Finding Serenity in the Bustling Hong Kong City
27 March 2023
When you arrive in Hong Kong, you are confronted with imposing, sleek buildings, narrow sidewalks, and people—and more people. In addition, if you take the MTR train during rush hour, you may experience feelings of claustrophobia, a cacophony of noises, the odors of pollution mixed with frying food and fragrant tea, and other unpleasant sensations.
Kate Springer, a Hong Kong expert for Essentialist and a seven-year resident of the city, asserts, “They say a New York minute passes in a Hong Kong second—and the city really does seem to move at an impossibly fast pace.” In addition, a city of nearly 7.5 million people in one of the world’s most densely populated regions is not without its crowds.
So, it’s a surprise to learn that Hong Kong has a lot of peaceful areas where both locals and tourists can unwind for a minute or two. Many people are surprised by how simple it is to escape, according to Springer. You can be on a beautiful beach, an isolated island, or a hiking trail in 20 to 30 minutes.
Without having to travel very far from the city center—or even at all—here are some of our favorite ways to get away from the bustle of Hong Kong and find some peace.
If you know where to look, you can find tranquil nooks and secluded nooks all over the city. Focal, the vitally downtown neighborhood of Hong Kong, is home to Tai Kwun, another social community that is inside an old police headquarters compound. A large courtyard with plenty of outdoor seating and newly renovated buildings, including a contemporary art gallery, performing arts spaces, and locations devoted to the past of the former police barracks and jail, can be found concealed behind its walls. The Old Bailey restaurant’s balcony is a particularly tranquil spot where you can enjoy noodles or tea while watching the bustle below.
Victoria Peak/Morning Trail Almost everyone who visits Hong Kong plans to take the tram up to Victoria Peak. In addition, while it may be amusing, it may also mean a crowded ride and a lengthy line. However, the panoramic city views, abundant greenery, and clean air at Victoria Peak’s summit are well worth the effort. Take the one-hour walk to get away from the crowds and spend more time outside. Be prepared: Up the Morning Trail to the Peak, which is paved but steep, you can peacefully take in the natural surroundings.
In Hong Kong’s sea of skyscrapers, a hotel might not be the most obvious place to find peace and quiet. However, this one is worth looking for. The Upper House was designed by Andre Fu and is on the upper floors of a tall building in the middle of Central. It is a lesson in minimalism with lots of straight lines, soothing wood, and tasteful art. If you can afford a room, the enormous studios with some of the city’s largest bathrooms will immediately make you feel at home. When we checked in, we were told, “You haven’t really stayed at the Upper House if you haven’t taken a bath in your room.” It all makes sense when you see the enormous, deep tub with the stunning skyline as the background. Even if you don’t plan to stay the night, Café Gray Deluxe offers afternoon tea and breakfast on the 49th floor.
Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden Located in the middle of Kowloon Island, Chi Lin Nunnery and the adjacent Nan Lian Garden take you further away from the hub of Hong Kong and its crowds. The Nunnery is a massive Buddhist temple complex that was constructed in 1934 in the traditional Chinese style. It is made of wood and doesn’t have any nails. 16 halls, a library, a school, a pagoda, a bell tower, a drum tower, and numerous lotus ponds make up the 360,000-square-foot complex. It would be an understatement to say that you can hear a pin drop here. Across the street (came to through a trail) is Nan Lian Nursery, a wonderful old style Chinese nursery that covers 380,000 square feet and incorporates a customary teahouse, veggie lover eatery, bistro, and gift shop with probably the best trinkets in the city.
Grassroots Pantry Hong Kong’s street food is incredible. It’s a must to visit the dim sum restaurants, noodle houses, and dumpling shacks. However, all of that fried goodness has a price (hello, sluggishness), and the surroundings are not exactly tranquil. On the bustling Hollywood Road, allow us to suggest a delightful vegetarian oasis as a respite from the hustle and bustle. Chef and owner Peggy Chan came up with the idea for Grassroots Pantry, which serves healthy food that is filling and made with 90% organic ingredients, most of which are sourced locally. Noodles and dumplings, or gyoza, are still available, but they are loaded with vegetables and whole grains and go well with dishes like jackfruit rendang and beetroot carpaccio. The style is quieting also, with clean lines, nonpartisan tones, and a lot of vegetation and daylight.
Hong Kong Park, located in Central near the bustling Cotton Tree Drive, is no exception to the rule. In any case, this park offers more than certain trees. It has a greenhouse, an aviary with over 80 bird species, numerous fountains, waterfalls, and well-kept lily ponds, and it also has an aviary. A restaurant, the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre, the tranquil Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, and even a marriage registry can be found inside the park. Additionally, the park provides a tranquil vantage point from which to view the nearby skyscrapers.