At 1,811 feet tall, Victoria Peak is Hong Kong’s highest point and a popular spot that’s renowned for its stunning view of Hong Kong’s skyline. This post provides tips, photos from Victoria Peak, whether to do the free observation platform or the paid area, and thoughts on whether it’s worth the time. While there are plenty of buildings within the city itself that provide great views, none are as striking as viewing the city below from the top of a mountain within Hong Kong.
On a clear day, you can see as far as the outlying islands around Hong Kong. Since this is Asia, those clear days are like unicorns. We’ve visited Victoria Peak three times now, with varying degrees of success. Our first time, we were able to see over to Kowloon, and that was about it. More recently, we had exceptional visibility.
However, unlike a lot of places where I’d recommend trying for a clear day, I’m not so sure that’s strictly necessary here. Sure, it’s always nice, but the integral aspect of the view is in the immediate foreground, so a bit of haze isn’t going to ruin your photos or the experience…
With this beautiful view comes demand from tourists and locals alike. With demand comes the need for transportation. Unlike the Tokyo Skytree or some other tower, it’s not as easy as taking an elevator. The coolest way to get to “The Peak” is via The Peak Tram, as this offers a pretty cool experience with some neat views along the way. Be warned, as the line to go up to The Peak tends to get long in the afternoon, and the line to return is really long at night. Even purchasing tickets in advance does not guarantee you no wait.
Alternatively, you can take the bus or taxi, and both are surprisingly inexpensive (a taxi up is under $10 US). Due to the lines for the Peak Tram, we almost always take a taxi. We have some horror stories about the taxis (see below), but at least they are efficient. The Peak Tram is incredibly frustrating unless you’re going at an off-peak time.
If you want to go by bus, you take Bus 15 from Central Bus Terminus (roughly $1 US per person). You could also hike up…if getting drenched with sweat sounds like your idea of a good time. Be advised that transportation down is not as simple as getting up there at prime times, so plan/budget accordingly.
Once you get to the top, you’ll find Peak Tower, which contains a variety of restaurants, shops, and entertainment options all of which advertise their stunning views of Hong Kong. The huge mall actually has a lot of worthwhile and affordable dining options, too. Definitely not the best you can do in Hong Kong, but viable choices if you’re wanting to kill time before nightfall.
There’s also the 360° viewing platform called The Sky Terrace 428. You can buy tickets for this in advance bundled with your tram ticket (for about $10 US extra), but we elected not to do this bundle on our first visit.
We have done both the paid Sky Terrace and the free viewing platforms, and unless you’re concerned with the highest view possible, we’d recommend opting for the free decks. The view is unobstructed from them, and all you’re gaining is a slightly higher elevation, which is totally unnecessary since you’re already pretty far above even the tallest skyscrapers from Victoria Peak.
In terms of crowds, I noticed zero difference between the free areas and paid ones. Granted, we did each at different times of the year, so that could’ve played into it, but my guess is that a lot of foreign tourists buy tickets for the Sky Terrace in advance, or due to fear of missing out, without even realizing that the free option is nearly as good of an option.
I mentioned the haze above, and it was really strong prior to sunset and made for a weird orangish-grey sorta look that looks flat and lacks punch. I like the way this photo at dusk turned out, and I think the hazy air gives it a soft feeling, and the look reminds me a bit of Blade Runner, for some odd reason. For me, this was the sweet spot between sunset and nightfall.
Below is from our more recent visit, this time with excellent visibility. Prior to this, we enjoyed a pretty sunset, and slowly watched Hong Kong come alive with light. While this photo has been edited, that’s more or less how those clouds looked at night. I’m assuming Hong Kong puts out an incredible amount of light pollution, that illuminated the clouds. I don’t know how else to explain why they’re so bright.
Without a doubt, the best time to do Victoria Peak is sunset/dusk/nightfall. Plan to arrive at sunset, and stay through the start of the evening. There is something special about watching the skyline light up, and you don’t really feel the same energy of the city during the daytime hours (which are also more likely to look flat and dull, anyway). At night, this view is unparalleled by anywhere in the world.
The first time we did Victoria Peak, we were up here for a good hour and a half, wandering around, looking at various displays and shops as the city came alive at night. Shortly after the city lit up, we decided it was time to head down and start our night on the town. Unfortunately, so did every single other person up at The Peak. The return line for the Peak Tram looked like it was hours. We had limited time in Hong Kong, so we said screw it, and decided to take a taxi. After all, taxis in Hong Kong were relatively cheap.
This was our first mistake. Taxis in Hong Kong are typically pretty cheap, but these cabs were opportunistic, knowing that tourists would be leaving en masse once nightfall hit, and that they wouldn’t want to wait in line for the tram down. Fortunately, our cab driver told us in advance how much the trip would cost. We haggled him with a bit and got the price down some, but he wouldn’t budge too much. He would have no difficulty finding another fare, so it was pretty much a “take it or leave it” proposition. We decided to take it.
This was our second mistake. It turned out that this particular taxi driver either drew inspiration from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride or did not have working brakes on his vehicle. The ride down was more exhilarating than any theme park attraction I’ve ever experienced, and we had a few close calls where I really felt we would be hit by another vehicle. It’s a funny story in retrospect, but we were both quite scared as it happened. We found that cabbies typically drove more aggressively in Hong Kong, but he was an extreme example of this and that coupled with the descent down the mountain made for a terrifying experience.
That’s part fun anecdote and part tip. Since this happened, I’ve encountered 2 others who took a taxi down Victoria Peak, and both had similar horror stories. “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.” In the case of tourists taking taxis down Victoria Peak, that timeline might be 1-2 weeks. Even if you survive, it’ll probably take a few years off your life.
(Update: we didn’t follow our own advice, as we once again took a taxi on our most recent visit to Victoria Peak. When confronted with a huge line, I guess we’re willing to roll the dice on the whole “survival” thing. The lines for the tram are just always so perpetually atrocious that it seems worth it to gamble on a taxi.)
Notwithstanding the whole “almost dying” thing, I’d recommend visiting Victoria Peak…and taking a taxi to get there. This is true even if you are unable to secure tram tickets in advance. Even though the Peak Tram is romanticized in just about every travelogue, what they always fail to mention is the mind-numbingly long lines. I know I wasn’t exactly high on the Tokyo Skytree in our review of that, but Victoria Peak is a totally different. I don’t know if it’s the open-air experience on the mountain, or the dynamic energy of the city, but the view was intoxicating and the experience was one of our most satisfying in Hong Kong. While I wouldn’t wait hours in line for the Peak Tram, it’s well worth dedicating a couple hours of your day to watch the sunset and nightfall over the city. Victoria Peak is one of those places we’ll revisit again; although there are many excellent things in Hong Kong, there’s something about this experience that really captures the essence of Hong Kong. It’s difficult to articulate, but this is more than just a view of the skyline. It’s one of the best experiences in Hong Kong and my favorite skyline view anywhere in the world.
Have you visited Victoria Peak in Hong Kong? What did you think of it? Have any Hong Kong taxi horror stories of your own? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!