The shopping in Hong Kong is so good that it’s been dubbed a national pastime – and with good reason. Our correspondent points you in the direction of the finest stores on the continent
Gucci at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
Theoretically, one could walk from the venerable Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong to the city-chic Landmark Mandarin Oriental in five minutes. The fact that no one does so is not down to traffic congestion or poor city planning, but distraction. It’s hard to make a beeline when there are so many tempting shops en route. In fact, in a city that is often called a shopper’s paradise, the three blocks between the two hotels are the cream of the crop, offering visitors everything from haute cuisine to haute couture, and from chops to cheongsam.
The trick to finding the best retail spots is to understand a few secrets about shopping in Central, Hong Kong. The first is this: look up. This is not a city of broad boulevards. Instead, impediments such as heat, rain and traffic are circumvented by a series of elevated walkways connecting one building to the next. Happily, the connections begin at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, where guests can opt for the Luxury Fashionista package, which includes champagne, a shopping map, a foot massage and even a porter to carry your purchases.
The porter is a good idea because the bags are sure to start piling up as soon as you step out of your room. That’s because Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong happens to be home to a few of the city’s most celebrated stores, including Salvatore Ferragamo, John Lobb (for bespoke footwear), Boucheron and Chloé. At Chloé’s Asian flagship store, on two levels complete with spiral staircase, don’t be surprised to spy more than one tai tai (socialite) browsing the rails – especially whenever a new shipment of boxy handbags arrives.
The hallowed halls of Chanel
Upstairs, the mezzanine features a number of stores that every visitor and local is familiar with. First up is the mouthwatering Mandarin Cake Shop, where shoppers can not only refuel with a cup of tea and a delicious pastry, but also pick up a jar of the hotel’s famous rose-petal jam to take home. This level is also home to glamorous jewellery boutique Ronald Abram, KS Sze & Sons (which is the place to go for pearls and jade) and renowned tailor A-Man Hing Cheong Co, which has been at the hotel since it opened in 1963, creating custom-made suits and ties for an impressive list of clients. If they’re not too busy, you can get a handmade suit in just five days. On this level, you will find the walkway to the first floor of Prince’s Building, home to a host of flagship boutiques including Chanel, Cartier and Alfred Dunhill, which all have main entrances on the ground floor. Before you rush outside, though, take heed of secret number two: explore inside.
Giorgio Armani Cosmetics
Peep-toe mules by Vivienne Tam
Hong Kong does have window-shopping at street level, but by and large the trick to a successful excursion is to find the right building and explore its first three or four floors. Prince’s Building is home to a multitude of international brands, as well as many local gems. If you have kids you might want to toddle up to the third floor, which features upscale children’s wear; otherwise head to the second floor, which boasts a bevy of homes and interiors boutiques, many unique to Hong Kong. Most famous of them all is Altfield Gallery, which has a reputation for sourcing the best antique rosewood furniture (look out for the beautifully restored Chinese medicine cabinets) and vintage maps of Asia. The gallery’s Burmese silver pieces are also exquisite.
Just next door, CY Tse Antiques & Collectables is an Aladdin’s cave filled with jade pendants and earrings, terracotta figurines and unique bracelet charms. But the real speciality here is 18th- and 19th-century and blue-and-white porcelain. Collectors would do well to drop by.
Armani/Libri, the bookshop
Fashion designs by Vivienne Tam
On the same floor are two more stellar stores: Picture This and Nugget. Picture This is a real treat for anyone who loves old films or Oriental prints. The collections include vintage movie posters from Hong Kong and around the world, as well as illustrations, maps, cartoons and even early-edition books. Nugget is a shop that lives up to its name – small and valuable. Don’t walk past too quickly or you’ll miss this treasure trove of Victorian silver, coloured glass, vintage jewellery and nautical-themed collectables.
Down on the mezzanine level and tucked away in the corner is a favourite among the town’s trendsetters: Tabla, which imports hand-beaded bags, pashminas and beautiful silk clothes from India.
Back on level one, you will find glittering jewellery stores, tailors and a bookshop, but, just as importantly, there is a passageway to Alexandra House. This bustling business centre is also home to Prada, Ermenegildo Zegna, Dolce & Gabbana and Burberry, all of which have flagship stores here. Up on the second floor is Swank Shop, a well-known Hong Kong retailer that specialises in Italian designer fashion and also sells eveningwear by beloved local couturier Barney Cheng. To the right is a walkway to Chater House, which is often known locally as Armani House. It is home to more than half a dozen different Armani stores, including the Armani / Bar HK on level two.
J12 watches by Chanel
To the left is The Landmark, aptly named and perhaps Hong Kong’s most famous shopping address. Competition among brands is fierce when it comes to acquiring retail space at The Landmark – and no wonder. Dozens of the world’s most popular labels are here, many with enormous flagship stores, including Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co, Lanvin, Christian Dior and Celine. You might think you know what these boutiques have to offer, but there are always surprises. At Gucci, for example, you can find a Guccissima leather-covered mah-jong set – a product only available in Hong Kong.
The Landmark has Hong Kong’s first-ever Harvey Nichols. Featuring eccentric British interiors and cutting-edge fashion, the store is spread over four floors and is an absolute must-see. In fact, all guests staying at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental can see the store without even having to leave their rooms. The hotel offers an in-room shopping extravaganza, in which a personal shopper from Harvey Nichols will bring a selection of clothes, accessories, footwear and anything else you want directly to your room for a private shopping session – with a ten per cent discount to boot.
Once you’ve explored Harvey Nics – or had Harvey Nics come to you – take in The Landmark’s other treasures
Luxury shopping in The Landmark’s atrium
The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
Guests at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental can also opt for the Girls’ Guide to Glamour package, which includes the same discount and personal-shopping benefit, plus a makeover at the Chanel beauty store and a post-shopping massage and manicure in the hotel’s Spa.
Once you’ve explored Harvey Nics – or had Harvey Nics come to you – it’s time to take in some of The Landmark’s other treasures. The third level, in particular, has a few shopping hotspots, including Marguerite Lee, purveyor of some of the world’s finest lingerie; Joel Robuchon’s sleek new café; and Vivienne Tam’s boutique. Vivienne Tam is an international fashion force who hails from Hong Kong. Browse through her stunning East-meets-West collection and you’ll understand why she’s made it so big.
The Landmark’s lower level is home to younger fashion and big-name beauty. Look for freestanding stores featuring skincare and cosmetics from the likes of Nars, La Prairie, Sisley, Kiehl’s and Chanel.
Follow the signs for Central Building and you’ll pass HMV. The music store carries a vast array of Hong Kong-made movies and Canto pop for any teens on your souvenir list. Use the walkway to cross Queen’s Road Central to New World Tower. One escalator ride down brings you to Joyce, which is perhaps Hong Kong’s best-recognised retailer. Established more than 30 years ago, Joyce continues to explore the farthest frontiers of fashion. Cult beauty brands, innovative clothes (particularly from Japanese designers) and a beautiful modern interior make Joyce a top destination for local fashionistas and visitors alike. Don’t leave without trying on a jacket by Yohji Yamamoto.
Outside, and finally on the ground, pause to take in the glamorous view: The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Harvey Nichols and Gucci are just in front of you. If you go to the right you’ll find cool Japanese store Bathing Ape (take a look if you’re feeling funky). Cross the street and drop by MO Bar for a refreshing drink and a spot of people-watching.
Chloé’s flagship store, in Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
A glass of champagne at MO Bar, in The Landmark Mandarin Oriental
Once you’re recharged, head back out onto Pedder Street (to your right as you leave the hotel). Halfway down is Pedder Building, one of Central’s few remaining colonial structures, and home to Shanghai Tang. This is the flagship store of Hong Kong’s famous brand, and the interior is amazingly evocative of old Shanghai – visitors should go in just to see the couture fabrics at the back and to breathe in the heady gingerlily fragrance. Yes, those are real birds singing in the teak cages.
Outside you’ll find Pedder Building’s main entrance. Take the lift to the second floor where you’ll spy a real treasure: Blanc de Chine, which also has a shiny new store on The Landmark’s second floor. Pre-dating Shanghai Tang, this gorgeous shop purveys fine, understated silk robes, suits, bed linen and much more. The small adjacent shop is Blanc de Chine’s couture annex, where Jackie Chan has his suits made, socialites find cheongsam fit for weddings and popstars have outfits made for their concerts.
Go inside Shanghai Tang just to breathe in the heady gingerlily fragrance. Yes, those are real birds singing in the teak cages
Paper lanterns hang along Ladder Street
Live birds sing in cages in Shanghai Tang, on Pedder Street
Which brings us to Hong Kong shopping secret number three: The Lanes. These alleyways, running between Queen’s Road Central and Des Voeux Road Central, are unique to the city. Chock-a-block with everything from silk merchants to paper lantern sellers, these are fun to explore for cheap and cheerful souvenirs. Theatre Lane, right behind Pedder Street, is best known for chops, cobblers and traditional paper goods. Li Yuen Street East and Li Yuen Street West have fabric stores, cheongsam for children and a huge array of footwear, bags and other accessories. Ladder Street – which is literally a staircase from Queen’s Road East up to Hollywood Road – boasts fruit sellers, haberdashery, fancy-dress costumes and everything else that’s weird and wonderful. Bartering is compulsory here.
All of which should have exhausted you. You haven’t gone further than three blocks, yet your feet are probably telling you it’s time for a break. Take your pick – high tea with the socialites at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong’s Café Causette (where the décor is a nod to the famous stores that the café overlooks, with upholstery inspired by couture), or champagne with the trendsetters at MO Bar at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental. Whatever you decide, don’t forget to book a little massage for yourself in the spa. You’ll need to be back on form for tomorrow!