Header image courtesy of @kylauf (via Shutterstock)
While Shanghai Street is mostly known for its high number of kitchenware shops, you may not know that a new tourist attraction quietly opened its doors on the street at the beginning of last year. Like PMQ, Tai Kwun, and The Mills before it, 618 Shanghai Street is a revitalised mall that plays into Hongkongers’ collective nostalgia and appetite for commercial spaces influenced by culture and art. The site, which comprises 14 protected historical buildings, was once a strip of waterfront shophouses or tong lau (唐樓) selling sweetened fruit tobacco, electrical appliances, medicinal tea, and leather goods.
One hundred years (and a lot of land reclamation) later, it’s now an up-and-coming mall—far from the water—that’s been painstakingly restored and revitalised with modern additions. Inside, you’ll find retro photo ops, murals paying homage to the street’s history, and independent local businesses selling and making all manner of goods. Read on for our top picks on where to eat, drink, and shop in this underrated gem!
While the original Bunkaya Zakkaten—a quirky, chaotic thrift shop in Harajuku selling kitschy clothing, accessories, and all manner of knickknacks—has long since closed, the brand is still alive and well in Hong Kong, with two other locations dotted around the city. Dig through cool, colourful wares like jellyfish umbrellas, piranha plant lamps, and onigiri (御握り; rice ball) ring boxes that you definitely don’t need, but will probably want—you never quite know what you’re going to get, but that's part of the fun!
Bunkaya Zakkaten, Shop 104, 1/F, 618 Shanghai Street, Mong Kok
As indicated by the large sign saying 雜貨 (miscellaneous goods) in the window, Wai Chi Street Playground (黑地) doesn’t specialise in anything in particular—the items for sale range from cookware to juicers and small pruning scissors, vintage Fire King glassware, and various odds and ends. Look a little closer, however, and you’ll find a lot of nostalgic local products, like cha chaan teng (茶餐廳; Hong Kong-style tea restaurant) teacups, flip clocks, and traditional Chinese longevity cups.
Wai Chi Street Playground, Shop G04C, 618 Shanghai Street, Mong Kok | (+852) 9806 1476
Vintage lovers need no introduction to Midwest—this Americana-themed thrift store has been around for years, selling a mix of mint-condition threads, as well as a large amount of upcycled pieces and an original “first editions” line of clothing. Browse through racks of raglan tees, bomber jackets, patchwork denim, and more.
Midwest Vintage, Shop 101, 1/F, 618 Shanghai Street, Mong Kok
With its perfectly imperfect wabi-sabi ceramics and airy, tranquil atmosphere, Useless Studio is sure to please the hipster Japanophile in your life. Handmade pottery is artfully placed throughout the space as if setting the scene for a dinner party, with styles ranging from delicate sunset-gradient cups to raw coffee dripper sets with rust-like glazes. If you like what you see and fancy trying your hand at building, throwing, or pinching your own clay, Useless also hosts regular ceramics classes.
Useless Studio, Shop 105, 1/F, 618 Shanghai Street, Mong Kok
For a serene-yet-surprising shopping experience where you can browse everything from antique wooden furniture to preserved butterflies in bell jars, and books with pages that have been ripped to look like mountain ranges, head to Chang Chang Goodstore. This quirky local favourite is full of functional everyday goods with unexpected features and twists, like a metal trivet for holding your teapot that looks like it’s being supported by rabbits (yes, really) and a collection of toast-shaped plates, each smaller than the last. It’s the perfect place to find a cool gift for the design lover in your life—even if that person is yourself.
Chang Chang Goodstore, Shop G04A, 618 Shanghai Street, Mong Kok
Enjoy a meal of authentic Singaporean hawker fare and support a worthy cause at the same time at Dignity Kitchen, a social enterprise restaurant that gives employment opportunities to people with disabilities. Beyond just serving up fragrant Straits favourites like nasi lemak (starting from $60) and Hainan chicken rice ($75), Dignity Kitchen also has a wonderful “pay it forward” programme, where customers can purchase $50 vouchers that will go towards feeding the needy.
Dignity Kitchen, Shop 201–202, 2/F, 618 Shanghai Street, Mong Kok
At Silver Café, instead of exiting through the gift shop, you enter through a stationery shop, which functions more as a time capsule of old school Hong Kong than a bona fide store. Push through the nets of plastic footballs hanging from the ceiling and flip through a manga book or two before walking into this cute retro eatery. Modelled on traditional Hong Kong bing sutt (冰室; “ice room”) cafés of yore, Silver Café offers a menu of comforting local dishes like dry-fried beef noodles ($52), thick-cut toast ($16), and baked pork chop rice ($65).
Silver Café, Shop 301A & 302, 3/F, 618 Shanghai Street, Mong Kok
For those who love rooftop bars and cafés—and who doesn’t?—no visit to 618 Shanghai Street is complete without a cheeky drink at Poach. This café and restaurant is a retro-chic mish-mash of Chinese and Japanese aesthetics, with neon signs, artsy murals, and boho rattan cocoon chairs dotted around its indoor-outdoor space. Poach is famous for its sweet dishes like the signature Earl Grey mochi pancakes ($85), but you can also dig into savouries like sake grilled eel, miso grilled mackerel, or hamburger steak as part of their three-course lunch set (starting from $150). Don’t forget to wash it all down with some of their delicious homemade drinks like the pomelo lemon soda ($55) or Earl Grey chocolate ($55).
Poach, Rooftop, 618 Shanghai Street, Mong Kok | (+852) 9220 9785
Just like at its original shop in Sham Shui Po, a queue is pretty much guaranteed at the 618 branch of this retro Malaysian kopitiam (coffee shop)—but you’ll soon forget about any inconvenience once you dig into the comforting Straits cuisine on offer. All the classics are available—from Semua Semua’s signature green nasi lemak (starting from $58), to coconutty little square of kaya toast ($28), and warming, wholesome bak kut teh (starting from $42). Feeling snacky? Round out your lunch with the otak-otak (grilled fish cake; $45) and sotong kangkung (cuttlefish with water spinach; $52).
Kedai Kopi Semua Semua, Shop G01, 618 Shanghai Street, Mong Kok | (+852) 2389 3829
As its Chinese name suggests, Chichasanchen specialises in “tea you can chew”—a.k.a. sweet, life-giving bubble tea. This popular Taiwanese import is beloved for its classic boba milk tea ($30) and photogenic brown sugar bubble milk ($33, but there are also iced fruit teas, cheese foam-topped teas, and a sweet-and-sour lemon condensed milk ($29). And thanks to the chain’s ingenious cupholder-sling design, you can enjoy your drink for as long as you like without having to hold on to a steadily more slippery plastic cup.
Chichasanchen, Shop G04D, 618 Shanghai Street, Mong Kok