No city puts on a show quite like Hong Kong
Where: Victoria Harbour, Tsim Sha Tsui and Wan Chai neighborhoods
When: November 2010
Certain river cities and port towns in China, like Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Guilin are well-known for their evening waterfront light shows. They’re a great attraction for local nightlife and dining – some cities even have riverboat cruises with dinner buffets timed to see the action up close!
It’s a primal human need to gather in large groups to witness inspiring events, and Hong Kong might just be the best city at it. Hong Kong’s nightly kilometers-wide harbourfront show, “A Symphony of Lights,” is justifiably famous and draws huge crowds, especially on the Kowloon side and at Wan Chai on the north side of HK Island. Dozens of skyscrapers are covered in computer-controlled LED lighting, high-powered lasers are mounted at key points along the skyline, and loudspeakers along the shore are synchronized to a musical score. The tourism board changes the program periodically, and for the Christmas holiday season they prepare an extra-special show.
With a century of British influence, Hong Kong’s adoption of Christmas traditions and icons feels completely familiar and genuine to North American visitors (in contrast to its awkward embrace north of the border in the People’s Republic), so it should be no surprise to see mighty pine trees and balsam swags in shopping centers and along the street from mid-November onward.
The city’s reputation for visual excess in signage and retail display may lead you to think they take holiday decorations to an extreme – and you’d be right! From the top of the Peak to the most remote outlet mall in the New Territories, the Christmastime spirit is on full blast to delight kids and kids at heart alike.
How to get there
The Tsim Sha Tsui station in Kowloon, and the Wan Chai station on Hong Kong Island, are the best-sited MTR stops as each is an easy walk from the harbour to catch the evening light show. The extra-special transportation method, however, would be to take the Star Ferry on any cross-harbour run around 8 pm!
Nearby accommodation and activities
Some hotels on Hong Kong Island that are close to MTR stops that link to Wan Chai would include:
- Metropark Hotel Causeway Bay – near Tin Hau station and Victoria Park
- OZO Wesley Hong Kong – near Admiralty station
- Best Western Hotel Harbour View – near Sai Ying Pun station
- Courtyard by Marriott Hong Kong (Des Voeux Road) and Best Western Plus Hotel Hong Kong (also Des Voeux Road) – both of these are on the tram line about halfway between Kennedy Town and Sheung Wan
- Hotel Ibis Hong Kong Central and Sheung Wan – also on the tram line
- Holiday Inn Express Hong Kong Soho – about 2 blocks uphill from the Sheung Wan station
On the Kowloon side, hotels in Tsim Sha Tsui with a short walk to the waterfront tend to be either extravagantly lavish and expensive (like the Peninsula, Sheraton, or Hyatt Regency) or else family-unfriendly hostels and bare-bones motels for the cross-border trade. You’ll want to look a little further north:
- Park Hotel on Chatham Road (still a reasonable walk)
- Novotel Hong Kong Nathan Road (Nathan Road station)
- Cordis Hong Kong (Mong Kok station)
- The Hilton Garden Inn Mong Kok and the Holiday Inn Express Mong Kok are a bit of a walk but about equally close to the Mong Kok and the Yau Ma Tei stations.
The Tsim Sha Tsui harbourfront is chock-full of family fun, starting with the Star Ferry, the Avenue of Stars, the Hong Kong Cultural Museum, and the Hong Kong Space Museum, and only steps away from Ocean Terminal and its shopping and food arcade.
The Wan Chai side is dominated by the Hong Kong Exposition Centre so it’s a longer walk to get to the water from the train, but there is a nice park area once you get there.