Answers from Our Experts (3)
The lively, varied bar scene in Hong Kong offers something for almost everyone.
Lan Kwai Fong is Hong Kong’s best known nightlife district, where big crowds (comprised mostly of expats) and thumping beats spill out of the bars and trendy restaurants. Some clubs are hyper-exclusive, while others are more democratic. Many internationally known DJs do runs here — check TimeOut or HK Magazine for listings.
Neighboring Soho has plenty of bars and pubs, too, which have a generally more casual feel than the clubs of LKF.
Wan Chai is another main area for nightlife, but note that the area’s history as the red light district is not entirely a thing of the past.
For something more subdued, Hong Kong has fantastic hotel bars and a growing number of specialists that take mixology very seriously. There are dive bars, too, down alleys and small side streets. Keep in mind that not all bars are at street level; the high rises of Causeway Bay, for example, house countless boites (some licensed, some not).
The nightlife in Hong Kong is thriving, though mostly concentrated in a handful of districts. Many areas will have a local hangout, at least, where you can relax with a pint or a game of dice. For those looking for more involved club- or bar-hopping, however, you might want to visit one of the following:
Lan Kwai Fong & Soho: Located in Central and considered by many to be the place for partying, Lan Kwai Fong is saturated with bars and clubs, with a few restaurants and boutiques slotted in between them. One of the busiest spots during Christmas, New Year's, Halloween and practically any other holiday that provides a good excuse to get out and get drinking, LKF is home to both swankier establishments as well as casual bars where patrons spill onto the sidewalk.
SoHo (short for South of Hollywood Road), on the other hand, is a little calmer and more intimate — though the crowds have been slowly sprawling over from LKF over the years. Rather than being right next to the Central MTR station like LKF, SoHo is a ten minute walk upslope via a series of convenient escalators, and nightlife spots here are smaller, trendier and more relaxed.
Wan Chai: Known as the slightly less sophisticated place to grab a drink (to put it nicely), Lockhart and Hennessy Roads are lined with bars and pubs serving fish bowls and hosting ladies' nights; the perfect place to go if you feel like dancing on the bar or spending a raucous St. Patty's Day. Head west, close to the mid-point between Wan Chai and Admiralty, if you're looking for quieter, trendier spots of the likes of newly opened tiny tapas bar 22 Ships.
Knutsford Terrace & Tsim Sha Tsui East: Nicknamed "the Dark Side" by Hong Kong Island die-hards (despite being a quick train or ferry ride away), Tsim Sha Tsui — arguably the "Central" of Kowloon peninsula — is home to two nightlife hubs. Tsim Sha Tsui East's promenade along the harbor is lined with casual pubs playing live music--classic rock and top 40 hits galore, while Knutsford Terrace is a collection of wine bars, restaurants and hookah bars housed behind a European-facade-fronted entrance.
Drinking and dancing are a huge part of Hong Kong's social culture. Most nighttime activity is centered across a few concentrated neighbohoods filled with bars, pubs, and clubs.
Hong Kong Islands' major drinking turf is the famous Lan Kwai Fong, a little pedestrian cul-de-sac lined with innumerable bars filled with tourists and expats taking jello shots and drinking liquor. It's friendly, but can be raucous. On any holiday or major sporting event, LKF becomes packed to the brim with drunken denizens in costume (or "fancy dress", as they call it here). In some ways, that's the best time to see LKF at its most impressive, but it may also feel overwhelming.
For something more glamorous, head to Wyndham Street, just about LKF, which is lined with exclusive, bottle-service bars and clubs. Among the favorites are Tasmanian Ballroom, Dragon-i, Azure, Boujis, Solas, and Bisous (the latter featuring a nightly burlesque show). Unless you’re “on the list”, prepare to wait on line.
LKF's nightly competitor is Wan Chai, where you'll find a funny mix of strip clubs and British pubs (arguably catering to a certain type of expatriate male). The streets are lined with Filipina and Thai escorts for hire. But Wan Chai is quickly changing--in addition to the eternally convivial pubs, a number of hip cocktail bars now pepper the area, including the historical Pawn, TED's lookout and Stone Nullah Tavern. Wooloomooloo Prime's rooftop cocktail bar also offers one of the best views in the entire city.
Hong Kong has seen a recent, celebrated influx of speakeasy-style cocktail bars, serving specialized selections of every liquor. Honi Honi, Lily & Bloom, Quinary, Blck Brd, and Origin are all highly regarded. You’ll also find exotic, artisanal cocktails atop some of Hong Kong’s best hotels, including M Bar at the Mandarin Oriental and Café Grey at the Upper House. Prices usually run upwards of 120 HKD a drink (about $15), but along with your drink, you get to ogle Hong Kong’s spectacular skyline.
Hong Kong’s drinking scene tends towards glitz and glamour. But if you’re willing to venture off the beaten path, a gritty counterculture exists, albeit a small one. The Globe is Hong Kong’s best beer bar—not your average watery Britpub, but a real gastropub, where you can sample a beer from Hong Kong’s only local craft brewery, Typhoon. Hidden Agenda, way out in Kwun Tong, is a former factory now serving up a cool, diverse line-up of local hardcore rockers and overseas indie bands.
For the true Hong Kong hipster experience, nowhere beats XXX. Formerly located underground in Sheung Wan’s dried seafood market, XXX is a BYOB space where DJs spin music ranging from dubstep to indie-electro to dancehall. XXX has vacated its iconic space due to rent and noise complaints, but is set to reopen in August 2013 in Sai Ying Pun.
The last thing to know about drinking in Hong Kong is that public consumption of alcohol, on the street, is totally legal. Cheers.