Located to the north-west of Kowloon, Tsuen Wan is largely a residential area, with the typical ‘new town’ highrise apartments, shopping malls, and markets that are so familiar in Hong Kong.
But before it became your average Hong Kong neighbourhood, it was an area that was—and is—full of heritage, history, and some really awesome opportunities to get into nature.
Tsuen Wan is not typically on the tourist map, but there are definitely a few places worth visiting. And if you choose to stay here during your trip, you’ll find that the hotels are quite affordable. With a travel time of about 30 minutes to Tsim Sha Tsui, it’s not that inconvenient either.
What to see and do in Tsuen Wan
Hong Kong only has a handful of authentic traditional walled villages left, and Sam Tung Uk Museum is one of the best examples. This site is easy to find, right by the Tsuen Wan MTR Station. Built in 1786 by the Chan clan, it was declared a historic monument in 1981 and opened to the public. You can explore how Hakka clans used to live communally, with twelve houses all within the village walls.
Heading into the mountains north of Tsuen Wan town (by taxi) will take you to the impressive Yuen Yuen Institute. This is the only temple complex in Hong Kong which worships three religions: Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. The huge compound has beautiful pavilions, prayer halls, rock gardens, ponds, and even a replica of Beijing’s Temple of Heaven.
Right next door is the Western Monastery, with a distinctive nine-storey pagoda, and ornate architecture modeled on a traditional Chinese palace. Once in a while you may see the monks going about their duties, but in general the monastery is quiet, and peaceful.
The truly adventurous will attempt to climb Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s tallest mountain (barely beating Lantau Peak for the honour). At over 3,000 feet high, it is famous for its ‘sea of clouds’. Typically hikers take a taxi from the station to the Tai Mo Shan Country Park Visitor Center. There are various routes which can take you to a lookout point and a waterfall. Be sure to have layers, as it can get very chilly at that elevation.
Tsuen Wan also has a number of beaches running along Castle Peak Road. Approach Beach, Lido Beach, and Casam Beach all have nice views of the Ting Kau Bridge, which connects to Tsing Yi Island.
What to eat and drink in Tsuen Wan
When in doubt—or if it’s really hot or raining—a safe bet is to head to a mall. Tsuen Wan has many of them, the most popular being Citywalk, Tsuen Wan Plaza, and Kolour Tsuen Wan. Inside the malls you’ll find lots of choices, from sushi to dim sum to pizza and everything in between.
Beans Cafe is a popular coffee shop, with carefully handmade chocolates, cakes and puddings, as well as filling pasta dishes, all day breakfast and Hong Kong-style chicken wings.
Korean Loft Cafe is a wonderful little Korean restaurant with a very wide and varied menu that won’t break the bank and will definitely fill your tummy.
For some yum chaa, you’ll find super cute dim sum at Social Place, located in Citywalk Mall, which has a contemporary dim sum menu and funky decor.
If you’re going to the Yuen Yuen Institute, you can have a light but delicious vegetarian meal there at the adorably named Happy Veggies.
Where to stay in Tsuen Wan
Silka Far East Hotel is an easy walk to Tsuen Wan Station and as a 3-star hotel has pretty good prices. A nice bonus is that they offer a free shuttle bus to Tsing Yi Station to jump on the Airport Express, as well as to Mong Kok.
Panda Hotel is a 4-star hotel with lots of amenities. It has a fitness centre, outdoor pool, sauna and steam room, plus a game room and playground for the kids. It’s part of the Panda Place shopping mall, which is convenient as you’ll have lots of restaurants and cafes at your front door.
A bit higher up on the price range is L’Hotel Nina et Convention Center, a 5-star hotel with an awesome outdoor pool, a hot tub and spa, a fitness centre, and restaurants.
If you’re hiking Tai Mo Shan, you could consider spending a night on the mountain at the Youth Hostel Association’s Sze Lok Yuen hostel. As the highest hostel in Hong Kong, this is a great place to stay the night, wake up early, and hike to the summit to see the sunrise.