Header image courtesy of The Mills 南豐紗廠 (via Facebook)
Originally published by Sarah Moran. Last updated by Jen Paolini.
After five years of careful renovation, a former textile factory in Tsuen Wan re-opened as The Mills. Built during the 1950s and 1960s, the three buildings (known as Mills 4, 5, and 6) once housed the King of Hong Kong’s cotton yarn business—Nan Fung Textiles—during the city’s manufacturing boom. Today, the defunct mills have been recast into an innovative art and culture destination. We step inside the stunning building complex to see what it has in store for visitors. Follow our guide to discover what to do, eat, and see at The Mills.
The Mills pays tribute to its garment-making past by dedicating an entire business space, The Mills Fabrica, to innovative start-ups at the intersection of fashion, textiles, and technology. Fabrica is a business incubator and springboard, providing facilities such as studio spaces, a fabrication lab, and photo and media studio, where start-ups can build their businesses. It also features a common area for start-ups to build relationships with each other. Start-ups in Fabrica are offered mentorship programmes, marketing, sales, and promotion support, as well as supplier and investor connections.
The Mills Fabrica, 4/F, The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan | (+852) 3979 2335
In collaboration with the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation and six Hong Kong artists, The Mills unveiled a series of murals along Pak Tin Par Lane, interpreting themes of the past, present, and future of the former cotton mill. From colourful designs featuring the age-old game of cat’s cradle (to highlight the importance of deft hands in the textile industry) to vintage renditions of the working environment in the former Nang Fung Cotton Mills, the collection of murals offer a glimpse into the flourishing abilities of up-and-coming Hong Kong creatives as well as the successful results of efficiently nurturing local talents. Plus, they make for wonderful photography subjects, and a great way to brighten up your Instagram feed.
If you are hoping to encourage the younger generation to take an interest in traditional Cantonese arts, there is no better place to start than at Cha Duk Chang. Set up as a children’s association for Cantonese opera, Cha Duk Chang crafts original scripts and stories for kids to learn and perform, introducing them to the art form through familiar topics, such as daily life. Plays are also written in language that is suitable for children’s dialogue to help them discover Cantonese opera and Chinese culture. Using the stage as a classroom, Cha Duk Chang’s unique teaching environment allows children to develop a sense of self-confidence, creativity, self-expression, and how to work together in a team.
Cha Duk Chang, Shop 122–123, 1/F, The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan | (+852) 3488 4595
Managed by the non-profit MILL6 Foundation, the Centre for Heritage, Arts, and Textile (CHAT) is a unique exhibition and studio space at The Mills which houses seasonal and permanent exhibitions. Visitors can explore The Mills’ textile history through its three galleries that combine contemporary art, design, science, heritage, community, and craftsmanship. Not only do the galleries showcase the work of artists, designers, and local talents, but they also give shoppers the opportunity to interact with the creators behind art, listen to talks by the artists, and attend immersive co-learning workshops.
Centre for Heritage, Arts, and Textile (CHAT), 2/F, The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan
Note: Due to Covid-19, the Centre for Heritage, Arts, and Textile (CHAT) is temporarily closed. Please check their opening times.
Five years were spent revamping the disused cotton mills, but if that’s not immediately apparent, that’s because it was intentional. Architects working on The Mills left several remnants of the complex’s past for visitors to discover, from the chipped paint to the old-fashioned “no smoking” stencilling on the wall and exposed beams, untouched to pay homage to the buildings’ industrial past.
Items such as the metal gate leading into the previous Mill 4 remain adorned with imagery from one of Nan Fung Textiles’ champion brands, the Golden Cup. Other historical features, such as the iconic NF5 gate, original green staircases, and old-school sand buckets have also been retained as a reminder of the factory workers whose hard work built the Nan Fung fortune.
The Mills is not just a haven for the artistic culture vulture—it’s also the perfect playground to let the little ones learn, play, and stay engaged. Whether they are upping their problem-solving and team-building skills at Lost Junior, an escape room concept developed for kids up to age 14, or engaging in games and creative learning courses that include robotics, web coding, and entrepreneurship at Techbob Discovery Centre, The Mills will effortlessly keep children and parents entertained. If you need a break from strolling through the art hub and the kids still have lots of energy to burn, sneak in a respite at The Big Things, an indoor playground designed by Finnish innovators who have more than 40 years of experience building eco-friendly designs. Let them explore sensory play and physical activities themed around the natural world.
Lost Junior, Shop 201, 2/F, The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan | (+852) 2890 3029
Techbob Discovery Centre, Shop 202, 2/F, The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan | (+852) 6218 2306
The Big Things, Shop 205–207, 2/F, The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan | (+852) 6292 1808
Indulge your sweet tooth at Between Haru by Studio Sweet Petite K, a gorgeous dessert shop that specialises in homemade baked goods and seasonal cakes and tarts. Nestle yourself within rustic oaken counters and bright walls and tuck into brunch and breakfast dishes and a selection of espresso beverages for a light meal. It also offers baking workshops, led by instructors who cut their teeth in South Korea and Japan. Opt for the soybean black sugar French toast ($88), served with mascarpone and caramelised bananas, and finish off with a cinnamon bun ($35) with homemade cream cheese icing.
Between Haru by Studio Sweet Petite K, Shop 103, 1/F, The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan | (+852) 3956 2082
For a well-brewed cuppa, head over to beloved local coffee brand Coco Espresso’s new café and roastery, Koko Coffee Roasters, where you can also buy coffee beans, drip bags, and canned cold brews to take home. Set within a large industrial space with rows upon rows of communal tables, Koko Coffee Roasters doubles as the perfect place to park your laptop and get some work done in a coffee-fuelled environment, or take a breather from your stroll through The Mills.
Koko Coffee Roasters, Shop G09, G/F, The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan
Craving a taste of authentic Hong Kong diner fare? At Wong Pai Bing Sutt, the classics elements of cha chaan teng (茶餐廳; Hong Kong-style cafés) cuisine are revived, drawing from the historic influences of the Kowloon Walled City to inspire its dishes. Oozing warmth and tight-knit community atmosphere, Wong Pai Bing Sutt pays tribute to the Hong Kong street scenes of old, using pawn shop-inspired neon signage to decorate its walls. Providing daily set lunches and a breakfast menu to all-day selections, familiar dishes make up the bulk of the offerings, such as the satay beef instant noodles ($32) and the delectable milk-fried egg with char siu and prawns with rice ($62).
Wong Pai Bing Sutt, Shop 304, 3/F, The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan | (+852) 5208 7703
You would not be able to guess from its name, but Europa Tea Foundry actually focuses on authentic flavours from Taiwan. Specialising in fruit tea and tea lattes, this popular Taiwanese bubble tea store has branches across Hong Kong, but none as sleek and stylish as its location in The Mills. Fitting in seamlessly with the modern-meets-industrial design approach of The Mills, Europa Tea Foundry and makes the perfect spot for a casual bubble tea pick-me-up. For drinks, the signature Assam milk foam tea ($37) with “cheeze” or the prime Jin-Xuan oolong tea ($45) usually catch our fancy.
Europa Tea Foundry, Shop 118, 1/F, The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan | (+852) 3618 7576
For a flavourful blast from the past, saunter down to New Big Light, the contemporary iteration of Big Light, a traditional alleyway wonton shop that dates back to the 1960s. As the story goes, master noodle maker Xu You-wu would start his day setting up shop in the alleys of Cooke Street in Hung Hom, aided by the gentle light of his oil lamp. Loved by food critics and celebrities alike, Big Light became the pinnacle of alleyway wonton noodles, and Master Xu’s disciples have now carried his art into the modern age. When here, the signature wonton noodles ($33) are a must-order.
New Big Light, Shop G14, G/F, The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan | (+852) 3586 1816
Homegrown burger concept Honbo, first popularised in their flagship eatery on Star Street, has since expanded to The Mills, bringing its top-notch bites to the New Territories. Founded by Montreal-raised Hongkonger Michael Chan, this indie burger shop has won accolades for shining a spotlight on locally-sourced ingredients—its burger buns are baked by an artisanal baker and its beef brisket and lettuce are sourced from a nearby Yuen Long farm. Must-tries include the signature Honbo burger ($88) with three two-ounce patties, pickles, cheese, onion, and house sauce, and the Impossible burger ($108).
Honbo, Shop 303, 3/F, The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan
If a flower-powered brunch is your ultimate vibe, then Fleur is going to become your new favourite weekend hangout. A floral-themed all-day eatery that uses flowers for both decoration and edible purposes, Fleur aims to foster a sophisticated dining experience that will have you admiring not only the impeccable plating of its dishes but the full flavours of its recipes. Opt for the Croissant Lover ($128), made with deep-fried soft-shell crab, sunny-side-up egg, pickles, and Sriracha mayo, and topped with edible flowers, of course.
Fleur, Shop G08, G/F, The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan | (+852) 2836 6280
For a contemporary take on Chinese cuisine, check out Palate Mansion for their refreshing renditions of your favourite traditional dishes. Unconventional and playful, the restaurant draws upon nostalgic Hong Kong themes to develop its retro-inspired atmosphere, from its colourful interior design to its adorable foods. Although its dim sum and modern noodle dishes are commendable, the stars of the show are the trio of Airplane Chess molten lava buns ($40), which are sure to awaken fond childhood memories.
Palate Mansion, Shop 109–110, 1/F, The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan | (+852) 3169 6688
Well-known for incubating the burgeoning craft beer scene in bustling Mong Kok, The Ale Project (TAP) has now introduced its winning formula to The Mills. Opened by Young Master Ales, one of Asia’s leading craft breweries, this taproom offers top-tier beverages from Hong Kong and beyond, serving an eclectic selection curated by professional brewers and certified beer judges, as well as the full range from Young Master Ales.
The Ale Project (TAP), Shop 302, 3/F, The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan | (+852) 2331 2621