Header image courtesy of @willcho (via Instagram)
Occupying a frontier location just shy of the border to mainland China, Sheung Shui is the kind of neighbourhood whose reputation precedes itself—and perhaps not for the best reasons. In the past decade, the far-flung northern town has been conflated with hordes of parallel traders and cluttered pharmacies, but a deeper exploration will reveal the unsung charm of this neighbourhood.
Having transformed from a sleepy plot of farmland into a prominent commercial hub, Sheung Shui offers a vibrant mix of cultural, culinary, and entertainment attractions. From traditional walled villages and history-steeped marketplaces to scenic wetlands, here’s your friendly neighbourhood guide to exploring Sheung Shui.
In a labyrinth of unassuming, low-slung residential compounds is a scattering of ancient, grey-tiled Hakka structures, ancestral worship halls, an old banyan tree, and other vestiges of the indigenous Liu clan’s centuries-spanning history. Made up of nine villages, Sheung Shui Wai (上水圍) has been a stronghold of the powerful Liu clan since the early sixteenth century and continues to be home to approximately 6,000 villagers. Due to the tight-knit community of Liu descendants intent on keeping the clan’s traditions and culture alive, Sheung Shui Wai has managed to retain much of its historic charm in spite of the tangential effects of nearby urbanisation. It is one of the few rural communities that have preserved their original moat and still observes the annual Spring Rite in its full rigour!
An easy-going, one-kilometre trek from Kwu Tung Market will take you to this picturesque, heart-shaped reservoir. Nestled in the foothills of Ki Lun Shan Au, Kwu Tung Reservoir was originally built to provide irrigation to the northern farmlands, but has now been repurposed as a firefighting water storage facility used by the Hong Kong Government Flying Service—as well as a hidden photo spot for romantics and nature-lovers alike. If you are looking for a little more than a stroll, continue up the rocky route to the top of Ki Lun Shan, where wartime relics and sweeping views of Lok Ma Chau await your arrival.
Fancy spending a day out in nature with little ones, but plagued by the fear of boring them? Holiday Farm eases your worries by providing endless opportunities for fun and adventure whilst immersing you in nature’s beautiful scenery! Established in 1992 with the aim of promoting environmental awareness, this educational and interactive farm offers a wide breadth of activities, ranging from encounters with furry animals and farming experiences to bread-making workshops and even ziplining! An outdoor barbecue can also be arranged with advance booking. What more can you ask for from an all-in-one family outing?
Holiday Farm, 62C Tai Lung Hang Village, Sheung Shui | (+852) 2668 4055
Get a glimpse into the twilight industry of timber processing and try your hand at woodworking at one of the last remaining traditional sawmills in Hong Kong. Run by third-generation family craftsmen, Chi Kee Sawmill & Timber has been making all sorts of wood products for over 70 years, initially starting out in North Point and eventually settled into their current 10,000-square-metre warehouse in Sheung Shui.
Inside the giant warehouse are staggering piles of logs and wooden boards magnificently stacked up to the ceiling—a sight that was once commonplace in Hong Kong but now mostly a memory among the older generation. In hopes to keep the dying craft alive, they host a woodworking workshop every month, offering a tour of the sawmill and teaching participants how to turn felled logs into beautiful wooden chairs.
Chi Kee Sawmill & Timber, Ma Tso Lung Road, Kwu Tung | (+852) 2671 8992
Hop on a bike and pedal your way through the rural hinterlands of Sheung Shui. The Sheung Shui section of the Ma On Shan to Tuen Mun cycling track is packed with Instagram spots and ecological wonders, offering a lively way to experience the rural charms of the area. Just a stone’s throw away from Sheung Shui MTR station is a smattering of bike kiosks, where you can begin your journey westward towards Yuen Long. Take in the serene views as you bike along the scenic Sheung Yue River and the sprawling paddy fields of Long Valley wetland—a veritable bird-watching paradise! Be sure to make a pit stop at Lo Tai Tofu Pudding (羅太豆花) in Ho Sheung Heung to tank up on free-flow tofu pudding for just $13!
Shop and dine at one of the oldest market towns in Hong Kong! Brimming with small stalls, herbal tea shops, and local eateries, Shek Wu Hui (石湖墟) has served as the foremost trading grounds in the neighbourhood since the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. Although many of the buildings in this former indigenous market have since been rebuilt, the traditional market street layout and atmosphere have stayed the same, lending an old-timey allure. Once you are done shopping, head over to the Shek Wu Hui Cooked Food Centre and explore a ceaseless landscape of bargain bites!
Shek Wu Hui (石湖墟), Chi Cheong Road, Sheung Shui
A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Japanese joint, Menya Yamashita may not look like much, but their top-quality ramen more than makes up for the plain décor and elbow-to-elbow seating. Coming in various seasoning options—such as black garlic, miso, and chilli pepper—the pork soup base is flavourful, yet light enough to slurp until the last drop. However, the true MVP here is the lightly torched char siu.
With alternating layers of fat and meat and perfectly charred skin, the tender slices of braised pork belly simply melt in your mouth and pair perfectly with their springy noodles. If your stomach space permits, top off your meal with their uber-fluffy takoyaki ($30).
Menya Yamashita, 63 San Hong Street, Sheung Shui | (+852) 6482 7340
Think classic cart noodles but with an elevated twist! Nestled amongst a sea of restaurants on Jockey Club Road, this local neighbourhood noodle shop earned its esteemed notoriety from its chicken-based broth, which is simmered with the finest ingredients and herbs and made without a hint of MSG.
Feng Ming House (鳳鳴居) offers a plethora of interesting riffs on its signature chicken noodle soup, including mala ($50), laksa ($50), tomato ($50), and cordyceps flowers ($58), but without question, their bestseller goes to the red date- and wine-infused drunken chicken soup ($50). Apart from their list of specialities, you can also customise your own bowl and pick your own toppings!
Feng Ming House (鳳鳴居), 154 Jockey Club Road, Sheung Shui | (+852) 2726 0008
Come for the fully loaded burgers, stay for the atmosphere. The grey-toned industrial interiors of this hip café are dressed up with hanging plants and kitschy décor, creating a homely space that is well-suited for catch-ups with friends and casual dates.
Settle in and treat yourself to their crowd-drawing classic cheeseburger ($75) or chef-recommended Thousand Island seafood burger ($98), both of which come with perfectly toasted buns, homemade patties, and their own special sauce! Save room for dessert, as their caramel banana walnut waffles ($62) are not to be missed.
Homy Burger Café, 21 San Cheung Street, Sheung Shui | (+852) 5408 6449
Escape the maddening crowds and savour a relaxing afternoon at this quaint village café enveloped by potted plants and pretty foliage. Step inside and you’ll find that the friendly and carefree environment is further enhanced by a vibrant display of handmade crafts that customers can purchase.
Atma specialises in coffee—offering a range of pour-over options and espresso drinks—but they also serve up an ever-changing menu of whimsical food creations, allowing you to venture beyond the traditional and thrill your tastebuds with the likes of pesto pasta-stuffed bagel sandwich ($50) and winter melon lemon tea cake ($40).
Atma, 46 Man Kok Tsuen, Sheung Shui Wai, Sheung Shui | (+852) 6698 2085
With white brick walls, clean wooden surfaces, and a giant, wall-mounted chalkboard menu displaying the specialities on offer, this rustic café fits right into its laid-back surrounds. Although their menu is on the smaller side, the food is generously portioned, affordably priced, and executed with attention and care.
Satisfy your carnivorous cravings with the thick-cut Spanish Ibérico pork loin ($98) or grilled New Zealand rib-eye steak ($98), served with a choice of rice, spaghetti, or fries. For something lighter, the Caesar salad with camembert cheese and melon ($58) is refreshing and bursting with a vibrant medley of flavours and textures.
Twins Bistro, 109 San Shing Avenue, Sheung Shui | (+852) 2539 8208