Header image courtesy of Urbanwood
Originally published by Catharina Cheung. Last updated by Nicole Hurip.
Located in the southwest of Hong Kong Island, Aberdeen could be considered the original Hong Kong. A heung gong tsuen (香港村)—or “Hong Kong village“—was mentioned in Ming dynasty-era maps in the Aberdeen area, so when European explorers first arrived in Hong Kong and came ashore at the harbour of Aberdeen, they mistook the name of the village for the entire island!
By the time they realised the mistake, “Hong Kong” was already being used to refer to the island as a whole, and the name simply stuck. To prevent confusion, the Chinese name of Aberdeen was changed to Heung Gong Tsai (香港仔) or “Little Hong Kong.” Follow our ultimate neighbourhood guide for things to do, see, and eat in Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau!
Aberdeen was—and still is—rooted as a fishing community. The Tanka tribe are traditionally boat people who fish for a living, and there are still some of these fisherfolk living on the boats in the harbour. Hop onto a sampan on either Aberdeen or Ap Lei Chau side for a little tour of the floating village.
In times of adverse weather, the harbour is used as a typhoon shelter where boats can return from sea and moor up safely. The geographical presence of the Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter is, in fact, what made the area one of Hong Kong’s largest fishing anchorages in the first place.
Aberdeen Promenade is a great place to take in views of the harbour. There are several boats permanently stationed along the harbourfront, and many of these have now become restaurants specialising in seafood. Try your luck at finding a sampan restaurant; they traditionally served fishermen in the typhoon shelter with simple menus and low prices, but are a rapidly disappearing trade that pops up at irregular hours.
To the end of the promenade lies the Aberdeen Wholesale Fish Market, which opens in the early morning as fishermen return with their catches, and closes by the early afternoon. Established in 1950, the market is Hong Kong’s biggest and oldest wholesale fish market. The market is responsible for over 70 percent of city’s live seafood trading and handles over 30,000 tons of fresh and frozen seafood each year.
You can purchase fresh seafood and have them cooked at one of the many seafood restaurants nearby, and enjoy a plentiful meal by the waterfront. There is also a souvenir shop selling fishing-themed trinkets, handicrafts, and models, products of collaborations with local NGOs and social enterprises such as New Life Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, Caritas Artland, and Hong Chi Association. Catch a glimpse of the bustling frenetic energy of the market in action, but don’t get in the way or you’ll likely get an earful of expletives!
Aberdeen Wholesale Fish Market, 102 Shek Pai Wan Road, Aberdeen | (+852) 2177 7872
No, we’re not talking about nearby Ocean Park. From Aberdeen, go across the water to the island of Ap Lei Chau and walk along the waterfront to reach the Ap Lei Chau Wind Tower Park. The length of the park is dotted with marine-themed decorations and monuments as a nod to the area’s history as a boatyard. Spot the replica of a trawler, a traditional dragon boat, and old boat machinery parts.
The wind tower itself is located at the far end of the park and is modelled after the sail of a fishing boat. Interestingly, the tower has solar photovoltaic panels that convert solar energy to power LED lights, so that the tower will change colours according to wind speed. Climb up onto the viewing platform for a panoramic view of Ap Lei Chau and the typhoon shelter!
Fisherfolk have always had temples dedicated to deities to ensure successful voyages and a safe return home. Ap Lei Chau has a Hung Shing Temple dedicated to the God of the South Sea, which was estimated to have been built in 1773.
On the other side of the harbour, almost smack-dab in the middle of Aberdeen town centre, lies what may well be Hong Kong’s smallest temple. You’ll find the Hoi Wong Temple on the corner of Nam Ning Street and Chengtu Road—without these specific instructions, you’ll likely walk right past without even blinking. The tiny red temple sits randomly right on the roadside instead of as part of the building block behind it, but this isn’t a planning error on the part of the city council.
Hoi Wong Temple actually marks where the original waterfront used to be; in line with tradition, residents in the past had built a temple by the waters to bless those who go out to sea. As land reclamation went on, the structure simply ended up being shifted further and further inland.
The Dragon Boat Festival takes place every summer, and though not as large-scale as the event on Shing Mun River in Sha Tin, Aberdeen also hosts dragon boat racing along the harbour for the Southern District.
For those who've never experienced it, dragon boats races are energetically highlighted by rhythmic drum beats meant to keep rowers in sync. Though each race may be over in a matter of seconds, the atmosphere is always fun and upbeat and the rowers’ performances are beyond impressive. Brave the crowds and join in the festivities in June.
For a scenic walk along a tree-lined path, head to Aberdeen Nature Trail. You can admire the pre World War II structures along the way, including the dam, valve house, and Aberdeen Upper Reservoir bridge, which are all listed monuments. This walk takes you through Aberdeen Country Park, from the Lower Reservoir to the Upper Reservoir, and takes around an hour to finish. This trail also leads all the way to Wanchai Gap Road.
For a more challenging hike, check out Yuk Kwai Shan, also known as Mount Johnson. The start is located on the southeast of Ap Lei Chau and takes you around three hours to complete. You can go all the way to Ap Lei Pai, a small uninhabited island connected to Yuk Kwai Shan. Be warned—this trail features steep inclines with little shade, and loose gravel all the way. Click here to read our full guide to hiking Yuk Kwai Shan.
You can also take a sampan back to Aberdeen if you don’t feel like hiking all the way back. The sampans come every 30 minutes or so, but you can call Sister Ying, who operates one of the sampan ferries, to find out when the next one is arriving.
Sister Ying sampan ferry, Aberdeen | (+852) 9237 8915
Adorning the metal shutters of many local businesses in Ap Lei Chau are colourful murals depicting neighbourhood stories, figures, and events as part of a community art project called HK Urban Canvas. Local artists create these unique works of shutter art as a celebration of the neighbourhood and to commemorate local history. The 10 works are scattered throughout the neighbourhood, on stores like Wai Kwong Diesel Engines Limited (維光柴油機有限公司), Lam Hon Kee (林漢記), and So Kee (蘇記茶餐廳). See the full list here or download the HK Urban Canvas app.
A black cube gallery space that regularly hosts established and emerging artists, Empty Gallery was designed to showcase multimedia exhibitions and all forms of modern digital art installation It is also a performance and events space, committed to fostering conversations that transcend geographical and medium-based boundaries. Recent exhibitions include a series of sculptures, video, and sound works by Taiwanese-American filmmaker and artist James T. Hong, and a conceptual photography show by New York-based artist Taro Masushio centred around one of the earliest homoerotic photographers in Japan, Jun’ichi En’ya, or “Uncle from Osaka.”
Empty Gallery, 19/F, Grand Marine Center, 3 Yue Fung Street, Tin Wan | +852 2563 3396
Urbanwood is a socially and environmentally conscious boutique hotel in the hear of Ap Lei Chau, just minutes away from Lei Tung MTR station. A light-filled, wood-panelled space with a Japanese aesthetic, the hotel strives to be an active part of the Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau neighbourhood by encouraging guests to explore local shops and experience its unique culture and history.
Urbanwood, 29 San Shi Street, Ap Lei Chau | (+852) 3728 7388
Did you know that Aberdeen is the birthplace of the popular noodle restaurant group Nam Kee? The business began in the early 1980s and gained so much traction starting in Aberdeen that it has now spread across Hong Kong, expanding to approximately 20 branches in different districts. When at the OG shop that started it all, don’t forget to order their speciality spring rolls with your noodles; they’re not your typical crunchy rolls with vegetable fillings, but are softer and made with fish paste wrapped in layers of tofu skin.
Nam Kee, Shop 1–3, G/F, 208 Aberdeen Main Road, Aberdeen | (+852) 2552 2731
Moored out in the middle of the water, Jumbo Floating Restaurant is probably the area’s most notable landmark. It was designed to look like a palace from imperial China and has been running since 1976. This huge stationary barge has several sections, including a fine-dining Chinese restaurant, a dim sum bar, and even a Chinese culinary institute. Together with the adjoining Tai Pak Floating Restaurant next door, it’s collectively referred to as the Jumbo Kingdom.
The attraction was featured in several movies and has been graced with a host of big-name visitors such as Queen Elizabeth II, David Bowie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Tom Cruise. Get to the Jumbo Kingdom via the free shuttle boat from a dedicated pier on Aberdeen Promenade, and mind you don’t get on the wrong shuttle as there are several along the stretch of harbourfront but all going to different locations.
Pro tip: Make the journey during dusk, so you can still see the vibrant shades of green, red, and gold, but also catch it with the lights on. We think this is when it rather looks like Yubaba’s bathhouse from Spirited Away.
Note: Temporarily closed
This is a local grocery store that sells nostalgic local snacks alongside grocery items and has been doing so for over 30 years. You can find classic Chinese pastries such as put chai ko (砵仔糕; red bean pudding), fried sesame balls with bean paste (炸煎堆), sago pudding (西米糕), water chestnut pudding (馬蹄糕), and many more puddings quivering away at very reasonable prices.
Yau Woo Store, 110 Ap Lei Chau Main Street, Ap Lei Chau | (+852) 2555 2386
Established in 1952, So Kee started as a humble coffee stall, willed into existence by a few ramshackle stools and foldable tables. Owner Chan Gwing Hong worked alongside his father in the 1960s and 1970s, selling pastries and beverages to the shipyard workers nearby. Now, it is a popular cha chaan teng serving essentials like egg and lunchmeat sandwiches, Hong Kong-style French toast, and rice noodles with brisket and tomatoes.
As an avid photographer and traveller, Chan displays his and his wife’s works on the walls of his restaurant, where diners can admire the various snapshots from their trips. The photographs are available for sale, and all proceeds go to local charity Tai Shan International, whose efforts are directed towards cancer research and rehabilitation.
So Kee, 16 Hung Shing Street, Ap Lei Chau | (+852) 2555 1717
Fancy a bowl of steaming cart noodles? Head to Mian Mian Yuan Yuan, a nautical-themed noodle shop specialising in shrimp roe noodles—a variety of Chinese noodles speckled with umami-packed dried shrimp roe, supplied by Fat Kee Noodle Factory, a near-century-old institution churning out local favourites such as shrimp roe noodles, abalone noodles, and fish noodles. Take your pick from the six different varieties of noodles and 30 plus toppings menu, including braised pork cartilage and housemade dumplings, for a taste of Hong Kong.
Mian Mian Yuan Yuan, Shop ALC 33–34, Ap Lei Chau Estate Market, 322 Ap Lei Chau Bridge Road, Ap Lei Chau | (+852) 9344 4370
A remnant of Aberdeen’s boat-dwelling population, sampan noodles is a floating noodle kitchen on—you guessed it—a sampan. These flat-bottomed wooden boats were traditionally used for transportation as well as fishing, and many of the inhabitants of the Aberdeen floating village also lived on them. Sampan noodles used to be a go-to meal for locals who lived or worked on boats, but only two cooking sampans remain now. Call Mr Lau of Lau Kee Sampan Noodles to find out where he’s docked, and sample a delicious bowl of noodles in fish broth with toppings like fish balls, fish cake, barbecued pork, roasted goose, and brisket, all for just around $40.
Lau Kee Sampan Noodles, Aberdeen Promenade, Aberdeen | (+852) 9140 2628
A retro-themed food court serving dim sum staples, hot dogs, egg waffles, and bubble tea, Tin Wan Food Court is located in the newly renovated Tin Wan Shopping Centre. The space is decked in old-school Chinese style, with patterned floor tiles and red accents. Read more about this new food court here.
Tin Wan Food Court, G/F, Tin Wan Shopping Centre, 17 Tin Wan Street, Tin Wan
A neighbourhood coffee joint nestled within an industrial area, this is the place to get a great cup of coffee. The owner honed his craft in Melbourne, bringing the brew and the good vibes back to form Black Cherry Coffee.
What the café lacks in size it makes up for in personality—the Glay-themed interiors infuse a punk rock aesthetic into the cosy space. Try their oat milk latte for a nutty spin on the classic, or get the dirty—a double ristretto with a dash of cold milk. Light bites and pastries are also available—order the banana toast with peanut butter—as well as traveller’s tips from the friendly baristas.
Black Cherry Coffee, Shop 6, Silver Mansion, 81 Shek Pai Wan Road, Tin Wan | (+852) 3686 0423
Another project courtesy of the person behind Halfway Coffee in Sheung Wan, Neighbourhood Coffee exemplifies the concept of a neighbourhood café, if you can’t tell from the name. Speciality brews and brunch favourites such as rose latte, apple cinnamon tea, and avocado truffle egg on toast are a given, but Neighbourhood Coffee is more than just a café.
It strives to foster understanding and appreciation of the community it resides in, regularly hosting exhibitions and events that showcase the unique aspects of Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau. Fishnets used by local fishermen in the area hang from the ceiling, and art pieces that harken back to its fishing village days adorn the walls. There are two locations, one in Aberdeen and another in Ap Lei Chau.
Smack dab in the middle of Ap Lei Chau Main Street is Mad Three, a cute minimalist space that seems to beckon with the delicious smells of freshly ground coffee. The beans are supplied by Mad Coffee Roaster, and ground and roasted in-house, and are available for sale in packs as well as in the form of bottles of cold brew. Their cold brew teas are also worth trying—it also comes in bottle form. Their food menu goes beyond basic snacks and café fare—Taiwanese-inspired options like the braised tofu, blanched sweet potato leaves, and the popular pork floss & cheese omelette elevate the whole experience.
Mad Three, Shop F, G/F, Hop Shi Building, 132 Ap Lei Chau Main Street, Ap Lei Chau | (+852) 6773 4386
A trip to Horizon Plaza in Ap Lei Chau is a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is an absolute Aladdin’s cave of designer outlets and fantastic furniture stores; on the other, it is also notoriously difficult to navigate.
Though it may not seem like much from the outside—really, it looks like an outdated warehouse in need of a coat of paint—you could be having a whale of a time checking out funky pieces at Tequila Kola before you decide to check out the Chloé outlet, and two hours later you’re still lost between floors with a rapidly dying phone and no toilet in sight.
For sanity’s sake, think about where to want to go beforehand, and grab a guide from the lobby. If your intrepid explorer skills are fully functional, then going to Horizon Plaza will no doubt prove to be a very fruitful journey.
Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau
The ground floor of Horizon Plaza also houses one of Hong Kong’s best pet shops. Whiskers N Paws stocks products with no harmful ingredients or animal by-products and the spacious store will no doubt have everything you need for your furry friends (plus tons more you didn’t realise you even wanted).
There’s also a 4,000-square-foot pet park out the back for dogs to play and socialise and a self-serviced shower station. What’s more, Whiskers N Paws hosts Hong Kong Dog Rescue’s dog adoption event every Sunday!
Whiskers N Paws, 10/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau | (+852) 2552 6200