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The Best of Hong Kong? This Insider’s Guide Has It All

Since her days as an editor at Veranda, Catherine Lee Davis has been our go-to for the skinny on all things chic. Now living in Hong Kong with her family, she identifies the city’s classic must-do’s, and opens her little black book of great finds—just for us.

Davis in the heart of Hong Kong’s Central district.

ICONIC DON’T-MISS EXPERIENCES

The first thing you should do is ride the funicular tram—one of the world’s oldest and steepest—to the top of Victoria Peak for the quintessential skyline views, then amble along nearby Lugard Road for yet more stunning vistas. Another great way to experience the scenery: Get right into the middle of it aboard in Victoria Harbour—book an evening cruise to catch the city’s nightly light-show extravaganza. The remarkable Man Mo Temple is famed for its Instagram-worthy incense spirals; around the corner is Upper Lascar Row, also known as Cat Street and my number-one place for finding fun knick-knacks (it’s a prop stylist’s paradise!). A bit farther afield but definitely worth the trek are the 250-ton Tian Tan Buddha and century-old Po Lin Monastery on bucolic Lantau Island.


The Aqua Luna, a traditional Chinese sailboat, in Victoria Harbour.


The giant incense cones at Man Mo Temple.


The Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island.

CATHERINE’S FAVORITE DISCOVERIES
Cultural Venues

The wonderfully restored Central Police Station has been converted into the vibrant Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts, full of galleries and performance spaces. The Liang Yi Museum features premiere collections of Chinese antiques. PMQ, set in a historic building, is a mixed-use hub for creative entrepreneurs, with buzzed-about ateliers and events.


Inside the Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts.

Shops

Founded in 1937, Yuet Tung China Works was Hong Kong’s first handpainted-porcelain factory and remains a trove of plates, teapots and jars. The vintage-inspired Audrey has exquisite dried floral bouquets and a wide range of teas that you blend yourself. Visit jewel box-like Lala Curio for a modern twist on chinoiserie classics such as lacquered furniture and cloisonné tiles. In a city teeming with luxury goods, I think that Obellery, a workshop of cool, contemporary—and affordable!—jewelry is a breath of fresh air. And the hip, postage-stamp–size shop Bang! Bang! 70’s is full of vintage designer clothes.


Shelves upon shelves of porcelainware at Yuet Tung China Works.

Restaurants

Don’t be fooled by its shopping mall location—with handpainted wallpaper and splendid antiques, there’s no prettier place for dim sum than China Tang. At Mott 32 (mott32.com), you need to preorder the applewood-roasted Peking duck 24 hours in advance—it won’t disappoint. For a splurge, head to Duddell’s, which has Michelin-star Cantonese fare and Ilse Crawford-designed spaces. Madame Fu elegantly channels bygone café culture and serves afternoon tea. After a day of shopping, I often hit Sohofama for the lovely patio and simple farm-to-table Chinese food. And it’s always a blast to descend down the stairs past the waving golden cats and feast on the inventive dishes at cheeky Ho Lee Fook.


A lounge at China Tang.


The Ilse Crawford-designed Duddell’s.


The sexy industrial interior at Mott 32.

Bars

The Tai Kwun arts complex includes two terrific watering holes: The uber-happening Behind Bars, where you can literally have drinks in the former jails of the Central Police Station, and Dragonfly, an opulent craft-cocktails den. Sevva is one of the best rooftop bars in the city, with 360-degree views.


Stained-glass splendor at Dragonfly.

Extra-Credit Adventures

Hong Kong’s hiking trails are its best-kept secret, and may be what I love most about the city. The Dragon’s Back Trail, shaped like its name, has spectacular panoramic views and ends at Big Wave Bay and Shek-O, a surfer haven and local beach with seafront restaurants. My neighborhood, Repulse Bay, also has a wonderful beach that’s popular with locals, plus stylish cafes and a resort-like vibe.


Hikers on the Dragon’s Back Trail.

Produced by Georgia Parker

From top to bottom: Portrait by Lisa Rayman Goldfarb; Coyote-Agile/Flickr; Johnny Leung; Darren Griffiths, findingbeyond.com; Courtesy of Tai Kwun; Malcolm Koo; Courtesy of China Tang; Courtesy of Duddell’s; Courtesy of Mott 32; Courtesy of Dining Concepts Ltd.; Courtesy of Condé Nast Traveler.