Hong Kong’s history is rich with British colonial influence, tales of marauding pirates, European traders squeezing profit out of the port and refugees fleeing from mainland China. It’s a cosmopolitan territory with a cosmopolitan history. Many travelers come to Hong Kong to seal business deals, hit the nightclubs and see the famous skyline lit up at night. But any traveler who skips the history of the territory is missing one of its most precious gems.
That’s why we’ve created a guide to Hong Kong’s historical sites so that the history lover and/or curious traveler can understand the history of this fascinating metropolis.
1. Cheung Po Tsai Cave: A pirate’s life for me
Cheung Po Tsai is a legendary figure in Hong Kong history and folklore. A pirate in command of a massive fleet, Tsai raided the trade ships coming to and from Hong Kong’s busy port. This cave was one of his hidden stash locations and is full of hidden paths begging to be explored.
2. Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail: A peek into the life of one of Hong Kong’s original clans
The Tang Clan was one of the original five great clans of Hong Kong and the heritage trail is a look at how they lived. The trail is a mix of ancient villages, temples, and buildings from different time periods that tell visitors different stories from the clan’s history. Some of the villages are walled and reflect the dangers of pirates and other intruders that were constant threats to the Tang Clan.
3. Lai Chi Wo: 400 years back in time
Lai Cho Wo is a small village where the Hakka people have lived for roughly 400 years. Although not geographically far from modern Hong Kong’s busy streets, the village feels like it may as well be another world away. This is a great way to get a peek into the region’s rural way of living.
4. Tai Fu Tai Mansion: A window into the lives of the Hong Kong’s 19th-century elite
Originally owned by a Hong Kong scholar, the mansion is an aesthetic wonder. The traditional architecture and it’s incredible attention to detail are on full display.
5. Clock Tower: Unmistakably British
Originally constructed as part of the Kowloon-Canton Railway’s final station, the Clock Tower stands almost 150 feet high and is a reminder of the steam era and the other technological advancements that the British brought to the region.
6. Kamikaze Caves: A reminder of Japanese Occupation
The Japanese seized Hong Kong on Christmas in 1941. Later in the war, they took to hiding suicide speedboats in the caves on Lamma Island as a strategy to disrupt allied shipping in the area. The caves are a great reason to get out to the island and do a little exploring.
7. 1881 Heritage: Representative of Hong Kong’s blending of future and past
The sunken compound served as the Hong Kong Marine Police headquarters from the 1880’s until 1996 (except during Japanese occupation). Today, the area is a monument and a high-end shopping mall where visitors can feel the mix of modern and colonial influences. The architecture and general design of the compound are incredible and make for great exploring as long as window shopping doesn’t distract you.