10 Places In Hong Kong To Learn About Local Heritage And Culture
Hong Kong is a city that's always looking to the future. However, its rich history more than warrants a look at its past. Museums might be anyone's go-to place to get a glimpse of the past but nestled among skyscrapers and giant shopping malls are plenty of cultural and heritage gems chronicling our city's past.
These places have seen traces of our traditional trades that are uniquely Hong Kong, movies that put Hong Kong cinema on the map to well-preserved buildings that hold a lot of cultural significance. From temples, museums to villages, we break down the places to discover Hong Kong's culture and heritage for a little trip down memory lane.
1/10 Crafts On Peel
In the past, Hong Kong was filled with traditional crafts and creative trades that have begun to slowly die out since the city became more developed and modernised. Opened at the beginning of 2020 within a historical building in Central, Crafts on Peel is a not-for-profit creative and experiential venue dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of such crafts.
For its inaugural exhibition, it invited six contemporary artisans to collaborate with six traditional craftsmen in a variety of arts, from bamboo framework to birdcage crafting and has plenty of other exhibitions, workshops, and programming in the works for the future.
Crafts on Peel, 11 Peel Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2510 0637, craftsonpeel.com
2/10 Hong Kong Film Archive
Hong Kong cinema has a long and storied history, and much of it has been chronicled and collected at the Hong Kong Film Archive in Sai Wan Ho. The oldest film in its collection is a title that was released in 1914. In addition to regular screenings in its 125-seat cinema, the archive also runs exhibitions, seminars and other programming all about Hong Kong film.
Its Resource Centre, meanwhile, houses hundreds of thousands of books, periodicals, audio-visual records, and other materials. The archive even edits a newsletter and two-book series about the subject.
Hong Kong Film Archive, 50 Lei King Road, Sai Wan Ho, Hong Kong, +852 2739 2139, filmarchive.gov.hk
See also: The Most Iconic Hong Kong Actors And Actresses—And All The Classic Local Movies You Should Know About
3/10 The Mills
These former cotton mills in Tsuen Wan are where Nan Fung Textiles produced goods in the 1960s at the height of Hong Kong's manufacturing success. In 2018, the buildings were transformed by Nan Fung Group into The Mills, a destination that celebrates the area's industrial history, comprising a business incubator, experiential retail stores, and a non-profit cultural arm dubbed the Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textiles (CHAT).
While much of The Mills' heritage offerings can be discovered at CHAT's exhibitions and programmes, much of the complex itself has been conserved and revitalised. Find out more about its history by booking a guided tour, which runs every weekend.
The Mills, 45 Park Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong, +852 3979 2300, themills.com.hk
See also: Inside The Mills: The Centre for Heritage, Arts And Textile In Hong Kong
4/10 Sam Tung Uk Museum
A declared historical monument, Sam Tung Uk is a 200-year-old restored rural Hakka village in Tsuen Wan that harks back to the days when Hong Kong was filled with villages and farmland rather than factories or skyscrapers. Although the original inhabitants relocated in the 1970s when the Tsuen Wan MTR station was built, the village itself was restored and opened as a museum in 1987.
Visitors can explore the ancestral hall and houses as well as the exhibition hall where furniture, handicrafts and agricultural equipment are displayed. Sam Tung Uk is also home to the Hong Kong Intangible Cultural Heritage Centre, which runs exhibitions, seminars, workshops, and other activities pertaining to local culture.
Sam Tung Uk Museum, 2 Kwu Uk Lane, Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong
See also: Neighbourhood Guide: What To Eat, Drink And Do In Tsuen Wan
5/10 Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts
With space always in high demand in Hong Kong, historical buildings can be something of a rarity. The Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts in Soho, however, features 16 of them.
The product of a HK$3.8 billion project by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Tai Kwun was formerly the Central Police Station before opening as a cultural destination comprising restaurants, performing arts venues, and an art gallery in 2018. The centre also runs workshops, exhibitions, tours and other events dedicated to the site's history.
Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts, 10 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong, +852 3559 2600, taikwun.hk
See also: 5 Things To Know About Tai Kwun Centre For Heritage And Arts
6/10 Mei Ho House
In 1953, there was a fire in Shek Kip Mei so massive that it resulted in almost 58,000 people being made homeless. To provide relief to those effected, the government built a series of resettlement blocks, which eventually became the city's first public housing estate complex.
This estate's only remaining building is Mei Ho House, which was designated a Grade II historic building and re-opened as YHA Mei Ho House Youth Hostel in 2013. The building is also home to the Heritage of Mei Ho House Museum, which features exhibitions exploring the district's public housing history from the 1950s through to the '70s.
Mei Ho House, 70 Berwick Street, Shek Kip Mei, Hong Kong, +852 3728 3500, yha.org.hk
See also: 10 Unexpectedly Revitalised Historic Sites in Hong Kong: Now and Then
7/10 Hong Kong House of Stories
The Blue House in Wan Chai, a grade II historic building and one of the last tong laus in Hong Kong with a balcony, might be easily recognisable for its striking blue exterior, but what it contains within is equally fascinating.
On the ground floor is the Hong Kong House of Stories, a project that aims to both foster community and raises awareness about local culture. There's an exhibition area, which rotates shows dedicated to a variety of themes including antiques, film, and hawker stalls, and a handicrafts shop. The centre also runs tours, workshops, screenings, concerts, and plenty of other events.
Hong Kong House of Stories, 72A Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +2833 4609, vivabluehouse.hk
See also: 10 Of the Most Colourful Instagram Locations In Hong Kong
8/10 Hong Kong Heritage Museum
Encompassing history, art and culture, the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Sha Tin features five permanent exhibitions dedicated to Cantonese opera, Chinese art, and more, along with frequent special exhibitions.
The museum's collection of objects related to Cantonese opera is particularly impressive, and it also regularly runs Cantonese opera performances at its 35-seat theatre as well as other performing art shows and talks.
Hong Kong Heritage Museum, 1 Man Lam Road, Sha Tin, Hong Kong, +852 2180 8188, heritagemuseum.gov.hk
See also: Tatler’s Ultimate Guide To Hong Kong Museums
9/10 Yim Tin Tsai Village
A trip to Yim Tin Tsai Village, one of Hong Kong's remaining traditional villages is an eye-opening experience to the city's past. The original settlers of the village-island were the Chan Hakka clan. During its heyday, the village was home to 500–1,200 residents, depending on farming, fishing and salt-making. Missionary work began in the village in the late 1800s and by 1895, all its villagers have been baptised. In 1890, the UNESCO-recognised St. Joseph's Chapel was built as a house of worship.
While the village is mostly deserted, you can still see the remnants of the Hakka culture such as at the old Ching Po School which was redeveloped into a heritage exhibition centre that displays artefacts and showcases the village's history. In fact, an annual Yim Tin Tsai arts festival takes place to bring visitors to the island to learn its arts, religion, culture and heritage.
Yim Tin Tsai, Hong Kong
See also: 6 Hidden Traditional Villages To Visit In Hong Kong
10/10 Wong Tai Sin Temple
Learning about Hong Kong's culture, heritage and religion isn't complete without a visit to its most well-known temple in Wong Tai Sin. The majestic Wong Tai Sin Temple is officially a Taoist temple but it's actually also home to Buddhist and Confucian texts. The temple is a perfect example of the blend of Hong Kong's modern and traditional culture—perfectly hidden in plain sight among the high-rise buildings. Dedicated to the god of healing, Wong Tai Sin, the temple is filled with cultural significance and story but also a feast for the eyes thanks to its bright red roof and intricate details.
The traditional craft of fortune-telling may be slowly fading away but here, you can get your fortune told by shaking a bamboo stick out of a box with each stick inscribed with a number and detailing your luck. For those looking for something more traditional, over at the other side are a fortune-telling and oblation arcade with fortune-tellers telling you your fate by palm or face reading.
Wong Tai Sin Temple, 2 Chuk Yuen Road, Chuk Un, Wong Tai Sin, Hong Kong
See also: 8 Beautiful Temples To Visit In Hong Kong
This article was originally published on April 16, 2020 and was updated on March 1, 2021.