“Time travel is a magic concept.” Imagine getting to time travel to the past while staying in the heart of one of Hong Kong’s busiest neighborhoods. Formerly the building that housed the Marine Police Headquarters, House 1881 is a unique boutique all-suite hotel that preserves vintage Victorian charm in a modern day setting. For 2 nights back in December 2019, I called House 1881 my home as I went back in time while surrounded by present day Hong Kong.
Since I’ve started spending more time in Hong Kong, I’ve loved getting to explore as many corners of this dynamic, ever evolving city. One area I frequent a lot is Tsim Sha Tsui, which overlooks Hong Kong island across Victoria Harbour. Tsim Sha Tsui is home to the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, award winning restaurants with breathtaking views, luxury shopping, and world class, elegant hotels. Each time I drive or walk through TST, there’s always one building that has always stood out to me, and it should be no surprise as to why.
Situated high above the famous Canton and Salisbury roads, there’s no chance you can miss this beautifully restored white Victorian style building. Built in the 1880’s (hence the name House 1881), this luxury hotel was actually a police headquarters until 1996. I love learning about history, so getting the chance to visit House 1881 was a way for me to embrace a part of Hong Kong’s history. Walking around the hotel property made me feel like I had stepped back in time.
In 1843, Hong Kong became a crown colony under British rule, which influenced some of the architecture in the city. House 1881’s main building was completed in 1884, during the height of Queen Victoria’s reign. Hong Kong history is lengthy and complex, but as a student of history what I love most about House 1881 is the fact that it is a perfectly preserved piece of history in the heart of the city. Of course the hotel has been restored over the years, but everything that comprises the property is from its original days during the Victorian era.
The hotel only has 2 floors and 10 rooms total, all of them suites. You can either choose from a Corner Suite or a Premier Suite, with all suites facing the iconic and picturesque Victoria Harbour and the city of Hong Kong. I stayed in a Premier Suite, which provided me with such beautiful views that I could have happily spent most of my days on my large private terrace.
Royal Afternoon Tea
After checking in at House 1881, my first priority was an elegant afternoon tea on an outdoor terrace overlooking Hong Kong. If you want a taste of royal Victorian afternoon tea, Café Parlour (now Odea) should be your first and only choice in all of Hong Kong. We all know my obsession with afternoon tea, so when I found out it’s actually a highly popular pastime here in the city, I could not have been more excited. Their afternoon tea is distinctly unique because it’s set in House 1881’s historical main building that has a panoramic view of Hong Kong from its colonial influenced terrace.
For me, the afternoon tea’s menu has a combination of royal and Hong Kong influences especially in the cuisine. Of course there are delicious scones with clotted cream and preserves, but the rest of the menu is quite adventurous, which is how I would describe my palate after exploring more of Cantonese cuisine. From a unique shrimp burger to a crab bruschetta, I was in complete heaven as I sipped my earl grey tea. And of course no afternoon tea for me is complete without a hot mug of hot chocolate.
Divine Cantonese Cuisine
Since I’ve spent more time in Hong Kong, I’ve explored Chinese cuisine as often as I can. Most of my friends and family have found that interesting, since I can be such a picky eater and prior to this year I was not familiar at all with Cantonese cuisine. House 1881 boasts an intimate fine-dining Cantonese restaurant inside their courtyard with just a few tables. The setting is so romantic and intimate that you forget that one of Hong Kong’s busiest (and loudest) neighborhoods surrounds you all on sides. You hear absolutely nothing except tranquil music and the footsteps of your server excitedly bringing you the next round of your tasting menu.
Fortune Villa (now The Queen) introduced me to so many new Cantonese dishes, as well as Pu’er tea (which I now LOVE). With dishes like spicy beef, poached chicken, wok-fried shrimp, and vermicelli, I was ready to roll out of the restaurant before they presented dessert. I was a bit nervous about a dessert dish of fish maw and ginger milk, but I ended up becoming a bit obsessed with it. There’s something about being adventurous with different cuisines that makes me excited, and the restaurant’s time travel to old world charm with it’s decor and menu made me feel like I got to fully immerse myself in true Cantonese cuisine (Fortune Villa reopened as The Queen in June 2020).
My Staycation Itinerary:
I checked in to House 1881 around 1 pm, which is earlier than the usual 3 pm check-in time, but I gave advance notice of my arrival so they did their best to get my room ready for me.
My first stop was Café Parlour (now Odea) for afternoon tea. While their selection of teas and unique menu of savory and sweet is enough to make you drool, don’t hesitate to also order a delicious mug of hot cocoa.
Shopping in TST
Surrounded by a plethora of shopping opportunities along Canton Road, my visit coincided with the holidays so it was the perfect spot to find some holiday gifts as well as last minute attire for dinner.
Dinner at Hutong
For my first night out of two at House 1881, I went to one of my favorite restaurants for dinner – Hutong. Located in the famous One Peking, Hutong is located right behind House 1881 so it’s just mere steps from the hotel. Reservation highly recommended, and I suggest making one for around 7:30 pm.
Room service breakfast
The next morning, I opted for room service and ordered the Chinese breakfast. A gorgeous tray of chicken congee, fried noodles, dim sum, and my latest obsession of Hong Kong milk tea awaited me as I prepared for my day.
Exploring Hong Kong
Located just across the street from the Star Ferry pier, you’re just a 5 minute ferry ride away from Hong Kong island. My favorite spot for lunch is located within the IFC building adjacent to the Star Ferry terminal on the other side, so if you’re looking for some delicious dim sum, head to the Michelin starred Tim Ho Wan (don’t be intimated by the Michelin star rating – it’s extremely affordable!).
Hong Kong Cultural Centre
If you’re a fan of music, I highly recommend catching a performance of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra at the cultural centre located directly across from House 1881. The ballet also performs here, and during my stay they were performing The Nutcracker.
Dinner at Fortune Villa (The Queen)
For a truly intimate, authentic Cantonese dining experience, House 1881’s fine dining restaurant Fortune Villa (now The Queen) is a romantic escape from the hustle and bustle of Tsim Sha Tsui. I recommend making a reservation.
Drinks at The Cell
To cap off the evening, I had a delicious glass of Brunello at House 1881’s bar before saying goodnight in my bedroom upstairs.
And there you have it! If you’re looking for a night or two away in a hotel that boasts historical architecture and old world charm, look no further than House 1881.
Thank you to House 1881 for the invitation and for hosting our stay. As always, opinions in this post are my own.