Sham Shui Po

This working class neighbourhood of Sham Shui Po is scruffy and gritty, but it is proud of its rough edges and revels in its position of unique haven for shoppers and foodies. Those seeking to venture beyond the smart retail districts and glitz of the glass and steel skyscrapers will be pleased with what they find. There are many exciting things to do in Sham Shui Po. Discover this neighbourhood’s charms for yourself with one or more of our picks and discover the authentic, local Hong Kong.

1. Learn about Hong Kong’s public housing at Mei Ho Lau

Mei Ho House once formed part of Hong Kong’s oldest public housing estate, called the Shek Kip Mei Housing Estate. Where flimsy squatter huts used to stand you will now encounter just one of the 29 concrete tower blocks erected in 1954 to rehome the 53,000 or so residents whose homes had been destroyed in a devastating fire. Look closely and you will see that it has a distinctive H-shape, its two residential blocks linked by communal areas. Mei Ho House now operates as a youth hostel and there is also a museum open to the public.

2. Join our Sham Shui Po Foodie Tour

We are proud to say that we were one of the pioneers bringing visitors into this foodie neighbourhood when we developed our Sham Shui Po Foodie Tour back in 2013. In fact, we were one of the award winners of the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s 1st New Tour Product Development Scheme the same year. Several times a week, we lead hungry travellers to this tasty corner of Kowloon, where they try pineapple buns and milk tea, handmade egg noodles, northern dumplings, tofu dessert and freshly baked cookies straight from the oven. Those who come tell us they love exploring such an authentic neighbourhood, eat where the locals do and get a glimpse into what life is like in this working class area.

3. Hunt for tech treasure in Ap Liu Street

Once it had an unsavoury reputation as a thieves’ market, but Ap Liu Street has cleaned up its act. The flea market which runs the whole of its length is the setting for one of our favourite things to do in Sham Shui Po. Unleash your inner geek and hunt for tech-related treasure in this sprawling mass of stalls and stores. Who knows, you might find that vintage electronics make the perfect collectibles.

4. Enjoy a beautiful sunset at Garden Hill

It is only a fifteen-minute hike to the top of Garden Hill, but that extra elevation makes all the difference when it comes to optimising the view. Named after the Garden Bakery at the foot of the hill, the top of this 90-metre high hill is a great place to watch the sun slip down behind Sham Shui Po. Take a seat to watch the sunset and then make your way back down the stone steps to the city below before darkness envelopes the scene.

5. Shop for fabric at Yen Chow Street’s temporary hawker bazaar

Sham Shui Po (and the neighboring Cheung Sha Wan district) was once a hub for textiles and manufacturing. That heritage is reflected in the goods on offer at the market in Yen Chow Street. Thousands of bolts of fabric piled high on the stalls of the bazaar make for a riot of colour. Whether you are a keen dressmaker or simply looking for a brand new hobby, this is where you’ll find the widest range of fabrics and haberdashery.

6. Learn about leather on Tai Nan Street

Craft workshops are a great way to learn a skill or develop a new hobby. If you have ever thought of trying your hand at the art of leather making, then make your way to Tai Nan Street and book a place at a workshop. If you still need inspiration, the premises are packed with rolls of leather in all imaginable colours, as well as bags, belts and other fancy goods just begging to be taken home with you.

7. Tap into your artsy side with these haberdashery favourites

There is no question about what you will find if you visit Yu Chau Street (Beads Street) and Nam Cheong Street (Ribbon Street). Their nicknames hold true today with plenty of retail outlets selling these common bits and bobs. The diverse range of beads and ribbons on sale will delight any crafter; leave room in your suitcase to take some home with you.

8. Get your umbrella fixed at Sun Nga Shing Umbrella Store

Are you guilty of chucking out an umbrella just because a spoke’s busted? Next time, don’t bin it, take it to Uncle Wai at this Sham Shui Po institution. Fixing umbrellas has been the family trade since 1842 and he is happy to continue the tradition. Uncle Wai also considers himself something of a green artist, up-cycling throwaway items into lanterns and other handicrafts. But it is selling and fixing umbrellas that pays the rent, so if you have been caught short on a rainy day, why not pay him a visit?

9. Indulge your nostalgia as you purchase vintage toys at Fuk Wing Street

Toy Street, as it is known, is the place to come if you want a nostalgic look at the past. If you grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, you are likely to find plenty to reminisce about. But there are also plenty of toys for the 21st century kid too, so when you’ve finished reliving your own childhood, pick up a bargain toy or some cute school stationery for the kids in your family.

10. Make soap at Savon Workshop

When it comes to hands-on things to do in Sham Shui Po, it is hard to beat the satisfaction that comes with making your own soap. Each month, the staff of Savon Workshop lead classes that teach you how to make a different kind of soap. All materials and tools will be provided and tutors are on hand to help with every stage of the process. If you don’t have the patience, visit their shop which stocks a range of artisan soaps and skincare products made by the professionals.

11. Be inspired by the vibrant street art

HKwalls, a street art festival, came to Sham Shui Po in 2016. Check out the online gallery and then set off on foot to see these fabulous works for yourself. One of the most famous locations for street art in the area is the Man Fung Building. Okuda San Miguel came over from Madrid to transform a residential building on Tai Nan Street with a mural Rainbow Thief, a kaleidoscopic marvel of geometric shapes.

12. Eat at a Dai Pai Dong at the Night Market 

The late great Anthony Bourdain checked out this night market earlier this year as part of a shoot for the popular Parts Unknown TV series in Hong Kong. We agree, classing a visit to a Dai Pai Dong as one of the best things to do in Sham Shui Po. In case you don’t know, Dai Pai Dong are open air food stalls serving some of the best rice and noodles – if you love seafood and stir fries you are going to love this. Dai Pai Dong have a long association with the area. Grab a plastic stool, find a space at a table and try seafood, sautéed dishes and even deep fried intestines cooked to order.

13. Seek out offerings for our ancestors at Bo Wah Paper Craft

Located on Fuk Wing Street, this gem of a store stocks every possible kind of paper effigy, including festive lion-dance heads and golden dragons. Boss Uncle Kin laid the foundations, but his son and current manager Au-Yeung Ping Chi has taken things a step further creating paper effigies of modern everyday items – such as a bowl of hot and sour noodles, a robot dog and even a scooter. This craft has been under threat from cheap imports from abroad, but Bo Wah, at least, is fighting against the tide.

14. Visit the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre

Housed in what used to be a factory, the JCCAC is now the base of more than a hundred artists and art organisations. Their specialisms span everything from painting to sculpture, ceramics to glass art and print-making. Multimedia and performance art is also represented, with photography, animation, video production, music, dance and drama all taking place on site. Events take place at the centre year-round, with the JCCAC Arts Festival an annual fixture every December.

15. Check out Hong Kong’s largest vinyl collection

Vinyl is enjoying something of a resurgence and in some parts of the world, sales are actually booming. The undisputed king of the Hong Kong vinyl scene is Paul Au. His collection numbers somewhere in the region of 300,000 records – and that’s a conservative estimate. Some 35,000 of them can be found at his Sham Shui Po store but if there is something specific you are after, it is best to call ahead in case it is languishing in his warehouse.

16. Snap some arty shots of Hong Kong’s old architecture

Two of the most iconic structures in Sham Shui Po are 170 Yee Kuk Street and the Sham Shui Po Chinese Public Dispensary. Both are Grade II listed Historic Buildings. The former is an example of a type of tenement building known as a tong lau, once common in the area. The windows are distinctive and the faded red calligraphy around its ground floor entrance also draws admirers. The latter is two-storey medical complex built in the 1930s which replaced an old clinic. It is a rare example of Art Deco architecture which is hard to find in Hong Kong these days.