Hong Kong certainly doesn't lack retreat spots, as we've got some stellar camping sites, beaches and hiking trails. But when you're in the middle of the week (hump day?) and you need to unwind some place, Hong Kong has many a public park at your disposal. Here are some of the best!
Originally used as a maritime defence station in the 15th century, the semi-lawless space later became a slum of poorly built high-rises and a breeding ground for various kinds of criminal activity. The city was torn down in the late 1980s and reopened as a Jiangnan garden-style park boasting impressive water features and traditional gardens.
Easily missed off of the Morning Trail, the Victoria Peak Garden is small but perfectly formed. The space was previously used as a summer residence for the Governor of Hong Kong but the building has since been demolished to make way for this park full of lush trees, perfectly manicured bushes and, believe it or not, real green grass. Enjoying breathing in the clean air, fresher and less polluted than the traffic-laden streets below, while you rest in one of the European-inspired pavilions and gazebos at this hidden gem – if you can find it.
While it’s true this park is dedicated solely to a rock, there’s much more history behind it than meets the eye. The Chinese characters Sung Wong Toi were inscribed into a large boulder near Kowloon Bay in 1279 as a memorial to the last two boy emperors of the Song Dynasty. Excavation damaged the rock during the Japanese occupation, but luckily the inscription remains intact. A portion was shaped into a rectangular block and is now the park’s centrepiece.
At Tsing Yi Park you’ll notice a touch of Europe. There are pavilions, statues and an amphitheatre, but the jewel of the park is the ornamental lake adorned with a waterfall. Sit by the lake, watch the tortoises swim and listen to the birds hum and sing. The peach blossoms and lotuses are simply too pretty to miss.
If you can ignore the camera shutters snapping endlessly around you then this is a wondefully calm and tranquil place. A wander through the rock-lined paths takes you past a spectacular gilded pagoda, Koi pond and watermill as traditional Chinese music plays around you. Be sure to stop by the Song Cha Xie (Pine Teahouse) for a cup of fine Chinese brew.
This massive space has just about everything to entertain park-goers of all ages. Two children’s playgrounds keep the little ones entertained while the north and south gardens offer places for adults to relax and reflect. The scented garden is also a treat for the lungs. On weekends head to the Artist’s Corner; here you can enjoy the exhibition of locals’ work, followed by a well-earned rest under the covered amphitheatre as you watch cyclists roll by along the Shing Mun River.
One of the city’s newest parks, the promenade features modern facilities for park-goers to enjoy the stunning Hong Kong Island skyline which provides a breathtaking backdrop to a leisurely walk. A slick timber boardwalk runs along the waterfront next to the cycling track, and although small and slightly tatty, a landscaped area with real grass means only one thing: summer picnics.
Aside from the obligatory playgrounds, elderly fitness stations and gardens, this park has a quirky nautical theme. The children’s cycling area features a giant sandcastle-shaped tunnel and the lookout tower serves as a lighthouse watching over the park. There are flying fish and dolphin sculptures throughout, and if you’re lucky you’ll catch an impromptu karaoke session under the sail-shaped structures.
This multi-level park offers what most don’t: a seamless mix of sporting facilities and relaxation areas. On the lower level lies a small yet effective Lingnan-style garden with an impressive pond in the centre featuring a waterfall and fountain. Climb the stairs up to flyover level to reach sporting grounds which stretch as far as the eye can see. Here you’ll find tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, a skateboard arena and a roller-skating rink.