Helena May

Top choice hotel in Central District

If you like the peninsula’s colonial setting but not its price tag, this grand dame could be your cup of tea. Founded in 1916 as a social club for single European women, it is now a private club for both sexes of all nationalities and a hotel with women-only rooms in the main building and popular en-suite studios in an annex that allows men.

Rooms in the main building share bathrooms, but this doesn't feel like a budget establishment; Helena May's members keep the building in tip-top condition and it's a beautifully kept, luxurious Edwardian retreat – if a little old-fashioned in its customs (flip-flops and sportswear are prohibited, for example). No children under 15. All guests must pay a one-off HK$180 membership fee on top of the accommodation fees.

The Helena May was opened by the wife of a governor as a social club for working, single European women, for whom the colony had little to offer by way of ‘respectable’ entertainment like ballet lessons and tea parties. The colonial building, with features of the Palladian and beaux-arts styles, was used to stable horses during the Japanese Occupation.

It runs interesting 20-minute tours in English and Chinese one Saturday a month (10am to noon, see the website for dates). Reservations are compulsory and accepted a month in advance.