No matter where you’ve travelled, you’d be hard pushed to find a more dramatic and architecturally diverse landscape that the Hong Kong skyline.
It starts with the beguiling natural setting: the harbour and churning waters, the soaring, lush mountains and the jaw-dropping sunsets. There’s the seemingly endless traffic on the water, the vapour trails in the sky and the remarkable impact of light – the neon reflecting from advertising signs overlooking Victoria Harbour or over otherwise darkened streets and alleyways. Then factor in centuries of culture, with temples, homes and masses of humanity on the move.
Most of all, it’s the extraordinary variety and quantity of Hong Kong skyscrapers. The city ranks first in the world when it comes to the number of buildings over 150 metres high, with about 350 of them. From the iconic portholes of Jardine House, which opened in Central in 1973, to the 484-metre-tall International Commerce Centre (ICC) that’s dominated the West Kowloon skyline since 2010, this is a city where the sky has never been the limit.
Here are some of our favourite Hong Kong skyline views and the best vantage points to see them.
For the definitive picture-postcard – and indeed Instagram – view of Hong Kong Island, head to the waterfront promenade in Tsim Sha Tsui, where the redesigned Avenue of Stars walkway reopened in early 2019. Your eyes will be drawn past the Star Ferry boats and junks plying the harbour up to the towering skyline of Central district. Countless skyscrapers including the International Finance Centre, HSBC Main Building and Bank of China Tower are backed by the green slopes of Victoria Peak. Surveying the scene, there’s a distinct and undeniable sense of the energy that defines the city.
How to Get There: MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui, take Exit C1 and walk down Nathan Road towards the waterfront. Alternatively, take the Star Ferry from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui and turn right off the ferry.
More angles on the Hong Kong skyline come from Tsim Sha Tsui’s high-rise bars. The highest is Ozone at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, situated 118 floors up and offering dizzying views out across the South China Sea and over the Kowloon hills to the far reaches of the New Territories. Aqua is a swish restaurant and bar on the 30th floor of the One Peking building with widescreen views of Hong Kong Island, while The One is the city’s tallest retail complex and features numerous bars with views taking in both Tsim Sha Tsui and Hong Kong Island. Try timing cocktails on Wooloomooloo Prime’s open-air balcony for sunset or the Symphony of Lights show at 8pm.
How to Get There: MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui. Some malls, and the rooftop bars within, can be accessed directly from the station, while other bars are a short walk away.
Credit: Mike Pickles
At 602 metres, Kowloon Peak, known in Cantonese as Fei Ngo Shan, sits within Ma On Shan Country Park in the northeast corner of Kowloon. It is by no means an easy feat to get to the summit, especially on warm summer days, but those who do brave the hike are rewarded with spectacular vistas of the entire Kowloon peninsula. You’ll see chains of mountains, Lion Rock mountain and even the distant fishing port of Sai Kung. Most, however, come for views from the peak’s south face of the hundreds of housing estates that make up Kowloon.
How to Get There: If you don’t mind a few hours’ hiking, take the MTR to Choi Hung, Exit B, and walk along Clear Water Bay Road until you reach New Clear Water Bay Road. Head left on Fei Ngo Shan Road; Kowloon Peak is a further 30 minutes’ walk. The quickest method is by taxi, which can drop you off on Fei Ngo Shan Road.
Credit: Mike Pickles
Kennedy Town is a largely residential neighbourhood in the northwest of Hong Kong Island that doesn’t frequently feature on visitors’ itineraries. But it has a growing food and drink scene – and affords some pretty special views, especially at sunset. That’s thanks to its location strung along the waterfront, unimpeded by large buildings, meaning that the full extent of the setting sun can be appreciated in a panoramic, 180-degree view.
How to Get There: MTR to Kennedy Town; take Exit C and walk towards to waterfront.
At more than 550 metres, Victoria Peak is the highest point on Hong Kong Island. The Peak, as it’s popularly known, can be reached on foot, by car or by riding the handsome colonial-era Peak Tram. Whichever you choose, on a clear day – and particularly on a clear night – the Hong Kong skyline views are unbeatable. You have the spread of Hong Kong Island’s skyscrapers beneath you, the harbour, the Kowloon skyline and a great angle on the ICC, which puts on its own LED light shows to complement the constellation of twinkling skyscrapers.
How to Get There: The most memorable experience is riding the 130-year-old Peak Tram from Admiralty, but several buses also run to The Peak. Hiking routes also lead to The Peak from Central, Wan Chai, Pok Fu Lam and Aberdeen.
Another cracking sunset view is found at Kowloon’s Lei Yue Mun, a traditional fishing settlement that sits at the mouth of Victoria Harbour. The ramshackle nature of the village harks back to Hong Kong’s past, while its location right on the water gives it great views over the towering developments of Hong Kong Island’s eastern side, all the way up to the skyscrapers of Central in the distance. Craft an Insta-perfect sunset shot from the numerous boulders on the shoreline before you head for dinner at one of the local seafood restaurants that also make the village famous.
How to Get There: From Hong Kong Island, take the MTR to Sai Wan Ho and catch the ferry to Sam Ka Tsuen. From Kowloon, take the MTR to Yau Tong and either walk or take a taxi or the number 24 green minibus.
For such a densely populated destination, visitors are often surprised at Hong Kong’s huge variety of trails, where hikers can often find themselves completely alone. The Dragon’s Back is a ridge in the southeast of Hong Kong Island and home to one of the more popular trails, thanks to its beautiful, sweeping views down towards the dreamy beachside village of Shek O and the dramatic coastline out to the South China Sea. The meandering path offers numerous sightseeing opportunities, while many who finish the trail at Big Wave Bay take advantage and cool off by swimming or surfing the waters – and maybe enjoying a cold beer or two.
How to Get There: MTR to Shau Kei Wan, take Exit A to the bus terminus and take the number 9 double-decker bus. Get off at the To Tei Wan/Dragon’s Back stop, which is the trailhead for the roughly three-hour hike.
Another rewarding out-of-town destination is the fishing island of Cheung Chau, about a 40-minute ferry ride from Central. Temples, beaches, windsurfing spots, seafood restaurants and a former pirate’s hideout are some of the draws of this spot, where the pace of life is slower than in the city centre. A winding shoreline walk brings you past local fishermen drying seafood in the sun, but it’s the views over their dozens of boats that provide an iconic image for amateur and professional photographers alike. Top tip: pair the idyllic views with a memorable meal at one of the waterfront seafood restaurants such as So Bor Kee (11C Pak She Praya Road; +852 2981 0998).
How to Get There: Ferry from Central’s Pier 5, then turn left along the promenade after disembarking.
On the island of Lantau stands Sunset Peak, Hong Kong’s third highest mountain at 869 metres and another considerable effort to climb, but again well worth it for its expanses of scenery. A number of mini waterfalls provide welcome natural refreshment along the way, and you’ll see stone shacks of the Lantau Mountain Camp, built for early British missionaries. Once up top, you’ll find yourself above the aeroplanes descending into nearby Hong Kong International Airport, while panoramic views include rocky boulders and rustling silvergrass. There are no prizes for guessing that the ultimate time to get there is just before sunset – just be sure to take a torch for the journey down afterwards.
How to Get There: MTR to Tung Chung (35 minutes from Central) and either walk approximately two kilometres to the start of the trail at Wong Lung Hang, or take any of the many buses along Tung Chung Road to Pak Kung Au, where you can begin the hike that finishes in Mui Wo.