Don’t be fooled by the hordes of tourists that crowd them, Hong Kong’s markets are a treat to visit. Among the crowded tables you’ll find hidden gems for the home, unique gift ideas, traditional foodstuffs and more. Most are in open air settings, but some are covered, which makes for a great way to spend a rainy day. We’ve listed some of our favourite markets in Hong Kong below. Happy hunting!
Probably the one tourists hit up the most, but it’s worth a visit for us locals too, ladies and gentlemen alike. Don’t be fooled by the name, there’s something for everyone in the more than 100 stalls hawking clothing, watches, accessories, handbags, shoes…you can spend a couple of hours walking up and down the narrow strip of crammed tables stuffing your shopping bag. Be warned, though, those cute TOMS shoes aren’t the real thing, no matter what they tell you. But savvy market hunters know this, as well as how to haggle, a must here and at every market on this list.
Where: Tung Choi Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon
Temple Street Night Market
Not just for shopping, but a fun night out, as in the environs of Temple Street Night Market you’ll bump into fortune tellers booths, karaoke joints, and cheap and cheerful food stalls. This is the place for Hong Kong-esque items like tea sets, “silk” slippers and robes, ornamental chopsticks, and those “I ♡ Hong Kong” tees to bring back on your next visit home. You may recognise some of the street scenes, as the setting as been featured in many a movie.
Where: Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon
Cat Street Antique Market
One of our faves for just talking a casual stroll and browsing through the cool and quirky curios on show, like propaganda prints, Chairman Mao kitsch, replica Ming dynasty vases and cheap trinkets. No cats for sale here, incidentally, except for those lucky ones waving their arm up and down. The street’s nickname goes back to the 1920s, when the area was home to a neighbourhood bazaar that later became a market for antiques and second-hand items…and stolen goods. In Cantonese, stolen goods are known as “rat goods”, and those who buy them “cats” – voila, “Cat Street”.
Where: Hollywood Road and Upper Lascar Road, Sheung Wan
Visiting Stanley on the weekend is always a pleasant experience, with the quaint seaside cafes and bars to while away the hours in. The village also has its own market, and it’s mostly covered, making it a good choice on poor weather days. Here you’ll come across more than just knick knacks and t-shirts, but lovely accessories and artwork for the home. You may even stumble upon a really cool piece of small furniture, the latest must-have electronic gadget, and hip jewellery.
Where: Stanley New Street and Stanley Market Road, Stanley
Apliu Street Electronics Flea Market
If you plan on shopping on Apliu Street, better known as the Electronics Market, patience is a must. There’s a ton of electronic devices, mobile phones and accessories, and audio-visual equipment that vary in price in the mammoth flea market. This is when your haggling skills will come in handy, and shopping savvy. A mecca for electronic bargain hunters, most items are second-hand, but there are new ones to be had too. Just be careful when walking away, even if your purchase appears to be in the original box, as returns are unlikely.
Where: Apliu Street, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon
Another one of our favourites for having a browse, the Flower Market in Kowloon is bursting with exotic blossoms, greenery, seeds, bulbs, and every size and shape of vase imaginable. It’s especially enjoyable to visit during Christmas and Chinese New year, when the blooms and potted plants are accentuated in gold and red decorations, and you can pick up a well-priced poinsettia and even a Christmas tree. The shopkeepers are generally pleasant and quite knowledgeable, so feel free to ask which plant is best for cleaning the air indoors, or how to care for that new bonsai tree you’re taking home.
Where: Flower Market Road, Prince Edward, Kowloon
Jade Street Market
Don’t leave Hong Kong without a quintessential jade bangle, set of earrings, or whatever accessory you fancy featuring the pretty green mineral. Keep in mind, however, that the jade you find at the market isn’t top quality – the good stuff is very pricey. But if you’re just looking for a souvenir for a friend, or a personal keepsake, you’ll be happy you stopped by as the selection is vast. Not limited to just jewellery, you can also find jade figurines like belly-baring buddhas and Chinese good luck charms.
Where: Junction of Kansu Street and Battery Street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon
Tai Yuen Street Toy Market
Tai Yuen Street houses the delightful Toy Market, which isn’t just for kids. Hong Kong-born and raised adults will get a kick out of the classic toys on display that were once made here, and youngsters will drool at the selection of the latest top toys. Inexpensive beach balls, giant stuffed animals, and everything anime and manga can be snapped up here, plus flashy decorations and balloons for birthday parties – not to mention fun baubles to put in the goodie bags.
Where: Tai Yuen Street, Wan Chai
Dried Seafood Market
Walk through a piece of local history in this area of Sheung Wan that once housed several salted fish stores. Today, you won’t see fish drying on rooftops to be later sold below. Instead, hustle with the locals who come here for a variety of dried seafood including scallop, abalone and sea cucumbers, the latter prized for its anti-aging effects. Your eyes and nose will encounter things you’ve probably never experienced before, like dried snakeskin, black fungus and maw (dried swim bladders of large fish). It’s especially animated during Chinese New Year, when families stock up for festive dinners, but year-round it’s a trip for a taste of HK tradition and culture.
Where: Sheung Wan
Tung Choi Street North, better known as the Goldfish Market, is a wonderful sight. Where else will you be confronted with row upon row of bright goldfish floating in small plastic bags? Sounds a bit cruel, but they will be quickly snapped to be a child’s pet, or to float in the aquariums of local families: goldfish are said to bring good luck and many a feng shui devotee has them in their home. There’s other fish varieties to admire, such as beautifully hued tropical fish, and even reptiles and hamsters. Kids will love it.
Where: Tung Choi Street North, Mong Kok, Kowloon
Chun Yeung Street Wet Market
Hong Kong has plenty of noted wet markets, but Chun Yeung Street’s Wet Market is the most fun to get to. Grab a seat on a tram heading towards the North Point terminus and you’ll end up in the middle of a frenzied street stall scene. You may pick up on a different form of Chinese being spoken here, due to the large Fujianese community that calls the neighbourhood home. The dialect is heard between vendors and shoppers haggling over fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and seafood.
Where: Chun Yeung Street, North Point
Nancy Matos is a lifestyle and culture writer from Vancouver, Canada currently based in Hong Kong and London, who cannot get enough of kitsch market finds.