With its bustling streets and flyovers, gritty public housing blocks and construction sites, North Point isn't the most glamorous neighbourhood in Hong Kong. But it's one of the most up-and-coming, with billions of dollars being spent sprucing up a district with a prime waterfront location, hugging Victoria Harbour on the north side of Hong Kong Island. Unveiled in July 2018, Hotel VIC sits between a new landscaped harbour-side promenade – where you'll see folk doing tai chi – and aromatic back-streets laced with traditional Cantonese shops, markets and noodle joints. There are also traces of Shanghai, as many middle-class Shanghainese families emigrated here in the 1950s, giving North Point the nickname "Little Shanghai".
Billed as an "affordable luxury lifestyle hotel", Hotel VIC is atop a shiny mall sprinkled with high-end brands and comprises two V-shaped towers linked by a lobby that leads to reception (including self check-in desks), co-working zones and a smattering of eateries. The higher you go in the hotel, the more gob-smacking the views of the harbour, which is much wider here than the famous stretch between Tsim Sha Shui and Central. On the 23rd floor of the east tower there's an outdoor infinity pool, spa and gym with cardio and weights equipment, plus the VR Experience – two mind-bending, torso-twisting machines that are said to help you burn 30 per cent more calories than a regular workout.
All 655 rooms face the harbour, though from some, such as the Urban Harbour View rooms, you might see more concrete than water. We stay in room 740 – a Premium Harbour View room that spans 31 square metres – bigger than many Hong Kong apartments. The design is smart and elegant, with lots of soothing wood and marble and beige, grey and black and white tones. The headboard behind our king-size bed features a Google Maps-style illustration of the local area. There's a large LED TV, a desk and chaise lounge, Nespresso machine and small complimentary mini bar that includes iced milk tea and San Miguel beer. For more space and uninterrupted harbour panoramas book a Club Deluxe Harbourfront King (36 sq m) or a Harbour View Suite King (62 sq m).
Bedecked with plants and gardening equipment, the rustic-chic Farmhouse is the hotel's main dining room, open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Breakfast is good – buffet-style with everything from croissants and fresh fruit to dim sum and charcuterie. The nearby 24/7 Farmhouse Deli is ideal for relaxing with coffee and cake (and a wall screen shows live Hong Kong flight departures). For "wow factor, and cigars, cocktails and Western and Japanese cuisine, hit Cruise, a swish bar and restaurant at the top of the west tower. It has an outdoor terrace and is terrific for gazing over the harbour. You may see ocean-going liners docking at the cruise terminal across the water.
Beside the hotel is a lively multi-use municipal building that houses a fresh produce market, sports centre and, on the second floor, Tung Po Kitchen, an authentic dai pai dong, a noisy, cafeteria-style eatery where you'll get Cantonese classics, seafood and beer served in bowls. North Point has excellent transport connections to other parts of Hong Kong, notably a cross-harbour ferry and a MTR (Mass Transit Railway) station. You can also hop on a double-decker tram – known as the "ding ding" – to Causeway Bay and Central. The airport is 40 minutes away by taxi.
This is a good-value stay in a thrilling but increasingly expensive city. And the surrounding neighbourhood gives you a flavour of the "real" Hong Kong.
Rooms from around HK$1280 ($231), Hotel VIC on the Harbour, 1 North Point Estate Lane, North Point, Hong Kong, see hotelvic.com
The harbour views from the upper floors are sublime.
Harbour views from the lower levels are diminished a little by a six-lane flyover perched metres above the water.
Steve McKenna was a guest of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, see www.discoverhongkong.com