The Harbor City mall offers a unique glimpse at how westernized Chinese culture in Hong Kong has become.
Hong Kong is a mecca of free trade, charging no tariffs on importation or exportation of goods. So it shouldn’t have been surprising—although it was to me—to find our cruise ship (the Crystal Symphony) docked right beside what has become one of the city’s major tourist attractions: Harbour City mall.
The mall is remarkable by any measure. It is the largest one in Hong Kong, a destination shopping experience for visitors from around the world. It encompasses more than 450 shops spread over two million square feet of contemporary, light-filled space. In addition to retail stores, it houses three posh hotels, two cinemas and over 50 restaurants, including one overseen by French chef Joel Robuchon.
Harbour City is actually comprised of three discrete sections: Ocean Terminal, Ocean Centre and the Gateway Arcade. Supersized printed maps with store directories and signage simply don’t cut it, even for locals. Thankfully, there are an abundance of information kiosks with multilingual staff located throughout the mall to help direct visitors who might not otherwise find what they’re looking for or their way out.
In fact, the mall is so overwhelming with so many twists and turns, that shoppers better be in good physical condition and wear decent walking shoes to be able to cover even a small portion of the four levels of retail space.
The large majority of visitors are purported to be day-trippers from Mainland China who arrive with plenty of money to spend at this international bazaar of luxury goods. On weekends and holidays, hordes queue up to enter the elegant designer shops.
The ground floor is a mecca for kids and parents. In addition to housing the largest Toys “R” Us in Hong Kong and a children’s nursery, it has designer shops for kids’ couture, such as Armani, Burberry, Dolce & Gabana, Gucci, and Stella McCartney. The third floor houses major electronic and camera makers such as Leica, Bose and Sony. In between are clothing, cosmetic, and other shops showcasing merchandise from most major international super-brands.
Several spots inside the mall offer outdoor lookout points to soak in the stunning views of the Victoria Harbor skyline.
The goods at this Western-style mall are not bargains by any means. A shopper at heart, I left without spending a single Hong Kong dollar. There are few sales; almost no discounts; and no haggling takes place, as is common elsewhere in Asia. From what I could gauge, prices were slightly more expensive than stores in New York City.
Yet, if you are an inveterate shopper, Harbour City mall is still worthy of a visit to see how westernized China has become and to gawk over the dazzling window displays.
IF YOU GO
- Harbour City is located west of Canton Road (the Rodeo Drive or Via Condotti of Hong Kong, which houses designers like Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Valentino and more) and is only steps away from the Star Ferry Terminal.
- Access to cruise ships in Hong Kong is through the Ocean Terminal so you’ll likely pass through the lower level of the mall to get to your ship.
- Read more information about Harbor City from the Hong Kong Tourism Board.