Hong Kong may be a city that appeals to shoppers, thanks to its malls and street markets, but it also has several buildings of historic significance across its 18 districts. Many of these structures, which were built during the territory’s colonial era, combine Chinese and Western characteristics to create unique architectural styles. While some of them have been continuously in use since they were first constructed, others have been renovated and reimagined as cultural hubs. Here are some of the most fascinating heritage buildings in Hong Kong — from old police stations and disused courts, to former schools and current Chinese medicine stores.

Tai Kwun — Central

tai kwun hong kong heritage building
Tai Kwun has 16 buildings and two courtyards that now serve as a cultural hub in the heart of Hong Kong (© Wpcpey via WikiCommons)

This complex that dates back to 1864 was the site of three Declared Monuments, but it is most well known for being the former police headquarters in Central, which is why it came to be colloquially known as Tai Kwun or “big station”. It comprises 16 buildings and two courtyards that now house hip restaurants, boutiques, and art and performance spaces.

Year built: 1864
Address: Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central
Contact: Website | Facebook | Instagram | +852 3559 2600

Blue House — Wan Chai

blue house hong kong heritage building
The Blue House in Wan Chai got its name because the developers who painted it in 1990 did not have any other colour (© 方畢可 via WikiCommons)

This one is a standout on our list — quite literally — for its striking blue colour that makes it distinctive from most of the other neutral-hued buildings in the area. The current building, which came up in 1922, was originally the site of a two-storey Wah To Hospital built in the late 19th century. It is now a residential complex with 20 apartments connected to two other heritage buildings on Stone Nullah Lane: Yellow House and Orange House.

Year built: 1870
Address: Blue House, 72A Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai
Contact: Website | Facebook | Instagram | +852 2833 4608

Murray House — Stanley

murray house hong kong heritage building
Murray House overlooks Stanley Bay off the southern coast of Hong Kong Island (© Hankt via WikiCommons)

Murray House, which was first built in Central to serve as officers’ quarters, is one of the oldest surviving public buildings in Hong Kong and was used by the Japanese military police as their headquarters during World War II.  In 1982, it was dismantled to make way for the Bank of China Tower, and was reconstructed at its current location in Stanley in the early 2000s using 3,000 pieces from the original structure. It is now one of the most easily recognisable buildings on the south side of Hong Kong Island, and houses shops and restaurants.

Year built: 1846
Address: Murray House, 96 Stanley Main Street, Stanley
Contact: Website

See also
Cultural Guide To The Meaning & Celebration Of Winter Solstice Festival In Hong Kong

Hong Kong Observatory — Tsim Sha Tsui

hong kong observatory building herirtage building
The original Hong Kong Observatory building is a Victorian-style two-storied plaster brick structure (© GovHK)

The Hong Kong Observatory was built in the 1880s on a small hill on Nathan Road facing Kowloon Park. The two-storey Victorian-style building’s most defining features are its arched windows and long verandas. The observatory has since expanded, so the original building currently serves as the administration centre and office of the directorate, while the operational and technical units have been relocated to nearby premises.

Year built: 1883
Address: Hong Kong Observatory, 134A Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Contact: Website | +852 2926 8200

Former North Kowloon Magistracy Building — Pak Tin

former north kowloon magistracy building hong kong heritage building
The facade of the Former North Kowloon Magistracy Building has tall narrow windows that face the main road (© Chong Fat via WikiCommons)

This building was constructed in 1960 to serve as a courthouse, which it did until it closed in 2005. In 2009, the seven-storey structure — considered unique for its symmetrically designed series of tall narrow windows and grand entrance double staircase — was handed over to the Savannah College of Art and Design Hong Kong, which revitalised the building. The college’s tenancy expired in 2020 and the building has since been handed back to the government. 

Year built: 1960
Address: Former North Kowloon Magistracy Building, 292 Tai Po Road, Pak Tin
Contact: Website

Western Market — Sheung Wan

western market hong kong heritage building
The entrance of Western Market on Des Voeux Central is the original North Block Building, which was built in 1906 (© Western Market)

If you stroll through the neighbourhood of Sheung Wan, chances are you’ll notice this building, thanks to its red-bricked bandage-style facade. Since Western Market, which was built in 1906, is the oldest market building in the 852, it was decided that it would remain a retail space after it was renovated in 1991. It is now filled with stores that sell fabrics and art pieces and is quite a distinctive historical landmark on Des Voeux Road Central. 

Year built: 1906
Address: Western Market, 323 Des Voeux Road Central, Sheung Wan
Contact: Facebook | Instagram | +852 6029 2675

Lui Seng Chun — Mong Kok

lui seng chun hong kong heritage building
Lui Seng Chun, which is at the intersection of Lai Chi Kok Road and Tong Mi Road, is a four-storey building with glassed-in verandas (© N509FZ via WikiCommons)

This neoclassical building is one of the city’s best representations of the combination of Chinese and Western architectural styles. It was built by one of the founders of Kowloon Motor Bus Company in 1931, whose family occupied the top three floors of the building, while the ground floor housed a Chinese medicine shop. The family donated the tong lau building to the government in 2000, and it is currently used as a Chinese medicine and healthcare centre operated by Hong Kong Baptist University. It is one of three buildings in Hong Kong that were most recently accorded Grade 1 status in March 2022, along with Jamia Mosque and City Hall.  Fun fact: Lui Seng Chun was the inspiration for the Hong Kong Sanctum in the 2017 movie Doctor Strange.

Year built: 1931
Address: Lui Seng Chun, 119 Lai Chi Kok Road, Mong Kok, Kowloon
Contact: Website | Facebook | Instagram | +852 3411 0628

See also
The Cultural Guide To Mid-Autumn Festival, When We Worship The Largest Full Moon Of The Year

Tai O Heritage Hotel — Tai O

tai o heritage hotel hong kong heritage building
The Tai O Heritage Hotel overlooks the South China Sea (© Tai O Heritage Hotel)

This UNESCO-recognised building is another former police headquarters that has been conserved and revitalised to promote Hong Kong’s cultural heritage. It was first built in 1902 to monitor pirate activity in the South China Sea and is now home to a nine-room hotel. Thanks to the Hong Kong Heritage Conservation Foundation, details such as the French wooden casement windows and fireplaces inside the building, as well as the canons and searchlights, have been preserved.  The hotel overlooks the village of Tai O, known as the Venice of Hong Kong, because of its waterways, and is a tourist hotspot because of its stilt houses, seafood, and fishing community.

Year built: 1902
Address: Tai O Heritage Hotel, Shek Tsai Po street, Tai O, Lantau Island
Contact: Website | Facebook | Instagram | +852 2985 8383

Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market — Yau Ma Tei

yau ma tei fruit market hong kong heritage building
The Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market comprises several blocks of single-storey and two-storey buildings (© Chong Fat via WikiCommons)

The unassuming one- and two-storey building blocks that make up the Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market are more than a century old. Founded in 1913, the market first provided a space for fruit, vegetable, and fish vendors to sell their wares, before it become a fruit-only market in the mid-1960s. The market is still open and is noteworthy for the pre-World War II signboards on its exterior walls. It is also across the street from the Yau Ma Tei Theatre, another historical building of significance in Hong Kong.

Year built: 1913
Address: Waterloo Road, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon

PMQ — Central

pmg hong kong heritage building
The former Police Married Quarters compound now houses shops, offices, and studios (© DraconianRain via Flickr)

This iconic Hong Kong landmark has quite a storied past. It started out as the territory’s first government primary and secondary school in 1862 and was originally on Gough Street. The school then moved to Hollywood Road as it expanded to admit more students and was renamed Queen’s College in 1894. However, it was destroyed when the Japanese occupied Hong Kong during World War II, and then rebuilt in 1951 as the Police Married Quarters to provide accommodation for married police staff from the nearby Central Police Station. It closed in 2000 and reopened in 2014 to serve as a cultural hub with studios, shops, and offices.

Year built: 1862
Address: 35 Aberdeen Street, Central
Contact: Website | Facebook | Instagram | +852 2780 2335

See also
The Cultural Guide To Hungry Ghost Festival, When Spirits Wander The Living Realm

Fringe Club — Central

fringe club hong kong
The Fringe Club used to house the milk distribution wing for the Dairy Farm Company’s Pok Fu Lam Farm (© Fringe Club)

The Fringe Club has been a fixture on Hong Kong’s live music scene and art landscape for nearly 40 years, and is located in the south block of the government-owned Old Dairy Farm Deport on Lower Albert Road in Central. The structure was the site of the milk distribution wing for the Dairy Farm Company’s Pok Fu Lam farm. It was accorded Grade I historic building status in 2009, and is distinctive for its “blood and bandages” architectural style that developed in Britain in the late 1800s and became common across the world by the 1920s.

Year built: 1892
Address: Fringe Club, 2 Lower Albert Road, Central
Contact: Website | Facebook | Instagram | +852 2521 7251

The Peninsula Hong Kong Hotel — Tsim Sha Tsui

peninsula hotel hong kong heritage hotel
The Peninsula Hong Kong Hotel gained a reputation for its afternoon tea dances (@ The Peninsula Hong Kong Hotel)

This hotel took over the title of colonial Hong Kong’s only luxury hotel after the famed Hongkong Hotel closed. It was renowned for its Sunday concerts, nightly dinners on the terrace, and regular afternoon tea dances, which were disrupted once it was occupied by the Japanese during World War II. The hotel expanded in the mid-1990s, when a 30-storey tower was added to the original facade that is now topped with a helipad from which several of Hong Kong’s helicopter tours depart. The nearly 100-year-old Peninsula is still a force to be reckoned with on the city’s hospitality scene, and is among the top 10 best hotels in the world.

Year built: 1928
Address: Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Contact: Website | Facebook | Instagram | +852 2926 2888

The Helena May — Central

the helena may hong kong heritage building
The Helena May was originally built as accomodation for single women who were new to Hong Kong (© The Helena May)

This private members’ club housed in a heritage building in the heart of Hong Kong was the brainchild of Lady Helena May, who wanted to provide accommodation for single women coming to live and work in Hong Kong and a place for women of the territory to socialise. Built in the Edwardian Classical Revival Style, the building originally had three storeys, and an upper basement and a lower basement built to a U-shaped plan, though there were subsequent extensions between 1922 and 1954. The Helena May continues to provide reasonably priced accommodation to guests and has Hong Kong’s largest privately-owned English-language library, with over 25,000 books. 

Year built: 1916
Address: 35 Garden Road, Central
Contact: Website | Facebook | Instagram | +852 2522 6766

Header image credits: The HK HUB

Share this article with your friends ~
5/5 - (3 votes)

From the Middle East to the Far East and a couple of places in between, Anjali has lived in no fewer than seven cities in Asia, and has travelled extensively in the region. She worked as a lifestyle journalist in India before coming to Hong Kong, where her favourite thing to do is island-hopping with her daughter. You can check out her musings on motherhood, courtesy her Instagram profile.

Add comment