For history buffs and those with an interest in architecture, Hong Kong’s fascinating past including both Western and Chinese influences can be seen in its landmarks. If you’re visiting Hong Kong and want to learn about its history, you should make time to visit some of the famous monuments in the city. Today we’re introducing a number of moments of both Western and Chinese origin, which you can see on your trip to find out about the city and its people.
Of course, you’ll want to check out the beautiful views of the Victoria Harbor where you can see hundreds of ships and boats of all sizes passing through. And if you have time for a short trip, then you can take the tram up to the top of the Victoria Peak to bask in the spectacular views of the city from the viewing platform. There are also many monasteries in the surrounding areas of the city which you can visit to learn about religious life in the region, and for a taste of the modern architecture in the city you should try to see the huge and impressive Tsing Ma suspension bridge which links the islands of Tsing Yi and Ma Wan.
Now on to some of the top historic moments which you can visit in the city.
The Clock Tower
Since Kowloon Station was constructed in 1915, the 44-meter-high Clock Tower has stood proudly over the southern shore of Tsim Sha Tsui. Although the train station is long gone, the clock tower remains and is a popular moment with both tourists and locals. Previously, it was possible to enter the tower and climb to the top via a wooden staircase, but this is currently closed for maintenance. However, you can still visit the tower to view its distinctive brickwork and white-capped dome. The clock looks particularly impressive at night, when it is illuminated and you can admire its reflection in the long ornamental pool in front of it.
The Big Buddha
The Big Buddha, or the Tian Tan Buddha as it is officially known, is a huge statue of Buddha Shakyamuni which has stood over the island of Lantau since 1993. The statue is a part of the Po Lin Monastery, which is a major center for Buddhism and a place to which many religious faithful travel. Fashioned from bronze, the Buddha is visually striking as well as being an educational center for visitors to learn about Buddhism. Visitors can climb the 268 steps to the base of the statue to admire the views of the mountains and seas which surround it, and the area also offers a popular vegetarian restaurant which is part of the monastery.
The Central Police Station Compound
If you’re interested in learning about the colonial history of Hong Kong, then the Central Police Station is a must-see. Since 1864, the structure was a center of police activity in the city until it was decommissioned in 2006. Known locally as the “Big Station”, it was the symbol of colonial power in Hong Kong for decades. Now it is regarded as a site of cultural interest, due to its long history and the unique architecture of the seven buildings in the compound. The compound is currently being redeveloped and is expected to reopen in the latter half of 2016. But in the meantime, visitors can still come to appreciate the elegant Late-Victorian styling of the buildings including beautiful granite features and impressive columns in the entrance hall.
The Peninsula Hotel
One of Hong Kong’s most famous and well-established hotels, the Peninsula Hotel is located in the Tsim Sha Tsui area of Kowloon. The hotel is famed for its large fleet of Rolls-Royce cars, which are painted in the hotel’s signature color, Peninsula Green. It has stood since 1928, and has been a fixture of the Hong Kong landscape during the dramatic changes the city has witnessed over the past hundred years.
The building boasts a stunning gilded lobby with striking pillars, and has become a cultural icon. Not only had the Peninsula Hotel been mentioned in the James Bond films, but also used for a scene in the blockbuster movie The Dark Knight. If you’d like to see the hotel but can’t stretch to the cost of staying there, then you should try the English-style afternoon tea which is offered in the restaurant, where you can experience the typical food and drink of the colonial era.
Kowloon Walled City Park
One of the landmarks with the longest and most colorful histories in Hong Kong is the Kowloon Walled City Park. The park is built on the site of the former Kowloon Walled City, which had been the site of a military stronghold since the 15th century due to its location on the water.
When the New Territories of Hong Kong were leased to Britain in 1898, the Chinese troops who had been stationed there were forced to relocate, leaving the area empty. It was quickly filled by local gangs and it became infamous as a shanty town and a hotspot for crime. When Hong Kong was returned to Chinese control in 1987, the government took over the area, demolished the slum, and replaced it with a park which retains some of the original features of the walled city, such as the imperial government administrative building.
University of Hong Kong
The University of Hong Kong campus has stood on the hills overlooking the western side of Hong Kong island since the university opened in 1911.
However, some buildings like the University Hall date back even earlier to 1861 and were originally built as palaces for wealthy colonialists. The blend of Tudor and Gothic architectural styles makes the Hall a place of architectural interest, and the granite colonnades and turrets make for an impressive vista.
The campus also includes a museum and art gallery which have a large collection of Chinese art and antiquities, so plan some extra time to see these too.
These are just some of the historic moments which you can visit in Hong Kong. Those with an interest in military history will also want to see the firing of the Noon Day Gun on the Causeway Bay, and those with an anthropological bent will enjoy visiting the 500-year-old Kat Hing Wai Walled Village, where members of the Hakka community still live today. Finally, if you want to learn about some of the earliest settlers in Hong Kong, you can’t miss the Ping Shan Heritage Trail.