The Peak

The Peak is one of the most visited attractions in Hong Kong. Standing at 552 meters, the Victoria Peak is located on the western part of Hong Kong Island. During the 19th century many affluent Europeans have made their home here, lured by the more temperate weather. From 1904 to 1930 the Peak is designated for white families only under the Peak Reservation Ordinance. Ever since then the Peak is synonymous with prestige and wealth. In those days the only way to travel up and down the slope is by sedan chairs, which is a wooden chair with poles. Carrying the chair with its load is no minor feat as it requires the combined effort of two men. After the Peak Tramway open in 1888 it has become the major transportation method, fading out the sedan chairs.

Hong Kong The Peak Tram
The Peak Tram
Photo by thewamphyri

Nowadays the Peak is accessible by bus, minibus, taxi and the still operational Peak Tramway. The Peak Tramway is a funicular railway and has been in service for 120 years. The lower terminus, doubling as a ticketing office is located at Garden Road in Central. The tram fare for adults is HK$20 for one way and $30 for return, children aged 3 to 11 is HK$6 for one way and $9 for return, seniors over age 65 is $7 for one way and HK$14 for return. The tram ride is slightly bumpy as it climbs laboriously up the slope. The seats on the right side of the tram offer the best view going up the steep incline. The upper terminus is at the Peak Tower with brief stops at Kennedy Road, MacDonnell Road, May Road and Barker Road. These stops lead to upscale residences collectively known as the mid-levels leading up to the Peak. The operating hours for the trams are from 7am to midnight, with extended services during special events and holiday. The wait is around 10 to 15 minutes.

Hong Kong The Peak
Hong Kong from the peak on a summer’s night
Photo by stuckincustoms

The upper terminus is the Peak Tower adjoining neighboring Peak Galleria to provide dining and shopping experiences on the Peak. The Sky Terrace is located at the Peak Tower, where you can enjoy a 360 degree panoramic view of the city. You can buy a Sky Pass which is inclusive of the tram fare and entrance fee to the Sky Terrace at the lower terminus. The Peak Tower is the most identifiable building on the Peak. It has undergone a major facelift to accommodate the new dining and shopping area. The Peak Tower also houses Madame Tussauds Hong Kong at shop P101. The wax museum is organized into thematic sections where you can view lifelike wax sculptures of famous people.

Hong Kong The Peak Bruce Lee Madame Tussauds
Bruce Lee @ Madame Tussauds
Photo by mikeleeorg

To name some of the most popular figures at the museum, Kung Fu has none other than “the” Bruce Lee and Jacky Chan. Asian Stars feature Leslie Cheung and Andy Lau. Hollywood stars welcome Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Marilyn Monroe, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. World leaders will find you with Barrack Obama, Gandhi and Hu Jintao. Sports stars bring you face to face with David Beckham, Yao Ming and Ali. Pop Stars glitter with Madonna, Michael Jackson the Beatles, Teresa Teng and Anita Mui. Royalty salutes the much missed people’s princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh. Cultural figures let you meet “the” Madame Tussaud, Picasso, Mozart and Pavarotti. Let’s not forget the Fashion Icons, Elle Macpherson and Naomi Campbell. There is an attraction named Scream where the setting is a mental asylum filled with gory background with the criminally insane running amok to scare and make you scream. The entrance fee to the wax museum is $160 for adults, $90 for children age 3-11 and $90 for seniors age 65 and above. There are also special combo packages that combine peak tram fare, sky terrace and museum tickets which you can enquire about at the lower terminus in Central.

Hong Kong The Peak Galleria
Peak Galleria
Looking out from the viewing platform of the Sky Terrace (aka the “Flying Wok”) over the Peak Galleria.
Photo by clocky

A big courtyard leads up to the entrance of the Peak Galleria with the fountains adding to the leisurely ambience. The outdoor seating area is mostly taken up by people who want to soak up some sun or just to rest. The biggest tenant in the Galleria is the Café Deco restaurant. It encompasses two floors and boasts an open space concept. The various cuisines, rotisserie, tandoori and sushi are all open kitchens where you can watch the food preparation while savoring the dishes you have ordered. Another big draw to the restaurant is the floor to ceiling glass windows which offer you a stunning view of the skyline, especially at night. The Café opens 365 days a year from 11:30am to midnight Monday to Thursday, Friday, Saturday and public holidays from 11:30am to 1am and Sunday from 9:30am to midnight. Open air markets are held from March to June every year on the rooftop of the Peak Galleria before the arrival of sweltering summers. The dates set for 2010 are March 21st, April 18th, May 16th and June 20th. Vendors sell handmade jewelry, cloth bags and other DIY trinkets. Though dogs are not allowed in the shopping mall proper, they can walk up the staircase leading to the rooftop market.

A free standing stone building sits opposite to the Galleria. The building is a Grade II Historic Building which has seen many different uses. During the construction of the Peak Tramways, British engineers have made a station in the building. Around the early 1900’s it has served as the resting place for sedan carriers. The Old Peak Café is born in 1947 etching a special place in the collective memory of locals for its signature dish, the Hainan chicken rice. Due to some contractual problems the restaurant has faced the threat of demolition in the late 1980’s. Luckier than the Repulse Bay Hotel, the restaurant is saved and after extensive renovation is renamed the Peak Lookout.

The restaurant has an indoor and outdoor dining area. There are many international cuisines, Indian, Japanese, Thai, American, to choose from and can be aptly called a gastronomic paradise. Recommendations are the seafood platter with two tiers which is filled to the brim with oysters, clams, Alaskan king crabs, prawns that serves two, the red duck curry comes with rice but an extra order of the many flavored naan bread, plain, garlic and cheese is a must, the tandoori dishes are served sizzling hot on iron plates and for dessert, the bread and butter pudding and warm molten chocolate cake is pure bliss. During the day dogs are allowed in the outdoor garden café. The restaurant has water bowls and menu catered for the pooches. For pampered pooches preferring chairs they have to endure sitting on embarrassing red plastic trays in order not to soil the white chairs.

Just outside the Peak Lookout are the beginnings of several trails or nature walks. Mount Austin Road, Victoria Peak Garden, Hong Kong Trail and the Pok Fu Lam Country Park. By far the most popular is the Hong Kong Trail where it circles the Peak. There are several viewing points where you can take in the view of the harbor and the skyline. The trail is favored by joggers, some with their dogs tagging along. The Victoria Peak Garden is more challenging as it is an upward slope all the way to the summit. At a leisurely pace, it takes around 40 minutes to reach the top. As opposed to other parks the Peak Garden is dog friendly.

Hong Kong The Peak Sky Line
Hong Kong Skyline
Photo by mikemcd

A complete tour of the Peak takes at least half a day, what with riding the Peak tram, viewing the city at the Sky Terrace, taking a nature walk, visiting Madame Tussauds wax museum, shopping for souvenirs and dining in the famous restaurants. With this in mind, your schedule has to figure in the smoggy days where you will be utterly disappointed visiting the Peak for the view. However, on a clear day nothing beats the breathtaking expanse of the Victoria harbor and its skyline on Victoria Peak.

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Bonnie Wong is a full time writer, bilingual translator and founder of Pastel b. cards. She hopes to share the uniqueness of Hong Kong with everyone through her writing. Learn more about me [+]

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