Hong Kong is internationally known as a financial hub and as one of Asia’s cultural centres. Decades of British colonialism have left profound impacts of the physicality of the city and its people. The return to China as a special and independent region in 1997 equally impacted the entry of Hong Kong into the 21st century as a global city.
Hong Kong is a place where history and memory are visible in its contrasts and juxtapositions in every corner of its hilly streets. Throughout the years, hundred of thousands of expats relocated to the city, who, coupled with immigrants from all over the continent, make it a ‘melting pot’ comparable to London and New York.
The city of never-ending skyscrapers and countless footbridges is a unique – and often surprising – metropolis that will never stop to amaze its visitors and residents. What is mostly unknown about the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, however, is that it’s in fact an archipelago of more than 200 islands rather than a city in its conventional sense. Divided into Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories, the diversity of landscapes is truly fascinating. The celebrated harbour skyline is only a façade, as country parks, tiny islands, naturally protected spaces and hiking trails largely outnumber urban areas.
Along the coastline
The coastline of Hong Kong Island is home to many vibrant neighbourhoods. Central is the financial centre, a shopping area, and home to a multitude of restaurants and bars. Soho and Shueng Wan– connected to Central through the famous outdoor escalators – are the heart of Hong Kong’s nightlife, vintage shops, art galleries and urban eateries. Most Notably, Hollywood Road is a gem for foodies.
Eastward, Wanchai, Causeway Bay and Happy Valley make this part of the island as lively and interesting as its counterpart with numerous traditional and Western eateries, temples, historical buildings and the up-and-coming four streets that constitute the so-called ‘hipsterland’.
The southern part of the island offers completely different scenarios: white beaches, small villages, and hiking trails. Repulse Bay deserves a lunch visit as the promenade offers multiple food options and it’s also good for a chilled day at the beach less than 20 minutes away from the skyscrapers of Central.
On the other side the harbour lays Kowloon, another colourful with its own peculiarities. Tsim Sha Tsui – TST for locals – is the waterfront area of the peninsula, the place to enjoy the best skyline view of Hong Kong Island and where many luxurious hotels and rooftop restaurants are located. Kowloon Park, Peking Road and the tiny alleys full of street food and stores make this part of the city fascinating and attractive to both visitors and residents. Mong Kok, in Kowloon’s hinterland, is one the world’s most densely populated areas, and home to the psychedelic and renowned Hong Kong neon signs, as well as 24 hours traditional eateries, markets, and street activities.
All the Outer Islands and the hinterland part of the Hong Kong territory that stretches to the border with Mainland China are part of the New Territories. Every island deserves a visit for they all have natural or traditional hidden treasures to explore. Most notably Lantau – the biggest island in the entire archipelago – Lamma, and Chueng Chun, are among the most interesting and easy to reach from Central.