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The Insider Guide to Hong Kong

In an era in which Asian cities dominate the global tourism scene, Hong Kong is consistently ranked in the top 20 of the world’s most popular international destinations.

This chaotic, cosmopolitan former British colony, whose name literally translates as ‘fragrant harbour’, is a boon for the senses: incredible sights, lush green parks, beaches just 20 minutes from the city, vibrant nightlife, an extraordinary array of markets (from birds to goldfish to flowers), and the world’s largest number of skyscrapers rising above its 7 million-strong population. The fourth most densely inhabited territory on the planet, Hong Kong also happens to be a major financial hub, commanding some of the lowest tax rates in Asia. Oh, and did we mention the food?

Hong Kong is a long way from Ilford, where Jonathan Cummings, chairman of brand and retail consultancy FITCH Greater China, originally hails. He has lived in Hong Kong for more than 10 years now, actively exploring the city for work and leisure “with my family and my dog.” So he’s probably familiar with On Dog Dog Café in Mong Kok, home to six dogs who roam freely around the doggy-snack-packed café. Here’s his pick of everything else, from hotels to networking spaces to food markets.

The Sky Lounge at The Upper House hotel on Hong Kong Island. Photograph: Swire Hotels

Hong Kong is blessed with an outstanding range of hotel options at all price levels. The Upper House from Swire Hotels is a personal favourite at the higher end of the range on Hong Kong Island, while over in Kowloon, Rosewood Hong Kong is a spectacular new addition on the harbour. The Ritz-Carlton, sitting over 100 floors up in the ICC, is one of the highest hotels in the world and offers incredible views over the entire city. Or sometimes just cloud!

In ‘Asia’s World City’, cuisine from around the world is everywhere you look. Mott 32 (contemporary Chinese), Yardbird (Japanese yakitori), Fukuro (Japanese), Happy Paradise (contemporary Chinese) and Hotal Colombo (Sri Lankan) are just some of my favourites. I love my curry, and the brilliant New Punjab Club is the world’s first Punjabi restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star.

Like many major cities, lunch and brunch is a major weekend focus. Zuma is a perennial favourite, but for me, the view across the harbour from Aqua in Kowloon is a world-beater. Aberdeen Street Social in PMQ does a great breakfast, Dragon-i serves some amazing dim sum, and for an Australian-style big breakfast, High Street Grill in Sai Ying Pun gets my day off to a great start.

In Hong Kong, world-class cuisine is everywhere you look. For local classics, the Luk Yu Tea House is a favourite.

There are many fine dining experiences to be had in Hong Kong, covering all cuisines. Amber – due to reopen soon after a renovation – in the Landmark Mandarin Oriental and Sevva in the Princes Building are great for visitors, while for local food, the Luk Yu Tea House and Yung Kee in Central are favourites. For bars, beyond the famous neighbourhoods of Lan Kwai Fong and Wan Chai, the Hemingway-inspired The Old Man, Ping Pong 129, Room 309 and The Armoury are all well worth seeking out.

The wet markets across Hong Kong are a thriving, dynamic hub of activity and a great place to experience local food and culture. ABC Kitchen in Queen Street Cooked Food Market is a favourite, along with the always entertaining and sometimes riotous Tung Po in Java Road Wet Market.

The new opera house in the West Kowloon Cultural District serves as a hub for art and culture.

In recent years, coffee culture has grabbed hold in Hong Kong. The Coffee Academics, Elephant Grounds, Fineprint and Winstons are just some of the small independents winning over coffee lovers. Fuel Espresso serves world-class coffee to business people in some of the city’s premier office buildings.

There are plenty of spaces for working and networking. In a compact city where rent is at a premium, spaces such as WeWork, Naked Hub, Blueprint and The Hive have opened up a world of possibility to entrepreneurs, in addition to a multitude of local cafés and restaurants providing discreet corners for meetings. The China Club is still the best private members’ club for local cuisine, but if you’re lucky enough to know a member of the Hong Kong Cricket Club, the Peking duck in the Willow Room is legendary. For networking, try the Chamber of Commerce or the Institute of Directors, which hosts a range of business events every week that are typically open to non-members. If you’re with a member, clubs such as The Hong Kong Club and The Foreign Correspondents Club are always packed with local business leaders and influencers.

Hong Kong is famous for retail, from luxury shopping malls to street markets. Beyond the mainstream, PMQ, Gough Street and Starstreet have some interesting small independent shops. Buy Macanese egg tarts, antique trinkets from Cat Street – and lots of tea.

Sai Wan Swimming Shed is the only remaining swimming shed in Hong Kong, dating back to the 1950s.

Don’t miss: The sunset over “Instagram Pier” in Kennedy Town, live jazz at the Foxglove speakeasy, or a trip up to the beaches of Sai Kung Country Park to see a completely different side to Hong Kong. Around 70% of the city is country park, and there are many great trails through the hills for hiking or running. The galleries, bars and exhibits of Tai Kwun are a definite must-see, and the new Xiqu Centre in the West Kowloon Cultural District is the place for Cantonese opera.

Sai Wan Swimming Shed is a spot the guide books won’t tell you about. This hub for open-water swimmers in Kennedy Town has a bridge leading out into the ocean. Or seek out The Chinnery in the Mandarin Oriental – it’s a tiny pub hidden in a corner of the hotel.