Save all the dollars!!!
So you’ve made it to Hong Kong, the land of Cantonese dimsum and bustling cha caan tengs (tea restaurants). It’s a city where its number one attraction is the food. From tiny roadside stalls serving up fragrant broth to fancy restaurants with food almost too cute to eat, Hong Kong is foodie paradise.
But as much as we’d like to eat non-stop for days on end, the stomach needs a break.
If you’ve decided to spend most of your travel budget on food and can’t afford to pay for any fancy attractions, here are 14 fun things you can do in Hong Kong while burning off your latest meal for absolutely FREE.
The only thing you’ll need to pay for is transport.
Tip: When you get to Hong Kong, be sure to purchase an Octopus Card from the train station and load money in it. This is what you’ll need to get around on public transport, and you can also use it to pay for purchases at places as varied as 7-Eleven and Starbucks.
We found that about HKD200 (~SGD36) was just enough for 5 days of exploring the city.
1. Stroll along Victoria Harbour
Everyone knows about the famous Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, but few realise that just across the harbour lies the Central and Western Promenade.
Located in the heart of Hong Kong’s bustling Central area, the Central and Western Promenade gives you an alternative view of the Hong Kong skyline - a view of Kowloon Island. The buildings are far more numerous than the ones at Marina Bay Sands, and the gaping breadth of Victoria Harbour is impressive in itself.
If you walk down the promenade towards Hong Kong Station, you’ll arrive at the Central Ferry Pier.
From the pier, you can hop on a Star Ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui at Berth 7 (from HKD125, or SGD22.53) that will take you on a tour of the harbourside attractions, or pay a visit to the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, located at Pier 8 (entrance fee of HKD30, or SGD5.41. for adults).
Piers 9 and 10 are open to the public, and it’s common to see people just chilling out by the water. We even witnessed a yoga session in progress - combined with the gorgeous view and the sea breeze, it must have been super therapeutic.
The Promenade is split into two parts, the Sheung Wan section and the Central section. Central Ferry Pier acts as a divider of sorts between the two!
The easiest way to get to the Promenade is to take a train to Hong Kong Station, and cut through the International Financial Centre to get to the Central Ferry Pier.
Central and Western Promenade
Nearest MTR: Sheung Wan, Central, or Hong Kong Station
2. Shop till you drop at a Hong Kong night market
Unlike Taiwanese night markets, which involve a lot of food, Hong Kong night markets have a remarkable lack of of edible products on sale - but they make up for it by being a shopaholic paradise.
There are two major night markets in Hong Kong - Ladies Market in Mongkok, and Temple Street, near Jordan. Both sell very similar products. but Ladies Market is far more contemporary, whereas you get a more cultural and traditional vibe from Temple Street.
Walking through Ladies Market, the amount of stuff you can buy boggles the mind. Super cute umbrellas to shelter you from the heat back home? Check. Gorgeous qipaos to prepare for next year’s Lunar New Year? Check. A pack of Hong Kong street sign magnets so that you can kill (buy) five birds (souvenirs) with one stone? Check.
Over at Temple Street, you find more cultural items, like beautiful landscape paintings and delicate figurines that would be lovely gifts. There are subtle differences between the two markets, but most of what you can find in one, you can get at the other.
It’s impossible to list out everything you can find at the night markets. Whether you’re looking for cheap deals or cheap souvenirs to appease the masses back home, you’ll definitely find what you need here.
The best part of the whole experience is that bargaining is totally a way of life. Don’t be afraid to ask for a lower price, and even if you think it’s already pretty cheap, just try your luck.
I got my hands on this pair of adorable Gudetama slippers for about HKD60 (SGD10.80), which I thought was a steal, but a friend who lives in Hong Kong told me I could have bargained further. Damn.
One effective bargaining tactic I saw being used a lot was the very simple act of walking away. I saw this dude who wanted to buy a charging cable for his phone, priced at HKD100 (SGD18). He tried to bargain for a lower price, but the stall owner was reluctant, so he walked away.
As he walked away, the owner started shouting lower prices at him - with every step he took, the price dropped, and he managed to buy the cable for the price he wanted. Some of the shop owners would rather sell their products at a lower price than not make a sale at all, so walking away is a tactic to try.
In the event this doesn’t work, fret not. You’ll probably be able to find the same product at some other place in the night market, and possibly for cheaper.
Address: Tung Choi Street, Mongkok, Kowloon
Nearest MTR: Mongkok
Temple Street Night Market
Address: Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon
Nearest MTR: Yau Ma Tei or Jordan
3. Climb 268 steps to see the biggest Buddha in Hong Kong
All the eating in Hong Kong will make you feel like a large ball, so what better way to relieve the guilt than by trekking up a long flight of stairs to visit this 34m-tall statue of Buddha?
Cast entirely in bronze, the Tian Tan Buddha is an impressive sight to behold. Looming above the mountains of Ngong Ping, located on Lantau Island. climbing up to the base of the giant statue grants you an intoxicating view of the mountains of Hong Kong, a far cry from the metropolis that is the city.
There are several ways to get to the statue of Buddha from Hong Kong itself, but they all begin with taking a train to Tung Chung station.
From there, you can get on bus 23 from the Tung Chung Town Centre, or for a more thrilling experience, take a cable car up the mountain. The cable car ride costs about HKD130 per person for a one-way trip, and the view is spectacular.
Lantau Island is a popular attraction, so be prepared to queue for your cable car ride! We queued for about twenty minutes before getting on our ride.
If you decide to take the bus up the mountain, well, the bus ride in itself is an experience. There are parts of the journey that feels like a rollercoaster, with all the steep slopes and winding roads, and you’ll get a closer look at the homes of people who live in the mountains.
Upon arrival at Ngong Ping village, you’re a short 10 min walk away from Buddha. Ngong Ping Village is home to a slew of shops and entertainment, such as Stage 360, where stuntmen replicate scenes from famous Hong Kong action movies, and Walking With Buddha, an immersive multimedia retelling of the story of Buddha.
En route to Buddha, the path is lined with statues of the Twelve Heavenly Generals, each representing a different Zodiac animal, and they’re said to be the protectors of Buddha.
The best time of the year to visit to Ngong Ping would definitely be in the warmer months, from April - August, as the skies will be clear and you’ll get an amazing view.
We went up to the mountains in February, and the fog was so thick we could barely see anything.
Standing at the bottom of the steps leading up to Buddha, we looked up and saw nothing but white. However, it was still quite thrilling for me, as I’ve never encountered such thick mist, so the foggy mountains do hold their own appeal.
There’s just something intensely surreal about sitting in a cable car surrounded by fog, and walking through the mist on a metaphorical journey to enlightenment. It’s kind of creepy, giving off a Silent Hill vibe, but it’s also surprisingly calming.
If you ever wondered what it’s like to walk among clouds, this is it.
And if you’re very lucky, you may see some cows while walking from Ngong Ping to the statue of Buddha.
Just imagine strolling through the mist, and then you turn your head and encounter a live, breathing cow. I don’t know where it came from, but it’s a sight you won’t see anywhere else.
Ngong Ping 360
Address: Ngong Ping, Lantau Island, Outlying Islands
Nearest MTR: Tung Chung
Opening Hours: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm (weekdays), 9:00 am - 6:30 pm (weekends and public holidays)
Tel: +852 3666 0606
4. Visit a fishing village on stilts
One of the most popular souvenirs people bring back from Hong Kong are preserved scallops, shrimp paste, and salted fish, and there’s no better place to get them than from the village where they were caught.
Tai O is 15 minutes away from Ngong Ping by bus, and upon alighting, the first thing you notice in the smell of sea, salt, and fish. It’s an immensely picturesque village, with gorgeous views of the sea and quaint, traditional architecture that makes you feel like you’ve stepped through a time warp.
Some of the houses in Tai O are still supported by stilts, and much of the city’s architecture has remained unchanged for years. Indeed, it’s often referred to as the Venice of Hong Kong - a scenic, riverside experience.
Walking through the streets of Tai O, you’ll encounter stalls selling fresh fish, dried seafood, and local street snacks.
I’d definitely recommend getting a serving of these curry fishballs - not only are they huge, they’ve got an amazing texture.
Firm, but still soft and easy to sink your teeth into, the slight spiciness of the curry is the perfect way to take the edge off a cold day by the sea.
You could even find some unique souvenirs to take home, such as this rather bizarre bird-like pufferfish with googly eyes. I can’t decide if it’s cute, creepy, or both.
If you’re so inclined, you could take a boat ride around Tai O for a closer look at their traditional stilt houses, and you might even be able to see their famous Chinese White Dolphins.
As part of the Ngong Ping 360 tourism package, you could purchase a 360 Sky-Land-Sea pass online, or at the Tung Chung Cable Car Terminal, for HKD255 (SGD45.98) which includes a round trip cable car ride and a boat excursion at Tai O in order to make your Lantau Island experience a holistic one.
While there are no specific opening hours for Tai O, my advice is to go in the late morning or in the afternoon in order to make the most of your visit.
There are two ways to get to Tai O - you can take either Bus 21 from Ngong Ping after visiting Buddha or Bus 11 from Tung Chung, or a cab up the mountain. I’d definitely recommend taking the bus though - the ride through the steep slopes is something unique to Hong Kong.
Tai O Fishing Village
Address: Tai O, Lantau Island, Outlying Islands
Nearest MTR: Tung Chung
5. Get up close and personal with monkeys and flamingos
You know how Central Park in New York has a zoo located within the city? Well, the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens are much the same - it’s more of a large botanic gardens that’s home to a small menagerie of animals, but it’s still an oasis of nature in a busy city.
The main entrance of the gardens is located at Upper Albert Road, and walking in will bring you to a large, central fountain area. Filled with gorgeous flowers and plants, it’s incredibly relaxing to just take a walk through the gardens. There are plenty of benches and pavilions for you to sit back and relax, and it’s common to see families visiting.
The park is split into two areas - one is more of your typical park, along with a huge aviary full of exotic birds, whereas the other is home to a small selection of utterly adorable mammals. Given the size of the park, they can’t house any large animals like giraffes or zebras, but there are loads of monkeys and other smaller creatures.
The aviary is home to mynahs, geese, cranes, and even flamingos, and it’s pretty fascinating to see them flying around their enclosures.
The second half of the park, home to the mammals, was a far more interesting experience for me because of the sheer amount of noise involved. I’m not sure if our monkeys at the Singapore Zoo are just quieter, or if the ones in Hong Kong are just noisier, but be sure to prepare yourself for sound of nature.
We spent about 20 minutes at the enclosures of the buff-cheeked gibbons, and almost 80% of the time they were swinging from vine to vine shrieking at the top of their lungs. Perhaps we caught them in the throes of intense mating calls. Who knows.
There’s lots of primate business going around the Hong Kong Zoo, such as orangutans and marmosets.
There are also other animals, like turtles, raccoons, and this Black and White Ruffed Lemur that looks like what would happen if you crossed a panda with a lemur.
Paint me like one of your French girls.
For an opportunity to get back in touch with nature with all the convenience of being in the heart of the city, the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens is a great place to take a stroll and digest all the food you’ve been eating.
Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens
Address: Albany Road, Central, Hong Kong
Nearest MTR: Central
Opening Hours: 5:00 am - 10:00 pm (Fountain Terrace Area), 9:00 am - 4:30 pm (Green House/ Education and Exhibition Centre), 6:00 am - 7:00 pm (other areas)
Tel: +852 2530 0154
6. Ride the world’s longest escalator system
Up, up, and away! Hong Kong Island is notoriously hilly - climbing up the steep slopes is enough to leave you in a panting puddle of mush, so the Central-Mid Levels Escalator System helps to mitigate some of that.
Taking you through the popular SoHo district and all the way up to the quieter residences of Hong Kong, this escalator system is 800m long with a vertical climb of 135m. It has twenty escalators and three travellators, and if you were to take the entire system from start to finish, it’d take you about twenty minutes.
There’s an entrance and exit to each of the streets that the escalators pass through, so feel free to hop on and off any time to explore the city. It also saves you the trouble of having to trek up the steep Hong Kong Island slopes in search of that famous restaurant you read about online - yes, we learnt that the hard way.
The escalators are downwards-riding from 6 am - 10 am, and head upwards from 10 am onwards, so if you do decide to take it all the way to the top, just realise that you’ve got quite a walk to get back down.
Central Mid-Levels Escalators
Address: Jubilee St, Central, Hong Kong
Nearest MTR: Central
7. Listen to the sweet sounds of songbirds
Do you remember the bird corners of old, where people would bring their songbirds and hang them in cages from high poles, letting their sweet song fill the air? While you can still find bird corners in Singapore today, it’s a dying hobby that’s seeing interest wane as time goes on.
Well, in Hong Kong, there’s an entire park dedicated to the sale, feeding, and singing of these delightful feathered friends.
The Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, located just behind Mongkok Stadium, is designed like a traditional Chinese garden. While it’s startlingly beautiful, it’s nowhere as serene as the architecture would lead you to believe - step in, and birdsong fills your ears.
With everything from the tiniest Chinese thrushes to African grey parrots nipping at your fingers, this is paradise for anyone who loves these feathery creatures.
The park is popular with visitors, and you get a rare opportunity to get up close with some of these rather exotic birds. If you do want to touch them and feed them, remember to wash your hands afterwards.
There are plenty of birds on sale, but you might want to check Singapore's laws on importing these feathered folks before bringing one home. Alternatively, you can still buy a huge range of specially-crafted bamboo cages, porcelain water dishes, and other bird-care items for the bird-lover in your life.
Personally, I feel the Bird Garden is a great place to just sit down, relax, and witness the age-old art of these elderly men working to foster a bond with the birds in exchange for their sweet songs.
Yuen Po Street Bird Garden
Address: Yuen Po Street, Prince Edward, Kowloon
Nearest MTR: Prince Edward
Opening Hours: 7:00 am - 8:00 pm
8. Track down a celebrity cat
Sorry, Pika, but there’s another feline that’s trying to steal our hearts, and I think he might actually be succeeding.
Tsim Tung Brother Cream, or Brother Cream for short, is an adorable male British Shorthair cat living in a 24-hour convenience store in Tsim Sha Tsui East. He may look like a grump who puts Oscar the Grouch to shame, but he’s intensely adorable, and totally blase about his fame.
When we visited the store, he was curled up in his cage against the cold, oblivious to the multitudes of people who came to see him.
Brother Cream’s fame is no joke - we got a little lost trying to find the convenience store he calls home, but once you stumble upon it, you’ll know you’re in the right place from the large cat cardboard cutouts decorating the magazine rack.
Aside from the usual convenience store fare like drinks and magazines, there are also a ton of stickers, cards, and merchandise that are Brother Cream-themed. Brother Cream phone case, anyone?
Heck, this cat is so famous, his owner told us that he had a celebrity appearance lined up over the weekend. He also has a small shrine of gifts given to him, such as adorable collars from his fans in Singapore. When you have over 180,000 fans on Facebook, and start receiving gifts from people abroad, you know you’ve made it as a celebrity cat.
There’s even a Brother Cream car. I clearly lose at life to a fluffy feline.
Brother Cream’s owners are supremely friendly, and so long as you’re respectful and gentle with the cat, they don’t mind you spending time in their shop just to play with him. He’s also got his partner, Sister Cream, and together they’re just the cutest things.
Brother Cream’s Convenience Store
Address: Shop 1, G/F, South Seas Centre, 75 Mody Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui
Nearest MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui or Tsim Sha Tsui East
Update on 16 February 2017: This shop has ceased operations since 25 May 2016.
9. Visit Hong Kong’s museums for free on Wednesdays
The best way to get into the roots of a city is to visit its museums, but those can cost quite a pretty penny.
Have no fear - if you’re in Hong Kong on a Wednesday, you can dedicate your day to cultural immersion without paying a cent.
The six major museums are the Museum of History, the Museum of Art, the Science Museum, the Museum of Coastal Defence, the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, the Hong Kong Space Museum, and the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum, and they all have free entry on Wednesdays.
There are also a handful of folk museums, like the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware and the Hong Kong Railway Museum, with free entry daily - check out the full list of museums in Hong Kong here!
While we were in Hong Kong, we paid a visit to the Science Museum, and it was amazing fun. Do you remember going to the Science Centre as a kid? Yup, that's exactly what the Science Museum is. It’s more child-friendly than you’d expect of a museum, but adults will have fun as well.
We learned about the logic behind the structure of a traditional galleon ship while we were there, which was really interesting. Who knew there was so much science behind the design of the sails?
I was especially intrigued by this giant model of an aircraft hanging over the second floor of the museum, and by the experiments on electromagnetic induction.
I don’t know about you, but Physics lessons in secondary school would probably have been more fun if I’d learnt it in a similar way.
We also had lots of fun in the room of mirrors, which were full of silly optical illusions that made us laugh.
If you want to take advantage of the free entry to visit these museums, my advice is to go early - we were at the Science Museum around 4 pm, and while it wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded, it was still packed enough that we couldn’t spend as much time as we liked at the different exhibits.
Hong Kong Science Museum
Address: 2 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Nearest MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui or Tsim Sha Tsui East
Opening Hours: 10:00 am - 7: 00 pm (Mon - Wed, Fri), 10:00 am - 9:00pm (weekends and public holidays).
Closed on Thursdays.
Tel: (852) 2732 3232
For more information on the other museums in Hong Kong, click here.
10. Unleash your inner child at Snoopy’s World
Tucked away in New Town Plaza in Sha Tin, Snoopy’s World is a riot of colour - you can spot it, along with the myriad of adorable characters, from a mile away.
I’ve been a crazy Peanuts fangirl before it was cool to be a crazy Peanuts fangirl, so imagine my delight when I discovered that you could enter for free.
Okay, I’ll be honest - there’s not much to do at Snoopy’s World. It’s no Ocean Park or Disneyland, and really, the only thing you can do is take a dozen photos with the adorable oversized figurines. There are over 60 of these figurines throughout the park - pose with Snoopy’s Doghouse, or clamber into an American-style yellow school bus with Sally, Linus, and Charlie Brown.
There’s only one ride at Snoopy’s World: the Canoe Ride.
While admission to this mini-theme park is free, you have to fulfil some requirements, such as buying a certain amount of items in a single receipt from New Town Plaza, in order to hitch a ride on this canoe. Remember to check on the exact guidelines at the entrance!
The Canoe Ride is also targeted at young children, so adults may not find it worth the time.
There’s also a Baseball Playground, which, as the name implies, is your regular playground with slides and ladders that will entertain kids regardless of nationality
At only 3,716 square metres, or smaller than your average football pitch, Snoopy’s World is a minor attraction, but it’s a great place to bring your kids and let them run wild. Plus, if you’re obsessed with Peanuts, this is one rare opportunity to embrace that obsession wholeheartedly and ham it up for the cameras.
Address: New Town Plaza Phase 1, New Town Plaza Phase 3 Block 5 Cotton Tree Court, 18 號 樓, 2-8 Sha Tin Centre St, Hong Kong
Nearest MTR: Sha Tin
Opening Hours:11am - 7pm
11. Walk through the Garden of Stars
I’ve long dreamt of being able to walk down the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, marvelling at all the various celebrities who have left their mark… except a trip to L.A. costs a fortune and I don’t have that kind of money.
But there’s somewhere closer to home where we can “walk” amongst stars - Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong. While it’s Avenue of Stars is currently under renovation, you can still walk through the Garden of Stars, an equivalent of Hollywood Boulevard that honours a ton of Asian stars.
Start by looking at the multitudes of plaques on display in the garden, bearing the names of famous celebrities and media icons like Sir Run Run Shaw and Tony Leung. Some of the plaques even have the handprints and signatures of some of these big-name stars, like this one of Jackie Chan:
Yup, he’s got big hands.
Aside from the plaques, there’s also impressive artwork, and statues of the truly well-known. It’s very common to see people having a go at imitating Bruce Lee while posing with him, so naturally I had to give it a try:
I clearly didn’t succeed.
There are also lots of other fun statues to pose with, so get creative!
And walking down to towards the harbour, you’re granted a beautiful view of Victoria Harbour. This is the view Hong Kong is known for, and is breathtaking whether you visit in the day or at night.
I personally think it looks more spectacular at night, all lit up like a Christmas tree, and it’s also a great vantage point to watch the nightly light show, A Symphony of Lights.
Garden of Stars
Address: Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Nearest MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui or Tsim Sha Tsui East
12. Watch the world’s largest permanent light & sound show
Our Marina Bay Sands lightshow has nothing on the one in Hong Kong. Known as A Symphony of Lights, I remember watching it for the first time as a kid and being utterly awestruck by the incredible display of light and music.
It’s a sight to behold, a multitude of lasers and lights, complete with an upbeat soundtrack that celebrates the unique diversity and culture of Hong Kong. And if you happen to be watching the show on a special occasion, such as Christmas or Chinese New Year, there just might be pyrotechnic fireworks added to the mix.
A Symphony of Lights involves 47 different buildings on each side of Victoria Harbour, ranging from hotels to banks to shopping malls. Different types of lighting, from lasers to LEDs and even strobe lighting are used on each of the buildings, and it can be hard to keep track of what’s happening because there’s just so much going on!
The show happens nightly at 8 pm, and the best places to catch it are Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai, or on a perfectly-timed ferry across Victoria Harbour. You can also listen to the show’s narration from Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade and Golden Bauhinia Square - it’s in English on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but you don’t really need the narration to enjoy the experience.
13. Get a panoramic view of the “Pearl of the Orient”
This is the iconic Hong Kong attraction. Everyone knows about it, everyone goes to it, and if you try heading up there on a weekend afternoon, be prepared to queue for hours.
The highest mountain on Hong Kong Island, Victoria Peak, also known as Mt Austin or simply The Peak, treats you to an incredible panoramic view of Hong Kong. You’ll be able to see beyond the city and right across the mountains - it actually leaves you feeling kind of small, in sheer awe of just how big the world is.
There are two ways to get up to The Peak - you can take a bus from many points in the city, but the most popular way is by tram. The Peak Tram has been operating since 1888, and while it was rebuilt and modernised in 1989, it’s still a unique #throwback experience. A tram ride will cost you about HKD40, and you can pay for it via Octopus Card.
My advice is to take a bus up to The Peak, and then take the tram down. You’ll be able to bypass most of the crowd, and still get the full tram experience. There’s also a Peak Tram Historical Gallery at the Lower Terminus that’s free to enter for Peak Tram passengers, with interesting memorabilia and fascinating information on the history of the tram.
Most people are under the assumption that you have to pay to access the viewing galleries at The Peak - that’s untrue. While there is a paid observation deck, the Sky Terrace 428, there’s also a free one that, while not as high up, still provides a great view of the city.
Aside from the observation deck, there are plenty of things to do at The Peak, like shopping for souvenirs or sampling some famous wanton noodles. You could even try to blend in with the wax figures at Madame Tussauds, or send a unique postcard to yourself from The Peak.
We made the mistake of trying to take the tram up at 2:00 pm on a Saturday afternoon - the wait was two hours long. I recommend planning your trip on a weekday, but if you have to go on a weekend, be sure to go early, or try taking a bus up and then the tram down.
Alternatively, just be prepared to queue.
You can also get a cab up to The Peak, but be warned - some taxi drivers will try to trick you by charging up to HKD300 (SGD54) for the ride, instead of the metered fare, which is illegal.
The Peak Tram Lower Terminus
Address: Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong
Nearest MTR: Central
Opening Hours: 7:00 am - 12:00 am
Tel: +852 2522 0922
Address: Mid-Levels, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2849 0668 (The Peak Tower) +852 2849 4113 (The Peak Galleria)
14. Visit a walled city-turned-park
Tucked away in the residential suburbs of Lok Fu, far off the usual paths plodded by tourists, the Kowloon Walled City Park is an odd pocket of idle serenity - but it has an interesting past that’s like something out of an 80’s triad film.
It’s hard to believe this quiet park was once a Walled City, rife with prostitution, drugs, and illegal dealings.
While the site was used as a fort and a signal station as early as the 15th century, it was only in 1846 that it became a true walled city, surrounded by strong stone walls with six watch towers and four gates. The Walled City entered a state of lawless limbo in the late 1800s, when Kowloon Island was signed over to the British and the Walled City excluded from the agreement.
A model of the walled city, before its demolition.
After World War II, the Walled City grew rapidly, with illegal buildings mushrooming all over the place. It also became a city of vice where strip clubs, brothels, casinos, opium dens, and dog meat stalls were aplenty, alongside unlicensed dentists and factories built on the cheap land.
Come 1987, the governments of Hong Kong and China agreed to the demolition of the city, transforming it into the park it is today. That’s quite a complex backstory.
There are several entrances to the park, but the nearest entrance from Lok Fu MTR Station is the one on Tung Tau Tsuen Road . From there, you can slowly make your way through the park. Pause for photos at the Garden of Chinese Zodiac, or immerse yourself in the calm zen of the numerous pavilions.
There’s even a mini-waterfall of sorts in the centre of the park, perfect for sitting along the pavilion and channeling that “in-touch-with-nature” vibe.
Near the waterfall, there’s a photo gallery lined with images of the Walled City dating back to the 1800s - it’s an interesting slice of history!
Be sure to walk all the way to the Yamen, or the Park Office. The building was constructed in 1947, and used to house the offices of the Commodore of the Dupeng Brigade and the Kowloon Assistant Military Inspectorate.
It’s home to an exhibition gallery detailing the entire history of the park, and has six different exhibition rooms that showcase different aspects of life at different times within the Walled City. Just note that the gallery is closed on Wednesdays!
There are also remnants of the city walls on display near the park office, and even though they’re in ruins, imagining them in their towering glory fills me with wonder.
Kowloon Walled City Park is incredibly picturesque - it’s hard to believe you’re actually in the middle of one of the world’s busiest cities, because stepping into this park transports you to a whole different world.
Kowloon Walled City Park
Address: Tung Tsing Road, Kowloon City, Kowloon
Nearest MTR: Lok Fu
Opening Hours: 6:30 am - 11:00 pm
Tel: +852 2716 9962
Hong Kong on a budget
There’s so much you can do in Hong Kong for free - armed with just an Octopus Card, Hong Kong is totally your oyster.
One of the best things to do is to just really take the time to appreciate the sights, sounds and smells of Hong Kong as you move from destination to destination. I learnt to appreciate inhaling a deep lungful of salted fish from the nearby dried goods store every time I stepped out from my hotel - it’s something uniquely HK.
There’s a kind of charm to the paved, narrow streets, filled with neon lights and large signs, a quaint and urban beauty in a busy city.
So the next time you’re headed to Hong Kong, and have blown most of your cash on stuffing yourself silly with delicious food like polo baos and scrumptious dimsum, check out these 14 things you can do without spending a cent. This is budget travelling at its finest.