Words: Marianna Cerni; Images: Hong Kong Tourism Board (Sai Wan Swimming Shed)
On the edge of Hong Kong Island, Kennedy Town has come a long way from its early days in the 1800s as Lap Sap Wan – or “Rubbish Bay” – when it was used as a dumping ground. It adopted its colonial name in honour of the seventh governor of Hong Kong, Sir Arthur Edward Kennedy and, over the next century, developed into a manufacturing hub. By the 1990s, the district’s old slaughterhouses and incinerators stood side-by-side with wholesale markets and family businesses, and by the time the MTR station opened in 2014, “K-Town” had become the vibrant international enclave it is today.
- Eco-friendly shopping
No trip to Kennedy Town now would be complete without a visit to Slowood. Opened earlier this year, this zero-waste boutique stocks all-natural beauty products and bulk groceries, as well as environmentally friendly homeware, crockery and cool design accessories. Co-owner Dora Lam designed the space, which sports minimalist Scandi décor, floor-to-ceiling windows, plus papier-mâché materials recycled into shelves. There’s also a tiny restaurant on site dishing up a delicious vegetarian menu should you need to refuel.
- Photography paradise
Take a look around K-Town and you’ll find countless photo-ops, thanks to the district’s leafy parks, waterfront promenades and quintessential Hong Kong architecture – picture skinny high-rises, curved tong lau tenement façades and narrow offshoots that beg to be explored. The surrounding area is home to two of the most famous photography spots in the city: Sai Wan Swimming Shed – the only area still open to the public where people can directly access the sea – and the West District Public Cargo Depot. Aptly nicknamed “Instagram Pier”, the cargo terminal’s uninterrupted views of Victoria Harbour and industrial settings are a photographer’s dream.
- Dark brews
K-Town is ground zero for Hong Kong’s serious coffee scene. Over the past year, it has added Australian-owned Winstons Coffee and an outpost of Japanese cult chain % Arabica to its ever-growing lineup of cafés. Both offer strong brews and pleasant outdoor seating – a rarity in the city. Linger at Winstons till evening when it transforms into a bar with excellent negronis and a beloved espresso martini. Also worth a visit is Infiniti C, which pairs its artisanal coffees with plant-based fare.
- Classic Hong Kong
While the district is definitely gentrifying, there’s still a vibrant balance of old and new in K-Town. For every trendy restaurant or boutique, a dozen butchers, bakeries and cha chaan tengs (traditional coffee shops) keep the classic Hong Kong spirit alive. Just peek into bustling Smithfield Market, brimming with fresh produce and cheerful sellers; stroll through Belcher Bay Park at dawn when septuagenarians still practise tai chi; or fight for a seat at Sun Hing, a decades-old Kennedy Town institution. Famed for its late-night dim sum and handmade custard buns, this busy spot only opens at 3am to serve long queues of grandpas, taxi drivers and hungry Hong Kong University students.
- Food frenzy
If there’s one thing that lures people to Kennedy Town, it’s the diverse dining scene. A walk through the area is a trip around the globe: Twelve Flavors specialises in mouth-numbing Sichuan cuisine; Yuan is Here recreates the vibe of a Taiwanese night market; Mama Malouf serves up contemporary Lebanese cuisine; 11 Westside crafts mouth-watering tacos; and Alvy’s serves craft beer and cocktails alongside creative sourdough-based pizzas like the locally inspired Bak Gwei (gruyère and char siu).