Header image courtesy of @stefan.irvine
This sleepy neighbourhood is an old area of Hung Hom and technically part of the Kowloon City district. The first two words in To Kwa Wan’s name are said to refer to the sweet potatoes planted by Hakka villagers, who settled on the land a few hundred years ago. With surrounding mid-rise buildings no higher than 10 floors, take a step back in time with us as we venture into a relic of old Hong Kong and discover the best things to do, eat, drink, and see in To Kwa Wan.
Things to see
Photo courtesy of @cwo.foto
Kowloon City Pier & Hoi Sham Park
The old Kowloon City Pier was originally located elsewhere, but it was buried due to land reclamations, as well as the construction of the Kai Tak Airport. Years later, the intact parts of the bridge were unearthed and moved to its current location. If the Tsim Sha Tsui harbourfront is getting too crowded with tourists and Instagrammers, consider hitting up the Kowloon City Pier and neighbouring Hoi Sham Park instead for a quiet afternoon of looking out to the ocean. This less-frequented promenade is perfect for you to snap some aesthetic shots and play around with angles to make it look like you’re stepping on water, too!
Kowloon City Pier, San Ma Tau Street, Ma Tau Kok
Yes, we are literally talking about thirteen streets that line up against each other! Lined with colourful buildings and car repairs shops, this particular neighbourhood is a nostalgic relic of the old Hong Kong. Each street is named after one of thirteen Chinese mythical creatures. Nowadays, a growing Pakistani population brings general stores selling imported ingredients and snacks to the area, but this evocative landscape is still a hotspot for budding street photographers.
13 Streets, Ma Tau Kok, Kowloon City
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Things to do
Contou Woodworking Studio
A small studio that celebrates the disappearing art of woodworking in Hong Kong, Contou Woodworking Studio is a sanctuary for the few artisans still practising their craft. Founder Yung Wing-yan and Arthur Li have decided to reinterpret this old, laborious vocation and find a new place for it in the modern age. Repurposing scraps from the neighbouring rubbish dumps, these artful woodworkers have been known to take on innovative and sustainable projects, like remaking musical instruments out of discarded materials.
Contou Woodworking Studio, 9/F Block C, On Lok Factory Building, 97 Ha Heung Road, To Kwa Wan
Cattle Depot Artist Village
This old building made up of haphazard red bricks, Chinese roofing tiles, and sloping edges used to be a slaughterhouse for cattle (hence the name). Since its renovation in 2001, the Cattle Depot Artist Village is now a compound that houses 20 art groups, with regular exhibitions, talks, and gatherings for creative minds. You can spend a whole afternoon exploring the area, where artists showcase everything from folksy handicrafts and musical instruments to glass lanterns and sculptures.
Cattle Depot Artist Village, 63 Ma Tau Kok Road, Kowloon | (+852) 2364 2959
Swing A Cat
Only open on weekends, this gallery that also doubles as a studio and workshop space is run by an artistic couple who share a love of graphic design and illustrations. The work they exhibit usually carries a humorous tone, and they also invite jewellery artists and tea masters to share their craft, share poetry and literature readings, film screenings and public art talks, making it a true space of acceptance and art.
Swing A Cat, Rear Shop, G/F 241 To Kwa Wan Road, To Kwa Wan
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Places to drink
HeySoNuts guarantees great handcrafted coffee and espresso drinks, with a fully-equipped tea bar and an ever-busy kitchen with a full food menu. You can grab a cup of coffee and people watch for the day. The dessert menu is certainly a highlight, since they have soufflé pancakes, waffles, mille-feuilles as well as their famous Homemade Tiramisu ($54), plated to look like a rubber duck in a bath!
HeySoNuts, Shop 3, G/F, 149 Pak Tai Street, To Kwa Wan | (+852) 2687 1428
Full Cup Café
Serving full-on biker shed scrapyard aesthetics, Full Cup Café reminds us of a vintage supply store, with a variety of chairs, coasters, wall decorations all around the interiors of the café. The owner’s precious all-black motorcycle is parked right outside the café to level up the artsy-ness of the space. There’s a music room floor, an outdoor garden floor, a floor dedicated for the ladies, a mysterious bar and the boss’s own workshop on the top floor. Spend the afternoon at this five floored café and keep yourself entertained!
Full Cup Café, 91 Ma Tau Kok, To Kwa Wan | (+852) 2362 2215
On The Hill Coffee Bar
This aesthetically-pleasing café recently opened in To Kwa Wan, with gilded marble patterns as the main theme. Some may say it’s “basic”, but who doesn’t enjoy a bit of luxury here and there? The café also blends in pieces of wooden flooring to incorporate different textures, creating a relaxing space to hide from the summer heat. Not only does the café serve great coffee, but they also have cute baked treats. From the bar and seating area to the storefront, everywhere is an Instagrammable spot, so make sure to come with a friend to help with all of your model pictures!
On The Hill Coffee Bar, Shop 2, Basement, Po Fai Building, 435–439 Chatham Road North, To Kwa Wan | (+852) 9841 4827
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Places to eat
This champagne-slash-wine cellar doubles as a private kitchen serving modern European cuisine, with a wide range of different dishes from the tapas style entree to the meaty mains (lamb and beef). You can stop by to pick up some bottles as a gift or for a relaxing evening at home. The owner is more than happy to give tips on wine pairings or champagne pairing all at very reasonable prices too!
Vivant TK, G/F, 44 Tin Kwong Road, To Kwa Wan | (+852) 2663 2271
Louis and Stephanie met in Australia when they were both on working holidays and fell in love, fast forward to a couple years later they have both relocated back to Hong Kong and opened Chez Louis. Louis himself is in charge of the kitchen whereas Stephanie does the coffee, and it’s the perfect couple combo. They go to the market every morning, to get the freshest seafood, matched with thick fried Belgium fries and Belgium bbq sauce as well as four kinds of Belgium beer, it’s the place to be for an authentic Belgium food made with love!
Chez Louis, G/F, 29 Cheung Ning Street, To Kwa Wan | (+852) 6288 9621
Chorland Cookfood Stall
This modern food stall is located in To Kwa Wan and they are known to mix some new and traditional ingredients together to create modern dai-pai-dong dishes, like fried truffle squid fish cake and Sugar pulled Sweet and Sour Pork, which actually requires high-level techniques to pull off despite the cutesy names. Plastered with 70s and 80s posters, you should definitely come and get a real taste of how versatile Cantonese cuisine really is!
Chorland Cookfood Stall, Shop 2&4, G/F, 187 Ma Tau Wai Road, To Kwa Wan | (+852) 2515 1500
Yue Min Fong
Famous for their fermented bean curd chicken balls ($36), Yue Min Fong retains the glory of traditional street food. The chicken balls are fried to a dark golden crisp that locks in the moisture and meat juices. One bite into them paired with their brown-red sauce brings out a deep bean curd flavour is the best proof to why this dish is the shop’s signature.
Yue Min Fong, G/F, 6 San Shan Road, To Kwa Wan | (+852) 2760 1872
As their name suggests, Flavour Kitchen plays around with flavour and bring out surprising combinations you would not expect to find in a traditional restaurant. Our favourites include their Deep Fried Black Honey Shrimp Balls ($106) as well as the Fried Ice cream ($32), pretty sure most kids will agree with us and beg their parents to order these!
Flavour Kitchen, G/F, 22 Pak Tai Street, To Kwa Wan | (+852) 2728 7320