Heritage building lit up at night with palm trees outside


If you’re looking for nostalgic Hong Kong — the gritty, neon-lit street-food markets of post-war photograhs, or perhaps the saturated cityscapes of 1990s Hong Kong as envisioned by Wong Kar-wai — Kowloon is where you’ll find it (or remnants of it, at least).

Historically the scruffier, grubbier, more authentically Chinese counterpart to Hong Kong Island’s slick, Westernised modernity, Kowloon has changed much in the past few decades. Gone is the insane stack of makeshift apartments known as Kowloon Walled City, and gone are many of its blinking neon signs. But Kowloon’s ramshackle, rough-and-ready spirit still lives between the swanky sky bars, boutique department stores and luxury hotels.

Head to markets filled with fragrant flowers and twittering birds and you’ll still find craftsmen making bamboo cages; stop in at at Wong Tai Sin Temple and you’ll find worshippers consulting fortune-tellers as incense billows through the courtyards. Streetside karaoke parties compete with Cantonese opera singers on the fringes of the Temple Street Night Market, while electronics stallholders in Apliu Street’s flog everything from high-tech drones to kettle leads. Throughout all of this, street-food hawkers sell the same delicious fish balls, fried tofu and dim sum as they have for generations (now complete with Michelin stars).

Nathan Road is the main artery of Kowloon, and the epicentre of all its activities. Pockets of a seedier past persist in corners like Chungking Mansions — once likened by The Economist to the Mos Eisley Cantina — but for the most part it’s good clean fun, from ship-shaped shopping centres to Victorian police-stations-turned-heritage-centres. Whatever you do, don’t leave without sipping a cocktail (or mocktail) at the top of one of Kowloon’s famous sky bars.