City hotels, Hong Kong
For style-savvy weekend holidaymakers, these city hotels are ideal for urban breaks. Head to capital cities for culture and cuisine, and smaller town hubs for trips off the regular tourist’s itinerary. Skyscrapers beat suncastles at these luxury B&Bs, townhouses and street-side stays… all with a typical dose of Smith cool.
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Hong Kong International Airport is one of the busiest in the world. Its home airline is Cathay Pacific, which flies non-stop to HK from London Heathrow five times a day, and four times a week from Manchester, making Hong Kong more accessible than ever before.
Cathay Pacific flew home with the ‘World’s Best Airline’ award from air-travel quality monitor Skytrax in 2014 – the fourth time it has done so. It was likely helped by its spacious, extra recline-y Premium Economy Class seats (Smith approves, largely because we’re suckers for a champagne welcome and an in-seat ‘cocktail table’).
Style Celestial sleek
Setting Admiralty eyrie
Best for Sticklers for service
Our reviewer says ‘It feels more like staying at your best friend’s sleek-and-chic, Asian-style pad in Los Angeles, complete with jars of ‘help yourself’ cookies and sweeties, an iPod Touch, palatial (for Hong Kong) spa-style bathroom and – nice detail – complimentary drinks.’
Style Futuristic city slicker
Setting Slap-bang Central
Best for Night owls and party people
Our reviewer says ‘Ducking through an almost-secret door, we find Ovolo Central, a small but tall modern building in Central. Its stylish, sultry lobby is decked with alien chrome amoebas – otherwise known as futuristic ovoid wall art – that make us feel quite at home. The staff are friendly, young and cool and proud of their hotel, which adds to the feel-good factor.’
1. The world is your octopus. London may have its Oyster, but Hong Kong’s multipurpose Octopus card blows it out of the water. The contactless card doesn’t just get you around on public transport; it can also be used to pay in supermarkets, carparks, vending machines, convenience stores and cinemas.
2. It’s colder on the inside. Hong Kong loves air-con. Sometimes a bit too much. Carry an extra layer whatever the weather. No matter how cosy they look, some venues (even buses) may be almost Antarctic
3. You’ll need more than a T-shirt. Hong Kong weather is unpredictable, often starting the day with a thick fog, bringing out baking sunshine by lunch and finishing with a light afternoon storm. Packing the appropriate wardrobe will require more than cabin baggage.
4. Don’t worry; be appy. Smartphone obsession is global, but Hong Kong takes it to a new (Candy Crush) level. To ensure you fit in – and discover even more of the hidden side of Hong Kong – download My Hong Kong Guide, a nifty app that lets you plan and share your itinerary, browse suggestions from bloggers and artists and, ingeniously, discover what’s going on around you just by shaking your phone.
5. Public transport is an adventure in itself. In need of an adrenaline rush? Hop on one of those cute PLBs (Public Light Buses). Nothing perks you up quite like hurtling through the streets with no discernible sense of direction or end point. Prefer to take it sedate and scenic? Jump aboard a ‘ding ding’, one of the flat-fare double-decker trams that have been pootling their way around Hong Kong Island for the last 100 years. Needless to say, both accept Octopus.
The tradition of the street stall and the dai pai dong roadside eatery (as well as the hundreds of varieties of snacky steamed dim sum dishes that many of them sell) is an essential part of the city’s culinary heritage. The variety on offer is enormous, but there are a few staples, both sweet and savoury, to look out for…
• Egg waffles (gai daan jai) Sweet egg-based pancake batter grilled in bubbled moulds.
• Pineapple Bun (bo lo baau) Hot, sweet, melt-in-the-mouth bread with a crunchy crust (and no pineapple involved).
• Egg Tart (daan tat) A colonial-legacy relative of the Portuguese pastel de nata egg-custard pastry found on Macau, but made with lard and without the browned-off top.
• Curried fish balls (yu dan) A lightly spiced blend of fish, flour and flavourings, boiled in curry sauce and served on skewers.
• Stinky tofu (chau dau fu) Pungently scented squares of fermented tofu, deep-fried and served with chilli sauce.
• Cheong fun A dim sum dish of steamed sheets of rice noodle, rolled and served on sticks, sometimes stuffed with meat or fish, and served with sweet, sesame-laced sauce.
Each neighbourhood has its own specialities. In mall-‘n’-market haven Mong Kok, you’ll find stalls on every corner. Fish balls and crimson barbecued pork are highlights, and the air around Dundas Street is fragrant with the inimitable aroma of stinky tofu. In Yau Ma Tei, the Temple Street Night Market is the best place in the city to be hungry in the evening. Here, beside the electronics stalls and trinket sellers, street restaurants offer visitors everything from fresh steamed scallops to whole roast pigeon.
By day, make a beeline for Graham Street in Central. Roll up to the junction with Stanley Street after 11am, and enjoy some of the freshest, most authentic cuisine Hong Kong has to offer. And, should you visit Tai O on Lantau Island, seek out the egg-ball man of Market Street. You won’t regret it.
If you fancy a little help navigating your way around the street-food scene, enlist the expert guidance of Hong Kong Foodie Tours. They’ll take you on a total-immersion tasting tour of Hong Kong’s culinary heritage.
Style Home-grown Hong Kong
Setting Colourful Kowloon
Best for Serenity seekers
Our reviewer says ‘Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re going to do Hong Kong in style, this is where it’s at. Our boudoir, while not enormous, is beautiful. Sweeping views across the entire length of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island; a grandiose bathroom, decadent (and free!) minibar, and the most divine bed I have ever felt. Do I jump up and down on it giggling hysterically? Yes. I do.’
Style Sleek boutique, Starck-style
Setting Hong Kong Island shopping hub
Best for Design aficionados
Our reviewer says ‘J Plus is not your ordinary bolthole. For a start, its 54 rooms are located in a 25-storey former office block. Transcending its humble origins, it has been redesigned by French design guru Philippe Starck – hence the impeccably stylish lobby.’
Style Sleek urban retreat
Setting Central’s shopping strip
Best for Mallrats and luxury lovers
Our reviewer says ‘Poised between ultra-luxe and cutting-edge, the Landmark Mandarin Oriental is perfect for discovering Hong Kong’s inner-city charms.’