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Hong Kong’s must-see architecture

  • Hong Kong, China

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 05 April, 2024

With space at a premium, the only way is up in Hong Kong. It’s made the city’s skyline a sight to behold, a forest of skyscrapers rippling down mountainsides and across the harbour front. A few buildings dominate: the Sir Norman Foster-designed HSBC Bank building, I.M. Pei’s Bank of China, and, on the Kowloon side, the 118-storey International Commerce Centre, one of the tallest buildings in the world.

In-between you’ll find a wild diversity of architectural styles, tracing the city’s literal and metaphorical rise, from tiny ancient Taoist temples, to 1930s tong lau tenements, to the brutalist Chinese University of Hong Kong Campus, and the enormous ‘monster building’ housing estate.

Who to go with: tour operators

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Bank of China

  • Hong Kong, China

Ultra modern looking financial skyscrapers with glass panels and neon lights, stretching high up towards the sky

Experience

Designed by I.M. Pei, the syringe-shaped Bank of China pierces the Hong Kong Island skyline. When it was built in 1990, feng shui masters criticised the building’s sharp lines saying they emitted bad luck. Pools of water were added to the base to soften the effect.

Good for age: 18+

HSBC Bank

  • Hong Kong, China

Upwards view of skyscrapers including the HSBC Main Building, with a blue sky above

Experience

Completed in 1985, trams glide by this 43-storey spaceship of a building, designed by Sir Norman Foster and looking as futuristic now as when it was completed.

Good for age: 18+

International Commerce Centre

  • Hong Kong, China

Beautiful aerial view of West Kowloon and the bay at sunset, with a glittering skyscraper poking up towards the sky

Experience

The 484m-high International Commerce Centre towers over the western edge of the Kowloon waterfront. The views from the top are astonishing; both from the observation deck on the 101st floor, and the glitzy Ritz Carlton rooftop bar, 118 floors up.

Good for age: 18+

M+ Museum

  • Hong Kong, China

Striking urban architecture of the M+ Museum in West Kowloon

Experience

A new addition to the Kowloon waterfront, the M+ Museum is shaped like an inverted ‘T’ and clad with massive LED screens. Designed by Herzog + de Muron, the museum is dedicated to the visual arts and houses over 30 galleries, as well as cinemas, research centres and restaurants.

Good for age: 18+

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The Blue House Cluster

  • Hong Kong , China

Cluster of colourful houses with bright yellow, blue and terracotta exteriors

Experience

A collection of three interlocking Crayola-bright tenements built in the 1920s, inside, you’ll find a Hong Kong-style café and House of Stories, a creative space that holds literary talks, movie screenings and art exhibitions.

Good for age: 18+

The Pawn

  • Hong Kong, China

Bright yellow and cream building with colonnades

Experience

This pre-war tong lau (tenement) once housed Woo Cheong Pawn Shop – hence the name – and beautifully blends Chinese and Western architecture. Check out the interiors, too, with drinks at one of the hip bars and restaurant that furnish the interior.

Good for age: 18+

Website >

Western Market

  • Hong Kong, China

Exterior of a 20th century built Edwardian style market building

Experience

This cream and red-brick building dates back to 1906 and is the oldest surviving market building in the city. During the Opium War, rogue Chinese merchants sold rarities such as fresh milk, butter and biscuits to British colonialists; now there are cafes and shops selling souvenirs.

Good for age: 18+

Website >

Yick Cheong Building

  • Hong Kong, China

Ant's eye view of Yik Cheong building, an example of old style architecture

Experience

The ‘Monster Building’ (so called locally because it appeared in a Transformers movie) is a gigantic 1960’s housing estate, made up of five colourful apartment blocks linked together in an E-shape, housing over 10,000 people. Its courtyards are a magnet for Instagrammers, much to the chagrin of residents.

Good for age: 18+

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

There are a number of private tour companies offering architecture walking tours, including Walk in Hong Kong, which focuses on the east end of the island, visiting an art deco theatre, cylindrical housing estates, and a tram station in the middle of a street market.

A pleasant DIY way to take in the architecture is to hop on a tram. Travelling east from the colonial-era Western Market hall in Central, you’ll pass Sir Norman Foster’s HSBC bank, I.M. Pei’s Bank of China, the old Canton-style shophouse now known as The Pawn, and the Crayola-coloured mega-estates of North Point and Taikoo Shing.

Destination guides

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Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Carved lion statue outside a temple

Destination guide

One of the world’s most extraordinary cities, where rippling mountains, a kaleidoscopic waterfront and futuristic architecture merge with fabulous food, sizzling nightlife and top shopping.