Urban Parks, Zoos and Gardens
There are a number of public parks, zoos and gardens dotted around Hong Kong, the majority of which are maintained by the Hong Kong Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD). Here are a few of the more well-known ones.
Hong Kong Park, covering an area of 8.16 hectares, is a peaceful oasis in the business district of Admiralty and one of the city’s most popular urban parks. Opened in 1991, it features Hong Kong’s largest aviary, a greenhouse, an artificial lake, a waterfall and various fountains, a viewing tower, a restaurant and a large children’s playground. The park is a popular place for walks, jogs, tai chi and wedding photos. Its other attractions include the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, the Visual Arts Center, a marriage registry and an aviary support center. For sports enthusiasts, it also offers a sports center and a squash center. The park is easily accessible via pedestrian walkway behind Pacific Place shopping mall in Admiralty or through Three Garden Road, Central.
The Hong Kong Botanical Gardens was opened to the public in 1871, making it the oldest public garden in the territory. After an increase in commitment to zoological exhibits in 1975, it was renamed the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens.
The gardens are home to many species of mammals, birds and reptiles. The American flamingo, Borneo orangutan and ring-tailed lemur are just a few of the creatures found within. The gardens have over 1,000 species of trees, shrubs, creepers and foliage plants, most of which are indigenous to tropical and subtropical regions of the world.
A 10-minute walk from the heart of Central, the gardens are a quiet haven for a pleasant walk, rest or a picnic lunch.
In 1861, the site of Kowloon Park was an important military base overlooking the harbor. Then in 1970, the site was reopened as a park which today includes an indoor sports center, several swimming pools and a large indoor games hall for squash, badminton and table tennis.
Other facilities and attractions include a “Sculpture Walk” and “Sculpture Garden,” which exhibit permanent and temporary works by local and international artists. Stalls providing arts and crafts, painting, photographs and sketches by local artists are set up every Sunday and on public holidays. On Sunday, watch lion/dragon dances and demonstrations of various martial arts at the Kung Fu Corner. One of the park’s top attractions is Bird Lake, where you can see colonies of pink greater flamingos, swans, Hawaiian geese and many other species of birds. The aviary on site comprises seven enclosures that accommodate birds from dozens of species, including the blue & yellow macaw and African grey parrot.
Kowloon Walled City was first built by the Chinese as a fort in 1810 and later expanded when the British took over Hong Kong Island in 1841. After the British annexed Kowloon in 1859 following the Second Opium War, the question of sovereignty over the fort was ambiguous, and a no-man’s zone flourished in the legal gray area. The Walled City earned notoriety as a haven for triad gangsters, criminals on the lam and prostitutes. But that, its defenders say, is just a cliche shaped by ignorance. At its height, about 33,000 people were estimated to live there, running small businesses, restaurants and just going about daily life. It was a slum, though, with poor sanitation, unsafe buildings and overcrowding. The Hong Kong government eventually razed it to the ground and created a park within the historical boundary walls. (The book “Gweilo,” by Martin Booth, recounts the real life adventures of the author in the Walled City and other areas of Hong Kong during his expat childhood.)
Bordering the park, you can find “Little Thailand,” with authentic Thai restaurants and street snacks such as deep-fried grasshoppers.
Opened in 1957 and named after Queen Victoria, Victoria Park in Causeway Bay is the largest park on Hong Kong Island. Each year, the park plays host to many festive events, including the Lunar New Year Fair and the Hong Kong Flower Show. It is also the site of the finish line for the Hong Kong Marathon — and the annual June 4 vigil to remember Tiananmen Square.
In addition, the park has a number of sports facilities, including tennis and squash courts, an indoor swimming pool, soccer pitches, basketball courts, a skating rink, a bowling green, a jogging track and a pleasant sitting-out area with a small playground.
A complete list of parks by area can be found on the LCSD’s website.