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Last updated : Nov 2009
 
Hong Kong Sightseeing
Hong Kong Sightseeing Guide - TravelPuppy.com
Overview

One should pity the locals who never raise their eyes from the streets – Hong Kong can be one of the most enthralling and surprisingly beautiful urban spectacles on earth. A short walk from the bustle of Central reveals a harbour view that the architectural boom of the 1980s and 1990s has turned into a combination of Manhattan and San Francisco, with added shipping bustle. In the evening, it only gets better. The view of Hong Kong’s glittering lights from the Peak by night is unforgettable – almost as amazing are the towers of Central viewed from the lovers’ walk of Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade or the popular glass-walled ladies’ toilet of Felix in the Peninsula Hotel. In contrast, the south side of Hong Kong island, at Stanley or Repulse Bay, is an entrancing islandscape right from a classical Chinese ink painting. And any back street market provides loads of folksy, ethnic charm.

Old colonial Hong Kong may have lacked grand monuments but the now famous Bank of China and the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank give the place a 21st-century buzz worthy of one of the Pacific Rim’s most important economic hubs. These buildings share the spotlight with the rainbow-coloured light show of The Center skyscraper, the waterside steel wings of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and a many lesser marvels, with others still being built– such as 2 International Finance Center and Union Square Phase 7, which will rank, however briefly, as the world’s tallest buildings. Die-hard colonialists can be happy with Government House, the Former French Mission Building, the Former Gate Lodge on the peak, the Former Kowloon–Canton Railway Clock Tower, the Former Kowloon British School and a many other ‘Olds’ and ‘Formers’.

There are much older relics of the region’s past still remaining after the relentless forward drive, particularly out in the New Territories. These include the Causeway Bay Tin Hau Temple, Sam Tung Uk Village Law Uk Hakka House, Liu Man Shek, Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb, Kun Lung Wai Gate Tower, Tong Ancestral Hall, Yeung Hau Temple and so on.

Hong Kong is putting much of its hopes as a future tourist centre on the Hong Kong Disneyland, planned for Lantau Island. However, it will be still years years for completion. In the meantime, visitors can forget the government’s ambitions and take advantage of the plethora of sights already on offer.

Tourist Information

Hong Kong Tourism Board Visitor Information Centre
Ground Floor, The Center, 99 Queen’s Road Central, Central
Tel: 2807 6543 or 2508 1234 (tourist information). Fax: 2806 0303.
E-mail: info@hktourismboard.org
Web site: www.hktourismboard.com

Opening hours: Daily 08:00–18:00.

Passes

The HKTB Museum Pass offers unlimited admission to the Hong Kong Museum of Art, the Hong Kong Space Museum, the Hong Kong Science Museum the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence, the Hong Kong Museum of History and others, as well as several discounts in the museum shops. Good for week, the pass costs HK$30 and can be purchased from HKTB offices and participating museums.

Key Attractions

Statue Square

Until now never part of traditional Hong Kong tourist itineraries, Statue Square is now not to be missed, due to its dazzling ensemble of modern architecture. Richard Rogers’ headquarters building for the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation makes up the south side of the square and just east of it is I M Pei’s Bank of China Tower. Less distinguished but just as prominent buildings are dotted around them, towering over the colonial remnant of St John’s Cathedral. In more antiquated contrast, the Legislative Council Building, previously the Supreme Court, on the east side of the square, is home to Hong Kong’s partly elected assembly. The square is best avoided at weekends, unless, however the visitor wants to see a display of flocks of Filipino and Indonesian housemaids, taking time out to gossip and picnic there.

The unusual profile of Norman Foster’s masterpiece may not look huge on paper – it is on most Hong Kong Dollar notes – but in the flesh (or steel) it is monumental. Opened in 1986, the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation embody the fashion for atriums in global architecture and an escalator ride into the belly of the building, into its towering air-conditioned interior, is a must. It has no central core – bridge engineering techniques secure the walls and its infrastructure is located on the outside – so all eleven floors of the central atrium are open and unobstructed.

International planned to tower over the neighbouring Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Building, today the Bank of China Tower is Hong Kong’s ‘national’ monument. The Chinese-American architect, I M Pei, established Beijing’s triumphalist intentions into an ascending, gracefully irregular pinnacle, the design style of which inspire lively discussion among connoisseurs of feng shui. The triangular and hexagonal structural logic requires some time of puzzled scrutiny. Visitors can climb to the 43rd of its 74 storeys for an especially stunning view of Central.

Central
Transport:
MTR Central station, exit K.

Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Building
Des Voeux Road, Statue Square
Tel: 2822 1111. Fax: 2868 1646.
Web site: www.hsbc.com.hk

Opening hours:
Monday–Friday 09:00–16:30, Sat 09:00–12:30.
Admission: Free.

Bank of China Tower
2a Des Voeux Road, 1 Garden Road
Tel: 2826 6888. Fax: 2810 5963.
Web site: www.bochk.com/en/index.htm

Opening hours: Monday–Friday 09:30–21:30, Sat and Sun 09:30–23:30.
Admission: HK$9 (concessions available).

Victoria Peak

A miniature hill station during colonial times, Victoria Peak is stratospheric in its social exclusiveness and its rents. Groundlings can still visit, however, climbing by the vertiginous Peak Tram – a funicular in use since 1888, which seems more like the Space Shuttle. On top of the hill is the Peak Tower – a slightly unusual viewing platform with displays and other facilities – and the Peak Galleria shopping arcade. The amusements and shops vary from the appealing to the unbelievably tacky, although there are at least many restaurants and bars to satisfy visitors. Dinner at Café Deco, in the Peak Galleria, is not to be missed Hong Kong experience – the view below in central Hong Kong and across the water to Kowloon is awesome, day or night. Hikers can climb the real peak, some 140m (459ft) above the tram terminus, with views over Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the outlying islands.

Garden Road (Lower Peak Tram Terminus)
Tel: 2840 7654; fax: 2849 6237 (Peak Tram).
Email: peaktram@peninsula.com
Web site: www.thepeak.com.hk

Transport: Peak Tram from Garden Road; bus from Exchange Square; shuttle bus from Star Ferry terminal.
Opening hours: Daily 0700–2400 (Peak Tram).
Admission: HK$20 (Peak Tram); concessions available.

Western Market

Formerly a market – this four-storey redbrick Edwardian building built in 1906 and occupying an entire block at the western end of Central – reopened in 1991, as a shopping centre with small shops, souvenir stands and curio sellers. Ground-floor shops offer on-of-a kind goods rather than chain store merchandise, while the first floor emulates the old ‘Cloth Alley’, offering silks and fabrics of all kinds. There is also a dim sum restaurant and an antique-shop café.

Connaught Road
Tel: 2543 6878. Fax: 2543 6931.

Transport:
MTR Sheung Wan, exit B or C; bus or tram along Des Voeux Road to Sheung Wan.
Opening hours: Daily 10:00–19:00.
Admission: Free.

Times Square

The mother of all retail plazas, Times Square is a gigantic temple to Hong Kong’s number one deity, Mammon. The huge complex houses nine floors of shops and has an amazing exterior with a huge display screen and electronic clock – the location of the big millennium countdown in 2000. At the weekend, the hosts of sacrifices climbing the escalator, to be swallowed up in the belly of this humongous idol, demonstrate precisely what the Asian economic miracle was all about. Recession has not overtly blunted the shopping craze and there are ever more shops and restaurants under this huge pile.

Times Square, Causeway Bay
Tel: 2118 8900. Fax: 2506 2022.

Transport: MTR Causeway Bay; bus or tram along Hennessey Road to Causeway Bay.
Opening hours: Daily 10:00–22:00.
Admission: Free.

Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware

Located in the lovely Hong Kong Park and overlooking the ultramodern mania of Central, Flagstaff House. Built in 1846 this is the oldest surviving colonial building and is the former residence of the colonial Commander-in-Chief. Today it houses a fine museum of tea ware, seals and other ceramics.

Cotton Tree Drive, Hong Kong Park, Central
Tel: 2869 0690. Fax: 2810 0021.

Transport:
MTR Admiralty, exit F, then up escalator through Pacific Place; bus or tram along Queensway to Pacific Place.
Opening hours: Thursday–Tuesday 10:00–17:00.
Admission: Free.

Hong Kong Museum of History

It is somehow appropriate that this go-ahead territory has its history commemorated in a sleek new building. Opened in late 2000, the new museum building, located next to the Hong Kong Science Museum in Kowloon, contains exhibits depicting the region’s history from prehistoric times, including some amazing period sets. There are traditional costumes, a large collection of period photographs, replicas of old village homes and an entire street, circa 1881, with a Chinese medicine store. There are also many temporary exhibitions.

100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: 2724 9042. Fax: 2724 9090.
Email: hkmh@lcsd.gov.hk

Transport: MTR Tsim Sha Tsiu, then walk via Cameron Road; minibus no 1 from Kowloon Star Ferry in Tsim Sha Tsiu to Science Museum Road.
Opening hours: Mon, Wed–Sat 10:00–18:00, Sun 10:00–17:00.
Admission: HK$10 (concessions available).

Wong Tai Sin Temple

An elaborate traditional temple in the heart of Kowloon, Wong Tai Sin Temple mixes Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist traditions. Wong Tai Sin himself was a Zhejiang shepherd/alchemist who reportedly concocted a marvelous cure-all. His statue in the main building was erected in 1915. The building is amazingly colourful with its red pillars, golden ceiling and decorated latticework, although not especially distinguished. Much more fascinating are the fortune-tellers in their arcade of booths and the hoards of of worshippers. This is also Hong Kong’s most popular temple for Chinese New Year celebrations.

Tai Sin Road, Kowloon
Tel: 2327 8141. Fax: 2351 5640.

Transport: MTR Wong Tai Sin, exit B3, then follow signs.
Opening hours: Daily 07:00–17:30.
Admission: Free; donations welcome.

Yuen Po Street Bird Garden

Rearing caged songbirds is a time-honoured Chinese passion and the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden is Hong Kong’s shrine to this obsession. There are approxiamtely 70 stalls, each with its own chorus, with ornate cages and cage furniture offering added interest. And while conditions in the average Hong Kong poultry market would give an animal welfare activist a heart attack, the birds here are pampered and cosseted, even fed honey nectar. Just north of the Bird Garden, there is also a nice flower market and a goldfish market, closer to the MTR station in Tung Choi Street.

Prince Edward Road West, Kowloon

Transport: MTR Prince Edward, exit B1 or B2, then follow signs.
Opening hours: Daily 07:00–20:00.
Admission: Free.

Additional Distractions

Star Ferry

The white and green, or heavily branded, tub-shaped ferries are a familiar Hong Kong sight and, as such, a symbol of the city. More importantly however, is the fact that their decks provide incredible views, day or night, of the waterfronts of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon – not to mention the heavy ocean traffic surging through the shipping lanes. The boats themselves are made of cast-iron to delight schoolboys of all ages.

Central, Tsim Sha Tsui, Wan Chai and Hung Hom Star Ferry terminals
Tel: 2367 7065. Fax: 2118 6028.
E-mail: sf@starferry.com.hk
Web site: www.starferry.com.hk

Transport: Star Ferry docks are termini for bus and minibus routes, a only a short walk from MTR stations.
Operating hours: Daily 06:30–23:30.
Admission: HK$1.70 (lower deck); HK$2.10 (upper deck); concessions available.

Mid-Levels Escalator

Not just an ordinary escalator, the Mid-Levels Escalator is the longest in the world at 800m (2622ft) and was built as a commuter aid for this upmarket residential hillside. The city fathers reportedly scoffed at the cost of twin stairways, so there is only one escalator, going downhill in the morning and uphill thereafter, until midnight. It provides a fine (and free) view of the fashionable Soho streets and is a superb venue for people-watching by passengers and café patrons alike.

Central Market (corner of Queens Road and Jubilee Street) to Conduit Road

Transport: Bus or minibus to Queen’s Road.
Operating hours: Daily 07:00–10:30 (downhill), 10:30–24:00 (uphill).
Admission: Free.

Noonday Gun

Yes, the noonday gun is still here – as immortalised by Noel Coward – and it is still fired daily at noon. Really a Hotchkiss three-pounder, the gun is mounted in its own miniature, park-like enclosure above the Causeway Bay typhoon shelter, off Gloucester Road and opposite the Excelsior Hotel. It cab be reached by an underpass near the World Trade Centre

Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay

Transport: MTR Causeway Bay, exit D3, then a short walk past World Trade Centre to Excelsior Hotel.
Operating hours: Noon (of course).
Admission: Free.

Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade

Providing another excellent view of the spectacular Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island waterfront, this esplanade is an evening favourite of Hong Kong couples, and provides a romantic backdrop. However, day or night, the view is amazing. The colonial-era Clock Tower at the western end of the promenade, by the Star Ferry piers, makes an appealing historic terminus, while Harbour City with the huge cruise liners is another lovely prospect just to the west.

Star Ferry Terminal to Hung Hom

Transport: MTR Tsim Sha Tsui; Star Ferry to Kowloon.
Opening hours: Daily 24 hours.
Admission: Free.
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