Things to do on and around Victoria Peak
Associated with the city like no other place, Victoria Peak, towering above the city’s skyscrapers at a height of 552 meters, is the place to go to for almost all visitors. Although it’s not the highest peak in Hong Kong and there are other, less frequented places with equally mind-blowing vistas, Victoria Peak, however, has an unparalleled appeal with tourists.
And they’re not mistaken: especially at sunset when the city lights turn on as the sun sinks into the ocean the views from up here are mesmerizing!
How to get up to the Peak?
Basically, there are four ways to get to the highest area on Hong Kong Island, whereas what everyone refers to as “The Peak” is not yet the real peak. The following options will only bring you to Victoria Gap, where you’ll also find the Peak Tower and the Peak Galleria with their malls and viewing platforms. The “real” peak will be a half-an-hour walk further up and isn’t really accessible, as there’s a fenced weather radar on top that blocks the access. Anyway, that area is densely wooded and therefore doesn’t offer better views than Victoria Gap, not at all. However, and be it only to escape the masses, the way a little further up from Victoria Gap is rewarding thanks to the idyllic Peak Garden that you will find there. Once home to the governor’s summer residence and solely reserved for him and his kind, the residence was burnt down by Japanese soldiers during WWII and later developed into the prime picnic location that it is today. But, coming back to the initial question: How do I get up to the Peak, now?
- The easiest and fastest way would most probably be to take a taxi. Hail a cab anywhere on Hong Kong Island and ask the driver to bring you up. Thanks to the affordable taxi fares this is an option also for travellers on a budget, especially the time-restricted ones.
- The most attractive and rewarding option is to hike to the peak by yourself. There are various trails from different directions, such as from Aberdeen, Pok Fu Lam or Kennedy Town. My favourite one is the trail starting directly in the center of town in Admiralty that goes up following the Central Green Trail.
- The cheapest option (at least for those that do not want to exercise) is the option to take bus no. 15 from Central (Exchange Square), Admiralty or Wan Chai (Hopewell Center) to the peak. This will only cost you around 10 HKD. However, as many tourists opt for this alternative it is advisable to get on the bus at the earliest possibility, i. e. Central. When the bus is completely full, it won’t stop again until someone wants to get off (which doesn’t happen too often), so it might be that waiting in Wan Chai you will have to let a few buses pass before you’ll finally get to board one. (especially frustrating during peak hours before sunset).
- You also have to expect some waiting time when deciding for the most iconic option, the nostalgic Peak Tram. Ever since 1888, the oldest funicular railway in Asia has been carrying its passengers up the steep slopes to the Peak, mastering gradients of between 4 and 27 degrees. The lower terminus is located close to Hong Kong Park in Garden Road and is home to a small but mighty exhibition of the history of Hong Kong’s Peak Tram. For instance, you’ll see a tram wagon from the early days or one of the old „sedan chairs“, on which the British colonial masters had been carried up the mountain in a time before motorized means of transport were available. The Peak Tram operates between 7am and midnight everyday in a frequency of every ten to fifteen minutes. Early birds shouldn’t face any problems with queues during weekdays. Later each day as well as on weekends that situation might change…
Hotspots on and around Victoria Peak
In case you decide for the Peak Tram, please don’t let yourself be fooled into purchasing the combo ticket (Peak Tram Sky Pass) for the tram ride as well as entrance to the Sky Terrace 428, which is being marketed as highest 360-degrees viewing platform in Hong Kong. However, I’d rather call it one of Hong Kongs highest tourist traps. Rather pay only for the tram ride, which is possible with Octopus Card as well (so you don’t have to queue up at the ticket counters!), and enjoy the view from one of the many free spots around. There are free viewing terraces on top of the Peak Galleria, there’s the Lions Club pavilion and the viewpoint at Lugard Road, a ten-minutes-walk away, to name but a few. All of them are from my perspective in no way inferior to the Sky Terrace.
Many Hong Kongers enjoy especially in the early mornings the calamity of the Peak to go for a run or take their dog for a walk along the circle walk on the Peak, the so-called “Morning Trail”, before the area gets captured by hordes of tourists and transforms into a Disneyland-like amusement district. To cater their needs, there are place like Madame Tussaud’s or Trick Eye Museum Hong Kong up there. On the other hand, people who want to escape all the hustle and bustle may also make their way up there to embark on the first section of the 50k-long Hong Kong Trail down to Pok Fu Lam Reservoir. If you’re not in the mood for hiking, the same options that brought you up here will also help you on your way down.
In spite of the tourist masses and the ever-increasing commercialization of Victoria Peak and its shopping malls, the fascination of this place still remains valid for visitors and locals alike. The Peak remains the place everyone should have visited at least once. To make the best out of that visit, you should try to go on a day with clear visibility. As the range of vision might vary strongly from one day to another, I can only recommend to stay flexible regarding your plans when in Hong Kong. If there’s a clear blue sky when you get up in the morning, forget all other plans you’ve made for that day and give priority to the Peak, it will be worth it!
What about your personal Peak experience? What do you think: unquestionable Must-Do or overrated tourist trap? If you decide on the latter, then watch out for my Alternatives to Victoria Peak article to come soon! I am looking forward to your opinions and your feedback.