Whether the intention of your trip is business or pleasure, Hong Kong has a host of hot spots where you can let loose and have fun. Lan Kwai Fong and SoHo are the two most popular areas for drinking and nightlife in Hong Kong, offering a variety of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Lan Kwai Fong is in the busy and loud Central Business District, while SoHo is a bit more sophisticated, located just south of Hollywood Road (hence the name).
While these are the two most popular neighborhoods for tourists to go out in, they aren't the only ones. Wan Chai neighborhood, often regarded as Hong Kong's red-light district, also has a burgeoning nightlife scene. If you want to escape from the expat bars and interact more with locals, cross the harbor to Tsim Sha Tsui.
Bars and Clubs
In a cosmopolitan city like Hong Kong, you can find bars for all types of clientele, drinks, and ambiance, from dive bars and Irish pubs up to elegant lounges that only serve premium whiskey with hand-carved ice cubes—plus everything in-between. If it's your first time visiting Hong Kong, be warned that it is not a cheap city. A night out drinking a few beers and cocktails can easily set you back 800 Hong Kong dollars ($100).
With the neverending number of places to order tipples in Hong Kong, it's best to narrow them down based on the neighborhood you're going to.
Lan Kwai Fong
Lan Kwai Fong has become the home of the Hong Kong party and features a den of cobblestone streets packed with bars, clubs, and restaurants. There are over 80 bars, including most of Hong Kong's more upmarket drinking spots, but establishments run the gamut from spit and sawdust joints to chic wine bars. On the weekends, the buzz is irresistible and the area bulges with expats and tourists who spill out onto the surrounding streets.
- Fringe Club: A must is a drink on the rooftop of the Fringe Club, which offers a peaceful pint in the middle of the chaos of Lan Kwai Fong. In the main building, you can also visit to see art exhibitions, live music shows, and storytelling performances.
- CÉ LA VI: This elegant bar and nightclub is a great option to enjoy a cocktail before heading up to the rooftop dance club that has a jacuzzi built-in to the middle of the floor. A venue this posh also has a dress code, so be sure to dress appropriately.
- Insomnia: Just as the name tells you, this is the bar that never sleeps. Insomnia is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so you can dance or drink at all hours. It's a low-key club, so when you don't want to fuss about dress codes or reservations, it's a perfect place to visit.
- Tazmania Ballroom: A self-proclaimed "pool house, lounge, club," Tazmania really offers something for all guests. Show up early to take advantage of their happy hour deals, and then stay late dancing until the morning or hanging out on the outdoor terrace overlooking Lan Kwai Fong.
The blend of Chinese culture and colonial architecture with a touch of modern make for a more cosmopolitan atmosphere in this premier entertainment district. You'll find restaurants, bars, nightclubs, art galleries, and Asia's first comedy club, as well as one of the longest elevators in the world. Whereas Lan Kwai Fong has more of a party vibe, SoHo attracts an expat crowd that is more refined.
- Drop: This late-night club has gained the reputation of being the place to catch the best house music in town. You'll feel like you're in a club in Ibiza. The crowd generally peaks around 3 a.m., once other bars in the area start to close down.
- Quinary: For elaborate cocktail concoctions, head to Quinary, a sort of mad scientist's mixology lab. The bar itself calls its drinks a "multisensory experience" that play with appearance, texture, aroma, taste, and even sound.
- Varga Lounge: The New York Times called it "Hong Kong's must-experience bar," harkening back to the 1950s pin-up-girl days with retro music, decor, and drinks.
- Nocturne Wine and Whisky Bar: To sit back and savor a variety of varietals, try Nocturne, with a wine list of over 250 selections from all over the world. For whiskey lovers, there are over 150 options of Japanese, Scotch, Taiwanese, and bourbon whiskeys to try.
SoHo is also known for its wide selection of quality restaurants—everything from light ethnic bites to elaborate elegant meals. For some exotic traditional Lebanese food head to Maison Libanaise and sit on the rooftop to take in the action below. Or experience Vietnam's Bia Hoi tradition (sipping beer on street corners) at Chom Chom, where Vietnamese brews are paired with classic Hanoi street food. No matter your taste or budget, there are plenty of eateries to choose from.
Traditionally considered the red-light district of Hong Kong, Wan Chai is no longer the seedy neighborhood it once was and has emerged as one of Hong Kong's premium nightlife districts.
- The Optimist: This down-to-earth three-story Northern Spanish restaurant and Barcelona-style bar has no service charge and a great happy hour.
- The Queen Victoria: This casual and welcoming British bar is a fun place to enjoy everything from rugby games on TV to quiz nights and DJs—while having some cheap drinks and pub grub.
- The Pawn: In one of Wan Chai's colonial buildings from 1888, you'll find a sophisticated Western restaurant with seasonal dishes on the second floor, while The Pawn Botanicals Bar on the first floor features indoor and outdoor areas, DJs on Fridays and Saturdays, and handcrafted cocktails.
- Carnegie's: Established in 1994, this pub is famous for customers dancing on top of the bar, numerous shots and foods to choose from, and being a vibrant place to meet people and hear live jazz, as well as enjoy jam nights and other types of music.
- Dusk Till Dawn: This bar and nightclub is a worthwhile stop for joining other travelers, locals, and expats for some late-night live music, dancing, and drinks. Arrive by midnight before it's too crowded to find a seat or room on the dance floor.
Tsim Sha Tsui
Many Western travelers to Hong Kong never leave the island, when in fact there is so much to see by crossing the harbor to the Kowloon side. Without a doubt, one of Kowloon's hippest neighborhoods is Tsim Sha Tsui, located just across the river from Victoria Harbor. In this lively area, you'll find just as many bars and clubs as you will in Lan Kwai Fong, but fewer expats, more locals, and cheaper drinks. It's well worth the trek.
Many bars and restaurants in the area are concentrated around a small street called Knutsford Terrace, where the majority of them have outdoor terrace seating. But don't shrug off the rest of Tsim Sha Tsui—there's definitely more to see.
- Assembly: This gastro-bar serves many tapas-style dishes to share in a group along with a full dinner menu. As an accompaniment, order one of their signature cocktails, the most potent one being the Kowloon Punch—vodka, gin, rum, and tequila all dangerously mixed together with citrus fruits, berries, herbs, and spices.
- Butler: Travel from Hong Kong to Japan when you enter this izakaya-style cocktail bar. One floor prepares craft cocktails and has a mixologist who will customize your drink based on what you like, while the other floor is purely dedicated to whiskey. Reservations may be required for this exclusive bar located in the southern part of Tsim Sha Tsui.
- Gulu Gulu: This kitschy bar is decorated with lots of neon lights and suggestive adornments, which only add to the fun and youthful vibe. Drinking games are a key component of Gulu Gulu, with beer pong, billiards, and the Cantonese game chai-mui typically on the nightly lineup. When you get hungry, try the yakitori skewers as a light and tasty bar snack.
- Dada Bar + Lounge: This very cool bar is located just one block over from Knutsford on Kimberley Road. The decoration alone is enough reason to visit, as the entire interior pays tribute to the Dadaism art movement of the early 20th century. However, the delicious cocktails and live music are what will keep you coming again and again.
- Merhaba: Continue the international journey through Tsim Sha Tsui with a stop in Merhaba, a Turkish restaurant with unforgettable cocktails, shisha water pipes, and belly dancing performances. It's located directly on Knutsford Terrace.
Many of Hong Kong's festivals are the same as the national Chinese festivals on the mainland, and while many of them are rooted in spiritual or religious traditions, they are hardly solemn events. Expect raucous parades, multi-colored decorations, and spectacular fireworks over Victoria Harbor.
Most Chinese holidays are based on the lunar calendar, meaning the exact dates fluctuate from year to year in the Gregorian calendar.
Near the beginning of the year—in February or March—is the largest celebration: Chinese New Year. It's officially a three-day celebration, but most of the country is on vacation for two weeks. This is like Christmas break in the United States, so expect many shops, restaurants, and bars to be closed during the festivities. In return, you'll get to see dragon parades, fireworks, and flower markets popping up all over the city.
In June you can witness the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival, a much more exciting version of the famous Oxford and Cambridge boat race in England. Eight-man boats race through the river along the harbor, in vessels ornately decorated as oriental dragons.
The Mid-Autumn Festival takes place between the middle of September and early October. Just as with New Year, expect to see dragon dances, parades, and lanterns all over the city. Don't miss out on trying mooncakes, the typical pastry of the festival.
Tips for Going Out in Hong Kong
- Save money by buying drinks at liquor stores and drinking outdoors before going to the clubs. Open containers are permitted in Hong Kong.
- In general, nightlife kicks into gear at around 9 p.m. and carries on well into the morning, with happy hours running through the night.
- Many locales, especially night clubs, enforce strict dress codes. If your plans involve going out to a club, make sure you are dressed up so there's no risk of being turned away.
- The Hong Kong metro stops running around 1 a.m. and doesn't open again until 6 a.m. Night buses are available if you need to get to another part of the city late at night.