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Stretching over 800 metres, the Central–Mid-Levels Escalator in Hong Kong is the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator system. As well as being an effortless way to traverse the hilly streets, it provides an excellent opportunity to hop on and off and explore some of the best markets, antique shops, museums, historic buildings and restaurants in town.
Having cost HK$245 million (US$31.2 million) to build, the escalator opened in October 1993 and today serves over 85,000 people every day.
The system is not a continuous escalator; it’s broken up into a series of 20 escalators and three moving walkways. With 14 entrances and exits, you can hop on and off wherever you fancy. A complete journey from start to finish takes about 20-25 minutes.
The escalator begins at 100 Queens Road Central at its junction with Cochrane Street. The first section is a moving walkway that takes you to Wellington Street. You can stop off here and visit Lan Kwai Fong, the city’s main entertainment zone that is brimming with numerous restaurants, pubs and clubs.
Otherwise, you can take the second moving walkway to Lyndhurst Terrace. Located nearby is Central Street Market, Hong Kong’s oldest street market that is home to over a hundred different street stalls selling a whole host of different fresh foods.
If you want to explore further, you can take the third moving walkway from Lyndhurst Terrace to Hollywood Road. At the western end of the road is Possession Street. It’s here where the British first claimed Hong Kong in 1841.
In addition to its historic significance, Hollywood Road is also home to Hong Kong’s main street for antiques shopping. Here you’ll find shops and auction houses dealing in all types of antique including porcelain ware, sculptures, statues, Chinese furniture, rugs and curios. In recent years, the road has also become home to a growing number of art galleries.
The next leg of the journey marks the start of the 20 escalators. The escalators begin on Shelley Street and run all the way up to the Mid-Levels. The first escalator leads you from Shelley Street to Staunton Street and then from Staunton Street to Elgin Street. Jump off here to visit the majority of SoHo district (South of Hollywood Road), one of the busiest entertainment and night-life areas offering some of the best bars and restaurants in the city.
The remaining escalators pass through more residential parts of town before finally reaching Conduit Road in Mid-Levels.
Aside from being a great way for visitors to take a free ride through the city, the escalator is popular with local commuters who take the system from their homes in the residential area of Mid-Levels to their offices in Central district.
To accommodate commuters, the escalator travels downwards from Mid-Levels from 6am to 10am daily, and, after 10am, the escalators switch direction and travel uphill until midnight.