Museums and Heritage Sites
Hong Kong’s dramatic transformation from fishing village to metropolis under the influence of early Chinese settlers and later British colonialists has left behind colorful vestiges of each period in its wake. Visit one of Hong Kong’s many museums dedicated to history and culture or visit a heritage site to experience it up close for yourself.
Chi Lin Nunnery was founded in the 30s to provide religious, cultural, educational and elderly care services to the Hong Kong community. Reconstructed in the 90s in the style of Tang dynasty monastic architecture (AD 618-907) by skilled artisans and craftsmen in China, and then reconstructed here like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, the complex was built without nails. It combines ancient building techniques and modern technology through a system of wooden doweling and brackets.
The nunnery features beautiful gardens and grounds, with lotus ponds, sculpted bushes and bonsai trees, as well as statues of the Goddess of Mercy, God of Medicine and others. Just across the street, connected to the nunnery by a bridge is Nan Lian Garden, a garden styled like the famous gardens in Suzhou, with ponds, a waterfall, a hexagonal pavilion and a variety of trees and shrubs sure to delight any visitor. A vegetarian restaurant and teahouse are open to the public.
Built between 1851 and 1855, this beautiful colonial residence was home to 25 British governors of Hong Kong prior to the handover in 1997. On the slopes of the Mid-Levels on Upper Albert Road, this since renovated structure is now home and office to the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. The house is open to the public one day a year, usually in March when the gardens are in bloom; come prepared to queue.
Whenever there was a festival throughout history, villagers would journey to Lam Tsuen in Tai Po to throw joss paper onto two trees and make wishes. They believed that the higher the branch the joss paper landed on, the greater the chance that the wish would come true. Over time, these two trees became known as “wishing trees,” which continue to attract local villagers and tourists alike during festivals.
The Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road in Central is dedicated to the worship of two emperors who lived during the Chin and Yuan dynasties. These emperors were known as the civil god “Man,” and the martial god “Mo.” Historically, it was a place where the community got together to resolve any conflicts. Today, the little urban temple is popular with photographers, who find that the large incense coils make interesting subjects.
Nestled in between the skyscrapers of Central’s financial district, the historic St John’s Cathedral, built in 1849, has witnessed the evolution of the city around it while remaining largely unchanged. To this day, the 13th-century Early English and Decorated Gothic-style structure continues to serve a large Anglican congregation. In the grounds is the grave of Reginald Douglas Maxwell, a British soldier with the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps, who was killed fighting the Japanese during the Battle for Hong Kong in December 1941.
Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (Man Fat Tse) was founded by Reverend Yuet Kai in 1949. The walls are bedecked with 12,000 Buddha statues, all slightly different and built over the course of 10 years. On the other side of the hall is a nine-story pagoda. The gilded body of the founder is also on display. On the mountain behind Sha Tin Pai Tau Village, Man Fat Tse is not an actual monastery, as there are no resident monks, but you may see a monkey or two if you visit!
Wong Tai Sin Temple, first brought to Hong Kong in 1915 before being moved to its current location on the southern side of Lion Rock, is one of the most famous shrines in Hong Kong. It is a popular temple among worshipers of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. The halls of the temple grounds are dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy and to Confucius. Within the temple complex, there is also a Good Wish Garden, an artificial waterfall and a replica of the famous Nine Dragons relief (of the Beijing Imperial Palace), as well as various pavilions. It is well known that worshipers come to Wong Tai Sin for fortune-telling. The fortune tellers are all housed in a complex below the main temple, and some of them speak English.
Most public museums are managed by the LCSD, broadly covering art, history and science.
Museum passes, which offer a range of benefits, are also sold by the LCSD. The biggest and most popular museums include:
- Hong Kong Museum of History
- Hong Kong Heritage Museum
- Hong Kong Science Museum
- Hong Kong Space Museum
- Hong Kong Museum of Art
Other attractions managed by the LCSD include the Alexander Grantham, a retired fireboat permanently docked by the Quarry Bay waterfront; the Sheung Yiu Folk Museum, a well-preserved 150-year-old Hakka village; the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, housed in a handsome, high-ceilinged colonial building in Hong Kong Park; and much more. The complete list of museums and exhibition galleries, along with more information, can be found on their dedicated website.
For information about art galleries and museums, read Explore > Arts and Culture > Visual Arts > Art Museums and Galleries.
Other interesting museums not managed by the LCSD include: