13 Sep iDiscover Ding Ding: A Hong Kong Tram Travel Guide
Travelling by tram is hands-down the best way to explore the nooks and crannies of Hong Kong Island. The “ding-ding”, as locals lovingly refer to it, might be a bit clunky, but its gentle pace and vintage charm make the tram the most relaxed and cheapest way to get around town: a single journey from Kennedy Town to Happy Valley takes about an hour and costs only HK$2.60. We put together a free Hong Kong Tram tour on our app, introducing 50 unique and authentic spots in 8 neighbourhoods from west to east for you to get the most out of your journey. Here, we share a few of our favourite stops along the way. So hop on the upper deck, open your eyes, and enjoy the ride!
#1. KENNEDY TOWN. tram stop 102W Smithfield/01E North Street
Once a sleepy working-class territory at the end of the tram line, Kennedy Town is now an up-and-coming destination for food and drink: K-town has a cool factor. It’s also one of the few places on Hong Kong island where you can access the Victoria Harbour, where you’ll find the city’s famed Instagram pier and the best waterfront warehouse-style brewpub Little Creatures.
K-Town’s cool-factor: Instagram pier, quiet cul-de-sacs, and waterfront brewpubs
iSee. In Kennedy Town you’ll find quiet cul-de-sacs, which are difficult to find anywhere else in the city; places where time stood still. We love Ching Lin Terrace. At No.15 you’ll find a temple with a seriously spectacular roof which looks like it’s made to fight invaders from outer space. The Lo Pan Temple is one of only two temples in the world dedicated to the patron God of builders and carpenters. The other one is located in Penang, Malaysia.
Lo Pan’s temple’s spectacular roof. The builders spared no efforts to impress their patron ‘God of Creators’
iEat. Don’t leave K-town without stopping at Sin Hung. This local dim sum joint is popular among the HKU students because of its generous opening hours — every night until 3 a.m. — and for its steamed delights. There is no menu here, but keep an eye out for the house specialities: quail’s egg wontons, deep-fried milk, and steamed black sugar cake. Grab a basket of each as they emerge piping hot from the kitchen.
Western District Public Working Cargo Area. 西環公眾貨物裝卸區, 8 Fung Mat Road
Lo Pan Temple魯班先師廟. 15 Ching Lin Terrace
Little Creatures. New Fortune House, 5A, New Praya
Sun Hing Restaurant. 新興食家. Shop C, G/F, 8 Smithfield
#2. SAI YING PUN. tram stop 84W/15E Eastern Street
Traditional food and historic sites co-exist within a hilly grid of streets named after an old British army camp. Sai Ying Pun is a neighbourhood where traditional craftsmanship is still very much alive. You may also stumble upon a ghost or two hanging around at a street corner: people say that there’re lots of them at the old psychiatric hospital in High Street.
iSurprise. In the hilly backstreets around the busy market, you’ll see artisans at work in small workshops and tucked-away factories. Here in SYP, the traditional skills of woodworkers and joss-paper makers are still in demand. In this tight-knit community, ancient noodle and biscuit recipes are kept alive. This is also a great district to get your hands on hand-crafted bamboo steamers, try home-made tofu, traditional egg-rolls and taste of one of the city’s most famous chilli sauces created by Yu Kwen Yick余均益, a nearly Century-old family business.
In SYP, old recipes are kept alive. It’s a good place to try authentic char siu noodles, home-made tofu or traditional egg-rolls
iDrink. It’s difficult not to fall in love with the low-key charm of Po Tuck Street, one of our favourite streets in SYP. Teakha, a local teahouse, was one of the first in a new wave of indie entrepreneurs to set up shop there. The street, a stone’s throw away from HKU station, retains its sense of character and community feel, but the cafés and shops have brought a new élan to the old neighbourhood. This newfound creative community holds regular street festivals and markets, including film screenings and other events, under the dramatic flyover that snakes down Hill Road.
You may spot a ghost at the Sai Ying Pun Community Complex, an old psychiatric hospital
Sai Ying Pun Community Complex. 西營盤社區綜合大樓. . 2 High Street
Arona Egg Roll Cake Shop齒來香蛋卷. G/F, Fuk Mun Building, No. 66 Third Street
Tuck Chong Sum Kee Bamboo Steamer. 德昌森記蒸籠. 12 Western Street
Kwan Hing Kee Soy Products. 關興記. G/F, 65 Third Street
Yu Kwen Yick Chili Sauce. 余均益66A Third Street
#3. SHEUNG WAN. tram stop 76W Man Wah Lane/25E Jubilee Street
The oldest part of Hong Kong is a warren of alleyways and atmospheric streets packed with old antique stores and trendy new businesses.
iShop. PMQ is a great place to spend an afternoon. A former police dormitory transformed into a haven for local artists and designers, it’s now a place to let some creative juices flow in the urban jungle. There are lots of fun and unique home-ware and local fashion stores, and food to be found in the old living quarters of the policemen. Our favourites are Kapok, which contains a nicely curated selection of lifestyle products, Design PMQ, a pop-up gallery with unusual brands from all over the world handpicked by the PMQ team, and Loom Loop, soft silk creations made by traditional Guangzhou craftsman. For some healthy and organic Chinese comfort food, try Shohofama. Also, for a sneak peek into Hong Kong’s past, go up to the 5th floor where you can see the community lifestyle of the colony’s police offers with shared kitchens on the verandahs.
A former police dormitory transformed into an artistic design hub with a breezy roof-top garden
iSee. Hollywood Road is the city’s prime destination for Chinese antiques. It’s worth a wander! Don’t forget to check out the side streets, as you’ll find a few temples with a fascinating history. Did you know that Man Mo Temple was a courthouse where community disputes were solved before Hong Kong’s modern legal system was adopted? And that Paak Sing Temple used to house a hospice for dying immigrants in the years of the plague? The latter is called the temple of 100 names because hundreds of people spent their last moments there before becoming wandering “hungry ghosts.”
A stroll along Hollywood Road is like digging into the city’s treasure chest
iEat. Eating at a cooked food centre is a quintessential Hong Kong experience. Unpretentious and jam-packed with restaurants that cook their dishes with fresh ingredients, Queen Street Cooked Food market in Sheung Wan is a great place to eat well on a budget. Make yourself comfortable at one of the market’s huge round tables covered with plastic tablecloths, and be sure to try something adventurous! We recommend lemongrass-flavoured grilled sliced pork neck with Szechuan-style spicy dry-fried French beans.
Eating at a cooked food centre is a quintessential Hong Kong experience
PMQ. 已婚員工警察宿舍35 Aberdeen Street
Paak Sing Temple. 百姓廟. 42 Tai Ping Shan Street
Queen’s Street Cooked Food Centre. 皇后街熟食市場
Kung Lee Sugarcane. 公利真料竹蔗水 G/F, 60 Hollywood Road
#4. CENTRAL. tram stop 72W Pottinger Street/27E Pedder Street
Central Hong Kong may seem to be all about expensive office towers and sleek shopping malls, but if you look carefully, you’ll find glimpses of Hong Kong’s history tucked away between the shiny skyscrapers.
The Duddell Street steps: this little pocket of the past is an insta hotspot
iSurprise. Central’s heritage highlights are The Fringe Club, an ice storage depot-turned-artist hub, and the newly opened Tai Kwun, the former Victoria prison that has been revamped into a home for contemporary art. The prison cells where Vietnamese revolutionary Ho Chi Minh was once held captive, now make for extraordinary exhibition spaces. The restaurants around Tai Kwun’s cobblestoned courtyards have quickly become some of the city’s most sought after al-fresco dining spots. It’s worth checking the Exhibition and Event Programming for regular performances and open-air concerts.
iShop. Just uphill from the old prison is Chancery Lane, a street which houses lovely retail gems. The nearby steps at Duddell Street are a little pocket of the past as well as an insta hotspot. Here, you’ll find the city’s only remaining original gas street lights. A little insider secret is the uniquely decorated Starbucks shop halfway down the steps. Local brand Goods of Desire kitted out space in “bing sutt” style, a tribute to the city’s typical traditional teahouse culture. With its signature black-and-white tiled floors, Chinese banners and old ceiling fans, the shop’s interior truly is a blast from the past. What’s more, this Starbucks also offers interesting nostalgic snacks — such as coffee paper cakes and red bean clay pot pudding — to go with your latte macchiato.
At Luk Yu tea house, you order the old way by simply filling in the card on the table
iDrink. If you’re looking to try more traditional drinks, a long-time local favourite is Luk Yu Teahouse. Push through the double wooden doors of this charming colonial building on Stanley Street and you’re catapulted back to the 1930s. With its stained-glass windows, wooden-framed scrolls, elegant dark wooden and black fans suspended from the ceiling, Luk Yu Teahouse is a great place to enjoy a dim sum lunch in style. For an authentic Hong Kong “stocking” milk tea, stop by at Lan Fong Yuen. This hole-in-the-wall place might seem like nothing special, but the perpetual queue tells you that you’re at the right place. Their smooth, creamy milk tea — best had with a side of scrumptious, warm condensed milk toast — puts the taste of Hong Kong in a little paper cup.
Lan Fong Yuen: Hong Kong milk tea at a hole-in-the-wall place
Tai Kwun 大館, 10 Hollywood Road
Fringe Club, 藝穗會, 2 Lower Albert Road
Duddell Street Steps and Gas Lamps都爹利街. Duddell Street
Lan Fong Yuen蘭芳園. 2 Gage Street, Central
Luk Yu Teahouse陸羽茶室. 24-26 Stanley Street
#5. ADMIRALTY. tram stop 66W Cotton Tree Drive/33E Murray Road
Back in Hong Kong’s colonial days, British soldiers claimed a prime spot of land in the middle of the city. What is now known as “Admiralty” used to be the sprawling headquarters for the British army and naval operations in East Asia. Most of the barracks got demolished and turned into what is now Hong Kong Park.
Asia Society is a real architectural masterpiece with a double-decker bridge that zig-zags around palm trees connecting old munition depots (photo by Michael Moran)
iSurprise. A little wander through the park brings you to two remaining military heritage gems. Flagstaff House, built in 1846, is one of the oldest surviving Western-style buildings in Hong Kong. For many years it was home to the commander of the British forces in Hong Kong. Now, it’s a museum dedicated to tea. Be sure to check out its lovely tearoom! At the other end of the park, you’ll find Asia Society, a cultural centre that has brought world-class artists and speakers to town. The double-decker bridge that zig-zags around palm trees to connect the former explosives magazines is a real architectural masterpiece. Asia Society also boasts an impressive fusion restaurant worth checking out. If you travel a bit further, to South side of Hong Kong Island to be precise, you’ll find Murray House, an Edwardian stone structure that used to be where now the world-famous I.M. Pei-designed Bank of China building is. Murray House was dismantled and rebuilt piece-by-piece in the seaside village of Stanley.
Lok Cha Teahouse. 樂茶軒茶藝館 Ground Floor, K.S. Lo Gallery
Asia Society. 亞洲協會 . 9 Justice Drive
#6. WANCHAI. tram stop 54W Burrows Street/45E Fleming Road
Wanchai is one of Hong Kong’s most colourful, vibrant and eclectic neighbourhoods: It’s the city’s ultimate melting pot of old trades, cheap eats, quiet temples, and hip galleries.
iSee. One of the last surviving typical Chinese shophouses in Hong Kong, Blue House is our favourite place to visit in Wanchai. If you want to get a glimpse of the life in the Wan Chai in the old days — minus the lack of flushing toilets and air-conditioning — and experience tight community feel of the neighbourhood, visit the livelihood museum. Hosted by the resident community, the museum offers seasonal exhibitions, heritage walking tours, and outdoor concerts, all dedicated to local culture.
Blue House is one of the last surviving typical Chinese shophouses in Hong Kong
iShop. Another repurposed place of the past is the Comix Home Base, a cluster of ten old shophouses with cantilevered balconies, French doors and Chinese tiled roofs. Today, the shophouses house a fun museum as well as studio space for comic artists and animators. We like coming here for the changing exhibitions and cool events. Another gem inside the building is Oi Kwan, a one-of-a-kind “Canton-style” barbershop. Here, you can get an old-school no-nonsense “wet-shave” in typical HK style: thorough and fast.
Hong Kong’s quintessential dish: wontonmeen with bamboo noodles at Wing Wah in Wanchai
iDrink. After the sun has set, Wan Chai’s true spirit comes alive. No longer the red light district of The World of Suzy Wong with hundreds of sailors on R&R roaming the streets, most of Wan Chai’s girly bars and mahjong parlours have long been turned into French wine bars or Japanese restaurants. In this playful, neon-soaked potpourri, you’ll be able to find everything from a traditional Chinese herbal tea shop, an old-school noodle joint, and a vegan Buddhist eatery, to a rowdy sports bar and a retro-chic East-meets-West cocktail bar. So, whether you’re in for a bitterly-healthy 24 flavour tea, a bowl of bamboo noodles, a cold beer, or a lovely Lemongrass-tini, you can find it in Wanchai.
Blue House 藍屋, 72-74A Stone Nullah Lane
Comix Home Base動漫基地, 7 Mallory Street, Wan Chai
Wing Wah Noodles永華面家. 89 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai
Tai Lung Fung大龍鳳. 5 Hing Wan Street, Wan Chai
#7 CAUSEWAY BAY. tram stop 105 Foo Ming Street
Causeway Bay has always been the heart of Hong Kong, and to this day, it’s still the city’s #01 destination for shopping. It might be hard to imagine now, but Times Square, Hong Kong’s most illustrious shopping mall, was once a tram depot. Long before the Whitty Street and Sai Wan Ho depots were built, the end of the tram line was right here, on Russell Street. At the time, the street also used to be a Chinese wet market, busy with hawkers selling fruits, vegetables and meats.
The old Russel Street Tram Depot, replaced by Times Square (photo source: The Industrial History of Hong Kong Group)
iSurprise. Another relic of old Hong Kong that is the Lee Theatre, a majestic landmark that defined the neighbourhood. Built in 1925 in a Beaux-Arts architecture style, it was one of the three biggest theatres in Hong Kong, boasting 2,000 seats and a rotating stage that could host different types of shows. The tram company even ran a special late-night service to and from the theatre because its shows were so popular. In Hong Kong’s booming property market of the 1980s, the Lee family decided to demolish the theatre and replace it with a shopping mall and office tower, the Lee Theatre Plaza. Only the building’s façade remains as a nostalgic reminder.
The old custom of villain hitting is still widely practised in Hong Kong
iSurprise. For a unique and authentic Hong Kong experience, head to the Canal Road flyover. Under the “gooseneck bridge,” you’ll find a group of old ladies performing a popular old ritual called “villain hitting.” Pay them, and they will use a slipper to beat paper effigies to help solve your kitchen-table disputes and expel bad luck. Underneath the same bridge, you’ll also find under the bridge spicy crab, which is a must-try if you’re a foodie. What began as a humble hawker stall is now a chain of four restaurants famous for their spicy chilli crab. Fear not if you can’t handle a lot of heat: you can indicate your preferred level of spiciness!
Times Square. 時代廣場 1 Matheson Street
Lee Theatre Plaza. 利舞臺廣場. 99 Percival Street
Ngo Ken Kiu. 鵝頸橋 Canal Road Flyover 堅拿道天橋
Crab under the Bridge 橋底辣蟹 6-9, G/F 429 Lockhart Road
#8 HAPPY VALLEY. tram stop 109 Colonial Cemetery
Ironically enough, the name ‘Happy Valley’ doesn’t have a very happy origin. In the early days of the colony, Happy Valley used to be a burial ground for officers. Nowadays, the Happy Valley Cemeteriesarea window into Hong Kong’s various religions and its colonial past. The cemetery has sections dedicated to different faiths — Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Parsee, Hindu and Muslim — all distinguished by a particular style of headstones and monuments.
Last stop is #109, the Colonial Cemetery in Happy Valley
iSee. Happy Valley is all about horse racing, the only form of legal betting in a city that loves a gamble. The Jockey Club racecourse, which first opened in 1845, is one of the first things the British built after arriving in Hong Kong. Every Wednesday, thousands of people flock here to watch the races and to enjoy the track-side beer garden. You can stand so close to the track you can smell the fresh grass and musky scent of the horses as they rush by.
The Happy Valley cemeteries are an interesting window to Hong Kong’s colonial past
iSurprise. Last but not least, next to the tram terminus in Happy Valley is another heritage gem worth a visit. Building number 11 is the only remaining historic structure on Yuk Sau Street. Douglas So fell in love with the art deco-building when it was a Wellcome supermarket. He bought the building and converted it, adding his personal touch to create Hong Kong’s only photo museum. Today, number 11 — better known as F11 Foto Museum — is painted in two shades of bright yellow, and its front door is a stencil of So’s favourite camera, a Leica M6. F11 is an effortless mix of contemporary and historical elements, in a way that is so Hong Kong.
A hidden gem: this historic Art Deco terrace house converted it into a photography museum
Hong Kong Cemetery 香港墳場 Wong Nai Chung Road
Happy Valley Racecourse 快活谷馬場, Wong Nai Chung Road
F11 Photographic Museum. F11攝影博物館. 11 Yuk Sau Street
iDiscover Ding Ding map introduces 50 unique, authentic spots in 8 neighbourhoods along the tramline
Do you want to explore more authentic neighbourhoods along the Hong Kong Tram? Love a paper map? We do too! Pick up the iDiscover Ding Ding map illustrated by the amazingly talented Tania Willis at the end of the popular Tramoramic sightseeing tour, or download your free copy here.
Like your travel tips on-the-move at your fingertips? We’ve got you covered. Simply download the iDiscover Hong Kong App with GPS maps and in-depth stories.
Choose app or map. It’s your go-to guide for hidden gems, popular local hotspots, and surprising sites in the neighbourhood, all hand-picked by locals, so that you can shop locally and travel responsibly.
Joining hands with iDiscover, local Instagrammers Kevin Mak and Jeremy Cheung, HK Tramways is holding an open-air Photo Exhibition — titled #dingding115yrs — across 10 districts, showcasing urban stories at various tram stops and local shops. Click here for more information, and here to download your free iDiscover Guide & Neighbourhood Stories.
Words and photos by
Ester moved from Amsterdam to Hong Kong just before the handover in 1997… with little more than a backpack. She fell in love with the city’s energy and almost 20 years later, she still calls Hong Kong home; a base from where she works on cultural heritage projects throughout Asia. Her favourite cities include Hanoi, Istanbul, and Yangon. In Hong Kong, she’s the happiest when exploring the city’s busy backstreets or hiking in the country parks.
An energetic and inquisitive traveller, Stephanie has visited Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America. South America, Africa, and Antarctica are the remaining continents for her to explore!