The Best Free Spots to View the Hong Kong Skyline

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The Best Free Spots to View the Hong Kong Skyline

Four suggested itineraries that cover the city’s classic locations and a list of places for you to enjoy the million-dollar view of Hong Kong’s skyline for free!

4 Central Plaza 6

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Of all the thriving metropolises in the world, Hong Kong has one of the most unique and beautiful skylines that could not be seen in any other city in the world. With the deep and wide Victoria harbor in the center, the city sprawls vibrantly on both sides of the harbor before it is hugged by rugged mountain ranges – the rapid growth of its population and scarcity of flatland had both offices and apartment buildings to go higher and higher, making Hong Kong a city with the most number of high-rise buildings in the world; with Manhattan came in third, after Shenzhen in China.

1 Star Ferry 2That makes Hong Kong’s skyline so one-of-a-kind. The mountains and the water that reflects the neon lights in a city never sleeps. It’s called the “one-million-dollar night view” and it’s such a magnificent sight. Just to make it even more dynamic, “A symphony of lights” is the world’s largest, permanent multimedia light and music show that runs every night at 8 pm, with 40 buildings on the Hong Kong island turn on their lights and laser beams that should be best viewed on the other side of the harbor.

1 Star Ferry 4With 7 million people living in such a compact space, there’s no lack of places that you could get a feel of this concrete jungle while you are visiting. Well, I have a list of places that you could basically enjoy the view for free – and here I mean that the place does not require an entrance fee, nor you have to pay extra for the view. Some of my suggestions are public transportation, you still need a ticket for the ride; it’s a great way to see the city while you are in motion.

Free Spots in the Kowloon Peninsula

Hong Kong is divided into three territories, Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and New Territories. Hong Kong Island is about slightly larger than Manhattan (by 20 sq kilometers) but the urban area is much smaller due to its mountainous terrain. You will be surprised that Hong Kong is actually very green, with less than 25% of its land being developed and over 40% of country parks and natural reserves.

The urban cluster is mainly concentrated on both sides of Victoria Harbour. Another “interesting” feature of the cluster is not connected by any pedestrian roads. In other words, there is absolutely no way for you to cross the harbor on foot without triggering some alarms. The locals rely heavily on public transportation to commute, and my favorite (and the cheapest and the most iconic) way of crossing the harbor, is taking the Star Ferry.

How to plan your trip: 

Start your day in Kowloon: explore Tsim Sha Tsui in the morning. Shop in any shopping center, have a stroll in Kowloon Park, taste dim sum, Hong Kong-style milk tea, and other local delicacies (check out Yummylicious! Hong Kong! for more ideas). Take the Star Ferry during sunset to Central and then have dinner in SoHo and go clubbing in Lan Kwai Fong at night.

Starting your day in Hong Kong: explore Central in the morning. Visit a cafe, explore the art zones and boutique stores in SoHo; or, explore Wan Chai head up to the Central Plaza, or take the tram to Causeway Bay. Take the Star Ferry during sunset and then enjoy a lovely dinner in Yau Ma Tei or Mong Kok, and have a good walk in the Temple Street or Ladies Market at night.

Star Ferry

1 Star Ferry 1The Star Ferry Terminal is located in Tsim Sha Tsui on the Kowloon side, offering routes to either Central or Wanchai on the Hong Kong side. The Star Ferry is not the only company as there are other ferry services connecting other parts in the city (like from Hung Hom / Kowloon City to North Point, or Kwun Tong / Lei Yue Mun to Sai Wan Ho in Hong Kong East). But, the historic Star Ferry offers the best view. Now, the ferry may sound touristy, but the truth is, it is still used by the locals as a way to travel back and forth every day. It takes only about 10 minutes from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central and sunset is my favorite time of taking the ferry – passengers will see the city’s skyline on one side, and the stunning sunset between the two skyscrapers (the IFC and ICC) on the other side.

IMG_6401Star Ferry operation hours:
6:30am – 11:30pm daily (every 6-20 minutes)

Upper-deck fare for adults:
HK$2.7 (US$0.35) on weekdays
HK$3.7 (US$0.5) on weekends and public holidays

Lower-deck fare for adults:
HK$2.2 (US$0.28) on weekdays
HK$3.1 (US$0.4) on weekends and public holidays

Although the fare is quite low, you still need to purchase a ticket for the ride. If you are not planning on crossing the harbor, there are still a lot of places along the waterfront for you to enjoy the view.

Avenue of Stars

The promenade is a 1.6-kilometer boardwalk that connects to a number of arts and cultural landmarks at Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. Apart from the Space Museum, Art Museum, and Hong Kong Cultural Centre, the avenue features plaques of handprints of people who are important to the Hong Kong movie industry. Visitors will also find a 2.5-meter bronze statue of Bruce Lee, and the promenade is the best place to view the Symphony of Lights at night.

At the end of the promenade is the Star Ferry Terminal; it is the original site of the former Kowloon Station on the Kowloon-Canton Railway (now moved to Hung Hom), and only the Clock Tower remained today as a landmark.

Ocean Terminal Deck

Ocean Terminal DeckGoing a bit further to the mall, Harbour City is one of the most popular shopping malls along Canton Road. The newly renovated annex, the LCX, is a Cruise Terminal with a number of shops and restaurants, head up to the car park area or the Ocean Terminal Deck at the end of the Terminal, where it offers an unobstructed, panoramic view of the west side of the harbor and Kowloon area.

3 Star Avenue & West Kowloon 1West Kowloon (or Kowloon Station) is a reclaimed area as part of the Airport Core Program back in the 1990s. While there are few delays in the development projects in the last 30 years. Art and Cultural facilities are slowly finished with the opening of the high-speed rail station. Innovative art installations & edgy cultural events are planned in the future in an easy-going and waterfront setting. For now, a waterfront is a great place for the locals to enjoy a weekend afternoon sitting on the lawn, getting some sun, walking their dogs, or simply hanging out. The boardwalk offers a great view of Hong Kong Island’s Central and Western District.

If you appreciate good food, there is a great number of choices, Rest Coffee Gin offers custom-made caffeine and alcoholic drinks; WabiSabi Kissa is an intimate cafe with tasty coffee; Hooman has delicious American-style hot dogs and fish & chips on the menu; Livehouse is a western restaurant with live band performance; Cafe Bohème is a pet-friendly Italian restaurant with a giant window and gelato.

4 Sky 100

Another great place is the Sky100 when I listed it as one of the best observation decks in the world. The International Commerce Centre is located in the Kowloon Peninsula and currently the tallest building in the city. From the 102nd to the 118th floor – The Ritz-Carlton is the highest hotel in the world, with the world’s highest swimming pool, and bar right at the top of the 118th floor. The Observatory Sky 100 is on the 100th floor of the building, featuring a panoramic view of the entire Hong Kong and Kowloon areas. Check out: The Lesser-Known World’s Best Observation Decks  

Free Spots in Hong Kong Island

Victoria Peak & Peak Tram

Everyone knows Victoria Peak. It is the number one location in Hong Kong and it’s world-famous. If you are visiting Hong Kong for the first time, then you must save time for this iconic location. You may go to the peak in multiple ways, bus number 15 or 15C at the Central Star Ferry Terminal, mini-bus number 1 at the City Hall, or simply drive or take a taxi; but the best way to go there is of course, by the historic Peak Tram.

2 Victoria Peak & Peak Tram 1Victoria Peak is the highest peak on Hong Kong Island with an elevation of 552 meters. The Peak Tower and the Peak Galleria are the two leisure and shopping centers at the peak and kind of a focal point for all transportation stops and hiking trails. The two shopping centers feature a number of shops and restaurants, but the most important is their observation decks. For an extra entrance fee, visitors may ascend to the rooftop of the Peak Tower for an unobstructed view of the harbor from a higher perspective. Another option is to eat in one of the restaurants at the Peak Tower; and to me, the view looks magnificent at night.

If you are up for a bit of an exercise, a walk around the peak is refreshing. The Harlech Road and Lugard Road Circular Walk is a popular and easy route that takes about an hour to complete. It goes around the peak and not only you will get to see the concrete jungle by the harbor, but also the mountain ranges on the island and the south horizons.

2 Victoria Peak & Peak Tram 2

Sit on the right side of the tram as you climb up because you will have a sneak peek of the Hong Kong skyline a minute away from the peak station. That’s the moment when you hear passengers gasp in wonder.

How to plan your trip: 

Start your day in Kowloon: explore the waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui during the day. Go to the Art Museum and Space Museum, take photos of the avenue of Stars, and have lunch in K11 MUSEA / Victoria Dockside, a new cultural and retail destination. Take the Star Ferry and take the peak tram to the Victoria Peak and take in the incredible million-dollar night view at night.

Starting your day in Hong Kong: Take the peak tram and head to Victoria Peak for a fresh morning stroll on one of the hiking trails. You may even explore the Hong Kong Park on the way down, before taking a shower and go out fresh again for lunch. Take the Star Ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui and catch the “Symphony of Lights” show, continue to explore the area or head to the Ladies Market for the rest of your evening.

The Peak Tram started operation in 1888 and it was originally built for daily commuters. Today, it has become a tourist attraction that carries passengers to the peak from Garden Road. There are a few requested stops on the way, and the ride is quite steep once it climbs up, so the seating is lined up on the stairs. My recommendation is to sit on the right side of the tram as you climb up because you will have a sneak peek of the Hong Kong skyline a minute away from the peak station. That’s the moment when you hear passengers gasp in wonder.

Peak Tram operation hours:
7 am – 10 pm daily (every 15-20 min)37

Fare for adults:
HK$52 (US$6.71) Return
HK$37 (US$4.77) Single

Fare for Children:
HK$37 (US$4.77) Return
HK$14 (US$1.81) Single

Hong Kong Observation Wheel

The Hong Kong Observation Wheel is a 60-meters tall Ferris wheel located at the Central Harborfront in Central. Built-in 2014, the Ferris wheel is the only Ferris wheel there is in Hong Kong. It features 42 a total of 42 gondolas with one VIP gondola that has leather seats and a clear glass floor. Located on the waterfront, visitors that embark on the Ferris wheel can get some of the best views of Hong Kong. On one side it is the Victoria Harbor that separates Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, on the other side is Hong Kong Island and all the skyscrapers and cool lights it is known for. You are completely surrounded by the beauties of Hong Kong. My personal advice is to go on the Ferris wheel at night. Even though Hong Kong is beautiful in the daytime and you can see all the different neighborhoods of Hong Kong, the lights at night on every building of Hong Kong are something you cannot miss on your travel to Hong Kong. Check out: Ferris Wheels in the World

Central Plaza

3 Government Office

If you have more time, visit the Tamar Park, which is a Grassy park with harbor views, and it extends to the Central and Western District Promenade.

Lastly, If you are visiting Causeway Bay and Wanchai, there is a free observation deck that not a lot of people know. The Central Plaza is a 72-story, 374-meter skyscraper next to the Hong Kong convention center. It was the tallest tower before IFC and ICC, and it remains the third tallest tower in Hong Kong. The observation deck is not exactly on the top floor (although it’s possible to visit there if you visit the Sky City Church – the highest church in the world.), its observation deck is actually the lift lobby on the 46th floor. It is, however, an open space that visitors could simply enjoy a panoramic view indoor.

In fact, if you are staying in a hotel, going out for dinner, or hanging out with friends in any of the local sky bars, you will get to see the city’s beautiful skylines and neon lights from a different perspective, leave a comment and share with us your recommendations!

4 Central Plaza 2

Red Incense Burner Summit

Finally, I have a perfect place off the beaten track that you can enjoy the amazing Hong Kong skyline for free. 🙂 The harbor is surrounded by mountains, but this is the best spot for seeing the city’s skyline apart from the Victoria Peak. The Red Incense Burner Summit is a small hill on Hong Kong Island that is very close to the city area, yet it has an unobstructed view.

Go to Tin Hau MTR Station and take the 49M minibus to the top of Braemar Hill; there is a trail next or on the opposite side of the St. Joan of Arc Secondary School, and it takes only about 15 to 20 minutes to head up to the Red incense Burner Summit. Once you enter the trail you can already feel that you are in nature; the trail is pretty easy to walk. However, you will have to climb up a narrow path to the rocks of the peak for the view. yet the view definitely worth the climb. To me, it’s even better than the Victoria Peak and it’s one of the best-kept secrets to many locals for the sunset. On a clear day, the rocks could be crowded with photographers bringing their tripods to capture the sunset with the city’s skyline (just like below) and you are advised to get there a little bit earlier to secure your best spot!

Red Incense Peak

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80 thoughts on “The Best Free Spots to View the Hong Kong Skyline

  1. Wow! I could have used this information 3 years ago when my family and I visited Hong Kong and were trying to get the best locations for photos. Hong Kong isn’t cheap so I love that these free options are available. Thank you! Saving for our next trip.

    1. I guess you would have probably discovered some nice places too and have some great shot. 🙂 But maybe it’s a reason for you to visit Hong Kong again ~

    1. Job accomplished! And thansk a lot for your support! There are a lot more places in my blog and you welcome to check them out.

  2. So awesome! Those are amazing photos I can’t wait to visit Hong Kong someday, and will definitely go to those free spots. Everyone likes when it is free, haha.

  3. I’ve been to Hong Kong but just for one day that is why I’ve never experienced that place but hoping after this pandemic will be able to visit Hong Kong again and to experience the fun and beauty of those places.

    1. There are so many things to see and do in Hong Kong – I have a couple more posts about Hong Kong and I hope they will convince you ~

    1. I agree – and besides, the skyline is ever-changing. That makes the view so dynamic and I think you would love it!

  4. Wow! Hong Kong’s skyline is incredible! The views from Victoria peak and the Ocean Terminal Deck are breathtaking.

  5. I absolutely believe that one of the most beautiful attractions of the city are its landscapes and knowing where to catch the best is very useful! Thank you!

  6. City skylines can be so pretty! The Hong Kong skyline definitely looks nice. I’d love to see how it looks lit up at night, especially with the lights reflecting off the water! -Leah at Buttercream Parties

  7. This looks like a gorgeous way to explore a new city! Thanks for sharing all of the spots with us. It would be so much fun to try to visit each one in a day.

  8. Aw! Lovely places to visit in Hong Kong. I’ve been there twice but didn’t experience the skyline. I still wants to comeback though hopefully can manage to visit skyline and my dream Hong Kong Disneyland.

  9. I’m a sucker for high rise skylines, and that skyline is gorgeous!! I really want to visit Hong Kong. I really hope the pandemic subsides and international travel is allowed again soon. 🧡

    Rayka | South Asian Skin Blog

  10. I love Hong Kong and would love to explore it but it pains me to see the Chinese exploitation and strong arm tactics against the people of Hong Kong

  11. Hong Kong is one of my favorite place in Asia, and has some beautiful skyline. Also very cheap to travel around.

  12. Great list! This kind of reminds me Toronto, with it’s beautiful skyline and multiple places to see it.

  13. We went to Hong Kong two years ago and it was such a beautiful country! We stayed in a hotel in the TST area so we are near the major spots. Thanks for this guide!

  14. Fascinating place, I never made it there, but it’s high on the list. I’ll keep that Central Plaza in mind, and it would be also interesting to see the church up there.

  15. Fascinating place. Never made it there, but it’s very high on the list. I’ll keep that Central Plaza in mind, would also be interesting to see the church up there.

      1. It’s Great thanks for asking ! Actually we lived here from 92 to 04 then went back to UK. Unfortunately we didn’t like it and of course we missed HK, so what more could we do ?? Where do you live ?

  16. This just reminds me of ferry sunset ride in Bangkok.. Hong Kong is high on my bucket list thanks for sharing all this info. it will help me plan accordingly.

  17. Beautiful pictures. I visited Hong Kong only one time, in 1991. I loved, absolutely loved, the Star Ferry. I rode it back and forth many times. Hong Kong is such a walkable place.

    1. Thanks McCool Travel. I think the city has major transformation since then and you may see different things, but still Star Ferry (although not all routes) stays! 😊

  18. I spent a few days in HK in November. To be honest I didn’t think I would like it but I ended up loving it. Especially the ferry rides between Hong Kong and Kowloon. I did them day and night and took a million photos.

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