Central, on Hong Kong Island, is the area where modern Hong Kong started its life from, and although many of the fascinating colonial buildings that once dominated the area had given way to glittering skyscrapers and swish shopping malls, there are still more than a handful of attractions around here that are well worth visiting.
This article will lead you through some of the best attractions in “Central”.
- Statue Square will be the first attraction on our trip. This 19th century square hosted the statues of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, Edward VII and Sir Thomas Jackson, the legendary chief manager of HSBC, who was responsible for financing the development of the city in its early days.
The statues were removed by the occupying Japanese forces during World War II but were brought back to Hong Kong as soon as the war was over.
- The Former Supreme Court Building is located on the eastern side of Statue Square, west of Chater Garden.
This 1912 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.
- Designed by the internationally known architect, Norman Foster, HSBC Hong Kong Headquarters Building (or simply HSBC Building) was the world’s most expensive building at the time it was inaugurated, back in 1985.
Supported by five enormous steel modules, with no core structure whatsoever, the building has a colossal atrium and enjoys an excellent Feng Shui, as it is planned to allow a free flow of positive energies.
- Bank of China (BOC) Tower, just a heartbeat from HSBC Building, is one of the most eye catching high-rises in Hong Kong, and is noticeable from almost everywhere around Victoria Harbour and the city.
Soaring to an impressive height of 315 meters, this monumental skyscraper used to hold the title of “Asia’s tallest” building until 1992, and was the first building outside the US to break the 1000 foot mark.
The zigzag frames around the tower help to equally distribute the structure’s weight between the five supporting columns, and the unique angles they form make the building look different when viewed from different locations.
- Hong Kong Park, right opposite Bank of China Tower, is a heaven of greenery and tranquility amidst the skyscrapers, with lotus ponds, manmade waterfalls, Tai Chi Garden and a particularly beautiful walk-through aviary.
Another notable attraction in Hong Kong Park is Flagstaff House: The city’s oldest remaining colonial-style building, which once served as the military headquarters office and residence of the Commander of the British forces in Hong Kong, and is now home of the Museum of Tea Ware, where you can see some fascinating collections of tea related artifacts.
- Inaugurated in the early 1870s, the Hong Kong Zoological and botanical Gardens is one of the world’s oldest existing zoos, and although its collection of animals is far smaller than that of counterpart zoos in other metropolitan cities across the universe, it is still a very nice place to visit, especially the botanical section, where you can familiarize yourself to some unique plants, indigenous to this part of the world.
There are some interesting colonial buildings near BOC Tower and the park that are worth taking a look at, as they give you a glimpse into how the city looked like in its early days… Those include the neo-classical Former French Mission Building, with its granite and red bricks facade (currently housing the Court of final appeals), the 1840s St. John’s Cathedral, which is possibly East Asia’s oldest Anglican church, and the 1916 Helena May main building, near the Peak Tram Lower Terminus, which is a colonial style members-club, initially built to provide a safe respite for unaccompanied women who arrived at the city.
- On the other side of the Zoo, below Government House, you should visit places like the old stairway at tiny Duddell Street, where Hong Kong’s only remaining gas lamps can still be seen, or Bishop’s House and The Fringe Club on adjacent Lower Albert Road.
Conclude the trip with a cup of coffee at the alfresco piazza in Exchange Square Complex, surrounded by contemporary sculptures, and uber-glitzy skyscrapers that will give you neck-aches… Two IFC Tower, the gigantic obelisk-shaped tower standing between Exchange Square and the Star Ferry Pier, is currently Hong Kong’s tallest building, although it is going to be surpassed soon by the upcoming International Commerce Centre in Kowloon.