What to Buy at Hong Kong's Cat Street Market

Antiques on display at Hong Kong's Cat Street Market
David Boté Estrada / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Cat Street Market in Hong Kong is a busy antique and junk market on Lascar Row in Sheung Wan. The tables piled high with Mao statues, pieces of jade, and chipped terracotta warriors are legendary. It’s worth the trip just to see the kitsch collection splashed out across the pavement. In truth, you are unlikely to find a hidden treasure to make your fortune on here—the market is more of a tourist destination than a bargain seekers' basement these days.

There are very few bonafide antique shops—you can find these nearby on Hollywood Road—and anything truly old that’s on sale was probably made in Shenzhen yesterday.

Things You'll Find

That doesn’t mean the market isn’t fun. You’ll find stacks of relics from China and its communist past—from little red books to mini Mao statues. There are movie posters from Hong Kong’s glory days and petite Ming-style—although, not Ming-era—vases. The stalls that look like a flea market/car boot sale/charity shop are usually the best, and there are often some unique curios buried beneath. Don’t be afraid to have a dig around.

You’ll also find a lot of reproductions of terracotta warriors, noodle bowls, and wooden chess pieces. These will have been made in a Guangdong factory yesterday and will probably fall apart tomorrow. But if you know that and don’t mind—the chopsticks, paper lanterns, and carved dragons are cheap, cheerful and can make for a perfect budget present.

Real antiques are hard to find on the market stalls and kiosks, and you’d want to know exactly what you want and what it looks like if you want to avoid being sold a fake. There are a couple of real dealers in the shops just off the street while some of Hong Kong’s best antique shops can found just around the corner on Hollywood Road.

Whether you’re buying a curio, a reproduction, or the real thing—and at times it can be difficult to tell the difference—our advice is not to spend too much money. Most of the stuff here isn’t worth a lot of money so you shouldn’t pay a lot for it and there are certainly no refunds allowed.

When Is It Open?

Operating times vary from seller to seller but shops start opening up in the late morning, around 11 a.m. and usually stay open until at least 7 p.m., some much longer. The market is closed on Sundays.

The nearest metro station to Lascar Row is Sheung Wan. There is a fairly steep, but short climb to reach the market.

Why Is It Called the Cat Street Market?

A common question given the market isn’t in the business of selling cats, the name of the market goes back to the start of the colony itself. Lascar Row is named after the Indian policemen, known locally as lascars, who came to settle in the area. The police headquarters were nearby.

The name cat street came later, in the 1920s when the neighborhood became a market for second-hand and stolen products. In Cantonese stolen goods are known as rats and customers who buy stolen goods known as cats—which is where the name came from.