Free Things to Do
It is not a secret that Hong Kong is one of the most expensive cities in the world. This is why those who travel to this "world city" plan their itineraries carefully; it can be challenging to allocate portions of one's budget for fares, meals and admission fees here. Do not worry though, because help is on its way through this list of tourist destinations in Hong Kong that do not charge for admission. These are also not your typical go-to places that may look interesting in photographs online yet disappoint once visited personally. Even if these are free-of-charge, the beauty of each featured Hong Kong spot will leave you wondering in amazement as to why these are free in the first place.
Fellow traveler, now is the time to debunk the idea that you cannot have an enjoyable day or night in Hong Kong if you have a tight budget. From sightseeing to being one with nature and local history, this destination has these worthwhile activities for free. What are you waiting for? Plan your Hong Kong trip ahead as creatively and wisely as you can in such a way that you will not break the bank. But first, check out the featured tourist spots below.
Hike up to The Peak
Locals would say that tourists cannot miss going to the Peak. Up for spectacular cityscape views for free? Well, this is the place to be, as it offers a stunning 360-degree view encompassing the city’s skyscrapers, the Victoria Harbor as well as the New Territories. Hence, no matter what is on your itinerary, a trip to The Peak is mandatory—it is the highest point of Hong Kong Island. It is also featured in this site’s top ten to do list.
Set at 522 meters above sea level, getting to the top is another treat for visitors as they take a ride aboard the iconic Peak Tram (not free). Operational since 1888, it holds the distinction of being the oldest cableway service in the world. Yet despite its age, the tram remains an active form of public transport for local commuters.
At the same time, it is a popular tourist attraction. No doubt, visitors are in awe of the Peak Tram illusion they experience while riding to the top. Indeed, you need to see it to believe it.
Once at the top, visitors have a lot of activities to choose from after they are done admiring the view. You can do a bit of shopping and sample local cuisine at any of the heritage restaurants. Visitors looking for something more adventurous can wander on a hiking trail.
Prior to its status as Hong Kong’s most visited attraction, The Peak once served as an exclusive locality for European expatriates. While it remains an area for Hong Kong’s elite to date, tourists along with locals are more than welcome to visit it to enjoy an amazing panorama and more. It is guaranteed to take your breath away.
Watch the Symphony of Lights
The Symphony of Lights is not just an ordinary light show. Victoria Harbour is a magnificent sight in its own right but the Symphony of Lights makes it truly stand out. The Symphony of Lights has lit up Victoria Harbour for fourteen years and continues to be free. This spectacular light show is massive in scale and is a signature icon of Hong Kong.
For 15 minutes, the show itself is quite short. The multimedia show consists of the spectacular light display coming out of multiple buildings accompanied with the breathtaking soundtrack performed by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. Over 40 iconic buildings from each side of Victoria Harbour participate in this event. Countless searchlights, high-powered lasers and LED screens work in sync to the symphony. The light show is divided into different stages, each stage is a tribute to Hong Kong’s city, its people, their energy and their diversity. Each stage is a highlight of their own, as both the music and the lights sway in transition from one stage to another.
The result of this complex city-wide plan is a magnificent nightly scene. The Symphony of Lights turns the harbourfront of Hong Kong into an outdoor audiovisual feast. The light show regularly starts at 8PM. English narration is available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Furthermore, the narration is also available in Mandarin on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and Cantonese on Sundays.
Visitors from all around the globe flock the promenades during the lightshow. Each of them have a different choice of vantage points from where they can fully appreciate the symphony. One special way of experiencing the symphony is by riding a ship cruising through the harbor. Chinese New Year and Christmas are also unique events for the light symphony. Special pyrotechnic fireworks also accompany the light show during special events such as these. Seeing the Symphony of Lights is truly a breathtaking experience that virtually costs nothing.
Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens
The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens is Hong Kong’s oldest park, and its free. It is also known as one of the oldest zoological and botanical centers in the world, earning a place in the Top 10 to do list. With a total of 5.6 hectares, the gardens are divided into East and West Albany Road and are connected by a pedestrian subway. Here, expect to be amazed by various indigenous and foreign species of more than 1,000 species of plants and endangered animals.
In the Old Garden, the eastern part of Albany Road, you will find a children’s playground, aviaries, a green house and the fountain terrace garden. Birds such as the American flamingo, Hawaiian goose and red-crowned crane are housed here.
On the other hand, the western part called New Garden is home to various mammals such as the Bornean orangutan, emperor tamarin and raccoon, among others. It is also home to reptiles such as the endangered elongated and thespurred tortoise.
Encounter rare plant species such as the Ailanthus and the dawn redwood in this garden. The Hong Kong orchid tree is also beautiful to look at, especially when it has produced flowers. As for the animals, there are over 600 birds, 70 mammals, and 40 reptiles here. The young ones will enjoy this place with all these features—even the young at heart, because nature’s beauty is indeed for all ages.
The Memorial Arch, the Bronze Statue of King George VI, and the Pavilion are must-see structures situated in Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. The memorial arch was dedicated to the Chinese who died assisting the Allies during the two world wars and the bronze statue was built and placed here to commemorate the 100th anniversary of British colonial rule over Hong Kong.
Snoopy World in Hong Kong
Less known among the average Hong Kong visitor is Snoopy World. Probably this is because of Hong Kong Disneyland, but for those who are on a budget, visit this place for free. The park is a remarkably free alternative if you cannot go for Hong Kong Disneyland or Ocean Park. 18 years ago, Snoopy World was built on the third floor of the Sha Tin New Town Plaza Shopping Mall. Today, the small park is still one of the most popular destinations for frugal guests.
Snoopy’s World is divided into six small amusement zones. Visitors who have frequented the New Town Plaza Shopping Mall may want to conclude their shopping spree with a visit to this Snoopy themed park.
You will be greeted with the biggest Snoopy figure in the world at the Doghouse Entry. The second amusement zone is called the “School Plaza: Peanuts Academy” where you can find life-sized figures of Charlie Brown, Sally and Linus. The “Boating Canal: Canoe Ride” is amusement zone 3, where you may ride a short canoe ride. Children may play around at the playgrounds located at zone 4 “Baseball Playground: Peanuts Dugout.”
The fifth amusement zone is located at the “Mini Town Area: Peanuts Boulevard”, where you may take your time for a photo op with your favorite Peanuts characters. The final amusement zone is the “Community Hall: Snoopy Wedding House”, where small events and weddings may be held.
Snoopy’s World provides a great free traveling experience of a theme park in less than an hour. The place is an excellent get-away from the shopping session and you and your children will undoubtedly enjoy this free theme park and its amusement zones.
Quarry Bay Park
A unique urban park located at the eastern district, lying between the waterfront and the Tai Koo Shing housing estate. Quarry Bay Park is a commercial destination any new traveler should experience. Like most districts of Hong Kong, Quarry Bay has a long history. An English and Chinese name was given to the place. Tsak Yue Chung, the Chinese name of the district, was named after the Crucian Carp once commonly found in the area. Its English namesake came after the British arrived, when the Hakka stonemasons began a quarry on the nearby hills to supply the need from the western part of the city.
The park was opened to the public on June 17 1994 and since then; Quarry Bay has become an important destination for both locals and foreigners. As a company town, Quarry Bay has also become a bustling location for new public space. Food shops and Cultural venues are found aplenty in and around Quarry Bay.
Iconic buildings such as the Yik Cheong Building offer very beautiful backdrops for your social media photo. Indoor obstacle courses are offered by Verm City gym, open to all athletic guests. A peculiar part of Quarry Bay Park is the Fireboat Alexander Grantham, a repurposed fire-boat turned exhibition gallery which opened in 2007.
The park is also a center of environmental protection groups. The Green Volunteer Scheme provides updates and newsletters of environmental protection information for the general public. Though its headquarters are in Quarry Bay Park, the project was launched in 18 districts all around Hong Kong.
Horticultural training, practical sessions and similar activities are also launched during the weekends at Quarry Bay Park.
Avenue of Stars
The Avenue of Stars pays tribute to actors and actresses featured in classic films who have contributed immensely to Hong Kong’s film scene. It is fascinating to know that Hong Kong is also called as the “Hollywood of the East,” and these great stars are to be thanked for. Furthermore, what is great to know is that tourists can see a mural depicting classic movie scenes, film-related exhibitions, twenty star handprint plaques and sculptures of famous people such as Bruce Lee and Anita Mui, all for free. These awe-inspiring features of this tourist destination as well as the areas beautiful surroundings are major factors as to why the Avenue of Stars are included in the Top 10 to do list.
The Avenue of Stars harbor walk is the equivalent of the Hollywood Walk of Fame in America. Hence, the city’s nickname Hollywood of the East. Located in the Tsim Sha Tsui district, imagine you are walking along the Victoria harbor and then bump into the life-sized statue of Bruce Lee. Moreover, he is in one of his famous fighting stances. A picture next to this is priceless.
In addition to Little Phoenix, 73 other big names in the Hong Kong film industry have their names inscribed on tablets. Moreover, 30 stars have their hand prints added. Who knows? Your hand could be the same size as that of your favorite star. What will make your stroll even more exciting are the movie-themed sculptures you will see as you take a look at the features the place can offer. Here, do not forget to bring your camera. Take a picture to look like your part of the film crew.
The Avenue of Stars was built in 2003 by the New World Group and welcomed the public in April 2004. Their venture received the full support of tourism and film officials. Since then, it has become one of the more popular stops for visitors to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Railway Museum
Indeed, the high industry of modern Hong Kong was aided by the arrival of the trains and the industrial revolution with it. The Hong Kong Railway Museum will certainly create interest among train enthusiasts and history buffs. The museum is currently housed at the old Tai Po Railway Station where the former Kowloon-Canton railway operated.
Previously a center of trade and administration that significantly boosted Tai Po Market’s economy. The Tai Po Railway Station brought merchants, traders and other business men from all over Hong Kong. In 1983, the Kowloon-Canton railway and station was put to rest and the two new North and South Tai Wo stations replaced the old railway station. The station was given to the government of Hong Kong, and soon thereafter the station was repurposed as a museum of railway history.
The museum is at its 16th year of service, opening its doors to the public on December 20th 1986. The architecture of the Tai Po Railway station reflects the Traditional early 1900s Chinese architectural design. Though formerly operated by a British Company, the station is known for its indigenous style. Intricate Chinese figures decorate the exterior of the station, similar to the many Chinese temples commonly found around Hong Kong.
The museum has a permanent exhibition of Hong Kong’s railway history. Photos and old manuscripts cover the entirety of the museum. Likewise, scale models of the trains and its tracks are also available at the museum. In fact, a full-size electric train model is also housed at this museum and it can be boarded.
Visitors who are interested in the history of Hong Kong will enjoy the museum. The historical significance of these pieces of locomotive technology will make you more beholden of your Hong Kong experience.
See the 600 types of birds at Edward Youde Aviary
Animal lovers who are on a budget should check out the Edward Youde Aviary of Hong Kong Park, a peaceful oasis for a busy city such as Hong Kong that offers the beauty of nature and wildlife for free. It is home to around 600 birds of 80 species specifically from the Malesian rain forests. The aviary is situated over an elevated artificial rainforest of the park where there is rich vegetation and a stream. There is an ascending walkway to the aviary for visitors to walk through the tree canopy and go bird-watching. In this area, you can also view various plants and trees from different angles.
The Edward Youde Aviary has been open for everyone since 1992. Named after the late Sir Edward Youde, it allows visitors to watch birds, trees and plants at any desired elevation. In case you do not know, Sir Youde is the former Governor of Hong Kong from 1982 to 1986.
Even the whole valley can be seen at different angles once you reach your elevation of choice. If you are bringing an elder or someone who cannot walk long distances, do not worry about the possibility of them not enjoying the tour around the park. The walkway is wheelchair accessible.
Shallow pools adorn the aviary's valley floor and expect to be welcomed by various kinds of trees and shrubs. Moreover, if you are interested in watching waterfowls, the small, serene lake outside the aviary's exit serves as a quiet place for doing so.
This aviary also provides free education on nature, thus cultivating every visitor's love for the environment. There are display panels placed at its entrance to explain the features of a tropical rain forest. The discussion's main focus are the bird communities too, which can be found in the aviary as well.
Yuen Po Street Bird Garden
A charming little spot in Mong Kok, Kowloon is the Yuen Po Bird Garden. True to its namesake, the garden is home to various birds both common and exotic. Formerly known as the “Bird street”, the location was demolished by the Hong Kong Urban Renewal Authority in the early 1990s. On its place the bird garden was established, and with it came the market stalls and peddlers who sell birds and various bird accessories. Dozens of domesticated birds are for sale here, from Canaries to Parrots.
Many vendors also take pride in their beautiful bamboo cages, hand-crafted with the most intricate designs that Hong Kong has to offer. Peculiar bird food, such as live crickets and other small insects, are also for sale here.
The bird garden starts at a traditional Moon Gate and has a small straight lane. The stalls and vendors are a mainstay in the garden. You may see bird-owners who bring along their most exotic and prized birds.
The location is an excellent spot for socializing between bird enthusiasts, where both owners and non-owners chat it out or partake in a regular card game. Truly, the garden is a reflection of the Chinese heritage and culture of bird-keeping.
The bird market is only one of the many nearby specialized markets in this part of the Mong Kok district. Nearby markets such as the goldfish market and the ladies market are also interesting destinations. If you are interested in the Chinese avian culture, the Street Bird Garden is definitely the destination for you.
Prince Apartments Stage 3, Prince Edward Rd W, Prince Edward, Hong Kong
Monday - Sunday: 7am - 8pm
Nearest Train Station:
Mong Kok East Station
The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower is an old 44-meter tower that was erected in 1915. It used to be a part of the Kowloon-Canton Railway terminus. The Clock Tower still stands up to this day, serving as a reminder of this once-bustling station during the Age of Steam. You may check out this preserved official Declared Monument in Hong Kong for free.
Also referred to as the Tsim Sha Tsui Tower, this tower still has the marks of combat due to all the fighting during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong in World War II. It still stands because of the petition of the Heritage Society and other pressure groups when plans of demolishing it were being laid out. This was during 1975 when Kowloon Station was moved to the newly reclaimed Hung Hom Bay, which is now called the Hung Hom Station.
The history of the bell inside the Clock Tower is also colorful. From mid-1980s to 1995, the bell was on display in Shatin Station. Then it was moved to the KCRC Office in Fo Tan, being displayed there from 1995 to the early 2000s. Only in 2010 did the local government finally move the bell inside the Clock Tower.
Be amazed by its beauty and surroundings. Lastly, you will find it fascinating to see newly-weds and couples taking romantic photos here. You might want to do so too. At least it is free!