What used to be a well known red light district and a place frequented by sailors, has now been transformed through an expanse of new development. Mason’s The World of Suzy Wong gave Wan Chai its reputation for go-go bars back in the 1950s however today it is one of Hong Kong’s busiest commercial hubs.
Located to the north of Hong Kong Island, Wan Chai was one of the first areas to be developed in Hong Kong. Over the years, through several phases of land reclamation, the district now stretches out further to accommodate the expanding population and development. On the flip side, with its dense population and aging buildings, urban renewal projects are underway to deal with the ongoing urban decay.
While the area is undergoing continuous upgrades, it is still a fantastic place to stay with excellent shopping, sightseeing and some stunning skyscrapers to admire. This metropolitan area includes some of Hong Kongs most notable buildings such as the Convention and Exhibition Centre just across from Victoria Harbour, Central Plaza known for being the third tallest building in Hong Kong, while the Hopewell Centre is noted for its high stance and revolving restaurant. For some of Wan Chai’s best views, head up the Central Plaza during the day to its 46th floor where you can get a fantastic free view of the island and harbour.
Apart from the many buildings, Wan Chai is also a great place to visit historical conservation sites. The Hung Shing Temple is a simply built temple on Queen’s Road East that was constructed in the mid 1800s. When it was originally built it overlooked the seashore, however with the many land reclamations, it now sits rather out of place in amongst the commercial buildings of the inner city. Another temple you may want to visit is the Taoist Pak Tai Temple.
Once you have admired the temples of Wan Chai, Lovers’ Rock is a popular destination. Located near Shiu Fai Terrace, this special hillside rock is thought to grant happiness to marriages of its worshippers.
For something a bit more cultural, you are bound to find something that takes your fancy. Wan Chai is one of Hong Kong’s major cultural hubs of both foreign and local culture with arts centres, concerts, dances and musicals appearing throughout the year.
While the area has largely moved away from its go-go past, the sex industry still remains alive. While most hang around the seedier bars, some choose the nicer places for their base so just be careful about those you meet. In any case just have your wits about you and you won’t have any trouble.
If you decide to stay, a couple of Wan Chai hotels to look into include The Wesley on Hennessy Road which is a simple and affordable hotel near the hussle and bustle of the city - perfect for those on a budget. For those wanting something a little fancier, try the Cosmopolitan Hotel near Times Square.