Hong Kong cafe society and urban chic big draw for mainland Chinese tourists looking for a taste of street life as well instead of luxury boutiques

Hong Kong cafe society and urban chic big draw for mainland Chinese tourists looking for a taste of street life as well instead of luxury boutiques

A Hong Kong photo hotspot for foodie tourists has come into focus as mainland Chinese visitors move away from shopping sprees and traditional landmark attractions in favour of smaller-scale and less well-known city attractions.

A walk down Peel Street in Central any day, but especially at weekends and on holidays, guarantees the sight of tourists crowded around its graffiti-marked walls and posing for pictures on steps with plates of food and cups of coffee.

The trend towards alfresco dining seems to have stemmed from the Fineprint cafe, which has featured on Xiaohongshu, mainland China’s Instagram-like social media platform.

A search on Xiaohongshu produced hundreds of results with near-identical photos and videos featuring visitors seated on steps along the street, eating and drinking.

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Street life: a young woman poses for a pic as she eats on steps on Peel Street in Central. Photo: Wynna Wong

Fineprint’s small size and limited seating mean people who visit very often spill out onto the street.

A visitor from Shenzhen, who identified herself only as Xiaoyu, 26, said the urban chic of the street gave her photos an interesting, relaxed vibe.

“This cafe is recommended a lot on Xiaohongshu,” she said.

“The street looks kind of old and a bit dirty, but the food is colourful and looks really good in pictures.

“It creates a contrast, and it looks like you’re not trying too hard.”

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Mindy Chan, 37, a Hongkonger who works in public relations, said she had been visiting Peel Street since before the coronavirus pandemic hit– prior to its debut as a social media sensation.

“I’ve noticed a lot more tourists, which I didn’t really see before Covid,” she added. “It gets quite lively here during the weekends.”

“People are always sitting on the side of the street here, it’s very chill,” friend Damien Siu, a banker, said.

“All the shops on this street are quite small, so people just find an empty space on the street if there’s no space inside. It’s a side street, so not a lot of cars come through.

“It’s the same at night. There’s a bar at the end of the street and people take their drinks outside for a chat.”

A number of selfie spots have caught the eye of tourists from across the border since travel restrictions were dropped last year, including MacDonnell Road in Mid-Levels and the former police station in Yau Ma Tei.

Visitors have followed what opinion leaders have posted on Xiaohongshu, known as “the little red book”.

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Tourism industry experts earlier pointed out that the behaviour of visitors from across the border had drastically changed compared with pre-pandemic times.

They said that tourists had turned away from big-budget buys at luxury boutiques and opted instead for down-to-earth experiences such as trips to Sham Shui Po and cheap eats at cha chaan teng – traditional Hong Kong diners.

They highlighted the mainland’s sluggish economy and the comparatively expensive Hong Kong dollar because of its peg with the US dollar as part of the reason.

But they added that the younger generation also wanted fresher, unique experiences after repeated trips to the city.

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