Little Koo’s guide to shopping in Hong Kong

I’ve posted before (a long time ago) about shopping in Hong Kong but I think it’s time to do it again! When I first arrived in Hong Kong, I was so confused. I had heard that Hong Kong was a shopping mecca (and Hong Kongers certainly love to shop!) but I found that all the malls were full of designer labels, which I am not interested in and certainly must be out of the price range of many Hong Kongers. So where do they shop? Over the years (nearly 4 now) that I’ve been in Hong Kong, I’ve gradually found shops that I actually like shopping in and I now know where to get most things I want or need. So if you are new to Hong Kong, just visiting or looking for some inspiration, I thought I would share some of these places with you!

Little Koo's guide to shopping in Hong Kong

 

N.B. I’ve not stated where you can find any of these shops but I’ve linked to the store finder pages for their websites (where appropriate) so you can take a look for yourself.

Firstly, I should point out that nothing beats taking a walk around your local neighbourhood, or indeed any neighbourhood in Hong Kong. There are so many tiny independent shops and some of them are so handy for this or that. Whilst you may be a bit scared that the storekeeper won’t speak English (and they may well not, depending on where you are), it’s amazing how much you can get by with gesturing and if you want something specific you could try using google translate to show them the (traditional) Chinese characters! (N.B. it may be best to get a Cantonese friend to confirm the translation if possible!) My favourite shops are those little ones that sell ‘everything’ – mainly homewares, but then you discover stationery, gadgets and even (in one case) underwear! (I didn’t buy the underwear) So fascinating to look round.

I should also point out here the importance of buying something when you see it! So often I have thought about buying something later and then when I went back, it was gone. Boooo.

My favourite areas in Hong Kong to shop are Whampoa Gardens in Hung Hom (which happens to be very close to where I live) and City Plaza in Tai Koo. I feel like they have more of a range of affordable shops, of the kind that I like to shop in, rather than just miles of designer shops. Many of the shops below can be found in these areas but also in many other places in Hong Kong too.

Groceries

To start this shopping guide, if you are really new to Hong Kong then you’ll need to know where to buy groceries! Thankfully you are very likely to be near a Park N Shop or Wellcome supermarket wherever you are. Fusion, Taste, International and Great are also owned by Park N Shop. I personally prefer the Park N Shop stores over Wellcome as they have more western products, and I can buy most of the same food as in the UK here (if different brands). Market Place is owned by Wellcome but has more of a range of international products. If you like your supermarkets more upscale, then check out city’super, Oliver’s or ThreeSixty.

Markets

Supermarket fruit and veg isn’t the greatest, so you might want to head to your nearest wet market. These sell mostly fresh produce (although some of it may be a little fresher than you’re used to!). including meat, fish, fruit and vegetables and are generally housed in government centres in each area (try googling ‘wet market <area name>’ to find one in a specific area). Many also have stalls selling local ingredients (great if you like to cook Chinese food!), dried seafood (smelly!) and a cooked food centre on the top floor. The cooked food centres are like low budget food courts, with cheap (mostly) local food. The few times I have been, the food has been pretty good although they can be a little confusing if you are new to Hong Kong. Some have table service, and often this means that if you sit at a specific table you are tied to the food from a specific vendor. It’s all good fun though, and if you’re not feeling that adventurous get a friend to take you!

While we’re talking about markets, there are street markets as well as the wet markets. My favourite is the one in Wanchai, on Tai Yuen St and Cross St, just south of the MTR. It’s not huge but it has a nice range of stalls. I go there to buy plastic shoes for myself (useful in spring!) and swimsuits for the kids but I always leave with at least one other thing! The Lanes in Central (on Li Yuen Street East and Li Yuen Street West), has mainly clothes and accessories. Stanley Market (between the bus terminus and the sea) is quite touristy but has a mix of clothes (including cheap children’s clothes), toys, Chinese art and crafts and tourist items. Sham Shui Po street market (next to exit A of the MTR, on Pei Ho Street and Apliu Street) is a real local market with a mix of cheap clothes, second hand electronics, tools and much more.

The most famous markets in Hong Kong are the Ladies’ Market (Tung Hoi Street, Mongkok) and Temple Street Night Market (Temple Street, Jordan/Yau Ma Tei). These are pretty touristy but are quite a fun experience if you just want to browse or buy some tourist tat. They can get quite busy though! Temple Street Night Market has lots of restaurants and food stalls around too so you can make a night out of it. I think it opens at around 6pm.

Convenience stores

I can’t go much further without mentioning 7-Eleven. These little convenience stores are everywhere and they are so handy. As well as selling snacks and the all-important cold drinks (essential in summer), you can buy milk (useful if the supermarket is shut) and a few toiletries, top up your Octopus card, get cashback with an EPS card, pay bills and buy stamps. This last tip I only learned recently! There are alternatives to 7-Eleven, which include Circle K and V>nGo, which have similar services but I don’t know if they do everything that 7-Eleven does.

Clothes

H&M – I love this shop so much, even when I was in the UK I used to buy almost all of my clothes here and that hasn’t changed in Hong Kong. It helps that the price is about the same as in the UK too. And since I’ve had children (my twins are two and a half now) it’s my go-to place for kids’ clothes. They have some great designs and it’s reasonably priced too.

Uniqlo – another reasonably priced clothing store. Mostly the clothing isn’t to my taste but I’ve bought a few pieces there, and when my kids are a bit bigger I’ll start getting them the cute children’s clothing they have there too!

Marks & Spencer – I feel like this store is a little ‘old’ for me (I’m in my mid thirties) but the clothes are high quality and it’s good to take a look every now and again. The price of the clothes sold here is significantly higher than in the UK so I baulk a bit at the price! But if you really love M&S, you can shop from the UK site (with UK prices) and get it shipped here for £15. Marks and Spencer Food is taking off in Hong Kong (as it is in the UK) with new stores springing up all over the time. The food is expensive but really good!

Zara – another shop where I baulk a bit at the price but love to look around every now and again. It’s not designer prices though, and they have some beautiful clothes.

Gap – slightly overpriced in my opinion, but I’m not sure if the price is different to the stores in the UK. I do like their jeans though! The website is in Chinese but you can zoom in on the map to see where stores are in HK.

Forever 21 – cheap and cheerful fashion clothing. I think there is just one store in Hong Kong, in Causeway Bay, but it is enormous! It’s located opposite Exit F1 of Causeway Bay MTR, at Capitol Center, 5-19 Jardine’s Bazaar, Causeway Bay.

Bossini – good for cheap casual clothes.

Baleno – more cheap casual clothes. And some very cute children’s clothes! (click the box in the right hand corner of the website and choose ‘International’ to see the site in English)

G2000 – reasonably priced suits and work wear

If you prefer independent clothing shops, these are everywhere so take a walk around and see what you find. I quite like the shops on Wan Chai Road, there is a real mix of styles there!

I took a look around here Elgin Street and Staunton Street in Mid Levels for a dress to wear to a wedding at the recommendation of a friend and I wasn’t short of options! If you are looking for a party dress or something for wedding or a black tie event, this area is great, there are loads of shops and a real range in price so hunt for a bargain or splurge on something amazing!

Beauty/Health

There are a few options if you’re looking for high street beauty products, including Sasa, Colormix and Bonjour. They have both western and Asian brands. Great if you’re feeling a bit adventurous, but the skin whitening products do freak me out a little bit.

Watsons and Mannings are a great place to shop if you are looking for health-related products (the kind of things you would go to Boots or Superdrug for in the UK). They have lots of stores too, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find one. Many Mannings also have pharmacy counters, and the pharmacists generally speak good English so they can help you if you are looking for something specific!

Household items

If you’re setting up a household (i.e. you’ve just moved to Hong Kong) and looking for all those little bits you need for your kitchen or bathroom then Japan Home Centre (which also calls itself JHC) is a great first port of call (unless you happen to have found one of those shops that has everything that I mentioned above!). It has a pretty wide range of stuff and it’s all quite cheap. They are everywhere too, so you shouldn’t have to go far to find one! Just a note of caution: I have heard that the electronics they sell aren’t great. Maybe look elsewhere for those things!

Similar to Japan Home Centre (but with a more limited range of small items) is Price Rite. They also sell furniture, but they have a good range of storage and sell most kitchen items. Similar price to Japan Home Centre. The website is in Chinese but you can look at the maps to see which store is nearest to you.

Aeon (which used to be called Jusco) is another one of my first ports of call, mainly because there is a large store very close to me. It’s got a good range of baby items which has been invaluable for me. The price is not that cheap but it’s not expensive either. And it’s a department store so it has a wide range of goods including clothing, shoes, toys, kitchenware and household appliances. I like to shop in their kitchenware department too. My friend likes to shop in the supermarket there, but I’ve not used it that often.

A subsidiary of Aeon is Living Plaza (click the Aeon link above and scroll down to see the Living Plaza shops), another one of my favourite shops! Almost everything in the store is $12 (approx. £1) and they have a really wide range of things in there! I always go in looking for one thing and come out with five!

Ikea – beloved of almost every country and Hong Kong is no exception. Definitely one of the most affordable places to get homewares and furniture. Don’t go on a Sunday though, the queues for the tills are horrendous!

Fortress – I mentioned above that Japan Home Centre is not a great place to buy electronics so you might want to head to Fortress instead. They have a wide range of electrical items from TVs to dehumidifiers (the latter is pretty necessary in HK) at pretty standard prices.

Baby & Children’s

I find that most baby and children’s items are a bit pricey in Hong Kong, but maybe that’s because I’m coming at it as a westerner who is looking for certain types of products. Anyway, I buy many things from Park N Shop – especially nappies, wipes and baby food. You can find these things in most supermarkets I think, and also in Watsons or Mannings (see above). I already mentioned above that I go to Aeon for many baby items, and Ikea has a surprising (to me) and affordable range of baby equipment and toys. Toys R Us (especially the bigger ones which have a Baby R Us section) is another useful place to look. Other baby shops include Mothercare, Bumps To Babes and Tiny Footprints but I don’t shop there often as I find the price is quite expensive and they are not close to me. Many bookshops (see below) have toys and gifts for children.

Books & stationery

For English language books, check out Popular Books, Page One, Eslite or Bookazine. Many of these shops also have cards, wrapping paper, gifts and a selection of stationery and craft supplies. For even more places to find books, check out these posts by HK Hub and Sassy.

For stationery supplies, you can’t beat the little independent stationery stores that are everywhere. Take a walk around your local area and you should come across one. If you’re very lucky you might find one with craft supplies and other bits and bobs too! I loved the one that I used to go to on Sing Woo Road in Happy Valley (when I lived there) – it had everything!

Art & craft supplies

Please check out my previous post with a comprehensive list of places where you can shop for art and craft supplies in Hong Kong.

And there’s more…

There are many other articles on other websites about shopping in Hong Kong, so take a look at the links below for even more places to shop!

Speciality shops in Hong Kong

Lonely Planet guide to shopping in Hong Kong

Sassy’s top five gift stores in Hong Kong

Guide to small malls on HK Magazine

Time Out’s list of Hong Kong’s best secret shops

Bagging a bargain from HK Hub

Finally, if you would rather shop from the comfort of your own home, I have written two useful guides about online shopping in Hong Kong, and overseas shops that deliver to Hong Kong.

Where do you like to shop? If you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Places to visit – Taipei

Taipei is a great place to visit from Hong Kong. It’s pretty quick to get to and has a much more laid back feel. I’ve heard that it’s also a lot nicer than it was 10 years ago! We really liked it and definitely want to go back and see more of Taiwan so I thought I’d share some of the things we did and saw and maybe encourage you to go too?

Another advantage of Taipei is that it’s really easy to get around, and the MTR (subway) extends beyond the borders of the city, making it very easy to get out of the city into the surrounding area. However, this doesn’t extend to the airport which is a long way outside Taipei and takes about an hour by taxi (there isn’t a train or subway) to get from the airport to the centre of the city.

We stayed at Hotel 73 which was very close to Dongmen Station on Xinyi Road. We had no complaints about our hotel room, although we thought that the breakfast (which was included in the price) was fairly average and we had to wait for some time in the lobby before we were seated as there wasn’t enough room for everyone in the restaurant. On our second day we grabbed breakfast elsewhere.

The hotel was in a really nice district: it was right next to a market, and the area on the other side of Xinyi Road was a maze of small boutiques, restaurants and shops. It was a really nice area to walk round and we happily ate at random places there a couple of times. Also the original branch of Din Tai Fung was nearby on Xinyi Road so we went there to taste the ‘original’ food of this Taiwanese restaurant chain which also has several outlets in Hong Kong.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

Chiang Kai-Shek memorial hall Taipei

This was our first port of call as it was within walking distance of our hotel (but it also has its own MTR station). The memorial hall is situated in some nice gardens, which were lovely to walk around but the weather quickly forced us inside! We went in with almost no knowledge of who Chiang Kai-Shek was and why there was a memorial hall to him, and came out thinking he was a great man who founded modern Taiwan. Unfortunately, there are two sides to every story and whilst he did do great things for Taiwan, he perhaps wasn’t quite as nice as the memorial hall made him out to be! The hall is worth a visit though, even if it is just to see the massive statue of Chiang Kai-Shek.

Chiang Kai-Shek statue

Beitou

This is an area on the north side of the city which is famous for its hot springs. Many of the hotels there have private baths where you can bathe in the waters, but we headed to the outdoor public baths on Zhongshan Road. Once we were able to gain entrance to the public baths (they are only open for fixed sessions every day: 8.30-11.15am, noon-2.45pm, 3.30-6.16pm, 7.00-9.45pm), we had a lovely time there. These baths had 3 hot pools, each progressively hotter than the last (we couldn’t spend much time in the second one and didn’t even attempt the hottest!) and 2 cold pools which were briefly pleasant after spending a while in the hot pools. It was a great place, and obviously pretty full of locals as well as some tourists. The locals seemed pretty friendly and one old guy started chatting to me about where I was from and what I should see while I was in Taipei. There was also a very militant attendant who told you off if you were only partly submerged in the water!

The nearby Di-re Valley (a 5 minute walk) is also worth a visit is the source of most of the hot waters in Beitou. As you can see it was pretty hot and very steamy! There was also quite an unpleasant sulphuric smell but it was a pretty cool sight. Although at 90°C, you probably wouldn’t want to go in…

Di-re valley Beitou

Di-re valley Taipei

Slightly confusingly, to get to this area, take the MTR to Beitou station and then change to the shuttle line to Xinbeitou. It takes a while but I’d really recommend it!

Longshan Temple

Longshan temple

I don’t have much to say about this temple, other than it’s pretty attractive and a popular spot for worshippers and tourists alike. Definitely worth a visit if you like temples!

Longshan temple columns

National Palace Museum

This is pretty much a must-do when visiting Taipei due to its enormous collection of Chinese art. I believe that much of it was brought to Taiwan by people fleeing the civil war in China. It’s a massive museum and you could spend hours in there. There is so much to see, including ceramics, calligraphy and ancient artefacts. I think that we spent a couple of hours looking round and by then we were pretty tired! I’d recommend that you don’t go on a weekend if at all possible, as it gets very busy. As it is, it is never exactly quiet.

The best way to get to the museum is to go to Shilin station and take the exit to the north side of Zhongzhen Road and catch bus 304, 255 or red 30.

Raohe Street Night Market

Raohe night market

This was one of our most fun evenings in Taipei. We had heard that there were lots of snack vendors in the night market so we purposely didn’t have dinner before going but instead bought a range of random snacks (most were good, some were average, none were bad) whilst working our way round the market. There was a really high quality of vendors at the market too. There was some of the usual tourist tat but there were also real craftspeople, selling everything from handbags and animal shaped leather purses to this guy who was creating the most amazing glass works right in front of our eyes!

Glassmaker Raohe night market

A great place to buy presents and maybe a little something or two for yourself ;)

Taipei 101

Again, another must-do when in Taipei. We’ve been in a number of observation decks in tall towers now, and this was definitely one of the best experiences. We turned up at about 10am and it was very busy, and when we bought our tickets we were told that we’d have to wait for about an hour to go up. We decided to kill time by going outside and taking photos of the tower from a nearby park, and when we got back we’d missed our slot! But they let us join the queue straight away instead.

Taipei 101

You were taken up to the top of the tower in groups and each group had a fixed period of time in each area, although the amount of time seemed pretty generous and we never felt rushed. The main observation deck was spacious with lots of information to read and things to look at as well as the view, of course. Luckily, we were blessed with good weather that day.

View from Taipei 101

Tom got very nerdy and enjoyed looking at the massive damper which helps to keep the tower stable and steady in high winds. It has been turned into a bit of a tourist attraction in itself, with a little cartoon version of it!

Taipei 101 damper

You could also go out onto the roof and enjoy the view in the fresh air, which made for better photos.

Hills from Taipei 101

Maokong

This area sits up in the hills to the south-east side of Taipei and is definitely worth a visit if you’d like to get out of the built-up areas. Take the MTR to Taipei Zoo station (we didn’t visit the zoo but apparently it’s quite good) and a couple of minutes walk away is the gondola (cable car) station which will take you up into the hills. We went on a weekend and had to queue for about 45 minutes to get into a gondola so it might be worth picking a less busy time if possible. The gondola ride gives great views across Taipei.

View from Maokong gondola

Maokong is famous for its tea houses, of which there are plenty. We plumped for one that was pretty near the gondola station and were given a little booth with cushions to sit on and the necessary tools for making tea the ‘proper’ Chinese way. Luckily, we had both seen Chinese tea ceremonies before and could just about figure out what we should be doing (although I’m sure that you could get someone to show you if you needed).

Drinking tea

It’s a really nice, quiet area up there and we really enjoyed wandering around (until it got dark) and then had dinner at a restaurant there overlooking the city. Nice!

Maokong tea houses

So those were the highlights of our trip to Taipei. It was a really nice mix of city and relaxing activities. It was easy to get around, all the attractions were either reasonably priced or free and the people were very friendly. My only criticisms as a tourist were that in some areas there wasn’t a lot of written English around (although a lot of people spoke English), and a lot of the restaurants seemed to shut pretty early so don’t leave it too late to go for dinner. However, if you’re looking for somewhere to go for the weekend, I think you could do a lot worse!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel