From a run-of-the-mill industrial area to the vibrant locale it is today, Lai Chi Kok continues to be on the rise. Read our guide to find out the area’s hotspots for a guaranteed good time.
Amidst all the glitz and glam the concrete jungle has on offer, it’s easy to miss out on the hidden oases beyond our usual favourite haunts, but these inconspicuous neighbourhoods are what characterise Hong Kong and make this city what it is.
Located in the rapidly developing New Kowloon district, Lai Chi Kok is a neighbourhood that’s recently experienced a resurgence thanks, in large part, to the introduction of D2 Place in 2015, the city’s first industrial-building-turned-shopping-mall. With 100,000 sq ft of retail space, the complex houses stylish fashion boutiques, creative markets, and international F&B and lifestyle stores all under one roof. Since then, the area has grown to enjoy a newfound popularity among millennials and Gen Zs alike, as more and more Insta-famed eateries and coffee houses flocked to the up-and-coming area. Plenty of industustrial structures have been repurposed into into contemporary commercial and retail units and first-time visitors are always pleasantly surprised upon discovering the lesser-known treasures that lie deep within these old establishments.
With so much on offer, we’ve delved into how far Lai Chi Kok has really come and the role it’s played in making Hong Kong the city it is today.
Literally translated as “Lychee Corner”, Lai Chi Kok was named after the river that once ran along the Lai Wan Bay (now Mei Foo), separating Cheung Sha Wan and Lai Chi Kok. Tracing its roots back to the mid 19th century, Lai Chi Kok’s close proximity to the Kwai Chung container port terminal – then a primary trading port – ensured that it played a vital role in the city’s tumultuous history through the wars.
By 1842, the Qing government had established a customs station, commonly referred to as the Customs House, in Lai Chi Kok to collect export duties and tax on incoming trade. However, this was quickly dissolved when China faced yet another defeat to Britain in the Opium War and was forced to lease New Territories in addition to the previously ceded Kowloon Peninsula and Hong Kong Island in 1898.
Lai Chi Kok, formerly a part of the New Territories, was then primed to be a garrison town as barracks, military establishments, and storage facilities were erected across the area in the late 1800s.
Decades later, during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, the then-Japanese-controlled Lai Chi Kok Oil Depot was bombed by the Americans as a retaliatory attack to Pearl Harbour in 1943, leaving a significant chunk of Lai Chi Kok in shambles.
In 1949, the district became home to China’s first large-scale amusement park, which reportedly spanned over 1.6 million square feet. With a long list of attractions like monorails, exotic animals, water rides, and a wax museum, visitors from across the world flocked to the park to witness the spectacles on show. However, the theme park’s nearly-50-year run came to an end when it was forced to shut shop following increased competition from Ocean Park, the city’s premier sea life and animal theme park. With the Hong Kong government unwilling to bail out the Lai Chi Kok amusement park, the massive plot of land was let out to be used for industrial and residential purposes.
As Hong Kong rapidly transitioned into the metropolitan it is today, Lai Chi Kok’s abandoned industrial status soon began to catch the eye of ambitious property developers and businessmen. This prompted a series of redevelopment projects where many old former factories were torn down, with high-rise luxury apartments and commercial buildings taking their place instead.
From our favourite bites to our top hangout spots, here’s our insider’s guide to Lai Chi Kok.
Hidden among a string of industrial buildings, the elusive nature of this coffee house only adds to its appeal. Offering an interesting selection of hand-drip coffee flavours to choose from, this pet-friendly cafe is one that coffeeholics can’t get enough of. If you have time to spare, turn your coffee run into a weekend brunch by adding a savoury treat onto your tab. With reasonable prices and decent portion sizes, this coffee house is definitely worth the visit.
Address: Owls Coffee, Shop 1, G/F., Billion Plaza 2, 10B Cheung Yue Street, Lai Chi Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Open From: Mon – Fri: 8:30 am – 5:30 pm, Sat – Sun: 10.30am – 5pm
Another criminally underrated gem nestled within a rundown factory building, the LHC coffee house is bound to be on the radar of bonafide coffee lovers. The sheer variety of options that this cafe provides – the standout feature being the 30+ choices of specialty coffees – easily makes this place a must-visit when in Lai Chi Kok. For all you dessert lovers out there, be sure to pair your coffee with their cake of the day to start your day on a sweet note.
Address: Shop A3, G/F, Kaming Factory Building, 688-690 Castle Peak Road, Lai Chi Kok
Open From: Mon – Sat: 8 am – 6 pm, Sun: 10.30am – 5pm
FB: OWLS Coffee
Hong Kong’s most popular pasta chain has finally made its way to Kowloon side! If you’re in the mood for laid-back, unpretentious but delicious food, then this is just the place for you. Calling themselves a neighbourhood pasta bar, Pici prides itself on bringing authentic, down-to-earth Italian pasta to your plates. Oh, and did we mention that they have a tasting menu? Including 2 appetisers, 3 pastas, and a dessert, help yourself to Pici’s best-selling dishes for a steal of HKD 290 bucks.
Address: Shop G03, G/F, D2 Place TWO, 15 Cheung Shun Street, Lai Chi Kok
Open From: Mon – Thurs & Sun: 11:30 am – 10:30 pm, Sat: 11.30 am – 11 pm
Finding good Mexican food on this side of Hong Kong may seem like a herculean task but that’s where Picoso comes in handy. A local hotspot known for its affordable lunch sets and generous servings, this shack is located in the Elite Industrial Centre, a short walk away from Lai Chi Kok MTR. Help yourself to a stomach full of their simple yet satisfying street-style fare – be it the customary tacos with extra fillings or the Tex-Mex favourite chimichangas, you simply can’t go wrong here.
Address: Shop 101, 1/F, Elite Industrial Centre, 883 Cheung Sha Wan Rd, Lai Chi Kok
Open From: Mon – Sun: 12 pm – 3:30 pm, 6 pm – 10 pm
As rustic as the name suggests, this Catalan restaurant exudes a warm ambience that makes for an ideal romantic evening. Plan the perfect date night with Rustico’s upscale comfort food and a never-ending wine menu. Serving traditional Catalan-Spanish delicacies with a modern twist, the USP of this restaurant has to be its seasonal offerings – an always-changing menu with new dishes to try, count us in!
Address: G01, D2 Place One, 9 Cheung Yee Street, Lai Chi Kok
Open From: Mon – Sun: 12 pm – 3 pm, 5 pm – 11 pm
If you’re an avid skateboarder, we suggest checking out Lai Chi Kok’s recently-renovated skatepark. Technically closer to the Mei Foo station on the West Rail, this was once among the oldest skateparks in the city. Now, the new-and-improved version has become the first skate plaza in Hong Kong to be approved by the Street League Skateboarding federation – a promising sign for the city’s professional skateboarding scene. Catering to everyone from beginners, to competitive BMX, and inline skaters, this skatepark is bound to attract hipsters from across town.
Address: No.1 Lai Wan Road, Lai Chi Kok
Open From: Mon – Sun: 11 am – 10 pm
Spend a meaningful day at Dialogue in the Dark, Hong Kong’s first immersive exhibition that has participants navigate surroundings in a setting that’s pitch black and pin-drop silent. This programme sets out to achieve big things – to break the stigmas surrounding physical disabilities and to promote social inclusivity. Allowing you to step into the shoes of the blind and deaf for a few hours, this one-of-a-kind experience makes for a great, offbeat family hangout with the young ones.
Address: Unit B, 7/F, D2 Place One 9 Cheung Yee Street, Lai Chi Kok
Open From: Mon – Sun: 10 am – 7 pm
Featuring a different theme every weekend, the D2 Weekend Market always has something new in store for you to check out. Walk over to The Space on the 2nd floor of D2 Place One and help yourself to the locally-sourced selections – from local snacks to organic soaps, handicrafts to vintage clothes, there’s something for everyone here.
Address: The Space, 2/F, D2 Place ONE, 9 Cheung Yee Street, Lai Chi Kok
If you’re in the mood to release all that pent up aggression you’ve gathered throughout the week, a high-octane, zombie apocalypse-themed VR shooting game is exactly the therapy we’d recommend. Operating in over 40 countries, Var Live has finally set up shop in this neighbourhood. There’s a number of themed rooms to choose from, all replete with 4D technology, custom-made effects, and individual gears guaranteed to amp the gaming experience to a whole new level.
Address: Shop 114-127, 1/F, D2 Place ONE, 9 Cheung Yee St., Lai Chi Kok
Open From: Mon – Sun: 12:30 pm – 9:30 pm