Hong Kong’s cultural attractions in a nutshell: the more you see, the less you’ll find you know about them…especially if you’re looking for what lies at the heart of this historic region’s heritage.
Savoring Hong Kong’s history and culture means peeling back layers of narratives and creating identities born from the vibrant intersection of polarities. For example (and quite obvious): Hong Kong is where east meets west. Although relatively minor Geographically, Hong Kong is home to great ideas and imposing structures here, the old is intricately intertwined with the new — ancient traditions that often find common ground with hyperdrive technology; if not that, then a quiet co-existence that is often overlooked by travelers. Here, even amid centuries-old history and heritage, new adventures await at every turn.
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Where these polarities harmonize despite the hectic pace of the city, culture thrives alongside a strong sense of local identity. Where culture thrives, a destination’s identity perpetually evolves, leaving visitors with much to rediscover on each visit. And yet, despite Hong Kong being known as one of the most prominent melting pots of cultures in Asia, not many tourists travel to this destination to immerse themselves in its culture.
Now is the time to change that. Let’s start with you, on your next trip to Hong Kong, where we tick off all of its must-see cultural attractions, from new ones to those that have stood the test of time and seen laudable revitalization over decades.
Maybe it’s the first time you know Hong Kong; maybe it isn’t. But this is one introduction you don’t want to miss.
Museums and centers of art, heritage and culture
1. Hong Kong Palace Museum (HKPM)
Perhaps the newest kid on the Hong Kong culture bloc, Hong Kong Palace Museum (HKPM) houses an unparalleled collection of around 900 cultural treasures: artifacts, paintings, ceramics, archaeological finds and more, all of which tell stories about how Hong Kong’s multifaceted and multicultural identity came to be. If you thought you had seen it all in Hong Kong, think again. Most of the exhibits here meet the public for the first time. Think of it as the city’s cultural treasure. The best part? You are invited to take a look.
Its architecture is yet another reason for you to come on your next visit. Between the building, now a landmark in its own right, and its sweeping views of Victoria Harbour, you wouldn’t know what to snap a photo of first. Take all the time you need. You might even want to dedicate half of your day to HKPM.
Touted as one of Hong Kong’s newest “mega museums”. M+ It features a curated collection of artwork from the 20th and 21st centuries. So imagine the historical narrative beginning to unravel before your very eyes, if you start your Hong Kong art and culture getaway with a visit to HKPM, you will eventually find your way to M+.
M+ opened last year, so if you plan your trip soon, you’ll be one of the first in the entire world to witness works that span all media and performances. It is, after all, a carefully designed “museum of visual culture” in all its 65,000-square-meter splendor. While you’re here, don’t miss out on the M+ architecture and interiors, which blend industrial and brutalist aesthetics. Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron behind M+ also conceptualized Beijing’s National Stadium, China’s iconic “bird’s nest,” so you’re in for a treat.
3. Tung Nam Lou Hotel
A Hotel Tung Nam Lou, “art is everywhere.” The boutique hotel in the Yau Ma Tei Historic District serves as your gateway to Hong Kong’s bustling art scene. If you’re looking for one-of-a-kind accommodation that connects you to the creative heart of the city, look no further. Tung Nam Lou presents the opportunity to surround yourself with heritage and culture through creative means. Take part in a multi-sensory tea-making session or have a Art Explorers Day Passwhich gives you access to all the hotel’s art spaces.
Do you prefer to go out? Tung Nam Lou can also arrange a heritage walking tour of Yau Ma Tei.
4. Xiqu Center
From the visual arts, we make our way to the performing arts, which find refuge in Xiqu Center. When it comes to this seven-story entertainment venue, first impressions will last a lifetime. Its façade alone stuns viewers with its distinctive curvaceous shape; its lines and shapes reflect the fluid and open design of the traditional Chinese Moon Gates that inspired it. Architecture firm Revery Architecture ensured that these curvilinear elements remained consistent throughout the terrain, from the steps to the theater interiors.
The Xiqu Center is named after the art of Chinese opera or xiqu, as it is largely dedicated to preserving the traditional forms of Chinese and Cantonese theater. Stop by to see a show or take a guided tour of the facilities.
5. Hong Kong Museum of Art (HKMoA)
While the Hong Kong Museum of Art (HKMoA) opened its doors to the public over 50 years ago in 1962 (moving once in 1991 to its current location in Tsim Sha Tsui), it only reopened in 2019 after a four-year renovation. In 2015 it temporarily closed to make way for structural reforms as well as the construction of new exhibition spaces.
The result? An impressive renovated façade marked by patterned cladding and glass walls and ceilings that allow natural light to enter during the day. That, and an additional 10,000 square meters of exhibition space, located alongside the sparkling waters of Victoria Harbor along its Kowloon side. The soaring waterfront structure is a fitting tribute and home to the 17,000 precious works found within. What sets HKMoA’s collection apart from others is that its artworks visually represent the evolution of Hong Kong art, from traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting to modern works by contemporary artists born and raised in the region.
6. Tai Kwun
tai kwun it is not just a center for heritage and the arts. It is not just a cultural town; it is a cultural destination and conservation wonder, proudly merging “multiple genres of art, heritage, culture and lifestyle in Hong Kong.” Among Hong Kong’s new cultural attractions, this is the one that could easily take a full day of exploration and full immersion. Take as many guided tours as you can on your schedule; this virtual map gives you an overview of the Tai Kwun buildings and facilities, as well as the open grounds you can wander through.
Located in the former Hong Kong Central Police Station complex, Tai Kwun won a UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2019. It is an excellent example of how a comprehensive conservation management plan can breathe new life into life to historic structures that would otherwise have been left in the past.
Hot spots for intangible culture and traditional crafts
7. Art villages and murals
Of course, there are other places dotted around the Hong Kong islands where you can also sample its intangible heritage and traditional crafts. While some of these may not necessarily be new, most of them are pretty underrated cultural experiences, making them refreshing additions to any itinerary.
Take, for example, Hong Kong’s so-called mural villages or areas where art intertwines with the urban landscape. This is outdoor art, uncomplicated and often full of multicolors. See painted walls in these areas: ping-che (in Ta Kwu Ling), kam tin (in New Territories), my secret garden Y leather factory (in Peng Chau). You can also count the sculptures and installations that you will find in tuen mun, from Hung Kui Bridge to Tin Haw Temple Square. These public works of art form part of the Live! River project directed by art collective apohere and the Art Promotion Office; you should see six works in total. Happy art hunting!
8. Tailor Linva
We are now moving into the realm of traditional fashion and in Hong Kong, this is best embodied in custom cheongsam either cheongsam. These custom-made Chinese dresses were catapulted to world fame by old Hollywood, especially in the 1900s, when Asian themes dominated theaters. Add to that the cult following and fan base created by Hong Kong film director Wong Kar-wai’s filmography, and you have the cheongsam permanently etched in pop culture.
Nowadays, the traditional way of doing Cheongsams either cheongsams it is a dying art, with only a handful of heritage guardians protecting this fashion legacy. Among them is Leung Ching-wah, a master craftsman from Linva Tailor. His work takes center stage in the 2000 film Wong Kar-wai. In the mood for love. In the mood to join the waiting list for the coveted tailor? After book an appointment before your next visit to Hong Kong. You can even choose the fabric of your custom garment.
9. Mahjong Carving Shops
Hong Kong’s mahjong houses stand tall and proud to this day, but the chances of witnessing the traditional way of carving mahjong tiles have become slim over the years. Rarely will travelers take a journey to seek out the history of mahjong, whose origins date back to China’s Qing dynasty.
But we’ll let you in on a little secret: we know where these artisans carve in Hong Kong today! Enter a moment Kam Fat Mahjong either Biu Kee Mahjong, where you can even sign up for workshops that will teach you how to carve your own mahjong tiles. Even if classes aren’t in session, you can still get your hands on an authentic set of mahjong tiles specially handcrafted by Hong Kong artisans.
NEW ADVENTURES IN HK
Painted ceramic. Jade jewelry and carvings. Traditional seals used to sign any document. Hong Kong is brimming with cultural attractions that you may not have heard of until now, and we’ve only scratched the surface. This is Hong Kong like you’ve never experienced it before, where there’s newness even in old traditions and a colorful, multi-cultural past.
Presented by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.