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Known to locals as “ding-dings,” Hong Kong’s iconic trams have existed for over a century. These rickety, double-decker streetcars traverse northern Hong Kong Island, providing a unique and affordable way to experience the city. Read on for Culture Trip’s perfect touring itinerary.
Hong Kong’s first tramway, a single track running from Kennedy Town to Causeway Bay, opened in 1904. The first fleet of trams consisted of 26 single-decker vehicles. In those early days, the trams ran along the harborfront, but since then, multiple land reclamation projects have obscured the coastal views initially enjoyed by tram riders.
The fast and convenient trams revolutionized the way Hongkongers got around. In 1912, double-decker vehicles were introduced in response to strong demand. Following a brief decline during the Japanese Occupation, which ended in 1945, the tram became more popular than ever, and tram services boomed. Within a year, the fleet was expanded from 40 streetcars to 63. In 1949, gates and turnstiles were installed in the trams, resolving the persistent problem of fare dodgers. The tram remains a cheap and popular mode of transportation in Hong Kong to this day. (Best of all, it’s emission-free!)
Fun fact: In the old days, tram drivers wouldn’t be given a lunch break. This forced them to scarf down takeaway meals during traffic light stops, giving rise to the local phrase “red light meals” (紅燈飯), which refers to a hurried meal that’s wolfed down as quickly as possible.
The fare per ride is HK$2.30 for adults, $1.20 for children and $1.10 for seniors aged 65 and over.
In order to pay without holding up the people in line behind you, make sure to have an Octopus Card on hand. This can be bought at any MTR station in Hong Kong.
While some of the newer trams have electronic displays showing the next stop, older vehicles don’t. Pay attention to street signs and stop numbers (displayed at tram stations) so you know when you get off.
Board from the back of the tram, and pay when you leave at the front.
If you miss your stop, don’t panic! Every stop is within walking distance of the next one.
This tour follows the eastbound track. Get on a tram labeled “Shau Kei Wan” or “North Point” from Central to complete it from start to finish.
27E Pedder Street. The tour starts from Pedder Street, Central. This is where you should hop on!
Stop 1: 31E Bank Street. This short street in Central was the scene of a bitter rivalry between Hong Kong’s two biggest banks during the second half of the twentieth century. It’s sandwiched between the HSBC Building and the Bank of China Building.
The Bank of China is no longer headquartered here (they’ve since moved to the Bank of China Tower), but when the building was opened in 1950, it was the tallest building in Hong Kong, stealing the crown from its neighboring rival, HSBC.
In 1978, the HSBC building was torn down and a new building opened in 1985. At a towering 47 stories, it was the most expensive building in the world at the time.
Next, cross Des Voeux Road to get to the Former Legislative Council Building. Now the Court of Final Appeal, this two-story neoclassical structure was built in 1912. Look out for the central pediment featuring a statue of the blindfolded Greek Goddess of Justice. She can be seen from the front of the building, which faces Statue Square.
Stop 2: 35E Admiralty MTR Station. Getting off at this stop puts you right by Hong Kong Park. An oasis in the middle of the city, the park has a fountain plaza, a waterfall, a lake, an aviary, and a conservatory. There are plenty of benches where you can sit and soak up some sunshine.
Hong Kong Park is home to Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre, where you can browse works created by local artists, and the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, which is housed in a 1840s in the Greek Revival building and contains gorgeous ceramics and exhibits on Chinese tea drinking culture.
Right next to the Museum of Tea Ware is Lock Cha Tea House, which serves delicious vegetarian dim sum.
Stop 3: 41E Luard Road. Next up: the busy district of Wan Chai. The Luard Road tram stop is right across from 66 Johnston Road, an iconic four-story colonial building dating back to the late 19th century. Historically home to the famous Woo Cheong Pawn Shop, its current occupant is The Pawn by Tom Aikens, an acclaimed British restaurant.
Other notable attractions in Wan Chai include the Tai Yuen Street Market, also known as Toys Market. Here, you’ll find a colorful array of toys, clothes, stationery, art supplies, and party supplies. Take a brief walk uphill from Tai Yuen Street to take a look at the Blue House, which is known for being one of the few remaining exemplars of tenement buildings of the mid-1920s. The bottom floor of the Blue House is a museum dedicated to Hong Kong society and culture.
Stop 4: 53E Paterson Street. You can’t tour Hong Kong without stopping by the retail paradise known as Causeway Bay. From the Paterson Street stop, walk a short distance west along Yee Wo Street until you come to the point where it meets with Hennessy Road and Jardine’s Crescent. This busy intersection is the very heart of Causeway Bay, and it can be a little overwhelming for first-time visitors.
If you want to browse the shops but don’t know where to start, we recommend the Japanese department store Sogo, as well as the shopping malls Hysan Place and Times Square. You can also browse the smaller, independent shops and boutiques around Yun Ping Road and Jardine’s Crescent.
Stop 5: 67E Chun Yeung Street (for buses to North Point) or 69E North Point Road (for buses to Shau Kei Wan). If you’ve never experienced one of Hong Kong’s wet markets, the Chun Yeung Street Market is sure to be an eye-opener. Wet markets are where locals go to get the freshest meat and produce. You’ll find stalls selling vegetables, fruits, meat and live fish left and right of the tram tracks.
At the end of Chun Yeung Street is the Marble Road Street Market, where you’ll find stalls selling cheap clothing, bags and accessories. If you see something you like, don’t hesitate to practice your haggling skills.
End your tour by stopping at the famous egg waffle shop, Lee Keung Kee North Point Egg Waffles on King’s Road, for a tasty snack.
To get back to where you came from, get on a westbound tram going to Kennedy Town, Shek Tong Tsui, or Western Market. We recommend settling down on the upper deck to get the best views.