Header image courtesy of West Kowloon Cultural District (Facebook)
The name “West Kowloon Cultural District” comes up on the news every now and then, but it’s not always accompanied by much detail. Many questions remain, such as, “Is it open yet? What is there to do? Where is it exactly, even?” Fear not—our neighbourhood guide to the West Kowloon Cultural District will cover everything you need to know as you plan your summer merrymaking in Hong Kong.
It all started a surprising two decades ago in 1996 when a survey conducted by the Hong Kong Tourism Board discovered that tourists found Hong Kong lacking in cultural opportunities. The city’s first Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa agreed, and proposed the establishment of the West Kowloon Cultural District in his 1998 policy address, aiming to elevate Hong Kong as an arts and culture hub.
However, the ambitious project was repeatedly stalled over the years because of planning, financial, and design problems. In the end, the government decided to build up the district in separate phases instead of working on the entire 40 hectares of reclaimed land all at once. While future venues that are still under construction include two art museums, a dance centre, a convention centre, and more, there’s already plenty to do at the District now. So pack your bags and take the MTR to either Kowloon Station or Austin Station; after a few minutes’ walk, you’re set for a full day of unwinding at the Cultural District.
Bask in the stunning sea view and relax at the sprawling, green heart of the Cultural District. At Art Park and the adjacent waterfront promenade, you can enjoy a picnic, go jogging, walk your dog, and cycle along on one of their shared bikes, but you can also play frisbee, ball games, skateboard, and fly a kite—a rarity for Hong Kong parks. Didn’t pack lunch? There’s also a slew of bars, cafés, and restaurants nearby, as well as a pet-friendly café that serves chips and ice cream for dogs. If you’re lucky, you might catch a street performance, too! Lastly, finish the day by admiring the gorgeous sunset over Victoria Harbour.
Art Park, West Kowloon Cultural District, 18 Museum Drive, Tsim Sha Tsui
Near the Art Park is the smaller Nursery Park, which doubles as a tree nursery and testing grounds for plants to be grown in the Art Park in the future. Whether it’s salt-tolerant waterfront plants, seasonal woodland plants, shade-tolerant urban plants, or Southeast Asian orchards, all types of plants can be found in this small plant-lovers’ paradise. Feel free to call (+852) 2200 0778 or email [email protected] ask for a guided tour of the park or just picnic and admire seasonal colour changes of the plants at the park.
Nursery Park, West Kowloon Cultural District, 18 Museum Drive, Tsim Sha Tsui
Next to the Nursery Park is a building you might’ve seen before in people’s photoshoots on Instagram. Well, wonder where it is no more. Named “Growing Up” because it symbolises how Hong Kong is nurturing its arts scene in the West Kowloon Cultural District, the pavilion is the winning design out of 300-plus entries in the first Hong Kong Young Architects & Designers Competition. The pavilion offers a gorgeous sea view in addition to being a highly photogenic spot with its layered design of distinctive lines and soothing timbre.
“Growing Up” Pavilion, West Kowloon Cultural District, 18 Museum Drive, Tsim Sha Tsui
Don’t be fooled by its drab, utilitarian exterior—as the city’s new hub for all types of contemporary performance, Freespace is bursting with creativity. The collection of spaces that is Freespace includes the largest black box theatre in Hong Kong, convertible studios, and multipurpose rooms, as well as a small bar and performance space that regularly hosts the best from the local music scene. Take a look at their events page to see what kinds of musical, theatrical, or artistic performances and exhibits are on at the moment.
Freespace, West Kowloon Cultural District, 18 Museum Drive, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2200 0217
Though the M+ Pavilion is only a temporary home for exhibitions meant for the still-under-construction M+ Museum, the glossy building is a perfect place for some cooling air-con enjoyment, more sea views, and free admission to see good art. The Pavilion has been closed since mid-May to replace exhibits but will open again on 1 July for the sculptural Shirley Tse: Stakes and Holders exhibit.
M+ Pavilion, West Kowloon Cultural District, 18 Museum Drive, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2200 0217
Separated from the other facilities by a swathe of construction sites on the other end of the promenade is the Xiqu Centre, Hong Kong’s premier venue for Cantonese opera and traditional forms of Chinese theatre—in fact, its name xiqu is a transliteration of the Chinese term for Chinese opera (戲曲). Step through the main entrance of the sleek building (shaped to resemble parted stage curtains!) and drop in on guided tours, talks on Chinese culture, cultural craft workshops, and, of course, to watch a performance or two of Cantonese opera.
Xiqu Centre also boasts a signature Tea House Theatre Experience, a 90-minute showcase of various vocal and musical styles specifically designed to enlighten those new to Cantonese opera. While traditional dim sum and tea are normally served during the performance for the ultimate Cantonese experience, the Tea House Theatre is currently offering 15 percent off their tickets and a complimentary drink after the performance instead due to COVID-19 safety measures.
Xiqu Centre, 88 Austin Road West, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2200 0217
Right beside the Cultural District is the West Kowloon Station, the terminus of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, more commonly referred to as the high-speed rail. The station’s interior is already an architectural marvel by itself, with its wavy, arching white ceiling, but the building’s most notable aspect is the green plaza surrounding and atop the station. Climb the elegantly named Sky Corridor, before unwinding among the lush greenery on the rooftop sightseeing deck and soak in a panoramic view of the Victoria Harbour from a brand-new, elevated angle. And though the station is closed until further notice at the moment because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, it’s certainly worth checking out another day.
After running around the park with your favourite pooch, treat yourselves to a light meal at the pet-friendly café Hooman. Their menu features a selection of creative hot dog combinations named after different dog breeds, with the option to build your own hot dog if you fancy. On the side, try their decadent Creamy Truffle Fries ($78), the healthier Acai & Mixed Berries Yoghurt Parfait ($68), or the refreshing Lemon Espresso Tonic ($58). The café also sells ice cream for dogs from Hugo & Celine with flavours such as Lickin’ Liver and Happy Herring—feed your pup some and he’ll be ever grateful towards his favourite hooman.
Hooman, Shop GF07, G/F, Art Park, West Kowloon Cultural District, 18 Museum Drive, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 6749 0777
Rest Coffee Gin distinguishes itself amongst cafés not only because it’s a café by day and a bar by night, but also because they don’t have a drink menu. Instead, the shop invites customers to step in smell the various coffee beans sourced from around the world before picking a brew for a more personalised and highly customisable experience. The same goes for the tea leaves and matcha powders they offer as well. When the sun sets, customers may choose from almost a hundred different types of gin paired with any one of eight different kinds of tonic, all to be enjoyed along classy mains include the Grilled Iberico Pork Blade Shoulder ($178) and the A3 Wagyu Beef Cutlet Sandwich ($318).
Rest Coffee Gin, Shop GF04, G/F, Art Park, West Kowloon Cultural District, 18 Museum Drive, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2697 8938
Luxuriate in an artisanal meal of fusion Asian-French cuisine after your long day out. Highlights include their sweet and briny Sea Urchin Risotto ($398) and the firm and juicy Grilled French Duck Breast in Jasmine Maltose ($328), though those who wish to try the whole range of what PANO has to offer may want to opt for the expertly balanced 10-course tasting menu ($1,188). Dine on starters such as the beautifully presented Applewood Smoked Organic Broccoli Royale with Hokkaido Sea Urchin and aromatic mains like the Allspice Maltose French Pigeon with Shallot Purée all while soaking up the glistening waters and views of Victoria Harbour from their alfresco seating and floor-to-ceiling windows.
PANO, Shop 1, 1/F, Art Park, West Kowloon Cultural District, 18 Museum Drive, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2361 9600
Of course there’s going to be a Cantonese dim sum place in Hong Kong’s Cultural District! Continue the cultural immersion at FAM 囍公館, where you can pick from a wide selection of traditional Cantonese dishes and dim sum, some endowed with a modern twist. Whether it’s the velvety Boneless Sichuan Chicken Fillet with Chilli Oil, Artichokes & Spring Onion ($168), or the ingeniously plated Deep-Fried Turnip Cake ($78), you can’t go wrong with kicking back and enjoying a few shared plates of Cantonese food here.
FAM 囍公館, Shop GF01–03, G/F, Art Park, West Kowloon Cultural District, 18 Museum Drive, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2866 3667
On the ground floor of Freespace is a continuation of the building’s performance-centred vision, as the Lau Bak Freespace Livehouse is a bar, restaurant, and music venue all rolled into one. Sip on craft beers and signature cocktails as you watch live music performances by some of the best from the local music scene and check out their fusion dinner menu as well, including the intriguing Cabbage Farfalle with Tom Yum Kung ($128) and their hearty weekend brunch menu, featuring the Instagrammable All Day Breakfast ($148).
Lau Bak Freespace Livehouse, G/F, Freespace, West Kowloon Cultural District, 18 Museum Drive, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2868 4333
Feast on artisanal pizzas while gazing out across the harbour at Café Bohème! Their signature Prosciutto Di Parma Pizza ($158)—in which the crisp yet fluffy dough is topped with fresh arugula and generous slices of prosciutto—is a must-try, and so is their Reine Pizza ($148), featuring Italian baked ham and basil leaves. The seaside restaurant also provides a few salads for a healthier option, as well as Italian desserts such as the curious Nutella & Banana Pizza ($88).
Café Bohème, Shop GF06, G/F, Art Park, West Kowloon Cultural District, 18 Museum Drive, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 5322 7969
This homely Japanese coffeehouse is a great pit stop for those who feel like grabbing a bite of Japanese sweets or affordable Japanese-Italian fusion dishes. Notable mains include the umami-laced Spaghetti with Saikyo Miso Salmon ($88), and snacks include the unique Deep-Fried Chicken Skin Gyoza ($68 for eight pieces). Kick back and appreciate this cosy corner’s Japanese and Western café aesthetics.
WabiSabi Coffee • Kissa, Shop GF05, G/F, Art Park, West Kowloon Cultural District, 18 Museum Drive, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 5282 8432