Wan Chai and St. Francis Square, Hong Kong: A guide

St. Francis Yard straddles history and modernity in the back alleys of Hong Kong.



St. Francis Yard is not easy to find. Located in Wan Chai, a district with some of Hong Kong's richest history and most radically-transformed areas. Wan Chai lies between the shopping mecca of Causeway Bay and posh Admiralty and is the home of many government official buildings, the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre as well as many historical addresses. Parallel with the waterfront, Gloucester Road, Hennessy Road, Queen's Road East and Kennedy Road all cut straight through this district.

Whilst a large part of Wanchai stands on reclaimed land today, there is history everywhere. This is no truer than in St. Francis Yard, a plateau neighbourhood wedged between the ultramodern Pacific Place Three Tower and the bustling Queen's Road East.

As early as the 1840s, St. Francis Yard was the Old Protestant Burial Ground. You can see what would be a section of the cemetery wall inside Dominion Park today. St. Francis's Church was founded some time before the 1850's by Roman Catholic missionaries and the Italian Canossian sisters established a house here in 1869 to provide education and shelter for underprivileged children. Today the school still stands, albeit much larger than the original establishment.

The easiest way to reach St. Francis Yard is to walk uphill on St. Francis Street, off Queen's Road East, or up Wing Fung Street where the famous Classified restaurant is located. Wander through Star, Moon and Sun Street that criss-cross under skyscraper condominiums, connected by flights of stairs. This area is now home to cutting edge designers whose boutiques are well worth exploring.

The Monocle boutique is located at 1-4 St. Francis Yard and is the meeting place of intellectual hipsters. Russell Street boutique on 6 Star Street gathers independent designers brands such as Cote, Tata Naka and Victoria Beckham Denim under one roof. 45rpm and its Japanese cult denims at number 7. F.I.L. streetwear store on 8-9 Sun Street is the brainchild of ultra-cool Visvim. Kapok, with locations on both St. Francis Yard and Sun Street, has everything from Astier de Villate candles to Vicious Venom studded totes.

The unconventional and sophisticated design approach applies to the eateries in this area as well, for example you can pop in to Sift Patisserie for coffee and pastries, Cepage for high-brow Italian fusion or the ever-popular Euro bistro Classified.

Shopping addresses:

Monocle, 1-4 St. Francis Yard, Wan Chai, Tel. +852 2804 2323, monocle.com

45rpm, 7 Star Street, Wan Chai, Tel. +852 2861 1145, www.45rpm.jp

F.I.L., 8-9 Sun Street, Wan Chai, Tel. +852 2528 3880

Kapok, 5 St. Francis Yard, Wan Chai, Tel. +852 2549 9254 and 3 Sun Street, Wan Chai, Tel. +852 2520 0114, www.ka-pok.com

Eating addresses:

Classified, 31 Wing Fung Street, Wan Chai, Tel. +852 2528 3454, www.classifiedfood.com/

The Principal, 9 Star Street, Wan Chai, Tel. +852 2563 3444, www.theprincipal.com.hk/

Sift Patisserie, 49-53 Queens Road East, Wan Chai, Tel. +852 2528 0084