hotel or enjoy some proper nightlife, return to HK island and head to the Lan Kwai Fong district (yes, it’s also a name of the neighborhood). Sure, you’re a grownup woman, but I’d advise against bar-hopping. Just choose a good bar in a good location, like the Boilermaker in the middle of Soho, and enjoy some people watching over a glass of The Old Fashioned cocktail or local beer. It’s hard to find a more authentic performance show than what you’ll observe.

And that’s the day!

Sunday Morning pre-flight bonus

M+ Pavilion (photo: official website)

For breakfast, grab the egg tart at the Tai Cheong bakery, along with a cup of coffee, and decide between two options:

  • Go to Victoria Peak by peak tram and on your way you can even drop by the Asia Society Hong Kong Center to enjoy a mix of art collection and greenery. Once you reach the peak, take in the best view of Hong Kong you can get. Some people prefer the night view, but you can have better on-top-of-the-world feeling in the morning.
  • Depending on what exhibitions are on, visit M+ Pavilion in West Kowloon. Hong Kong is developing West Kowloon as a culture hub and their ambitious M+ museum will open next year. If it lives up to its promise, we’ll have to rearrange this whole trip. Only a small part, the M+ Pavilion, is already open, however.

Now, settle back, and enjoy the airport express that whisks you back to the airport, the plane, the daily routine.

A last minute souvenir shopping tip

If you’re really smitten by a work of art, there’s no reason not to buy it in a gallery. For souvenirs or dinner party conversation pieces, however, it’s more fun to buy something quirky at a street market. Another simple option is to take a picture of Hong Kong yourself, either from the star ferry at night or on your morning peak walk, and when you get home, have it printed as a poster to hang on your wall.

Other arty souvenirs you can grab in Hong Kong are Shanghai Tang candles from the gorgeous Shanghai Tang flagship store at the 1881 Heritage Building, or quirky dining ware from Goods of Desire (FYI, both have airport store).

Youjin Lee

Youjin Lee is editor-in-chief of April Magazine, freelance writer, and South Korean private attorney. She divides her time between Asia and Europe, dreaming of writing a cozy murder mystery someday.

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