So, you want to visit Victoria Peak.
Look, I’m the last person to tell you to do something because it’s awesome and amazing just because it’s the second-most-popular activity on TripAdvisor for a city. Some of those things suck (looking at you, Walk of Stars). Some of them are only fairly good. And only a few of them are as “fun!” and “spectacular!” as Lonely Planet says they are.
I would never lie to you guys about my opinions. Here are the reasons why you should (and shouldn’t) visit Victoria Peak, this often-cited tourist attraction.
By the way, if you’re visiting Hong Kong (and especially for the first time!), consider checking out my posts on Hong Kong Dining Rules You Need to Know, as well as my neighborhood spotlight on local food in Sheung Wan, a neighborhood just one stop over from Central.
But First, a Little Bit of Victoria Peak History
Victoria Peak is the highest hill on Hong Kong island. Don’t feel fooled by this lofty title: it is not the highest peak in the entire Hong Kong territory – far from it. There are much, much, higher elevation points in Hong Kong (one of them named Suicide Cliff, for that matter). Victoria Peak comes in at a measly number 31.
Its main claim to fame was that in the 19th century, a bunch of rich white people wanted to live here, because it would give them a boost in both a physical (and figurative) sense from the peasantry and plebs down below.
The earliest houses on the Peak were named things like “The Eyrie” and “Bushy Cottage” and “Cloudlands,” which mostly makes me think that the early Governors woke up one morning and were like, “I’m Governor, and I can do whatever I want, so what I’ll do is pretend to be a medieval knight.” Like the Silicon Valley Bros who name their companies things like Palantir (yes, this actually exists, and their meeting rooms are named after lands in Middle Earth, which is both terrifying and awesome).
I especially love that Victoria Peak’s Wikipedia page euphemises this delightfully with the following: “…the Peak attracted prominent European residents because of its panoramic view over the city and its temperate climate compared to the sub-tropical climate in the rest of Hong Kong). Because the non-European residents of Hong Kong couldn’t possibly have been attracted to temperate climates as well, don’t you know?
Why You Should Visit Victoria Peak
There’s a lot of historical significance to be found in this spot (just read the above)
There are a lot of iconic skylines and views in the city. This is definitely one of Hong Kong’s top 3.
The Victoria Peak Tram is a pretty cute (albeit short) experience, especially if you have small children. I’d love this thing as a kid. It is like a a very, very, easy and slow roller coaster.
Why You Shouldn’t Visit Victoria Peak
This is one of, if not the most, popular tourist destinations in Hong Kong.
Therefore, in the past 5 to 10 years, it’s been turned into somewhat of a caricature of a tourist attraction. Anyone who has done traveling in popular areas has experienced first-hand what it’s like when development is built revolving around a certain site. The Peak is no exception: decades of tourist hordes have turned this area into a sophisticated visitor factory. It sucks you in and spits you back out, with your wallet lighter (but you can avoid this easily by committing to no food and no shopping).
In true Hong Kong fashion, there are huge malls at the top. You can’t escape them. I’ve learned to stop hoping for Hong Kong capitalism, because in this city, capitalism wins. Always.
Because how else can you make tourists who are trying to see a beautiful view spend even more money than they already have? You shove them, like a sick human assembly line, into a mall as soon as they arrive. They have no option but to wander, in a disoriented daze, through shops selling plastic keychains and postcards, and inevitably end up buying too many Kinder chocolates for someone back home (the office? Who knows).
There are a lot of people up there at the top. This means that there will be lines. You thought you already lined up to come up the hill (if you took the tram). Well, folks, you’ll have to line up again to come down.
How to Get to Victoria Peak
Victoria Peak Tram
The tram is the way to go if a) you’re unabashedly lazy like me; or b) you’re traveling with young children during one of the 8 months that Hong Kong becomes as hot as Satan’s underarms. Nothing says “wholesome family fun” like dragging your screaming sweaty kid up a mountain. I hope you like pit stains; or c) the idea of riding a very slow and very easy roller coaster appeals to you.
I’m probably underselling the tram. It’s actually pretty fun, depending on your idea of fun. If the idea of finding yourself at nearly a 90 degree angle facing up a mountain fills you with wonder and not horror, then yes, it is fun.
The Peak Tram was first constructed in 1888 as a way to connect residences on or near the Peak with those at the bottom of the hill. Previously, the only way to get up was by sedan chair. Seriously. The only way to get up a mountain was for people to carry you on your shoulders like you were some Persian princess in a Disney cartoon.
This fact is plastered all over Hong Kong like it’s meant to be pleasantly informative, but every time I read it, I quietly think what the hell, guys. I’m glad no one is doing this anymore, because you bet your britches certain people were benefiting from this “service” and other types of people were doing the servicing. (Read: Racial zoning laws. Why doesn’t anyone talk about this? ).
Since that time, the Tram has featured in numerous movies, photographs, and art. If you want to visit, though, just be prepared for those godforsaken lines.
Adults: $37 HKD single, $52 HKD return. This is about $4.73 USD single, $6.65 return
Children: (3-11) or seniors (65+): $14 HKD Single, $23 Return. This is $1.80 USD single, $2.94 USD return.
Hike to Victoria Peak
Try to visit Victoria peak by hiking. The trek isn’t a tough hike. For illustration purposes, occasionally I go to the gym. Contrary to my resolutely apple-shaped body, I tend to work out fairly regularly. I do squats, and lunges, and hip thrusts and things to futilely counteract the genetics that gave me an unfortunately rectangularly-shaped backside (which would never, in any kind of universe, be described as “thicc”.)
The point I am trying to make here is that I can be called a reasonably fit woman. Therefore, hiking to the Peak can sound like a reasonably good idea, especially If you’ve had to give up CrossFit for a week to visit Hong Kong.
The hike is also rather short. If you start at the end of the Central-to-MidLevels Escalators, it will take you less than an hour. I know this, because there were several strategically-placed benches on the route for the hopelessly lazy, like me, who want to take breaks and play with their phones.
I stopped, and drank water, and played with my phone while pretending to the hikers I passed that I wasn’t winded, no, not at all, and continued when the sweat droplets on my face felt sufficiently cool again.
This is what some of the hike looks like. This is not a hike for scenic views. This is a hike for a little bit of exercise.
How to Get to the Start of the Hike
If you want to visit Victoria peak by hiking, the best way is to start from Central and find the Central to Mid-Levels Escalator. Take the escalator until you can’t see the next stage of the escalator, and then just search Google Maps the directions to “Victoria Peak.” Find the street that’s called “Old Peak Road” and just follow it to the top. You’ll know when you’re on the right path when the street begins to slope ever-so-more-steeply.
The views on this road, unfortunately, aren’t of the sweeping vistas and froth-lined shore variety. They are, instead, incessant green shrubbery, which is occasionally punctuated by windows of Hong Kong skyscraper. Like this.
Eventually, if you’re reasonably able-bodied, you’ll find yourself coming to the SkyTower peak within an hour. You’ll know when you smell the commercialized kitsch emanating from the top of the hill. You’ll know.
Get to Victoria Peak by Taxi
This one is obvious. The cost of a metered cab ride will cost more the further you are from the Peak, but from Central, it’s likely to cost you between 60-80 Hong Kong Dollars (between 9 and 12 USD).
The Victoria Peak Experience
Prepare yourself. You’ve made it to Victoria Peak. If you arrived by tram, you’ll immediately be thrust into what the Hong Kong Tourism Board likes to call “The Peak Market” or a “Shopping Paradise,” which translates to “a whole lot of fridge magnets” and “more Toblerone bars than you knew existed outside Switzerland.”
If this is your first visit to Hong Kong, you’ll know that this is just par the course – that’s Hong Kong capitalism, baby! I know what you read about this city before you came. If you thought that you’d just take the Tram and be able to escape without trinkets being thrust into your eye’s line of sight, you’d be sorely, sorely, mistaken.
If you’ve found yourself here, take two flights of escalators down and find the exit to the the open space. I have found myself meandering way too often among plastic trinkets and oversized teddy bears to wish the same on unsuspecting and well-intentioned visitors.
On your way down, you’ll bypass two often advertised experiences: Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum (it’s only 10 HKD for admission, so I suppose if you wanted to waste your time, you could do a lot worse), and the Sky Terrace, offering a 360 degree view of the Hong Kong skyline.
Here’s to hoping for a smogless fogless sky.
Madame Tussaud’s got figures like Angelina Jolie, Benedict Cumberbatch, and a whole host of East Asian actors and actresses. And though I’ve personally never visited, the views from the Sky Terrace are supposed to be insane (if photos online are anything to go by).
Once you find yourself outdoors and out of the completely unavoidable malls, your surroundings will look like this.
It continues to amaze me how they’ve turned this area into a clusterf*** of both tourists and locals. There will be more children here, at this very moment, on the Peak, than you’ll ever see combined in your entire visit to Hong Kong.
Visit Victoria Peak Viewpoints
Lion’s Pavilion Lookout
What to do next? Make a beeline for the most popular lookout point, Lion’s Pavilion. There will be signs pointing you in that direction (and you’ll also know by the crowds of people going there). It’s the most recognizable viewpoint, and the photos from there look like this. It’s easy to grab a shot and go. Close to the Lookout Point will be vendors selling art prints, and refrigerator door magnets (Does anyone ever buy these?) and that sort of thing.
Peak Galleria Terrace
The Peak Galleria Terrace is a platform that you’ll find once you wander into, well, the Peak Galleria. I personally don’t think the views here are astonishingly superior to those at the Lion’s Pavilion, but hey, while you’re here, right?
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Tickets to the SkyTerrace can be purchased at counters when you arrive (or at the bottom when you buy a ticket for the Peak Tram, as a package deal). The views look like this.
Take an Easy and Refreshing Stroll around Victoria Peak (Peak Circle Walk)
If you’re anything like me, the sight of families, strollers, and melting ice cream cones will make you hot at the collar and run screaming at the nearest exit. Truth be told, being at the Peak gives me flashes back to sweltering summers in Orlando’s Disney World, complete with 2-pound turkey legs and sticky hands and crying babies.
This is why I’m not having kids, I announced to my very Chinese mother during our most recent Thanksgiving, my mouth full of dumplings. Give me chubby cheeks and fat little feet, but not vomit and diapers.
So what are you to do?
You get a 60 – 90 -minute or so walk on Lugard Road. Find the signs that point you to the direction and go left.
There are no inclines on this walk: perfect for those strollers and baby carriages, and just what you need to get away from the commercialized madness of just minutes before. You don’t even have to be fit for this (although you will inevitably come across old Chinese grandmas in full hiking gear, in two pairs of visors and covered head to toe in Lycra).
This will make you feel simultaneously inadequate and underdressed, but fear not – these grannies are a special breed, and when you see the first babies being carried, you will realize that this walk can be completed by toddlers. If the little pudge-ball with wispy curls and Velcro sneakers can do this walk, then so can you.
And if you’re here in Hong Kong on holiday, even better: you’ll think about that dim sum breakfast you had in the morning and congratulate yourself on moving your body today, like a real adult.
For most of this walk, there won’t be much in the way of views of nature – on the right-hand side, you’ll see lush green vegetation (and get bored of it by the time the first 10 minutes have passed), but the walk will also be punctuated by gorgeous glimpses of blue sky (on a clear day) and towering needle sharp skyscrapers in the distance.
Eventually, you’ll come to Lugard Road Lookout Point (about 20 minutes in), which offers far superior panoramic views than the aforementioned Lion’s Pavilion.
At the end of the 3.5 kilometers, you’ll find yourself exactly where you started. Again, look for the incessant crowds.
That’s it! I hope you now know the basics on how to visit Victoria Peak, a violently popular tourist attraction whose popularity won’t die down anytime soon.
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