Hong Kong’s power buildings and gleaming harbour are made for the cinema. The city’s views have inspired the sci-fi classic Blade Runner and awed audiences in The Dark Knight. Luckily, unlike Batman, you don’t have to scale a 400-storey building for a glimpse of Hong Kong’s dramatic skyline. There are plenty of less life-threatening spots around town that afford equally stunning views.
Remember, too, that it’s not just about Hong Kong from the top down. One of the city’s most famous views is of Victoria Harbour crisscrossed by boats, with architectural wonders lined up in the background.
Highest viewing spots
You can get a rush of energy (or acrophobia) taking in this futuristic megacity’s outline, but you’ll need perspective to do it properly. Getting as high as you can (we mean physically) is one good way to enjoy this simple thrill.
Victoria Peak, one of the city’s foremost tourist attractions, is the highest point on Hong Kong Island. Soaring above Central, the Peak offers superlative views of the city and the mountainous countryside beyond, as well as dappled trails and cooler climes (the Peak is about 5⁰C cooler than the city). At sunset the scenery dons its glitz and starts to shimmer like a fallen Milky Way. The best way to reach the Peak is by Asia’s oldest funicular, the Peak Tram, which hauls itself almost vertically up the hillside to finish at the Peak Tower.
Hong Kong’s highest observation deck, Sky 100 (sky100.com.hk), is suspended 390m above terra firma, on the 100th floor of the territory’s tallest building, the International Commerce Centre (ICC) in West Kowloon. The deck offers a spectacular 360-degree view covering Hong Kong Island and almost all of Kowloon Peninsula. On clear days, you can see as far as the nine ridges that gave Kowloon its name, and Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s tallest peak.
Even higher than Sky 100, is Ozone, Ritz Carlton’s flamboyant top-floor bar on the 118th floor of the ICC. Ozone features floor-to-ceiling glass that shows its location in the clouds to the best advantage.
Off-the-beaten-track vantage points
For half a century, the large outdoor carpark atop the Harbour City shopping mall and cruise terminal has attracted clandestine lovers and fans of sunsets with its riveting views and the serenity of a bygone era.
Along the left parapet, Victoria Harbour unfolds in all its glory, not the least of which is the Star Ferry pier. The attractive green-and-white pier was constructed in a Streamline Moderne style and resembles a finger pointing at Hong Kong Island. Along the right, the monuments of West Kowloon loom, their silhouettes forming a stonehenge of glass and concrete when the sun dips behind them on a clear evening. From time to time, you’ll see international cruise liners come to dock nail-bitingly close to the carpark.
The 70-storey Bank of China Tower is known for its asymmetrical shape resembling prisms stacked on top of one another. Some have likened it to a bamboo plant, and others more superstitious, to a dagger. The bank has a viewing gallery on the 43rd floor from which you are rewarded with a pleasant 180-degree view of Central and the Kowloon skyline.
As you commute between the views, remember to take the Star Ferry, which runs between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, and let Hong Kong unfold before you like a movable feast.
Drink in the views
Hong Kong’s best-known imagery is of the Island, but like a hologram, its beauty only shimmers into view when you’re looking from Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. Perched on the very tip of the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, the lobby lounge of the Intercontinental, with its soaring plate glass, is one of the best spots to soak up the Hong Kong Island skyline and take in the busy harbour. It’s also an ideal venue from which to watch fireworks displays and the nightly Symphony of Lights light show.
At Aqua Spirit, a 29th floor view of the Island's cityscape accompanies strong cocktails and live jazz, best enjoyed after the sun goes down and the lights flicker to life across dozens of spindly skyscrapers in the distance.
If you make it to the balcony of uber-chic Sevva in Central, you’ll be viewing some of the world’s iconic skyscrapers at eye level and so intimately you can see their arteries of steel. At night, and with a little help from the restaurant’s sultry cocktails, the experience can be almost dizzying.
This article was first written by Andrew Stone and published in August 2010. It was updated by Piera Chen in March 2015.