Hong Kong
Where East meets West
Hong Kong Travel, tours, Central

"Central"

The area where modern Hong Kong started from... 

Central is the area where modern Hong Kong started from.  Victoria City, as the area was called in the old colonial days, was the first urban settlement in Hong Kong after it became a British colony in 1842. It was initially named Queenstown but was soon known as Victoria...

 

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Nowadays, this area concentrates most of Hong Kong's business activity, and is dominated by modern skyscrapers that house the Asia-Pacific headquarters of international corporations, alongside bank managements, government agencies and foreign consulates...

 

Characterized by its international ambience, Central is considered as one of the best places to see Hong Kong's fascinating modern architecture, alongside the remaining neo-classic and Victorian buildings from the old colonial days...

 

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The best place to start exploring "Central" from is probably Statue Square : The historic square was built at the end of the 19th century and was so called because it originally contained the statues of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, Edward VII and Sir Thomas Jackson Bart, the chief manager of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). These statues, together with the two bronze lions in front of the HSBC Building, were displaced by the occupying Japanese forces during World War II.

 

 

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After the war, all statues were brought back to Hong Kong. Sir Thomas Jackson's statue now stands roughly in the middle of the square, facing the Former Supreme Court Building. Queen Victoria's statue was placed in Victoria Park and the two lions are standing, once again, in front of the HSBC main building.

 

Since the 1980s, there has been a tradition for thousands of Filipino domestic workers to congregate in and around Statue Square every Sunday.

The Legislative Council Building, also known as the Former Supreme Court Building is located along the eastern side of the square, west of Chater Garden.

 

The historic, neo-classical building was designed by Sir Aston Webb, the British architect responsible for the eastern facade of Buckingham Palace and the Cromwell Road frontage of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

 

Opened in 1912. The two-storey granite building, supported by Ionic columns,

was the home of the former Supreme Court until 1985, when it was renamed and became home to the Legislative Council of Hong Kong.

It is surmounted by a blind-folded statue of Justice, represented by the Greek goddess Themis. This statue is a replica of the one erected on the Old Bailey of London.

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The HSBC Hong Kong Headquarters Building (HSBC Main Building) is located along the southern side of Statue Square, on the other side of Queensway and features a classic example of Hong Kong's modern architecture, combining contemporary design with traditional Feng Shui philosophy...

 

This 180 metres tall building was designed by the famous British architect Norman Foster and its construction was completed on November 18, 1985.  At the time, it was the most expensive building in the world, worth roughly HK$ 5.2 billion.

 

Did you know ? 

When its construction was completed, in 1985, the HSBC Main Building was the most expensive building on earth, worth roughly HK$ 5.2 billion

  

The building has a module design consisting of five steel modules, prefabricated in the UK and shipped to Hong Kong - It has no internal support structure.

 

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Another notable feature is that natural sunlight is the major source of lighting inside the building. There is a bank of giant mirrors at the top of the atrium, which can reflect natural sunlight into the atrium and hence down into the plaza.

 

The building is considered to have excellent Feng Shui: it has open views of both the mountains and the harbour, the two bronze lion statues at the front are believed to contribute to the steady revenue of the bank and the escalators were planned in a way that helps good energy to flow into the building...

 

It is believed that the Bank of China tower's architectural design resembles a sword that was "slicing down" at the HSBC building's feng shui... At some stage, however, the Cheung Kong Center was erected in between the two skyscrapers and the "Feng Shui conflict" came to its end...

 

A "Feng Shui war" or just a coincidence ? 

When the Bank of China (BOC) Tower was erected, back in 1989, its "sword shaped structure" faced the HSBC Main Building and, according to the principles of "feng shui", it cut HSBC's good luck...

 

Fortunately enough, the Cheung Kong Center was erected in between the two skyscrapers and the "Feng Shui conflict" came to its end... 

 

It is recommended to take the escalator to the 1st floor... just to get a feeling of the huge interior space.

 

Chater Garden is a lovely little park, located east of Statue Square and the Former Supreme Court Building. There is a beautiful pond in the garden and it's  a good place to rest a bit before continue strolling...

 

Opposite Chater Garden, on the corner of Queensway and Garden Road, you can see the Bank of China Tower (BOC Tower). This impressive building is one of Hong Kong's most recognized skyscrapers and can be seen from almost every point around the city.  The architecturally fascinating tower was designed by the world-renowned Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei, and the structural expressionism, adopted in the design of this building, resembles growing bamboo shoots, symbolising livelihood and prosperity.

 

 

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The building is 315 meters  high (1,034 feet), with two masts reaching 369 meters (1,209 feet) high. The 70 story building was built in 1989 and was the tallest building in Hong Kong and Asia until 1992. It was also the first building outside the United States to break the 305 m (1,000 foot) mark.

 

Today, it is the fourth tallest skyscraper in Hong Kong, after  International Commerce Centre, Two IFC and Central Plaza.

 

The whole structure is supported by the five steel columns at the corners of the building, with the triangular frameworks transferring the weight of the structure onto these five columns.

 

Because of its unique angles, the tower looks different when viewed from different points...

 

A small insight from 'Metropolasia-Man' : 

The whole structure of BOC Tower is supported by the five steel columns at the corners of the building, with the triangular frameworks transferring the weight of the structure onto these five columns.  Because of its unique angles, the tower looks different when viewed from different points...

 

The building has been criticised by some Feng Shui experts for its sharp edges and its negative symbolism by the numerous 'X' shapes in its original design, though architect Pei modified the design to some degree before construction, following this feedback. The building's profile from some angles resembles that of a cleaver. In Feng Shui, this is described as a cleaver building and it is not difficult to observe that it is facing the HSBC Hong Kong headquarters building in this guise.

 

A small observation deck on the 43rd floor of the building is open to the public while visits to the main observation deck on the 70th floor are by appointment only.  Entrance is from 1 Garden Road.

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The Hong Kong Planning and Infrastructure Exhibition Gallery occupies the ground floor of Murray Road Multi-storey Car Park Building, opposite Bank of China Tower.  Recognized as the "Hong Kong Infrastructure Experience", the gallery showcases the planning and infrastructure projects of the Government of Hong Kong, using interactive displays, touch screens and other hi-tech devices and fun methods...

 

The Gallery comprises six main sections: Imprint, Hong Kong 2030, New Kai Tak, Transport and Logistics, Sustainable Development and Living Environment.  Visitors can also take photos inside the photo booth against a backdrop of Hong Kong's tourist attractions and send them to their families and friends via e-mail.

 

Address: G/F, Murray Road Multi-storey Car Park Building,
2 Murray Road (across the street from Chater Garden)

 

Opening Hours : 10 am - 6 pm, daily (closed on Tuesdays, unless Tuesday falls on a Public Holiday, and on the first two days of the Chinese New Year).

Admission is free

Website: www.infrastructuregallery.gov.hk   Tel: 3102 1242

 

Organized by HKTB, The guided Architecture walk, , departs every Saturday morning from the Hong Kong Planning and Infrastructure Exhibition Gallery and is a very recommended way to see Central's architectural highlights.

 

Participation fee is currently HK$ 200 and it is advisable to book well in advance, through the HKTB Visitor Hotline: (+852) 2508 1234 (Click here for more details)

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On the other side of the Bank of China Tower, along Cotton Tree Drive, lies the green and peaceful Hong Kong Park. This beautiful park covers a relatively large area of 20 acres and features an outstanding example of modern design and facilities, blending with natural landscape.  The park's pathways curve among beautiful landscapes with fabolous gardening, lotus ponds and artificial waterfalls.

 

A small insight from 'Metropolasia-Man' : 

Built in 1846 as the military headquarters office and residence of the Commander of the British forces in Hong Kong, the Flagstaff House, where the Museum of Tea Ware is housed, is the oldest colonial-style building remaining in Hong Kong. 

 

Enter the park from the bottom of Cotton Tree Drive (near the corner of Queensway) and climb the path to the fountain, near the main entrance.  Right after entering the park, you'll reach the Flagstaff House: This is the oldest colonial-style building remaining in Hong Kong. It was built in 1846 and initially served as the military headquarters office and residence of the Commander of the British forces in Hong Kong.

 

Today, the Flagstaff House houses the Museum of Tea Ware that specializes, as its name suggests, in the collection, study and display of teaware, including many examples of the Yixing teapot, from China's Jiangsu Province.  Adjoining the museum is the K.S. Lo Gallery with its rare collections of ceramics and Chinese seals.

 

The Museum is open daily, 10 am to 5 pm (closed on Tuesdays and on the following public holidays: Christmas Day and Boxing Day, New Year's Day and the first three days of the Chinese New Year).

 

Admission is free

Website: Museum of Tea Ware       Tel: 2869 0690

                                    

After visiting the Flagstaff House, continue deeper into the park. Pass the lovely manmade lake and climb the steep path to the Forsgate Conservatory (greenhouse). The Conservatory comprises three sections, namely the "Display Plant House", the "Dry Plant House" and the "Humid Plant House".

 

Free, guided bird-watching walks depart from here every Wednesday morning, at 8 am. The walk lasts two hours. For more details call: 2521 5059, or click here

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Further on with the pathway, you'll pass through the Tai Chi Garden and get to the Edward Youde Aviary. This walk-through aviary is built over a natural valley at the southern corner of the park and boasts a collection of 800 birds, comprising 100 species indigenous to Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and New Guinea.

Ground dwelling birds, including pheasants, partridges, pigeons and thrushes can be seen here. Some, like the Crowned pigeons from New Guinea are spectacularly beautiful.  Alongside the main aviary, there is also the Waterfowl Lake (down at the bottom), landscaped to form a swamp that accommodates different species of waterfowls. Some of the attractive species that can be found in the Waterfowl Lake are the Australian Pelican, Great White Pelican and Radjah Shelduck.

 

Another highlight of the aviary includes the Caged Display Area where visitors can take a close look at some beautiful species of Hornbills.

The aviary is open daily, from 9 am to 5 pm - admission is free.

A small tip from 'Metropolasia-Man' : 

Almost hidden in the park's southern corner, the Edward Youde Aviary is unknown to most tourists... although it certainly deserves to be visited

 

The Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre is located at the park's southernmost corner, just a minute away from the aviary (behind the Children's Play Area). Housed in what used to be the Cassels Block (one of the barrack-buildings within the historic Victoria Barracks), the centre provides studio space and facilities for local artists, in order to enhance their creativity. There are lots of modern artifacts and sculptures, and visitors who wish to take a look are more than welcome...

 

The Visual Arts Centre is open daily (except Tuesdays) 10am - 9pm and entrance is free.

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Leaving the park, exit to Cotton Tree Drive , cross it (there is a pedestrian bridge that connects the park with Citybank Tower) and continue to the parallel Garden Road. (on the other side of Citybank Tower and Bank of China Tower),  where you can visit the historic St. John's Cathedral.  Built between 1847 and 1849, the cathedral is the oldest surviving western religious building in Hong Kong and probably the oldest Anglican church in East Asia.  Like many English churches, its architecture is influenced by the Decorated Gothic style.  The cathedral is open daily, from 7 am to 6 pm (till 7:30 pm on Sundays).

 

Built between 1847 and 1849, St. John's Cathedral is the oldest surviving western religious building in Hong Kong and probably the oldest Anglican church in East Asia.

 

 

Behind the Cathedral, on 1 Battery Path (off Garden Road), you can see the granite and red bricks, Neo-Classical Former French Mission Building (currently housing the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong).

The present three storey building was built in 1917 on the foundation of a previous structure. The first Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Henry Pottinger resided here from 1843 to 1846. His successor, John Francis Davis also lived here for a while, before moving to Caine Road.

The building then had several owners, and was acquired by the French Mission in 1915. They renovated it and added a chapel in the north-west corner, topped by a cupola.

It was finally sold back to the Hong Kong Government in 1953.

 

Walk a few steps up Garden Road and you'll reach the Helena May main building (on 35 Garden Road: Opposite the US Consulate-General, and right near the Peak Tram Lower Terminus). This lovely, colonial style members-club was opened in 1916 by Lady May Ride, the wife of the then Governor of the crown colony, as a respite for unaccompanied women arriving in Hong Kong.  Even today, the club still maintains a lovely atmosphere that revives the charm of those old days... Entrance is for members only.

 

Behind Helena May, on the other side of Cotton Tree Drive, you can see the North and West Blocks of St. Joseph's College. The two 1920s structures, well distinguished for their towers and their blueish roofs, are the only remaining pre-war buildings of this Roman Catholic missionary school.

 

From Helena May, walk a few steps up Garden Road, to the corner of Upper Albert Road.  On your right hand side is the Government Hill Gardens and Government House, the official residence of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. 

This historic building was constructed in 1855 as the official residence of the Governor.  From 1855 to 1997, during the period when Hong Kong was under British rule, it was the official residence and office of 25 of Hong Kong's 28 governors.

 

The initial architecture of the house was neo-classical colonial. However, once the Japanese seized it, during World War II, they remodeled it and added their own pieces, in order to produce a more Japanese styled mansion... The result is definitely interesting and beautiful... The gardens and the house are open to the public only six times a year, on open days.  To find out if one of those open days falls during your visit to Hong Kong, visit their website: http://www.ceo.gov.hk/gh/chi/index.htm or call the HKTB Visitor Hotline: (+852) 2508 1234

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The entrance to Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens is opposite Government House, right on the corner of Garden Road and Upper Albert Road. The gardens, which were opened in 1871, are among the world's oldest zoos and form another gorgeous green lung in this extremely dense part of Hong Kong.  Despite of being comparatively small in size, there is a lot to see in the gardens and you should make a point to spend at least one or two hours there.

 

There are hundreds of birds, reptiles and mammals in the gardens, including: Orangutans, Golden Lion Tamarin, Burmese Python, Giant Asian Pond Turtle and Red-crowned Crane, just to name a few...  There are also more than 1,000 species of plants, mostly indigenous to tropical and sub-tropical regions, that grow in different thematic gardens, such as the Bamboo garden, Magnolia garden, Camellia garden, Bauhinia garden, Palm garden and others...

 

The gardens are open daily: The Fountain Terrace Garden open from 6 am to 10 pm and the other parts of the gardens (zoo and thematic gardens) close by 7 pm.

Admission is free, and there are some more entrances, on Albany Road.

 

Did you know ?

The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens were opened in 1871 and are among the world's oldest zoos.

 

Use the tunnel (within the gardens) to cross under Albany Road to the other side of the Gardens, (where the animals are...) and exit the gardens through the path that goes down to Glenealy.  As soon as you walk out of the gate, on the other side of the street, there is an entrance to a tiny path (sandwiched between two buildings) that leads to the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Hong Kong. Built in a Greek cruciform shape with a tower at the intersection of the nave and transepts, this impressive 1880s cathedral is imposing Gothic Revival style. Open daily, 7am to 7pm (It can also be accessed via Caine Road

 

Turn right from the Gardens' gate, few steps down along Glenealy Street  will bring you to the corner, where Caine Road, Glenealy, Arbuthnot Road and Upper Albert Road meet.  Cross the street towards Arbuthnot and turn right (almost immediately) to Glenealy, then left and down with the street for another minute or two, until you reach the corner of Wyndham and Lower Albert.

 

Housed in the historic 1913 "Old Dairy Farm Building" (The original building was actually erected in the early 1890s), The Fringe Club, on the corner of Lower Albert Road and Wyndham Street is another artists' center that provides rent-free exhibition and performance facilities to Hong Kong and international artists. The gallery of the Fringe Club is open daily (except Sundays), from 12 noon to 10pm.

 

The impressive Bishop's House, opposite The Fringe Club, on the other side of Lower Albert, was built in the late 1840s and is currently serving as the residence and office of the Archbishop of Hong Kong.

 

A few steps down Lower Albert Road, turn left to Ice House Street and left again to tiny Duddell Street, where you can walk down the old granite stairway and see the only remaining gas lamps in Hong Kong.

 

Down to the bottom of Duddell Street and across Queen's Road Central and you reach the cluster of glittering modern skyscrapers that surround MTR-Central

 

The Exchange Square Complex is the home of Hong Kong's Stock Exchange and has a lovely open "piazza" in the middle, with nice restaurants and cafés.

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Just nearby, on the other side of the Airport Express - Hong Kong Station, stands the impressive Two IFC Tower - Which used to be Hong Kong's tallest skyscraper until just recenty... (Currently, it is the metropolis's second tallest building, surpassed only by the newly completed International Commerce Centre (ICC Tower) in West Kowloon).

 

This ultra modern megatower looks like a humongous obelisk of steel and glass which rises to a height of 415 meters and features one of the most prominent landmarks along Hong Kong's skyline.  It was designed by the renowned Argentinian born architect, César Pelli, who is also responsible for the famous Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (those were the world's tallest buildings until recently).  The tower is a part of the massive International Finance Centre Complex (IFC) which consists of two skyscrapers, the IFC shopping mall and the 55-storey Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong.  

 

The tower created some serious controversy when it was built, as it breached the Metro-plan guidelines which prohibit new developments from cutting the ridge-line of the Peak when seen from various key points on the waterfront, including the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade.

 

A small tip from 'Metropolasia Man' :  

Although 2 IFC does not boast a proper rooftop-observation-deck, you can take the lift to the 55th floor, where the Information Centre of Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) is located and enjoy the breathtaking sceneries, free of charge...

 

The information centre is open from 10am to 6pm (Monday - Friday) and 10am - 1pm (Saturday).  Closed on Sundays.

For more info, visit their website

 

The area around MTR-Central boasts some first class shopping and dining too. Look at the relevant sections, in this website, to learn more.

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You may also want to read about other trips around this area...

Sheung Wan - "The Chinese heart of old Hong Kong"

Wan Chai & Admiralty - Modern architecture, shopping and sinful streets