An Insider’s Guide to Hong Kong Arts Month

An Insider’s Guide to Hong Kong Arts Month

To mark the full-scale return of Art Basel Hong Kong and Sotheby’s forthcoming Hong Kong Sales, Florence Ho, Head of Day and Online Sales Contemporary Art, Sotheby's Asia takes us on a whistlestop tour of her beloved city, covering the finest coffee, the most fragrant flowers, coolest cocktails and intrepid hikes to be found on this island metropolis.
To mark the full-scale return of Art Basel Hong Kong and Sotheby’s forthcoming Hong Kong Sales, Florence Ho, Head of Day and Online Sales Contemporary Art, Sotheby's Asia takes us on a whistlestop tour of her beloved city, covering the finest coffee, the most fragrant flowers, coolest cocktails and intrepid hikes to be found on this island metropolis.
Florence Ho, Head of Day and Online Sales Contemporary Art, Sotheby's Asia

E ven after many years living in London, I still call Hong Kong home. Everyone talks about the fast hustle of Hong Kong – and it’s very true – but where else in the world can you go from the concrete jungle of skyscrapers in the financial district and just a 30-minute taxi ride later, find yourself on a mountain hiking trail, looking out at the sea?

Hong Kong is a foodie city, it is an artsy city, and amid all that is the rich tapestry of local culture that gives Hong Kong its identity. More than a simple East-West story, if you take the time to explore Hong Kong, you will experience the incredible blend of cultures and traditions that make it such a unique place. Below I’ll share some of my favourite hangouts and invite you to discover it for yourself.

The Hong Kong Sales (2 - 9 April)

Late March is an incredibly exciting time to be in Hong Kong. In addition to packing our calendars with events and exhibitions from all our galleries and institutions, the city’s flagship fair Art Basel Hong Kong returns to its pre-pandemic full size for the first time. If you are in town for the fair, drop by Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery at Pacific Place between 26 – 28 March for a selected preview of our forthcoming Modern & Contemporary Art auctions. Shortly after, we will be hosting The Hong Kong Sales bringing more than 20 auctions to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wanchai. Join us for the exhibition and live auctions taking place from 2 – 9 April.



Capital Café

There are a lot of traditional Hong Kong-style restaurants that locals like going to. One of my favourites is Capital Café. It’s important to note that they have multiple branches in Hong Kong, but I have to go to the specific one in Shau Kei Wan, which is also frequented by many famed actors and singers from the local entertainment industry. After a big auction or exhausting travels, this is where you will find me.
The restaurant faces the tram line, so I often enjoy sitting on the tram and slowly making my way to have my ultimate comfort food there – scrambled eggs on toast. A simple dish done Hong Kong-style and served with a twist: a spoonful of truffle. It’s extremely heartwarming; they put a huge mountain of scrambled eggs on top of each slice of nice thick toast. And to go with it, I always order a Hong Kong-style milk tea, served with condensed milk. We affectionately call it silk-stocking milk tea, because the richness that makes Hong Kong-style milk tea taste unlike anything else, comes from the sackcloth used to brew the leaves. You can find all these amazing videos online showing you how it’s made. In fact, did you know it’s listed on UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Hong Kong?
Capital Café, G/F, Shun King Building, 185-187 Shau Kei Wan Main Street East

Sham Shui Po MTR Station


A large mug of black filter coffee is usually how I like to start my day but it’s very expensive to get nice filter coffee anywhere in Hong Kong – in fact filter coffee can be even more expensive than a flat white or a latte. Personally, I’m also very specific about my beans and particularly, how the beans are roasted.
Tucked away in a little corner of Sham Shui Po – a local neighbourhood that is being dubbed Hong Kong’s Brooklyn – Flow is one of the very few places I will visit to have a black filter coffee. The interiors feature a lot of wood and plants, it is both stylish and cosy, with an artistic vibe. You can sit at the bar table and watch the whole brewing process, or you can settle back with a book and wait for your coffee. And if you’re not sure what you want, you can get the whole omakase experience. You could just ask for something chocolate-y or fruity – and they’ll choose the beans for you. Their roll cakes are simply amazing paired with coffee. It’s a wonderful hideout: I’ve spent whole afternoons there, drinking coffee, eating cake, hanging out with friends, taking work calls – they let you sit as long as you like.
Flow, Shop 3, 195 Tai Nan St, Sham Shui Po



Mong Kok Flower Market (香港花墟)

I am a self-professed lover of succulents and cacti. In London one of my pastimes was hunting for nurseries and collecting them. When I had to relocate to Hong Kong, I was so worried about my my 30 pots of plants. Each one was in a ceramic pot I had collected from different markets. In the end, I smuggled 29 of them back to Hong Kong, each in bubble wrap – only to discover that in Hong Kong, buying plants is actually super cheap. Especially when it comes to succulents and cacti. For the cost of one plant in London, I could easily get four times as many rarer species in Hong Kong.
The Mong Kok Flower Market in Prince Edward is one of the mainstays of Hong Kong. Occupying several blocks, with a main street named the Flower Market Road, it is just one shop after another of flowers, plants and all things gardening. The flower shops pile all the plants out on the road, so you must swish your way through them. It opens early – even at 5am, you will see people queueing up to get the freshest flowers. There’s an odd bakery shop in between the florists selling local food, like pineapple buns and egg tarts. So, you can grab a snack and continue your shopping. I go once a month to keep a regular supply of flowers and plants in my apartment in Hong Kong. And yes, a lot of those London succulents I brought over are still alive and blooming – they remain my best friends!
Mong Kok Flower Market, Flower Market Road, Prince Edward

Street Market, Hong Kong (Image courtesy Hong Kong Tourism Board)

草津堂 Herbal Tea Shop

Hong Kongers have a culture of drinking herbal teas, owing to its tradition of Chinese medicine which is all about balancing your ying and yang – life force. The tropical weather of Hong Kong, with its brutal year-round humidity, can cause the body to store too much ‘heat’ as we say, throwing this balance off. This manifests in breakouts, mild illnesses, discomforts – your bones can hurt! The remedy is herbal tea.
Local herbal tea shops are typically small and tucked into corners. Brewed with various herbs, the teas are all inky black. I like to go to 草津堂 (literally translates to The Hall of Nourishing Herbs) because it’s right near my home. The shop has a menu with all the benefits and properties of each tea; so you might have something to pamper your liver if you’ve overindulged in alcohol, or another tea might clear your blocked nose if you have flu symptoms, other teas will deal with the heat in your body.
The traditional way of serving these herbal teas is hot, in bowls, which you can drink at the shop. I prefer it that way. It’s a very traditional thing, but it’s one of those experiences if you’ve never tried and you want to feel like a local, you have to try!
草津堂,9 Tin Chong Street, North Point


The Old Man (Image courtesy WineFeature)

The Old Man

Not too far from our office is The Old Man, one of the oldest cocktail bars in Hong Kong. One of the things that make it so famous is that they always invite guest mixologists from around the world. Each has their own tricks – some make their drinks look extravagant, some make a performance when they make their cocktails – the experience itself can be like going to a circus.
There is a mixologist at The Old Man, Art Fatkullin, who I have been following across various bars and restaurants since 2017. Awarded Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year 2021, he can create cocktails that are exactly what I want. One of my favourite concoctions from this cocktail bar tastes like oysters. A friend of mine had one inspired by sushi which had a lot of wasabi but no rice, so you can imagine how pungent that was! It’s such a great experience at The Old Man, it’s always packed and never short of fun.
The Old Man, Lower G/F, 37-39 Aberdeen Street, Soho, Central

Takumi Mixology Salon (Image courtesy Takumi Mixology Salon)

Takumi Mixology Salon

This bar opened only six months ago proving how bespoke Japanese-style cocktail experiences have become a hot topic. They have an incredible drinks menu (the seasonal fruit menu features fruits delivered from all over Japan!) but often people will ask for a cocktail catering to their personal taste.
The mixologist is Rayven, and he has the most amazing skills with blades. He is like a ninja – or so I imagine. One time I was there with a friend, and we asked Rayven to customise a drink, based on our impressions of each other. So he gave us a blank card and asked us to write our thoughts of each other, and then created a drink from those words. It was simply magical. Rayven decorates his drinks according to the theme, carving out all these beautiful pieces that are like works of art themselves using orange, lemon or apple peels. It’s an experience I highly recommend. With seating for just 20 people, it never gets too crowded. If you want a long, late-night chat and some privacy, this is the spot.
3/F, Cubus, 1 Hoi Ping Rd, Causeway Bay


Hong Kong's Symphony of Lights (Image courtesy Hong Kong Tourism Board) Ines Lee Photos/Getty Images

Luk Chau Stone Forest

Hiking is quite a sport for people in Hong Kong and so the usual, nicely-paved hiking routes are very congested. It can be challenging to find a hiking route here that makes you forget you are in a metropolitan city. So, I started to venture out to the less paved ones. One of the amazing things about these hidden hiking routes is that they were originally discovered by very dedicated hikers wandering off to places one might normally avoid. To guide others who find themselves taking the same path, the hikers mark the trails with ribbons tied around trees. This is how hikers, when they want to be a bit adventurous, will rediscover nature in Hong Kong.
Luk Chau Stone Forest is one of the lesser-known parks and the largest stone forest in Hong Kong. When you climb up these piles of rocks and stand on one of those ridges, you feel like you are a wanderer in a Caspar David Friedrich painting. But here, you’re not above a sea of clouds, you are above a sea of rocks.
Luk Chau Stone Forest, Ma On Shan Country Park



The Mills

There are two peculiar things one might be surprised about Hong Kong. One is that, hiding amidst all the concrete skyscrapers is a buzzing street art culture. Second, we oftenfind the best art in gentrified industrial areas (live here long enough and you will master the art of using an industrial elevator). One time I was en route to our warehouse when I found myself stuck in traffic. Looking out, I saw a beautiful female portrait on the façade of The Mills building. The Mills is a former textile factory, rejuvenated into a creative hub. It dawned on me that this is an intervention by the Portuguese street artist Vhils! So now, every time I go to our warehouse, it’s one of the friendly faces that makes me smile in an otherwise dry industrial area.
The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan 


Harbour City

You might think this is an unusual recommendation for street art. Harbour City is a huge shopping complex in Tsim Sha Tsui, right by the Star Ferry Pier. It also happens to be where the French urban artist Invader installed many of his signature ceramic-tiled street art when he ‘invaded Hong Kong’ in 2017. At the Star Ferry Pier there is a dock area with a really nice ‘rooftop’ and you can see the best view of Victoria Harbour. It’s a great place to sit, without being inside the actual restaurant itself. You get a good can of beer and bring it up there to enjoy the fresh air. It’s a good little hideout. And every now and again, you’ll see one of those Invader sculptures. Check out the Invader website and you can see where they are.
Harbour City, 3–27, Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui



The Peninsula

I don’t usually get lucky when it comes to prize draws, but on one occasion, I won a staycation at The Peninsula, the opulent five-star luxury hotel in Kowloon. That was a rare treat! I stayed in a Grande Deluxe Room with a fantastic view of Victoria Harbour. I stared at the view for hours and read a book next to the large windows. I pampered myself with a long bubble bath, plenty of reading (can you tell I like books?), cups of Assam and Earl Grey tea, and a glass of champagne – just one of those things you see in the movies and think, nah, that is so OTT. Well, I finally understood the attraction.
The Peninsula Hong Kong, Salisbury Road, Kowloon

Hong Kong Live Auctions Spring 2024

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