Energetic Hong Kong knows how to party and does so visibly and noisily. That said, don't be surprised that many of the city's bars are hidden inside skyscrapers; would it be Hong Kong if it were otherwise? You can find any type of bar or pub you want, but boozing will cost you dearly as alcohol is one of the only things that's taxed in this city: follow the happy hours.
For a world city of its size and status, Hong Kong has a surprisingly small LGBT+ scene. That said, it's made big strides in recent years and is slowly growing in confidence. Nightlife is relatively low-key and does not focus heavily on one particular area of the city. The biggest concentration of venues can be found around Kowloon and Central/Sheung Wan.
In 2018 a cluster of bars in Sheung Wan launched a 'Gaybarhood' (www.gaybarhood.net) collaboration in an effort to encourage more of a local scene.
Travel Gay Asia (www.travelgayasia.com) An excellent resource for listings of LGBT+ bars across Hong Kong, including details of happy hours, 'free-flow' vodka hours and drag shows.
Dim Sum (http://dimsum-hk.com) A free, monthly gay magazine with listings.
Utopia Asia (www.utopia-asia.com/hkbars.htm) A website with listings of gay-friendly venues and events in town.
What's Your Tipple?
A growing number of bars are dedicated to connoisseurship of one particular drink, such as whisky, gin or sake. Expect hand-carved ice, obscure bottles and nerdily expert bartenders.
Ever the faddy drinkers, Hong Kong has recently waded into the global gin craze with an increasing number of bars competing over who can mix the fanciest G&T. Sake is another area where Hong Kongers really know their stuff, with a growing number of bars dedicated to education and impressive import lists. Before this there was the whisky trend, and the city is still an excellent place to savour the amber liquid, with stylish Japanese whisky bars and European-style dens.
Starbucks and Pacific Coffee are out – artisan coffee is in. Hong Kong has lately sprouted a very decent independent coffeehouse scene, complete with organic beans, micro-roasteries and cupping events.
Hong Kong's Pantyhose Tea
Teahouses (茶餐廳; cha chaan tang) are perhaps best known for their Hong Kong–style ‘pantyhose’ milk tea (奶茶; nai cha) – a strong brew made from a blend of several types of black tea with crushed egg shells thrown in for silkiness. It’s filtered through a fabric that hangs like a stocking, hence the name, and drunk with evaporated milk. ‘Pantyhose’ milk tea is sometimes mixed with three parts coffee to create the quintessential Hong Kong drink, tea-coffee or yin yeung (鴛鴦), meaning ‘mandarin duck’, a symbol of matrimonial harmony.
Hong Kong’s salsa community holds weekly club nights that are open to anyone in need of a good time. Check out www.dancetrinity.com or www.facebook.com/hksalsa. The annual Hong Kong Salsa Festival, held around March, features participants from the world over. The website has details of events including the after-parties.
If you like swing, there are socials with live jazz bands (and sometimes free beginners’ classes) at least six times a month. The calendar on www.hongkongswings.com has more.
Karaoke clubs are as popular as ever with the city’s young citizens, with a sprinkling of clubs in Causeway Bay and Wan Chai, and local dives in Mong Kok, Kowloon. The aural wallpaper at these clubs is most often Canto-pop covers, compositions that often blend western rock or pop with Chinese melodies and lyrics, but there is usually a limited selection of ‘golden oldies’ and pop in English.
Hong Kong's Central district is home to some of the world's best cocktail bars, mixing Asian flavours with western mixology. The city receives flattering attention from the World's Top 50 Bars and Asia's Top 50 Bars awards each year, and while a night on the town crawling these venues ain't cheap, it really is an experience not to be missed. Ready your wallet for some world-class mixology action.
Need to Know
- Bars open noon or 6pm and stay open until 2am to 6am; Wan Chai bars stay open the latest.
- Cafes usually open between 8am and 11am and close between 5pm and 11pm.
Smart casual is usually good enough for most clubs, but patrons wearing shorts and flip-flops will not be admitted. Jeans are popular in Hong Kong and these are sometimes worn with heels or a blazer for a more put-together look. Hong Kong’s clubbers can be style-conscious, so dress to impress! The dressiest area is Central, where locals move straight from the office to the bars wearing suits – expect to feel out of place in travel comfies.
During certain hours of the day, most pubs, bars and even certain clubs give discounts on selected drinks or offer two-for-one deals. Happy hour is usually in the late afternoon or early evening – 3pm or 5pm until 8pm, say – but times can vary widely; some even start up again after midnight.
It’s downright expensive to drink in Hong Kong. An all-night boozy tour can set you back at least HK$800. Thrifty drinkers often buy from convenience stores as there is no law against drinking alcohol in public in Hong Kong. Alternatively, plan your nights around happy-hour hopping, which can halve the cost of drinks.
- Beer: HK$45–HK$100 per pint
- Wine: HK$50–HK$150 per glass
- Whisky: HK$50–HK$250 per shot
- Cocktails: HK$65–HK$200
- Cover charge for clubs (including one drink): HK$200–HK$700