Just when you think you’ve seen and done it all, Hong Kong surprises. This city is teeming with unexplored nooks and crannies and historic hotspots to keep you on your toes. With the Mass Transit Rail (MTR) constantly expanding its reach, it’s easier than ever to set off on an adventure.
Three new stations – Exhibition Centre, To Kwa Wan and Sung Wong Toi – improve access to Wan Chai, North Kowloon, and Kowloon East respectively. Here’s what to see and do near these newly minted stops!
While it’s possible to purchase tickets for every individual trip you make on the MTR, you will save time and money by keeping your Octopus card handy. Depending on where you’re commuting from, you’ll want to top up your Octopus with at least HK$100.00.
You can easily top up in increments of HK$50.00 at MTR stations and convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Circle K.
Every MTR station has at least one barrier-free access. Wheelchair users can travel from street level to the platform at all stations with public lifts or wheelchair aids. Where elevators are not available, whether from the street to concourse or from concourse to platform, wheelchair aids/stair climbers provide access. If you need the stair lift or stair climber, notify a staff member by speaking into one of the call boxes located at the station entrances or exits. Passengers who require portable ramps to go from the platform to the train can approach MTR personnel for help.
The Tuen Ma Line is the first commuter line to adopt a Train Car Loading Indicator. This allows passengers to choose and board a car with more space.
Exhibition Centre boasts Smart Toilet facilities that inform passengers about vacant stalls and monitor air quality.
All three new stations offer babycare rooms with nappy changing mats. For detailed information on specific lines or stations, you can also check the Barrier-Free Facilities Search section on the MTR website.
Exhibition Centre (East Rail Line)
If you’re an avid hiker or trail runner, chances are you’re already familiar with the East Rail Line. The latest extension rings in exciting changes: Admiralty has metamorphosed into a four-line hub, and the new Exhibition Centre station connects far-flung zones of Wan Chai.
You don’t even have to leave the station to get your daily dose of Hong Kong history! When construction workers started breaking ground, they discovered two American-made bombs believed to have been dropped during World War II. The casing of one of the half-tonne bombs is on display.
Every MTR station references the heritage of the area with a unique colour scheme and design. Exhibition Centre features a soothing photographic mosaic created by local artist Leung Chi Wo. Composed of 1,200 photographs of the sea, Water Memory evokes Hong Kong’s seafaring heritage and modern legacies of land reclamation.
Aside from thrilling romps to government offices, Exhibition Centre offers convenient access to the eponymous Convention and Exhibition Centre. From food expos like Vegetarian Food Asia to global arts events like Art Basel, it’s now so much easier to get to your favourite fairs and marketplaces.
Head to the Hong Kong Arts Centre (2 Harbour Road, Wan Chai), a multi-disciplinary arts institution, for cutting-edge exhibitions and movie screenings.
To Kwa Wan (Tuen Ma Line)
Low-rise buildings, high value finds! If you enjoy exploring neighbourhoods like Sham Shui Po and Yau Ma Tei, famed for bustling markets, authentic eats, and urban decay, you’ll appreciate the patinated wonders of To Kwa Wan. This area has seen rapid gentrification over the past few years, but retains a spunky vibe.
Nary a skyscraper in sight, this locale is replete with multi-hued, curved-edge edifices. One particularly rich stretch is referred to as 13 Streets – a warren of dilapidated residential buildings where each narrow lane is named for an auspicious animal. Because of their proximity to the old Kai Tak airport, these tenement buildings had to be short-and-sweet. Get your fill of photos before they disappear!
A short stroll away from 13 Streets is the Cattle Depot Artist Village and Arts Park (63 Ma Tau Kok Road, To Kwa Wan). Once a livestock pen, the complex is now an eclectic arts space with more than first meets the eye. From metal rings that once secured bovines in place to feline friends slinking among the menagerie of bonsai, Cattle Depot is less glitz and glamour, and more grassroots. Famous local artist Frog King occupies a studio here, too.
While Sheung Wan‘s Cat Street is famed for quirky knick knacks, To Kwa Wan’s Jiksap (9/F, Block A, On Lok Factory Building, 90 Kowloon City Road, To Kwa Wan) is a vintage wonderland. Perched inside a nondescript industrial building with a manual elevator, this local boutique is filled to the brim with eccentric souvenirs from bygone eras. Check our article on vintage shopping for more info.
Take your love for woodworking to the next level and pay a visit to Coutou (Gee Chang Industrial Building, 108 Lok Shan Rd, To Kwa Wan). This sustainability-minded studio upcycles scraps of wood from nearby dumps and turns them into innovative products uniting form and function.
From easy day trips to outlying islands to crossing rivers the ancient way, hopping on a ferry is arguably the most fun way to navigate the city. Every ferry pier is a port of possibility, and the one in To Kwa Wan is no different. Located near picturesque Hoi Sham Park, this ferry will take you to the dynamic yet underappreciated neighbourhood of North Point. It’s a good idea to check the timetable online.
Only in Hong Kong will you find Michelin-recognised fish balls! For those springy, vaguely marine orbs of nostalgic delight, beeline to Fishball King (50 Tin Kwong Road, To Kwa Wan).
Cheapo Tip: Thanks to a growing Pakistani population, To Kwa Wan is a surprisingly great area to stock up on South Asian grocery essentials on a budget.
Sung Wong Toi (Tuen Ma Line)
Kowloon City has long been one of the most colourful albeit underserved quarters of Hong Kong. Once home to the Walled City– the infamous, lawless maze of rust, grime, and graffiti that continues to inspire films and video games– history (literally) spills on to the streets, and even the MTR concourse!
Begin your heritage tour from within the MTR. Like Exhibition Centre, the process of building Sung Wong Toi station, too, turned into an archaeological dig. Construction workers discovered six wells and thousands of artefacts dating back to the Song dynasty (960–1279 CE). Excavated relics like coins and ceramic wares for incense and tea are now on display inside the station. View them at no extra charge!
How did Kowloon, meaning ‘nine dragons”, (apocryphally) get its name? Legend has it that when eight-year-old Song dynasty emperor and his brother fled Mongol invaders in the 13th century, they took refuge on a hill overlooking Kowloon City’s rice paddies and villages. When the kid royal saw the eight peaks that surrounded the territory, he gave Kowloon its name – he was the ninth dragon. After his death, villagers erected a boulder inscribed with ‘Sung Wong Toi” or ‘Terrace of the Song Kings”. Go see the remnants at Sung Wong Toi Garden.
The Kowloon Walled City is no longer, but for a peek into its past, the Walled City Garden is a must-see. The remnants of the ungoverned mini metropolis are hauntingly beautiful and ripe for exploration.
Blending Thai and Teochew culture, Kowloon City is a polyglot’s dream. Tickle your tastebuds with Hong Kong’s best Thai food here. Though you’ll find a range of sit-down restaurants, the takeaway stalls offer incredible bang for your buck and punch you in the face with flavour. From freshly pounded papaya salad (20 South Wall Road, Kowloon City)– funked up with generous helpings of shrimp paste– to fragrant green and red curries (Ruamjai Thai Grocery, 21 South Wall Road, Kowloon City) look out for twisted-top plastic bags and styrofoam trays heaped with homemade Thai fare.
Apothecary-turned-cafe Tai Wo Tang (24 Nga Tsin Long Road, Kowloon City) is a not-so-hidden gem in the area. Converted from a traditional Chinese medicine store opened in the 1930s, this casual eatery is a welcome reprieve from the stark white aesthetic of most third wave coffee shops. For edible souvenirs, including historic Hong Kong brands like Yim Chim Kee, pay a visit to Goodies. The name says it all.