I’m sure I’m not the only expat here in Hong Kong who feels a little nostalgic at this time of year, recalling December back home (England in my case) where Christmas is A Really Big Thing.
My children on the other hand were born here in Hong Kong and all their Christmas memories have a Hong Kong backdrop. As a family we now have our own festive traditions that are just as special and Christmassy as those I remember from my own childhood.
The Flower Market is a fascinating place for kids, it’s very colourful and there are many unique sights and sounds to take in. Not to mention the exciting possibility of selecting some flowers or a plant to take home. It’s especially lovely in December when you will see the Christmas trees and decorations as well as the usual selection of colourful blooms.
Although known as the Flower Market it’s actually a collection of florist shops rather than market stalls, and the shops are open 7 days a week from late morning to early evening.
It’s an easy 10 minute walk from Prince Edward MTR station (exit B1) to the start of Flower Market Road. Cue great excitement as your little explorers spot their first Christmas decorations on sale.
Brighten is a must-visit for those seeking Christmas spirit in Hong Kong. This large, by Hong Kong standards, store dominates the corner of Flower Market Road and Sai Yee Street and sells a big range of festive decor that kids will enjoy looking at (and nagging you to buy). This store also sells wedding decor, garden accessories, garden plants and cut flowers.
You may not get chestnuts roasting on an open fire in Hong Kong (has anyone actually done that?) but there’s often a hawker stall on Sai Yee Street roasting chestnuts on hot rocks. They’re seasoned in the Hong Kong style with sugar they smell delicious and very festive, and taste pretty good too. If you do decide to try, please keep in mind that they are very hot!
Several of the stores here sell Christmas trees, with prices starting at $800, as well as other festive decor including poinsettias and wreaths. Oh the smell of those pine trees takes me right back to those childhood Christmases!
If you’ve ever daydreamed of growing a little balcony or windowsill garden then the Flower Market is the place to pick up flower, herb and vegetable seeds.
Opposite the Brighten store you can find a small playground which makes a good pit stop before heading on to the Yuen Po Bird Garden to finish your adventure.
At the end of Flower Market Road you can’t miss the entrance to the Bird Garden. Here you will find birds and bird paraphernalia on sale as well as bird lovers displaying their caged songbirds and taking the air. This is a real tourist trail favourite and you’ll probably see tour groups passing through.
It’s quite a unique experience and worth at least one visit while you are living in Hong Kong, although not everyone will enjoy seeing the birds in their small cages . One unforgettable sight for kids is the live insects on sale as bird food, yum!
At this point you could wander back towards the Flower Market, or if you still have some energy you can cross the elevated walkway above Boundary Street (no lift, so not stroller friendly) and play at Fa Hui Park.
If you have any little transport fanatics they might enjoy watching the MTR trains cross the bridge.
There’s plenty of space to run around here, some toilets, and play equipment which is suitable for younger kids.
All in, even with toddlers in tow, a wander through the Flower Market and Bird Garden should fill in 2 hours maximum. Also nearby (although this involves doubling back on yourself), is Tung Choi Street North, known as Goldfish Street where you can see all kinds of exotic fish on display in specialist stores. Older kids that still have the energy might enjoy jumping back on the MTR and heading to Sham Shui Po where you’ll find more Christmas decor and stores selling all kids of beads, ribbons and buttons for the kids’ crafting activities.
Where to Eat
Here are some options for refuelling and keeping those dreaded ‘hangry’ moments at bay.
If you walk from Prince Edward MTR you will pass Fa Yuen Street where you could pick up some baked goods from Saint Honore and sit out at one of the playgrounds, there is also a small Pacific Coffee on this street.
The Royal Plaza Hotel at 193 Prince Edward Road West has some decent dining options, including La Scala which serves an international buffet lunch daily. Mon-Fri $318 per adult, $248 per child aged 3-11. Sat and Sun $368 per adult and $278 per child. All prices are subject to 10% service charge. They are offering a 25% discount on all bookings before 23 December 2017. Booking is advisable.
Also at The Royal Plaza is The Lion Rock bar, which serves afternoon tea, including a festive special tea from 24 December – 1 January 2017, find out more here. Both restaurants welcome children and have high chairs.
Adjacent to The Royal Plaza Hote is MOKO shopping mall where you’ll find a range of casual dining options, including Starbucks and Pacific Coffee.
One Dim Sum, Shop 1 & 2, G/F, Kenwood Mansion, 15 Playing Field Road was recommended by the Michelin guide at one time and is very popular locally, so be prepared to wait for a table.
Hayfever Cafe, inside Hayfever Floral & Gifts Shop, at 62 Flower Market Road (0pposite Mong Kok stadium) serves coffee, smoothies, light snacks and sweet treats.