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HK Magazine Archive

Which Was the First Shopping Mall in Hong Kong?

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 March, 2016, 12:07pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 4:58pm

It’s curious to think of, but yes: There really was a time when Hong Kong had no shopping malls at all. But the first shopping mall in the city is also the most iconic: Ocean Terminal, opened on March 22, 1966.

The complex was built by the Hongkong and Kowloon Wharf and Godown Company on the site of its original premises. The company, now known as The Wharf (Holdings) Limited, started up in 1886 to manage the godown dockside warehouses at the very end of the Tsim Sha Tsui peninsula. But in the 60s Wharf realized it was sitting on prime real estate. The city was beginning to boom: money was starting to pour in and tourism was taking off.

And that’s when Wharf had the bright idea that was to sustain a business empire: to turn its stretch of dockyard into a cruise terminal. Flights might have been expensive, but in this sea-oriented city, ships would be able to dock in its very heart.

And what would await visitors when they arrived? A collection of the city’s finest shops, selling luxury goods tax-free, the perfect gifts for your loved ones back home. But it became more than that, of course. The shops piled in and soon Ocean Terminal became a refuge for ordinary Hongkongers too—not least because it was air-conditioned, and free to visit.

Ocean Terminal holds a nostalgic spot in the hearts of all Hongkongers, most of whom have memories of the long, labyrinthine shopping mall. Mr. Know-It-All has fond recollections of Toys”R”Us and the birthday balloons-on-a-keychain at Dan Ryan’s Chicago Grill. Its occasionally naval aesthetic feels a touch cramped these days, but recent renovations have turned the entire block into the sprawling Harbor City complex, making it—at over two million square feet—the largest shopping mall in the city.

There’s one other secret to Ocean Terminal that you might not know. The rooftop of the cruise terminal stretches out into the harbor, and once a year it plays host to the Marco Polo Hotel’s Oktoberfest celebration. But therest of the year it’s… just a car park. A car park withan unbeatable view of the most unbeatable harbor in the world. Pick a day when a cruise ship hasn’t docked, and go visit. Take a camera. It might not be the wisest use of space—but we wouldn’t have it any other way.