Free things to see in Hong Kong

Five groups running Hong Kong walking tours for visitors and locals

You don't have to be in the city on holiday to enjoy these guided walks
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 July, 2015, 6:33am

You don’t have to be a visitor to Hong Kong to enjoy a guided tour that'll show you some of the city's
history and attractions. There's something for everyone, from the military history buff to the food and
nature lovers. So grab a pair of comfortable walking shoes and join in.

For food lovers

Hong Kong Foodie’s mission is to lead hungry souls to some of the city’s best food spots. It recently
launched the Tai Po Market Foodie Tour, which is ideal for those game to try less familiar local fare. You
get to taste seafood dishes, roast goose, snake soup and, for those with a sweet tooth, handmade Chinese
sweets. “Tai Po Market is the perfect destination for our latest foodie tour,” says Cecilia Leung, founder
of Hong Kong Foodie. “Most importantly, it is home to some of Hong Kong’s favourite foodie haunts.” Leung
says: “We will help participants navigate this less visited neighbourhood and make local eateries more
accessible, especially to non-Cantonese speakers.” Those who sign up will also get to explore historical
and cultural sites in the back streets around Tai Po Market, learning about its agricultural past and its
transformation into the highly developed new town we see today. For more information, visit

For history lovers

Many people in Hong Kong, visitors and residents alike, are surprised to learn that the territory was the
scene of a short (18 days) but bloody battle at the end of 1941 between Britain (and its allies) and the
invading Japanese. The subsequent Japanese occupation lasted three years and eight months until that
nation's surrender at the end of the second world war. Gabi Baumgartner of Walk Hong Kong says many who
join its walks are also surprised so many wartime relics and defensive works across Hong Kong survived the
1941 battle, the Japanese occupation and post-war development. “Anyone taking part in our WW2 walks will be
surprised at how much, and what, happened in Hong Kong during that time. There are enough visible reminders
to make the stories come back to life on these tours. WW2 enthusiasts and those with general knowledge of
WW2 will find it interesting to complement their knowledge with that of our expert guide,” says
Baumgartner. “We have designed a number of walks which cover in detail aspects of this fascinating period
of Hong Kong’s history.” Battlefield tours include areas around the Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail, Pinewood
Battery on Victoria Peak, and the Stanley Heritage Trail - all on Hong Kong Island - the Shing Mun
Redoubt and Devil's Peak in Kowloon, and the Museum of Coastal Defence. For more information see

For design lovers

Little Adventures in Hong Kong takes people to places that allow them to explore the city's public housing,
transport and urban planning. “I take people from downtown areas to see the older public housing in Shek
Kip Mei and Ngau Tau Kok,” says Daisann McLane, director of Little Adventures in Hong Kong. “So much of
Hong Kong’s image is centred on skyscrapers and the harbour and Hong Kong Island, but something like 49 per
cent of Hongkongers live in public housing, so it’s an essential part of understanding the city and the
culture.” McLane says all walks are private and bespoke and no two are alike. “If people are interested in
1960s industrial architecture, or adaptive reuse, I’ll steer them to areas like San Po Kong or Chai Wan.
The Fanling/On the Borderlands walk is popular because it covers so many periods of our history in a
relatively contained area - the Tang clan villages we visit in Fanling pre-date the founding of Hong Kong
by several hundred years. You have the colonial public buildings of Luen Wo market, the early public
housing ‘new town’ estates by the MTR. … Anything you want to know about what’s going on in Hong Kong today
is tangible and visible in Fanling. It’s an extraordinary way to dig more deeply into the layers of the
city.” For more information see

For adventure lovers

From remote hilltop vistas to secluded waterfalls and golden beaches, Wild Hong Kong will take you on an
adventure to remember, its founder, well-travelled Scot Rory Mackay says. “Our aim is to share this
beautiful backyard and show Hong Kong’s hidden gems.” Wild Hong Kong’s focus is guided hikes around various
parts of rural Hong Kong (half- and full-day routes are available, as well as customised packages). “We are
open to entertaining all types of travellers and locals who have an adventurous spirit. Hiking is our focus
but we also specialise in activities such as cliff jumping and canoeing.” Walking tours include exploring
the depths of Lantau Island’s Yellow Dragon Gorge – a secluded oasis surrounded by cliffs and waterfalls –
as well as the waterfalls on the slopes of Tai Mo Shan mountain and the beaches and mountains of Sai Kung.
For more information see

For lovers of shopping

OK, this one is across the border but any spender – whether visitor or local – will more than likely have a
story about a shopping trip to Shenzhen and it will most likely include comments about how overwhelming and
at times stressful the experience is. That’s where Hello Hong Kong comes in. Its full-day shopping tour to
Shenzhen helps spenders get the most out of the border city's handbag, jewellery, and clothing shops
(personal tailoring is available for anyone wishing to have a favourite item copied, or to order a made-
to-measure suit which can be posted back to Hong Kong). The guide will also take you to stalls in the Lo Wu
Shopping Centre selling colourful fabric, from the lightest Thai silks to the best-quality wool and
cashmere. A visit to a beauty shop for a manicure or pedicure or a massage can be arranged, as can a stop
at a hair salon for a quick wash and blow-dry. For more information, see!shenzhen-shopping-tour/c8sv

Architecture in Hong Kong

HK Architecture

Hong Kong is a major world business city, a trading post between the Orient and the Occident, the east and
the west. The city is famous for the grouping of skyscrapers seen in the photo above.

Significant architects with buildings in HK include Foster + Partners, I M Pei, Cesar Pelli and Terry
Farrell. The tallest building in the city currently is the 2 IFC tower. Celebrated Hong Kong architecture
includes the Bank of China tower and the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank building.

HK Architecture, chronological:

1. Happy Valley Racecourse Buildings, nr Wanchai
Architects: Leigh & Orange Ltd

2. Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank – HSBC Building
Design: Foster + Partners, Architects

3. Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre – HKCEC, Wanchai
Design: Skidmore Owings Merrill LLP

4. Bank of China – Tower, Central
Design: I.M. Pei & Partners, Sherman Kung & Associates Architects Ltd

5. The Peak – Peak Tower, Victoria Peak
Terry Farrell, Architects

6. One International Finance Centre, Central
Design: Cesar Pelli & Associates Architects, Rocco Design, Hirsch Bedner Associates

7. Chep Lap Kok Airport, Lantau Island
Foster & Partners, Architects

8. The Center, Central / Sheung Wan
DLN Architects & Engineers

9. Cosco Tower, Central / Sheung Wan
Design: Hsin Yieh Architects & Associates Ltd

10. Two International Finance Centre – 2 IFC Hong Kong, Central
Design: Cesar Pelli & Associates Architects, Rocco Design Ltd

Hong Kong Architecture – Recent Buildings

The Cube Bio-Informatics Centre, Sha Tin – 5 Sep 2013
Design: TheeAe LTD.

Maggie’s Hong Kong
Design: Frank Gehry, Architect

Lui Seng Chun Medicine Centre, Kowloon
Architect: AGC Design Ltd

Hysan Place, Causeway Bay
Interior Design: Benoy

Savannah College of Art and Design

Rocco Design / Benoy

International Commerce Centre, West Kowloon
Design: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates with Wong & Ouyang

West Kowloon Development, Kowloon
Design: Foster + Partners Architects

Free Things to Do in Hong Kong

By Cindy Scott

When Britain claimed Hong Kong in 1842, the peninsula and islands in southern China was a collective of
fishing villages and a haven for coastal pirates. The territory returned to Chinese control in 1997 as one
of the world’s leading financial centers and one of Asia’s most popular tourist destinations. Whether you
want to explore Hong Kong’s urban jungle of towering skyscrapers or the beaches and subtropical wilderness
that lie just beyond, here are some ways to enjoy the city where East meets West for much, much less.


Many of Hong Kong’s museums offer free general admission on Wednesdays, including all of the following:

The Hong Kong Museum of Art boasts more than 15,000 pieces, including many Chinese paintings, historical
portraits, ceramics, and calligraphy works.

Dedicated to preserving the area’s unique blend of Eastern and Western cultural influences, the Hong Kong
Heritage Museum houses collections of folk art, toys, comics, and other pop culture relics alongside
ancient Chinese artifacts.

The Hong Kong Museum of History further elucidates the area’s distinctive development through a permanent
exhibit called “The Hong Kong Story,” which spans local history from the Devonian period 400 million years
ago to Hong Kong’s reunification with China in 1997.

Horse racing first came to Hong Kong with British colonization of the area, and it has been the most
popular sport in town for many years. The Hong Kong Racing Museum celebrates this rich racing tradition and
the history of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Exhibits let visitors glimpse a day in the life of a racehorse
trainer and admission is always free (not just on Wednesdays) with free guided tours provided on a first-
come, first-serve basis.

Or, if the space race is more your speed, the Hong Kong Space Museum has interactive exhibits highlighting
milestones in space science and astronomy.

At the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum, learn about the early 20th-century revolutionary who helped inspire the
overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and played a vital role as the first provisional president of the Republic of
China. Dr. Sun was educated in Hong Kong, and the area was where his initial thoughts of revolution and
uprising began. In addition to being free each Wednesday, admission to this museum is also free on the
anniversaries of Dr. Sun’s birth (November 12) and death (March 12).


The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens house more than 1,000 species of plants and over 500 birds
and animals, including orangutans, lemurs, pythons, and flamingos. Admission is always free.

Victoria Harbour is at the heart of Hong Kong, and every night at 8 p.m., you can view A Symphony of Lights
along its shores. Named the "World's Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show" by the Guinness Book of World
Records, this dazzling multimedia presentation, complete with lasers, searchlights, and pyrotechnics on
special occasions, features more than 40 Hong Kong buildings on both sides of the harbor. The show can be
seen from a variety of positions on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, but the Avenue of Stars is a particularly
popular viewing point because accompanying music and narration are piped in. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and
Fridays, the narration is presented in English. On all other nights it is in Mandarin, except for Sundays,
when it is presented in Cantonese.


The Cultural Kaleidoscope program, offered by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, gives visitors access to a
multitude of free opportunities for immersion in Hong Kong’s unique culture. Get things in balance when you
get back home with techniques learned from a free feng shui class. Feng shui, or Chinese geomancy, is the
ancient practice of positioning objects and buildings in harmony with nature to foster good fortune and
peace of mind. A free class is offered each Friday from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Or strengthen and balance your body and mind with a free tai chi class. Discover why this ancient Chinese
martial art is still a very popular form of exercise as two of Hong Kong’s local masters walk you through
some movements. Classes are offered Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8 to 9 a.m.

The Cultural Kaleidoscope program offers many more free educational courses. For more information, visit
the tourism board’s website. You are strongly encouraged to register for all classes in advance by calling
or visiting any Hong Kong Tourism Board Visitor Centre throughout the area.

The Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre in Kowloon Park has an exhibition gallery showcasing Hong Kong’s
cultural heritage, along with an educational activity room and reference library. Admission is always free.

Gather around Golden Bauhinia Square, also known as The Expo Promenade, outside the Hong Kong Convention
and Exhibition Centre at 7:50 each morning to observe an official flag-raising ritual. Performed daily by
uniformed Hong Kong police, this ritual is filled with pomp and ceremony. It marks the raising of China’s
red ensign over the territory, which was transferred from British control in 1997. On the first day of each
month, catch an extended ceremony in which the ceremonially dressed Police Pipe Band performs music,
including the national anthem, as a backdrop to the proceedings.


Drink in a Chinese tea appreciation class (download PDF) that will introduce you to many varieties of the
beloved Asian beverage. Within a traditional teahouse, learn proper preparation techniques and tea-drinking
etiquette. After you’ve mastered the perfect sip, head over to the adjacent Museum of Tea Ware to view a
collection of rare teapots—admission is free.

You are strongly encouraged to register for all classes in advance by calling or visiting any Hong Kong
Tourism Board Visitor Centre throughout the area.


Children of all ages will enjoy Kung Fu Corner each Sunday from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Kowloon Park. This
free weekly performance features traditional kung fu demonstrations by Chinese martial artists. Members of
the public are invited to try out their own skills after each show, with instructors and students leading
kids through basic kung fu movements. Ceremonial drumming and lion and dragon dances are also part of this
interactive spectacle.

Kids will also enjoy Victoria Peak’s EA Experience, where more than 70 free gaming stations allow visitors
to play new and classic Electronic Arts video games that span all genres and appeal to a variety of age


Hong Kong’s beautiful beaches are always a popular source of free amusement and relaxation for visitors and
locals alike. Golden Beach and Repulse Bay are popular spots for swimming and sunbathing. Big Wave Bay
Beach is, as the name suggests, popular with surfers when typhoons pass nearby. It is also the site of some
prehistoric rock carvings.

Stroll through Hong Kong’s history at Kowloon Walled City Park, an area that has had many past lives.
Originally the site of a walled fort, it became a sanctuary for Chinese refugees after World War II and
later, an unlawful slum. Today, it boasts a beautiful Chinese park and garden built in classical Jiangnan
style with striking pavilions.

Much of Hong Kong’s undeveloped subtropical landscape is contained within a network of 24 protected country
parks and an extensive network of hiking trails, most of which are less than an hour away from urban areas
and are free and open for hikers and bikers to explore.

One of those trails, Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail, offers both sweeping natural vistas and historical insight—
informative signs along this route tell the tale of fierce fighting in the area during World War II. The
trail terminates near Wong Nai Chung Gap, the spot where nearly 2,000 people died in the bloody Battle of
Hong Kong that took place in December of 1941.

Birds are popular pets in Hong Kong, and you can peruse dozens of stalls filled with colorful feathered
friends in the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden. The birds themselves, along with cages, food, and everything a
bird owner might need are up for sale. But this narrow, bustling market makes for a fun, free stroll and
allows you to take in some beautiful sights and sounds. The garden is a favorite gathering spot for Hong
Kong’s songbird owners, who carry and display their pets in intricately carved cages.

Theater and Music

The Avenue of Stars, located along the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, features cement handprints of Hollywood
stars with Hong Kong heritage, such as Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. While the avenue offers panoramic views
of Victoria Harbor and is a great place to take pictures during the day, it comes alive on Saturday nights,
when any number of free performances dominate the street with music, song, and dance. The area is also a
popular viewing point for A Symphony of Lights.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board’s Cultural Kaleidoscope program offers a free Cantonese opera appreciation
class every Saturday from 2:30 to 3:45 p.m. at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. Traditional Cantonese opera
is a highly respected art form that incorporates Chinese legend, music, and drama. Participants view
elaborate costumes and set pieces in the museum’s Cantonese Opera Heritage Hall and attend a live operatic
performance by a local troupe. You are strongly encouraged to register for this class in advance by calling
or visiting any Hong Kong Tourism Board Visitor Centre throughout the area.

Best free things to do in Hong Kong

Piera Chen, Lonely Planet Writer

Hong Kong is not a cheap place, but with a bit of planning and creativity, you can spend an enjoyable day
in the city on very little money. Outdoor spaces, street concerts, galleries and markets abound in this
packed metropolis, many open free-of-charge.

Local buses and rooftop car parks provide budget alternatives to expensive theme parks and swanky bars.

So if the wallet is feeling a little slim, check out some of our favourite free things to do in Hong Kong.

Museums, galleries and art spaces

Free art is everywhere in Hong Kong. Seven of of the city's museums are open for free every Wednesday: the
Museum of Art, Museum of History, Heritage Museum, Science Museum, Space Museum, Museum of Coastal Defence
and the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum. The Flagstaff Museum of Tea Ware, Hong Kong Railway Museum, Lei Cheng Uk Han
Tomb Museum, and a handful of folk museums are free of charge on everyday, as are the exhibitions at the
Hong Kong Film Archive and the Hong Kong Arts Centre. On the south side of the island, former factories in
Wong Chuk Hang have transformed into beautiful gallery spaces, such as Spring Workshop
(, many of them free to visit.

The stunning Asia Society Hong Kong Centre has excellent exhibitions throughout the year. Also worth
exploring are the PMQ design hub in Sheung Wan, or Cattle Depot Artist Village, Oil Street Art Space, and
the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre in Kowloon, where the setting and architecture beguile alongside the

The charming streets of Sheung Wan are lined with galleries specialising in Chinese antiques. Take your
time admiring the artefacts and learning about them from the owners.

Street concerts in Wan Chai

Concerts featuring some of the best local musicians from classical through jazz to indie, are thrown by
eclectic music organizer Kung Chi-shing every third Saturday of the month (5.30-8pm) outside the Arts
Centre, every second Thursday (7.30-9pm) outside the Blue House, and every last Sunday (3-4.30pm) at Comix
Home Base. All three venues are in Wan Chai.

Expansive views

Enjoy panoramic island views from the 43rd floor viewing platform in the Bank of China Building; or bring
your own booze to the public terrace at the International Finance Centre and gaze at Victoria Harbour. If
in Kowloon, join lovers and photography enthusiasts on the rooftop carpark of Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui
for some serious sunsets over the harbour or West Kowloon.

Peninsula walkthrough

Saunter through the gilded (and air-conditioned) halls of one of Asia’s most legendary hotels – the
Peninsula. Listen to the clink of silverware as fashionable patrons take afternoon tea in the opulent
lobby, then climb the red-carpeted staircase to the colonnaded verandah on the second floor.

Going to the market

Trawling through Hong Kong’s markets will make you richer, as you will have pocketed the real gem:
atmosphere. Brush shoulders with housewives and comb-over uncles and try your hand at haggling. The Temple
Street Night Market features fortune-tellers, adult toys and Cantonese opera; the Ladies’ Market offers ‘I
Love HK’ tees and football jerseys; fragrant florals sit beside gardening tools at the Flower Market. And
don’t miss those colourful wet markets (produce and meat markets) strewn all over the city.

Turf and surf

Almost 70% of Hong Kong is officially countryside – rolling hills, country parks, surf-beaten coastlines,
all free and within an hour from urban Hong Kong. You can enjoy the vistas by hiking, cycling and
picnicking. For those with less time, there are urban parks and gardens where you can take walks along
dappled paths between bouts of sightseeing.

Whether it’s a dip in the waves or engaging in sun worship, Hong Kong’s beaches offer a free and enjoyable
escape from the city, and there are lifeguards. Just bring sunblock, a picnic and music for a cheap-but-
cheerful party.

Cheap thrills

Hair-raising bus rides along scenic routes make for a budget alternative to the thrill rides at Ocean Park.
Try the following if you dare: bus number 314 (Sunday only) from Siu Sai Wan via Tai Tam Reservoir to
Stanley; bus number 14 (weekdays only) from Sai Wan Ho along the tram tracks to Stanley; bus number 6
around the southern bays, and the open-top buses H1 and H2 that pick you up in Central.

For thrill of a different kind, an exciting night at the races can be had for only HK$10 at Happy Valley
Racecourse. Alternatively, head over to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and watch punters of a different kind
try to strike gold at the city’s nerve centre.

Spiritual spaces

Hong Kong's places of worship are plentiful and usually free to enter. There are hundreds of temples and
nunneries, a fair number of churches, and a handful of mosques and synagogues in Hong Kong. Almost all are
free of charge. You can enter to experience the history and architecture, or simply for a few moments of
quiet contemplation. For deeper introspection, saunter among the headstones of the famous dead at Hong Kong

Free tours

These heritage sites offer pocket-friendly, English-speaking tours that are fun and informative.

Former Magistracy

The UNESCO-award-winning former North Kowloon Magistracy Building (, complete with
courtrooms and prison cells, was one of the territory’s busiest magistracies until it closed in 2005. It’s
now home to an art institution.

Asia Society

A former explosives magazine compound ( built by the British Army in the 19th century has
been transformed into a graceful cluster of galleries, theatre, café, and bookstore.

Mei Ho House

A public resettlement block ( built in the 1950s gets a new lease on life as an airy youth
hostel and museum.

Tai O Heritage Hotel

A former police station that defended the coast against pirates is now a boutique hotel
( You can see the original cannons, searchlight and
guard towers.

Former Legislative Council Building

This neo-classical monument ( served as the seat of the Legislative Council from 1985 to 2002.
Tours for individuals are available.

Museum of Coastal Defence

The museum ( occupies the site of a fort built over a hundred years ago that was an important
battlefield during the Battle for Hong Kong in 1941.


Living quarters for married policemen built in the 1950s have morphed into an arts hub
( featuring designer studios, galleries, and restaurants.

Former Marine Police Headquarters

This gorgeous complex built in 1884 has been turned into a monument to consumerism
( But you can still have a look at a handful of the original


For Additional Walking Tour information:

Other Cultural Events:

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