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Best heritage trails in Hong Kong

Take a walk through history

Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir Masonry Bridge
By Time Out Hong Kong |

It’s easy to learn about history in museums or through textbooks, but if you want to literally take a step into the past, Hong Kong’s heritage trails offer an altogether different experience. Our city is home to several such trails, from the Ping Shan Heritage Trail, which showcases the ancestral villages in the New Territories to one that takes you through the historic waterworks and features of Tai Tam. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of fascinating relics from the past, including Chinese study halls, the site of the old Star Ferry and Queen’s Pier and even an ancient pagoda that’s the last of its kind in Hong Kong. All these trails are also highly walkable, meaning you can also get a bit of exercise done while you learn about the history of Hong Kong. By Amanda Sheppard

RECOMMENDED: Head to the Hong Kong Museum of History or one of these age-old restaurants to learn more about the city’s heritage.

Best Hong Kong heritage trails

Ping Shan Heritage Trail - Tang Clan hall

Ping Shan Heritage Trail

Established in 1993, The Ping Shan Heritage Trail stretches just 1.6 kilometres in length. Brief though it may be, this quiet stretch in Yuen Long district is home to a rich cultural history that’s well worth exploring. The trail takes visitors through ancestral villages belonging to the Tang Clan – one of the five main clans of the New Territories – which first settled in the area in the 12th century. 

Most visitors start at the end of the trail closest to Tin Shui Wai MTR station, a short walk from Tsui Shing Lau Pagoda. The only ancient pagoda still standing in Hong Kong today, it stands 13 metres tall and is said to have been completed as early as 1486. Nearby, the walled village of Sheung Cheung Wai still boasts the remnants of its original gate house, and a shrine dedicated to the god She Kung, the protector of the village.

While modern developments do make up parts of the trail, several of the original ancestral halls and study halls remain, providing a glimpse into the lives of the New Territories’ earliest settlers. The former police station now houses the Ping Shan Tang Clan Gallery and visitors centre, which offer ample information and maps to help navigate the heritage trail.

Getting there: Start at Tsui Shing Lau Pagoda by taking MTR to Tin Shui Wai Station, Exit E3.

Lung Yeuk Tau - Tsung Kyam Church

Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail

In the eastern part of the New Territories, near Fan Ling, the Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail spans 2.6 kilometres and was established in 1999. The name of the trail is said to derive from local lore that details the journey of a dragon leaping across the nearby mountain range. Lung Yeuk Tau is another stronghold of the Tang Clan, whose ancestors arrived from China’s Jiangxi province.

The trail takes visitors to the original five walled enclaves established by the clan. The village of Tung Kok Wai, for example, remains raised above ground level, owing to its original moat-enclosed construction. It’s important to note that most of the village interiors and several sites – including the Tsung Kyam Church (which can be traced back to the Basel Mission Society) and the opulent Shek Lo Mansion (Peter Lodge) – are not open to the public, although you can still appreciate their unique architectural features from outside. Also be sure to pay attention to the roofs of many a temple and study hall, which are decorated with ornate carvings.

Getting there: Start at Tsung Kyam Church by taking MTR to Fan Ling Station, Exit C. Take minibus 54K and alight at the first stop after the river crossing. Finish at Siu Hang Tsuen and take minibus 56K to Fan Ling Station.

Lo Pan Temple

Central and Western Heritage Trail

The Central and Western Heritage Trail includes three separate routes spanning Central, Sheung Wan, Western District and The Peak. Collectively, it is the longest of the heritage trails, and runs through a mixture of remaining historic sites and places of note where heritage landmarks once stood.

Split into three smaller subsections, the Central route starts at Edinburgh Place, where the old Star Ferry and Queen’s Pier were once located. The route continues to pass Statue Square, the Cenotaph and the Court of Final Appeal. Other notable sites along the way include the Hong Kong Park, the Botanical Gardens, as well as the former Central Police Station, now revitalised and repurposed as the Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts.

In the Sheung Wan leg, the old Central Market is one of few remaining examples of German bauhaus architecture in Hong Kong. Edging westward, Man Mo Temple takes pride of place on Hollywood Road, surrounded by high-rise residential buildings and office dwellings, while the old site of Possession Point (where Hong Kong was officially ceded to the British in 1841) is where a public park and rest area stand today. The final route of the trail winds all the way up to Victoria Peak, where the land currently occupied by The Peak Lookout once served as a terminus for rickshaws, while the nearby gate lodge remains from the old governor’s summer residence. Head back down to Western District, where you can take in sights like the Lo Pan Temple, built in 1884.

Getting there: Start at Edinburgh Place by taking the MTR to Central, Exit F. Finish at Lo Pan Temple, which is a five-minute walk to Kennedy Town MTR, Exit B.

Wong Ngai Chung Gap Trail
Calvin Sit

Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail

Hong Kong’s wartime history has left its fair share of both physical and metaphorical scars. Taking two to three hours to complete, the Wong Nai Chung Gap battlefield trail is littered with fascinating remnants from the Second World War. Nature and history intertwine on the route, which stretches from Tai Tam Reservoir Road to Wong Nai Chung Gap Road, where the West Brigade Headquarters stand.

Along the trail, there are 10 stations that note sites of historic interest relating to the brutal struggle that led British troops to surrender to the Japanese on Christmas Day of 1941. For example, you’ll find anti-aircraft gun platforms situated by the first and second station posts. Lying in ruin, these notable sites are where allied personnel shot down a Japanese aircraft during the height of the battle. Further exploration along the trail reveals several machine gun posts (aka pillboxes), many of which are now further concealed by overgrown vegetation.

Continuing along the trail, you’ll eventually pass the Jardine’s Lookout Service Reservoir, which offers further historical insight as well as fantastic views of the city below.

Getting there: Take bus 6 or 66 from Exchange Square and alight at Wong Nai Chung Reservoir Park. From there, walk uphill to Parkview and the Tai Tam Country Park entrance.

Wan Chai Blue House

Wan Chai Heritage Trail

Wan Chai’s reputation as the seedy underbelly of Hong Kong may date back to the days of Suzie Wong, but the district’s history can be traced back much further. From a quaint fishing village to an elitist European residence to today’s neon scenes and late-night revelry, Wan Chai has held on to several historic buildings and monuments – remnants of times gone by in an ever-changing area.

The 3km route starts on Mallory Street, where the Green House – a Grade I historic building – now houses the Comix Home Base animation centre. The trail finishes on Wing Fung Street, near Admiralty station. It’s where the Blue House stands. The iconic tenement building was restored in 2017 as part of the Viva Blue House scheme and now houses flats, a restaurant and education programmes. 

Other sites of interest include the old shop house on Johnston Road, which contemporary bar and restaurant The Pawn calls home. As a registered landmark that dates back to the turn of the 20th century, its retro exteriors will stand the test of time. Further along the trail, you’ll also find the protected but abandoned and reputedly haunted mansion at Nam Koo Terrace – a site we’d advise viewing from a distance.

Getting there: Start at Mallory Street by taking the MTR to Wan Chai, Exit A3.

Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir Dam

Tai Tam Waterworks Heritage Trail

There are 41 historic waterworks among Hong Kong’s many declared monuments. More than half of these are located within Tai Tam and make up this heritage trail. The 5km trail opened in 2009 and takes you through parts of the Upper Reservoir, Byewash Reservoir, Intermediate Reservoir, as well as several pumping stations, dams and an aqueduct, among other features – many of which date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries but remain in use to this day to supply Central and Western residents and businesses with water.

The trail begins at the Tai Tam Country Park entrance near Parkview, and ends in Tai Tam Bay. The trail takes place mostly along paved walkways that are well-signposted, making it easily accessible for people of all ages and fitness levels. There are 10 information stations located along the trail, shedding light on the historic and present value of the sites. There are also several barbecue pits and a sitting-out area located near Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir, making it the perfect spot to end the day.

Getting there: Start at Tai Tam Country Park by taking the MTR to Sai Wan Ho, Exit A, and changing to bus 14.

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