Despite its reputation as a concrete jungle, Hong Kong counts dozens of parks that provide a welcome refuge from the city streets. Some Hong Kong parks are just a short walk or MTR ride from Central, making it easy to incorporate a green oasis into your day; others call for a few hours.
The most ambitious outings are in the New Territories. Both Hong Kong Wetland Park, a 60-hectare reserve, and the Unesco-listed Hong Kong Global Geopark, recognised for its striking rock formations, reward visitors with a deeper understanding of Hong Kong’s natural wonders.
Whether you’ve got half an hour or half a day to spare, we’ve plotted out the best Hong Kong parks and how to make the most of your time in each.
Urban Oasis: Hong Kong Park
Time from Central: 15 minutes on foot or less than 10 minutes by taxi
Time to Explore: 20 to 30 minutes
Hong Kong Park is a welcome oasis for office workers as well as visitors looking to get a quick fix of greenery, while staying right in the heart of Central. Surrounded by skyscrapers, Hong Kong Park features cascading trees, lily ponds and beautiful waterfalls. Make your way to an aviary, which houses more than 80 species of birds. On Wednesday mornings you can join a free guided bird-watching walk. The park is also the site of a marriage registry (keep an eye out for newlyweds striking a pose), the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware and the KS Lo Gallery, which houses rare ceramics and serves excellent vegetarian dim sum in the ground-floor tea shop.
Zoo Time: Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens
Time from Central: 10 minutes on foot or five minutes by taxi
Time to Explore: 45 minutes to an hour
Imagine a menagerie in the middle of a business district: that neatly describes the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. Its aviaries are home to a wide range of birds, from the American flamingo to the Victoria crowned pigeon. Elsewhere, you’ll encounter mammals like the Bornean orangutan and Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth. Among Hong Kong parks it is the oldest, dating back to the 1860s, and it features a heritage trail with five notable landmarks, including a statue of King George VI. The park is known colloquially in Cantonese as bing tau fa yuen – ‘the garden of the chief of the soldiers’ – a reference to a brief time in history when the Governor’s residence stood on site.
Harbour Views: Tamar Park
Time from Central: 15 minutes on foot or less than 10 by taxi. Closest MTR station is Admiralty
Time to Explore: 20 to 30 minutes
Spreading across two hectares near the government offices in Admiralty, Tamar Park is an inviting spot to take a stroll while soaking up views of Victoria Harbour, as well as some public art. Look out for Photosynthesis in Motion, one of the more popular installations on display: it’s an enormous leaf, shaped rather like a hammock, so it’s makes for a great lounger (and Instagram spot). If the mood strikes for a picnic, the park’s landscaped lawns oblige. Best of all, Tamar Park is easily accessible from Admiralty MTR or the Star Ferry Pier.
Space to Breathe: Victoria Park
Time from Central: 15 minutes by taxi. Closest MTR station is Causeway Bay or Tin Hau
Time to Explore: 20 to 30 minutes
The crush of shoppers thronging Causeway Bay can feel overwhelming at times – and that is where Victoria Park comes in handy. Retreat to its shaded paths, or sit and watch the world go by, as many elderly park visitors do. As the largest park on Hong Kong Island (19 hectares), it has space to host special events: during Chinese New Year (late January or early February), Victoria Park transforms into a flower market, while March brings the annual Flower Show and Mid-Autumn Festival fills its concrete football pitches with an impressive lantern display. Impromptu tai chi sessions take place most mornings, and the park’s sporting facilities attract enthusiastic amateurs, while pros turn up to participate in major events.
A Dose of Culture: Kowloon Park
Time from Central: 15 to 20 minutes by taxi. Closest MTR station is Tsim Sha Tsui
Time to Explore: 30 to 45 minutes
A Chinese maze garden, a lake that’s home to a flock of flamingos and a sheltered walkway are among the appealing features of Kowloon Park, which covers 13 hectares in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Tsim Sha Tsui. It’s also worth seeking out the Hong Kong Avenue of Comic Stars, an array of sculptures of legendary homegrown comic characters – like loveable rogue Old Master Q and McDull, a pig with a heart of gold, plus bronze handprints of notable comic artists.
Alternative Skyline: Kwun Tong Promenade
Time from Central: 25 to 30 minutes by taxi. Closest MTR station is Kwun Tong
Time to Explore: 45 minutes
Kowloon’s Kwun Tong promenade is part of a development project transforming the former Kai Tak airport and its surroundings into a snazzy commercial and residential district. Overlooking the Kwun Tong typhoon shelter, the one-kilometre-long promenade is a pleasant place for a walk – or a jog or bike ride – while taking in panoramic views of the Hong Kong.
Historic Roots: Kowloon Walled City Park
Time from Central: 25 to 30 minutes by taxi. Closest MTR station is Lok Fu
Time to Explore: an hour or more
A military enclave in the 19th century and then an ungoverned, crime-ridden settlement until its demolition in the 1980s, the infamous Kowloon Walled City is now the site of a tranquil park. Many features are artefacts from yesteryear, including remnants of one of its gates and the facade of a yamen, a building that dates back to the Qing dynasty and once functioned as administrative offices. The park’s Qing dynasty-inspired designs feature impressive landscapes, like a garden of Chinese zodiacs. There’s also a free guided tour on the history of the Walled City and the architecture of the park.
Wildlife Haven: Hong Kong Wetland Park
Time from Central: 40 minutes by taxi. Closest MTR station is Yuen Long
Time to Explore: two hours or more
Many Hong Kong parks make good people-watching spots, but venture further afield to Yuen Long, just south of the Shenzhen boundary, for a spot of bird watching in the Hong Kong Wetland Park, a 60-hectare reserve for egrets and many migratory waterbirds. You can also expect to spy hawks, butterflies, dragonflies, reptiles and fish as you wander boardwalks over marshes and past gardens. It’s worth heading indoors to visit themed exhibition galleries and the Swamp Adventure play area. Fun fact: Since 2006, Wetland Park has been home to Pui Pui (‘Precious One’), the celebrity saltwater crocodile who made headlines in 2003 when she was spotted in a river in Yuen Long. Official efforts to capture her lasted months and attracted hundreds of onlookers.
Rock Show: Hong Kong Unesco Global Geopark
Time from Central: 45 minutes by taxi. Closest MTR station is Hang Hau or Choi Hung
Time to Explore: three hours or more
Unesco recognised the Sai Kung peninsula’s curious rock formations – which formed more than 140 million years ago after volcanic eruptions – with its official global geopark designation in 2009. The easiest way to get up close with these ancient marvels is to set out along the High Island Geo Trail, which overlooks giant hexagonal rock columns, as well as twisted columns, green peaks and a reservoir. If you have the time, the Volcanic Discovery Centre (based out of Sai Kung town centre) offers half-day guided tours, while Wild Hong Kong can take you kayaking.