Your insider’s guide to Hong Kong

Five best parks and gardens in Central District

Discover green oases in the heart of the city

Words: Kate Farr

Some are well-known, while many more are tucked away; Central District boasts a surprising number of public parks, playgrounds and gardens – all of which are within a short stroll of The Landmark, Mandarin Oriental. We explore five of the best parks in Central, spanning the full range of attractions from animal magic to Zen moments.

Hong Kong Park
Originally the site of the Victoria Barracks garrison, Hong Kong Park opened in 1991, stretching over eight hectares between Central and nearby Admiralty, and encompassing a number of significant colonial-era buildings. These include Flagstaff House – once the residence of the commander-in-chief of the British Armed Forces in Hong Kong, and now the tranquil Museum of Teaware; Cassels Block, which has been transformed from the former armed forces’ married quarters to the present-day Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre, and Rawlinson House, another ex-military accommodation block, now housing the Cotton Tree Drive Marriage Registry.

But there’s more to Hong Kong Park than simply a stroll around the city’s colonial past. The sprawling grounds boast a large lake with a feature waterfall, a large children’s playground, a Tai Chi garden, and the Forsgate Conservatory, which houses an impressive range of rare tropical plants. The park’s pièce de résistance is the Edward Youde Aviary. Named after the former Governor of Hong Kong, the 3,000 square metre space is suspended 30 metres above ground, providing a safe home to the 600 birds from over 70 species that fly freely under its high-netted roof.

Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens
Just across Garden Road from Hong Kong Park you’ll find another oasis of green in the heart of the city. The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens was opened in 1864 and is the grande dame of the city’s many green spaces. The 5.6-hectare site is split in two by Albany Road, with the Old Garden featuring a grand terraced fountain garden and a tropical greenhouse filled with stunning orchid species, along with the park’s encyclopaedia of avian species – from pheasants to crowd-pleasing flamingos.

The New Garden area is home to the Gardens’ mammal and reptile houses, where tortoises meander around their open enclosure, and orangutan, lemur and gibbon scramble and play on tree trunks and tyre swings. Meanwhile, tiny tamarin and sleepy sloth delight, as do the sweeping views across the city’s financial centre just beyond the greenery.

Tamar Park
One of the city’s newer parks, Tamar was opened in 2011 to coincide with the construction of Hong Kong’s imposing new Legislative Council complex. And while Tamar may not have the variety of flora and fauna of its near-neighbours, it does have one rare commodity that is considered a luxury in Hong Kong: grass.

The 1.76-hectare park is blanketed in green lawn, and is situated on a gently sloping site that draws the eye down to bustling Victoria Harbour. Visitors are invited to kick off their shoes and relax under the trees, with weekends seeing Tamar transformed into a hive of activity, as picnics, family gatherings and games taking place – all with a million-dollar waterfront view as their backdrop. Tamar Park is conveniently situated adjacent to the Central and Western District Promenade, allowing for a pleasantly flat stroll past the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, Central ferry piers and eventually to the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park in Sai Ying Pun.

Note: Tamar Park image by Kate Farr

Chater Gardens
Bordered on one side by the well-preserved colonial-era Court of Final Appeal building on one side, Chater Gardens was the original site of the Hong Kong Cricket Club, which was located there from 1851 to 1975. When the sportsmen moved out, the space was developed into the public park that we see today, and now features extensive seating dotted around an open plaza that connects Des Voeux and Chater Roads.

The Gardens are situated around a meandering central water feature, and features a circular tree walk filled with carefully labelled species in which to wander. Chater Gardens is the ideal spot in which to grab an alfresco lunch – and a welcome respite from Hong Kong’s infamous bustle. 

Note: Chater Gardens image by Kate Farr

Cheung Kong Park
For an insiders-only view of Central, why not take your coffee break at Cheung Kong Park? This privately owned garden is open to the public, however few people know of its existence, tucked away as it is to the rear of the towering Cheung Kong Centre.

A pleasantly shady spot, the park is dotted with rockeries and a small waterfall that effectively disguises any background traffic noise passing along the adjacent Queen’s Road Central. The park is generously planted with fragrant flowers, herbs, and trees that have in recent years lured many of Hong Kong’s near-extinct native bird species back to the heart of the city.

 Note: Cheung Kong Park image by Kate Farr

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