Sham Shui Po, one of the oldest districts in Hong Kong known for its textiles industry, has recently gained a newfound ‘cool’ status, reinvigorated by its young creative residents. The district has transformed as one of the hippest neighbourhoods in the city but still kept its traditional street-vendors, historical buildings, and over half a century-old Michelin-recommended eateries like Kung Wo Tofu Factory and Lau Sum Kee Noodle. Walk a few blocks, and you’ll be greeted by contemporary cafes and creative hubs where patrons can enjoy a good cup of coffee while immersing in artworks by up-and-coming local artists.
What’s Sham Shui Po known for?
SSP is one of Hong Kong’s best-kept fashion secrets. The neighbourhood’s fabric shops are famous for local designers – and even international designers like Versace and Calvin Klein – who frequent the place looking for textile and design inspiration. The district is also known for its treasure trove of eateries offering affordable street eats and Michelin-recommended bites.
Why do the locals love it?
Aside from fashion finds, the neighbourhood is a shopping mecca to bargain hunt for electronics, vintage accessories, and nostalgic toys. And though it’s currently attracting a hip, young crowd, its newer residents have fostered a sense of community which not only injects new energy to the neighbourhood but also promotes the district’s historical legacy.
How do I get to Sham Shui Po?
It is easy to get to and from Sham Shui Po via public buses and taxis that run through the district, but the best way is by MTR as the Sham Shui Po MTR station is right in the centre of the neighbourhood.
If you only do one thing
Eat! Whether you’re after authentic local food, looking for a caffeine fix, or craving for new bites, the neighbourhood has everything from third-generation family-run noodle shops to contemporary cafes.
Where to eat
Sham Shui Po is home to many Michelin-recommended eateries, leaving you spoilt for choice when looking for authentic local food. Head to Pei Ho Street and get a seat at Kung Wo Tofu Factory, a 60-year old eatery serving all kinds of sweet and savoury tofu treats like tofu puffs, deep-fried tofu with fish paste, and must-try items like tofu pudding and soya milk. If you’re looking for noodles, third-generation family-run Lau Sum Kee still serves its noodles made with a traditional bamboo pole kneading method. And of course, for dim sums, dine at Tim Ho Wan’s SSP branch, one of the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world.
For a taste of old-school Chinese-style steaks, don’t miss Flying Eagle, a family-run restaurant operating since 1977. Those looking for authentic Malaysian specialities can check out Semua Semua for their nasi lemak, otak-otak (a nyonya fish custard wrapped in banana leaves), and claypot loh see fun (silver needle noodles with meat and egg).
Try popular street snacks at Block 18 Doggie’s Noodle – don’t worry, there’s no dog meat in their dishes, their glutinous rice noodles got its name for being fat and tail-like – Hop Yik Tai for their cheong fun (rice noodle rolls), and Kwan Kee Store for their homemade put chai ko (steamed rice pudding). For traditional Chinese sweets, drop by at San Lung Cake Shop and get some black sesame cakes and pastries filled with whole century eggs.
There’s also a good number of Japanese establishments in the area, must-tries are Munakataya – head here for their towering sashimi bowls and picture-worthy takeout boxes that look so good you almost feel bad for eating it – and Kakurega Ramen Factory, a ramen joint tucked inside Dragon Centre serving up handmade tsukemen (dipping noodles).
If you’re vegan, line up at the long queues outside The Park by Years, a newly opened cafe serving vegan porridge bowl, zucchini noodle salad, and hearty pasta offerings of Impossible bolognese spaghetti, tom yum spaghetti, and pesto fusilli.
For eateries that don’t only serve food but also help the community – drop by at Pei Ho Counterparts for cha chaan teng staples like fried noodles with beef or fish and rice. You will not only leave with a full stomach, but you’ll also get to support Ming Gor, the cafe’s owner, and his team to continue their efforts in giving out free lunchboxes for the elderly and those in need, especially during the pandemic.
Where to drink
In recent years, there’s been an influx of contemporary cafes in the area where locals from different parts of the city flock to for a quick caffeine fix. Enjoy a cup of joe while reading a magazine at Toolss, a little coffee shop that doubles up as a stationery store. Or, if you’re in search for cafes that will not only fulfil your caffeine hit but also satiate your Instagram fix, head to: Sapsan 89, a pet-friendly Japanese-style cafe with aesthetically-pleasing interiors complete with tatami seatings; Colour Brown, a sustainable coffee shop – located on the ground floor of a creative hub, Phvlo Hatch; Coffee of the Day a quirky, minimalist cafe that serves coffee with an accompanying slip of paper with messages to perk you up; Openground, a cafe, bookstore, and creative space where you can enjoy a cup of coffee while immersing yourself in art; and Café Sausalito, a coffee shop that not only brings speciality coffee to the area, but is also a community hub hosting live music, indie markets, and art shows. For a late-night caffeine fix, head to Dog99 Coffee, a 24/7 coffee shop that gets more packed as the night goes on.
Where to shop
Sham Shui Po in the 1950s and 60s is known as the heart of Hong Kong’s textiles manufacturing industry and to this day, the district remains a popular haunt for designers and artisans. If you’re looking for vendors specialising in different types of accessories or fabrics, or just venturing to see the historical textile areas of the district, visit Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar, a designer’s fabric haven selling all kinds of textile, Ki Lung Street – also known as Button Street – featuring shops selling an array of sewing and beading items like buttons, zippers, clasps, fabrics, and various embroidery accessories, and Yu Chau Street (Bead Street), which is home to a wide selection of beads and sewing supplies. For ribbons and trimmings, Nam Cheong Street (Ribbon Street) has it covered; here you will find lace and ribbon in all shapes and sizes.
As for leather goods and tools, head to Tai Nan Street (aka Leather Street) and peruse various leather crafts from old shops like Luen Cheong Leather Hong Kong – established since 1948 and specialising in locally-made lamb and cowhides – to new-generation leather stores like Alri Star Leather Factory and Brothers Leathercraft that offer leathers and crafting tools and even hosts workshops for beginners.
If you’re looking to score ready-to-wear garments at bargain deals, make sure to drop by at Cheung Sha Wan Fashion Road where you can peruse over 200 shops selling wholesale deals.
Apliu Street has everything from electronic devices, mobile phone accessories to vintage typewriters, home appliances, amplifiers, speakers, and audio accessories which you can get from shops like Audio Space. For all kinds of party favours and toys, head to Fuk Wing Street, also known as Toy Street, and look for Wong Kee Flea Market to spot various toys – from weird, cheap, tacky, to cute and fun.
Shop for everyday home staples at Pei Ho Street, a bustling wet market lined with stalls that sell fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats where locals get their daily produce. Here, you can also stop to refuel as Michelin-recommended snack spots are lined in this area.
Golden Computer Centre and Arcade is a popular destination for people looking to buy the latest gadgets, gear, and games accessories. And Dragon Centre – one of the few malls in Sham Shui Po – hosts plenty of small shops selling fun and quirky things.
Once you’re done with gadgets and garments, you can dig into a treasure trove of knick-knacks from various specialty stores in the neighbourhood. Siugreat Stationery is a go-to spot for Japanese stationery where they have multiple kinds of fountain pens and more than 100 types of ink imaginable. Savon Workshop offers handmade soaps, skincare products, and raw materials. It even holds regular in-store workshops in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English language for people who want to DIY natural soaps.
Zapjok is a quirky shop that sells everything from pottery items, incenses, Palo Santo sticks, jewellery, shoes, and watches, along with items crafted by local designers. Another spot is Storerooms, a lifestyle shop that sells everything from garments, designer vases, clocks and watches, umbrellas, shoes, and a lot more. Foreforehead sells various cutesy and eccentric oddities, from clothing, accessories, homeware, and various decorations. The shop also doubles as an exhibition space for young local artists and brand pop-ups.
If you’re looking for quirky Japanese finds that don’t come from Don Don Donki, head to Midway Shop to buy kitchenware, sakura-scented soaps, hats, and printed tote bags by artisanal Japanese brands.
A trip to SSP wouldn’t be complete without meeting some local fixtures like Hong Kong’s most famous vinyl collector Paul Au at his shop, Vinyl Hero that sells vinyl records from the 1960s to 1980s, and fifth-generation umbrella maker Yau Yiu-wai in Sun Nga Shing Umbrella Store – standing since 1842 – one of the last stores in Hong Kong that still offers umbrella repair services.
For people with interests in independent records, drop by at White Noise Records, and browse through a selection of tunes ranging from old soul to heavy metal and electro-pop.
If you’re still up for some treasure hunting, Shop Little Two – tucked among the ribbon stalls on Nam Cheong Street – showcases a dizzying array of novelty items, nostalgic Hong Kong toys, vinyl records, old cameras and typewriters, and other vintage knick-knacks.
Things to do and places to see
A day’s visit will not be enough to explore all the wonders that Sham Shui Po has to offer. Aside from the shops and eateries in the area, it’s also one of the best places in Hong Kong that showcases the city’s East-meets-West character, making it a favourite spot for snap-happy photographers and Instagrammers.
For some historical exploration, visit old buildings like 170 Yee Kuk Street – one of the very few remaining verandah-type Chinese tenement buildings in Hong Kong that was built in the 1920s, and Nam Cheong Pawn Shop, a Grade II historic building that still carries the symbol of an upside-down bat holding a coin – an emblem that pawnshops have used for hundreds of years, symbolising that good fortune has arrived. Another interesting spot is Lung Hing Tong, a building established in 1931, replete with an eye-catching green and red design featuring a protruding dragon head on top, cranes, and deer emerging out of the roof. A contrast to all the traditional building fixtures is the Man Fung Building at Tai Nan Street, head here to see the old residential building covered with a multicoloured geometric patterned mural called the Rainbow Thief, created by Madrid street artist Okuda San Miguel in 2016 as part of HK Walls’ city-wide street art festival.
If you want to soak in art and culture, outside of the many hip cafe shops that double as art hubs, there are also several art centres to peruse in the area. Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, for example, provides an exhibition space for up and coming and established artists. The centre also houses a theatre, craft shop, and tea house.