There aren’t many venues where you can order a hand-painted leather jacket as worn by rapper 50 Cent, join a jewellery-making workshop and indulge in French cuisine from a chef crowned as the very best in Asia.
Then again, there’s nowhere quite like the creative space of PMQ in the heart of SoHo district on Hong Kong Island. Those three letters stand for ‘Police Married Quarters’, a revitalisation project that has transformed a Grade 3 heritage building into a centre for creativity and design.
More than 100 Hong Kong creatives, both established and emerging, have made their home in PMQ, which has also become a destination for marquee cultural events. We’ve highlighted the site’s history and highlights below in our guide to Hong Kong’s PMQ.
PMQ History and Redevelopment
Although PMQ opened in 2014, its history goes way back to 1862. That was when Hong Kong’s first government school opened to offer Western education to the public. In 1889 it became Victoria College, an elegant building that was destroyed in World War II, but whose foundations still survive under the Police Married Quarters that were built in 1951. They provided apartments for married police and their families until 2000. Less than a decade later PMQ was named one of eight ‘Conserving Central’ projects and the revitalisation began. (Another successful heritage project is nearby Tai Kwun.)
Today, thousands of local and international visitors wander PMQ’s atmospheric hallways and courtyard, soaking in the heritage while also admiring the creative and artistic talent on offer.
A good way to get a feel for PMQ is to join one of the free guided tours – in Cantonese and English – that cover seven historical spots. These include a look at the foundations and remnants of Victoria College, a visit to the former police clubhouse and, most interestingly, an interpretative exhibition showing exactly what domestic married life was like in the original apartments where up to 10 people would share a space that you could generously describe as ‘compact’.
One particular surprise on the tour for this long-time local resident was to discover PMQ’s rooftop garden. Towering bamboo on one side makes it an elegant little al fresco escape, the perfect spot to eat lunch or watch the crowds milling below.
PMQ Indie Shops
Of course, the main attractions at PMQ are the workshops and boutiques of more than 100 independent designers across a range of disciplines. SAPH – an acronym made from the four first names of the Tang family owners – is a hand-painted leather business which started as a pop-up but moved to PMQ in 2017 (Unit H305, 3/F, Block B; +852 9039-3787).
Whether it’s shoes, bags or even furniture, Simon Tang offers distinctive creations, painting each piece painstakingly by hand with absorbent ink that doesn’t wash off. 50 Cent bought a custom jacket here, but you don’t need to be a celebrity to be able to afford these custom sneakers or dress shoes – and you can guarantee you’ll never see the same elsewhere.
Obellery is a jewellery workshop where Hugo Yeung crafts beautiful and elegant custom pieces with freshwater pearls and precious metals, often using geometrical-inspired designs (Unit H403, 4/F, Block B; +852 2155 4198). Upended huge wooden logs serve as his spot to hammer out gold, silver and more, with bespoke wedding rings a popular ask from customers. They can also join the fun at his jewellery-making classes that attract a mix of enthusiasts and beginners.
Down a stone stairwell and along a corridor which once served to connect the families of police officers living in the flats sits another innovative space, Blind by JW, owned by Jessica Lau and Walter Kong (Unit H306, 3/F, Block B; +852 6199 6962). Their shop is filled with smart, innovative ideas such as intricately coloured window blinds but most of all elegant scarves which feature street maps of Paris, Hong Kong and London. They add QR codes to the designs, meaning you can scan what you’re wearing to learn about major sights and landmarks.
The HK Room is another spot worth your time thanks to a mix of unique gifts which seek to capture the sense of ‘Hong Kong wisdom and fun’ (Unit S405, 4/F, Block A; +852 2546 3178). That means everything from furniture to accessories, bags to jewellery, plus courses to let you channel your inner design maven.
In one of the world’s greatest food cities, it’s no surprise that restaurants are another draw at PMQ. Hong Kong hotspots include Louise, a sublimely elegant space designed by André Fu, where French chef Julien Royer – named the best in the region by Asia’s 50 Best in 2019 – oversees French comfort food (G/F, 35 Aberdeen Street; +852 2866 0300). His take on roast chicken is an instant classic.
The cutely named Garden Meow cafe serves up simple Taiwanese eats and drinks in a setting decked out with vintage furniture and memorabilia (Unit HG01-HG05, G/F, Block B; +852 2818 5438). Levain Bakery – levain is French for sourdough – uses traditional bread-making methods to craft delicious artisan loaves and pastries, giving off aromas that lure in many a passerby (Unit H105 – H107, 1/F, Block B; +852 2559 0889).
PMQ also features cake studios, teahouses, a sake specialist, cooking classes and casual cafes like Sohofama, popular for its healthy and organic Chinese comfort food with a firm emphasis on sustainability (Unit SG09-SG14, G/F, Block A; +852 2858 8238).
PMQ Special Events
In addition to all the outlets and venues outlined, PMQ hosts a packed calendar of events throughout the year, which can be checked here. Chief amongst them include their flagship annual design event deTour that showcases emerging young creative talent through exhibitions, workshops and events. There are also markets and tours, performances and the wonderfully named Ginsanity which really needs no explanation.
Kids are always welcome at PMQ. Hong Kong youngsters and parents alike will find a number of places sure to keep them happy and occupied. ABC Cooking Studio caters to the littlest cooks with hands-on lessons in making whimsical creations like pizza with a lion’s face or hedgehog rolls (H110-112, 1/F, Block B; +852 2915 1022). Oscary Art offers a walk-in ‘art jam,’ an acrylic painting workshop (S511, 5/F, Block A; 852 9588 1514), and they can also paint and create to their hearts’ content with environmentally safe house paint from 513 Paint Shop (S513, 5/F, Block A; +852 2155 2282).
One point to note is that if you’re visiting as a tourist, swing by the PMQ Info Centre to pick up a free guide with discount coupons redeemable across PMQ – and providing even more reason to check out the space that has redefined creativity and design in the heart of Hong Kong.