Hong Kong is one of China’s largest cities. It is also a city with quite a particular history. As you probably know, Hong Kong was a British colony for over 150 years. Today, though a special administrative region, the city is Chinese. There is nowhere in the world like Hong Kong. Tall green hills, the deep blue sea, and super tall skyscrapers create a skyline that is difficult to forget. Likewise, look deep into the concrete jungle, and you will find gorgeous beaches. Additionally, one of the world’s most famous Buddha statues is in Hong Kong. The following 15 interesting facts about Hong Kong will make you fall in love with the city just like we did.
01 Hong Kong Is One of China’s Largest Cities
Hong Kong carries out a population census every first year of each decade. Besides, a by-census takes place in the 6th year of each decade. According to the last official census of 2011, Hong Kong had 7.1 million inhabitants. At the same time, the population of Hong Kong Island stood at 1.3 million people. Hong Kong’s urban area includes the northern part of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and Tsuen Wan New Town. In 2011, Hong Kong’s total urban population was 3.3 million people, making it one of China’s largest cities. The population growth in Hong Kong has been stable in the past decade. Hong Kong’s total population is estimated to be around 7.5 million in 2020.
02 Its Name Means Fragrant Harbor
There is no doubt that Hong Kong’s name comes from the Cantonese words Hēung Góng, meaning Fragrant Harbor in English. Two theories are behind the name. According to some scholars, Hong Kong got its name from the stream that ran through it. This stream was called Fragrance River. However, the most widely accepted theory is that Hong Kong got its name since it was an important harbor for agar wood, a fragrant incense. The incense was produced all around Hong Kong for centuries. It was then shipped by junk boats from Hong Kong to the rest of China and as far as the Middle East.
03 Hong Kong Was a British Colony for 155 Years
Hong Kong Island became a British Colony in 1842, after the First Opium War. In 1860, after the Second Opium War, the British expanded their territory into the Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutter’s Island. Finally, in 1898 Britain obtained a 99 years lease of the New Territories, meaning more than 86% of Hong Kong’s territory. After 155 years, Hong Kong was transferred back to China on July 1st, 1997. Since then, Hong Kong is China. However, the principle of one country two systems should rule Hong Kong until 2047. Nevertheless, it seems that said principle could end sooner.
04 Hong Kong Has Few Historical Sites
Unfortunately, not many buildings survived the 155 years of British rule. In fact, Hong Kong has very few historical sites worth mentioning. The most interesting neoclassical landmark is the Old Supreme Court Building in downtown Hong Kong. This monumental building is by the same architects that designed the famous east façade of Buckingham Palace. Other notable historical buildings are the Western Market in Sheung Wan, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Museum and the Former French Mission Building in Central Hong Kong, and the Main Building of the University of Hong Kong in Lung Fu Shan.
05 Interesting Temples Dot the City
The city is a melting pot of different cultures. Thus, Hong Kong has temples representing many religions. The main Buddhist temple in downtown Hong Kong is the 19th century Man Mo temple. The principal protestant church is the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Evangelist, the seat of the Archbishop of Hong Kong. On the other hand, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong. Both churches are 19th century neo-gothic structures. The late 19th century Jamia Mosque is Hong Kong’s oldest mosque. Finally, the Ohel Leah Synagogue is a fantastic example of Colonial Sephardic architecture.
06 Hong Kong’s Architecture Is Modern
Hong Kong is all about modern architecture. Hong Kong’s skyline is famous for its tall and elegant skyscrapers. There are currently over 60 skyscrapers 200 meters (650 feet) tall. However, just a few of these are world-famous. The renowned Chinese architect I.M.Pei designed the iconic Bank of China Tower in 1990. The building sparked quite a controversy since some locals claimed its sharp triangular edges are a negative symbol contrary to feng shui principles. It was the tallest building in Asia from 1990 to 1992. The shorter, yet equally interesting, HSBC Building is across the street. When Norman Foster designed it in 1986 it was the most expensive building in the world. The best way to enjoy this fantastic skyline is on a boat from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island.
07 The City Center Is on the Island
In Hong Kong Island, the city center is next to Victoria Harbor. Remember that Hong Kong is huge, so its center covers a big area. The city center includes three urban districts: Central and Western, Wan Chai, and Eastern. A historical tram connects these three districts. The epicenter of Hong Kong is here. A massive motorway crosses the area almost parallel to the tram. The entire area is fascinating and full of contrasts. Several pedestrian bridges cross over the motorway connecting shopping malls with super-tall skyscrapers. Kowloon, across the harbor, has its central area. Kowloon’s center is a bit more traditional, has wide sidewalks, lower buildings, and a large park in the center.
08 More Than 70 Walled Villages Populate Hong Kong
The walled villages in Hong Kong are one of a kind. During the Qing and Ming Dynasties, constant pirate attacks prompted locals to build defense walls around their settlements. Hundreds of walled villages were built all around Guangdong province and Hong Kong. As you know, modern-day Guangzhou and Shenzhen are in Guangdong. Today, there are some 70 walled villages in Hong Kong alone. The majority of them are in the New Territories. Fortunately, many city walls have survived the pass of time. That said, most of the buildings inside the villages are modern, but the vibe is quaint. The Kat Hing Wai Walled Village is arguably the best. Some 400 descendants of the Tang Clan still live in this 15th century village.
09 Hong Kong Has Wonderful Beaches
The city may look like an endless concrete jungle, but nature is everywhere. Thus, Hong Kong has beautiful beaches. Since some are urban, they are easily accessible using public transport. Others are secluded and less crowded. Two of the most famous urban beaches are the Golden Beach in Tuen Mun District and the Repulse Bay Beach in Hong Kong Island’s Southern District. Surrounded by lush green nature, the Big Wave Bay Beach in the Southern District and the two Clear Water Bay Beaches in the Sai Kung District, are amongst the best in China.
10 The Hong Kong Buddha Is Magical
The 34 meters (111 feet) high Hong Kong Buddha is one of the biggest seating Buddha statues in the world. It represents the bond between humans and nature. Besides, the Tian Tan Buddha is one of the main religious sites for Buddhists in Hong Kong. The Buddha sits inside a lotus flower above a three-level altar. The altar itself was modeled after the in Beijing’s Temple of Heaven. You have to climb 268 steps to get to the Buddha, but the views from there are unforgettable. The whole place is a major tourist attraction. The most impressive way to get to the Buddha is on an incredible cable car. The Ngong Ping 360 cable car offers spectacular views of the Buddha and the whole Island of Lantau.
11 Wonderful Parks Populate Hong Kong
Other than its massive towers, Hong Kong is famous for its green forests. A lush tall mountain towers above the city center from the south. Walking about the Lung Fu Shan Country Park and the Victoria Peak Garden is splendid. The famous Peak Tower is at the end of the park. At the same time, the urban core of Hong Kong has wonderful parks too. The nicest one is the Hong Kong Park next to the Peak Tram. The park combines gorgeous vegetation, water, and colonial architecture. Kowloon hosts its central green area, Kowloon Park. Again, there is plenty of greenery, water, and exotic birds.
12 The City Boasts World Class Museums
Hong Kong museums are amongst the best in the world and satisfy all sorts of interests. The Hong Kong Museum of History in Kowloon is the most famous one. With graphic displays, videos, and state of the art multimedia, the museum showcases the history of Hong Kong. The Science Museum is next to it. The museum exhibits over 500 pieces. The Maritime Museum in the Central Ferry Pier 8 is all about marine exploration and naval warfare. On the other hand, the Hong Kong Heritage Museum focuses on local culture, design, photography, Cantonese opera, and cultural heritage. The museum’s many collections include Chinese fine art, applied art, and contemporary art.
13 Hong Kong Trams Are World Famous
When Hong Kong tramways opened in 1904, each tram had a single deck. In 1912 double-decker trams were introduced. These gradually took over the entire fleet. Called the Ding Ding Tram, it soon became the city’s preferred mode of transport. With 165 trams, it is the longest double-decker tram fleet in the world. Hong Kong locals and tourists choose the tram over the much faster metro. Hence, Hong Kong’s tram transports around 200,000 people daily. The modern fleet includes two old trams and one open-air tram perfect for sight-seeing. Take note that the entire tram network is on Hong Kong Island.
14 The Former Portuguese Colony of Macau Is Right Across
Hong Kong was not the only colony in the region. The Portuguese colonized Macau, only 66 kilometers (41 miles) away. Macau remained a small fishing town for over 400 years. It was handed back to China in 1999, and everything changed. Massive skyscrapers mushroomed all around the island. Large malls, casinos, and hotels compete in height and glitz. Particularly interesting are the ones that copy other famous buildings. On the plus side, and unlike Hong Kong, Macau has managed to preserve a big chunk of its colonial heritage. Macau’s old city center is delightful and full of culture.
15 Hong Kong’s Metro Is China’s Oldest
When the Hong Kong Metro opened in 1979, it was China’s oldest rapid transit system. Actually, the first metro in China opened in Beijing ten years before but remained in evaluation until the 1980s. Up until the early 2000s, the Hong Kong Metro was China’s longest. Since then, it grew steadily, but at a slower pace than other metro systems in Mainland China. With a total length of 227 km (141 miles), it is China’s tenth longest metro. Today, the system has 6 rapid transit lines, 4 commuter rail lines, and 1 airport link. The East Rail Line, a commuter rail line, reaches the border with Mainland China. You can walk from Lok Ma Chau and Lo Wu stations into Shenzhen.