an Instagram guide to Hong Kong: 18 of the coolest photo spots in Hong Kong + a map to get you there

Urban photographers have found their Mecca in Hong Kong.

It’s true. The architecture of the city lends itself fully to the hard-line, concrete-crazed aesthetics urban photographers pine for. However, it’s not all residential basketball courts and contemporary views in HK. Oh, not at all. Hong Kong offers something for everyone to visually feast on.

The first time I went to Hong Kong, I was on a happy city getaway from Luang Prabang without much agenda at all. I was simply there to be there. While that was fantastic fun, it also meant I missed out on some of the highlights of the city and didn’t take full advantage of the urban aesthetics, natural landscapes, or cultural landmarks that surrounded me. Boy, oh boy, did my camera and I make up for it on my most recent trip!


KEEP SCROLLING TO FIND my round-up of THE COOLEST PHOTO SPOTS IN HONG KONG


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CHOI HUNG ESTATE BASKETBALL COURTS

Choi Hung Estate is the oldest public estate in Hong Kong. It was actually visited by former President Richard Nixon, fun fact! This housing estate has a sort of sad history if you ask me. In the 1960s, when Ngau Chi Wan village got in the way of the MTR being built, the government relocated half of the villagers to Choi Hung Estate. It’s rumoured that the estate was painted brightly to lift the residents’ spirits, but that actually isn’t confirmed. Despite the tainted past, the basketball courts on top of the carpark at Choi Hung are fully vibrant today!

I had fully prepared myself for hundreds of people taking photos, playing basketball, and generally working up a sweat. To my surprise, I was alone on the courts. That’s right— I was the only one on the basketball courts at 8:30 AM on a Monday morning. Perhaps the courts, which were left soggy from the previous nights’ rain, aren’t as popular at the start of the work week? Maybe the wetness put people off? Whatever the case, it was like I hit the photography jackpot. I only had to keep mind of about four elderly ladies marching around the perimeter of the courts, getting in their steps.

CLOSEST MTR: Take the MTR to Choi Hung Station

TIP: Wear something bright that stands out against the colourful courts!

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LION ROCK

Lion Rock Hill, or Lion Rock as it is more commonly called, proved a challenging hike less because of the incline and more due to the heat. The one non-overcast day I was in Hong Kong was coincidentally the day I hauled my butt up to the top. Even in the heat, I am so happy I made the trip up to the top. Mainly because the views of the city are better at Lion Rock than they are at Victoria Peak.  It’s also free to hike Lion Rock and doesn’t have any of the weird restaurants and souvenir stores that await you at the Peak.

My photos from Lion Rock are also some of my favourite because, even though I wasn’t wearing a cute-y patootie outfit, I felt good being a little closer to nature after a few days in the city.

CLOSEST MTR: Take the MTR to Wong Tai Sin Station and walk from there using Google Maps to guide you!

TIP:  Don’t go in the heat of the day! Not only is it ridiculously hot, but the lighting is harsh. Also, wear proper shoes. It is a hike, after all.

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LOK WAH SOUTH ESTATE CARPARK

The blue circular structures at Lok Wah South Estate sit on the top of the car garage. They’re a bit of a pain to find, but that makes them even more of a gem. I had Lok Wah South Estate Carpark to myself, despite it being 10 AM on a day when the weather was mild, and I made the absolute most of it. I tried about a million different angles and got truly creative here. Something about the derelict-ness of the buildings paired with the light blue made my eyes swoon.

CLOSEST MTR: Take the MTR to Kowloon Bay Station and use Google Maps to walk from there.

TIP: Type “Lok Wah South Estate Carpark” into Google Maps to help you find the location. If you type in “Lok Wah”, like the Instagram geo-tag, you’ll be taken to the general area, which is unhelpful.

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TAI KWUN | jc contemporary art GALLERY

Tai Kwun Contemporary, also known as JC Contemporary Art Gallery, is dedicated to showcasing the very best and newest contemporary art in Hong Kong. The art gallery at Tai Kwun is part of the prison complex where Ho Chi Minh was held captive during his attempts to flew Vietnam. Weird, right?

What really struck me about Tai Kwun, besides it being a non-profit art centre, was how the art gallery itself felt like art. Every room, stairwell, and entry way had the makings of a photo filled with very crisp lines.

CLOSEST MTR: The closest MTR station is Central, but I walked from Graham Street after posing with the murals!

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JOCKEY CLUB creative arts cENtre

I had been looking forward to shooting at the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre since I found this photo. Wow, right? The white with the yellow accents. The dreamy slanted roof to sit on while pondering deep thoughts away from the camera lens. Maybe a coy smile while touching my hair. The possibilities are limitless.

EXCEPT. There are signs everywhere saying climbing on the slanted roof is not prohibited. Yellow chains blocked my visual dreams off from me. I’m all for a little rule-bending. I’ll bribe a guard, ask to be an exception, blah, blah, blah. But climbing over yellow chains, passed strategically placed signs, and risking jail time in Hong Kong is just not my thing. Still, the roof itself is free to check out and makes a pretty backdrop on its own.

CLOSEST MTR: Take the MTR to Shek Kip Mei Station and walk from there.

TIP: Though the famous slanted roof is illegal to climb onto for a photograph, the roof itself is fair game! So, make the most of it like I did and enjoy the city with your camera from above.

SLOTH HOSTEL

Western District Public Cargo Working Area | INSTAGRAM PIER

When National Geographic writes about a pier being used for Instagram pics and wedding photos, a girl like me gets curious. When I arrived near sunset, the famous “Instagram Pier” was dotted with couples taking professional wedding photos and Instagrammers getting their shot, but I was actually underwhelmed. The place is, after all, a cargo pier, meaning it’s kind of just filled with wooden crates and other miscellaneous items I didn’t find particularly interesting.

CLOSEST MTR: Take the MTR to HKU Station, walk down the staircase and towards the water. You will see the cargo pier from there!

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HOLLYWOOD ROAD PARK

En route to Graham Street, I walked through Hollywood Road Park. Locals were getting their early morning exercise and I was there getting photos. The Chinese architecture set in the middle of skyscrapers was kind of a cool juxtaposition, and i enjoyed the quiet the park offered.

CLOSEST MTR: If you are taking the MTR, you can head to the park from either Sai Ying Pun Station or Sheung Wan Station. I walked from Art Lane near Sai Ying Pun Station.

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MONTANE MANSION

Made famous thanks to its appearance in Transformers: Age of Extinction, Montane Mansion is one of five connected housing complexes that make up the “Monster Building” from this scene. I didn’t actually know this place was in a Transformers film {since I haven’t actually watched the Transformers films}, but I had seen it slathered all over my Instagram feed and knew I wanted to take in the cityscape for myself.

While there is some signage about this being private property, the locals seem to embrace the their residential area being a photography opportunity to travelers at Montane Mansion.

CLOSEST MTR: Take the MTR to Tai Koo Station and it’s a very short walk from there.

TIP: You’re gonna have to get real low if you want to squeeze the height of the apartment complex into the frame, so make sure you have a tripod that is adjustable or a friend who is willing to bend the knee.

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ART LANE

When I found Art Lane online {I think via a Google search?}, I knew I had to go. Nine local and international artists have decorated the area with murals that depict the happiness brought to people via music and the arts. Every giant mural is colourful and each offers something a little different. My favourite was the “Urban Jungle” piece I’m standing by in the photos above.

CLOSEST MTR: Take the MTR to Sai Ying Pun Station. Pop your head out of exit B3 and you will know you have arrived, trust me!

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GRAHAM STREET GOD LIFESTYLE STORE

While hustling around Hong Kong in search of street art, I headed to Graham Street, where I heard a famous mural on a steep incline would be waiting for me. What I wasn’t told was that said famous mural would also be waiting for literally a hundred other people. In my photos I look awkward, but it’s the most honest picture from my collection at Graham Street because it was, in fact, awkward. Hundreds of boyfriends, best friends, and tripods lined the narrow road while girls in fabulous, flowing dresses hit the slope for a photo. I couldn’t help but find the hilarity. Overall, I preferred Art Lane thanks to it being less overrun by tourists like me. Also…I found the art generally prettier down Art Lane.

CLOSEST MTR: The closest MTR station is Central, but I walked about thirty minutes from Hollywood Road Park and stumbled happily upon it. You’ll know you’ve arrived thanks to the shutters clicking away!

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VICTORIA HARBOUR

Victoria Harbour separates Hong Kong Island from the Kowloon Peninsula. Victoria Harbour reminds me of The Bund in Shanghai, though much, much less crowded. My photos from my recent trip were less than thrilling thanks to the weather, but it was a beautiful walk around the water nonetheless. Maybe the sun will shine for you?

CLOSEST MTR: Take the MTR to either Tsim Sha Tsui or East Tsim Shau Tsui.

TIP: For more colourful photos, go at night to see the Symphony of Lights, a free light show that turns the famous Victoria Harbour to technicolour.

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VICTORIA PEAK

I didn’t make it to Victoria Peak during my first trip to Hong Kong, so I made sure to pop it on my itinerary this time around. Now having seen it, I don’t think I was missing out. It’s an iconic viewpoint in Hong Kong that probably shouldn’t be missed if you're a tourist wanting to take in all the landmarks, but as far as photo spots go, I don’t think it’s particularly stunning. Of an afternoon and evening, like most places, it’s crowded and noisy. Don’t make my mistake— go early!

CLOSEST MTR: You can pay to take the famous tram up to the top of the peak, though the price is steep and lines are long. Alternatively, you can take Bus #15 to the top near the Central Station on the MTR.

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Rich View Terrace

If you’re looking for something funky and vivid to make your photos pop, Rich View Terrace on Square Street should be your first stop in Hong Kong. This mural, painted by Pasha Wais, covers the concrete walls with big blocks of colour. The walls goes on for a while, so there are different chunks of shape and colour to play with in your photos!

CLOSEST MTR: Take the MTR to Sheung Wan Station. I walked from Hollywood Road Park. It’s near Man Mo Temple, so keep an eye out!

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LAI TAK TSUEN APARTMENT COMPLEX

I originally saw this phenomenal photo spot on Instagram when scouring the app for photo spots. The pink and blue circular interior of the apartment building looked like a seriously cool place to grab a pic. Unfortunately, as soon as I stepped on the property, I saw signs saying photography was strictly prohibited. Again, I’m all for a little rule-bending, but I’m pro-jail, especially when the rules are made explicitly clear. More than that, I don’t want to ever intrude in a residential space that so clearly wants to be free and clear of eager photographers. The outside wall was kind of cute, so I went ahead and took some photos. In the end, I’m proud that I didn’t bother the elderly community and break the law for a silly little square on my grid. Simply put, it’s illegal to take photos inside the Lai Tak Tsuen Apartment Complex. Alternatively, take photos around the pretty pink exterior of the building.

CLOSEST MTR: Take the MTR to Tin Hau Station. It’s an uphill walk from there. You’ll see a pink, circular building.

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MONG KOK

Mong Kok is filled with bright lights, neon signs, and busy streets that give it the ultimate urban aesthetic. You can find anything in Mong Kok. The famous shopping district in Hong Kong is the ideal place for a photo with a little city chaos in the background thanks to the various vendors and stores selling everything from knock-off bags to lucky charms. Mong Kok is home to the famous Ladies Market, which is photo-worthy in and of itself.

CLOSEST MTR: Take the MTR to Mong Kok Station.

TIP: Mong Kok is close to Temple Street Night Market, where you’ll find seafood, egg waffles, and other Hong Kong foods to try!

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NAM SHAN ESTATE

Nam Shan Estate is, yet another, housing community with an aesthetically pleasing exercise set. This place was a bit tricky to find, since it is hidden-in-plain-sight. The photo-famous playground and it’s green arches sit on the roof of the community’s market. I wandered around for ages, giving up right as the jungle gym caught my travel partner’s eye! We went through the busy market and found a set of stairs that took us up. It wasn’t long before a group of three Americans came up the stairs and expressed their struggles to find it as well.

CLOSEST MTR: Take the MTR to Skek Kip Mei Station.

TIP: There are two identical sets of arches on this roof, but only one has the apartments in the background. The other set faces the market, but doesn’t quite make for the same photo.

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ping shek estate

The lines and modern design of this estate make it either very boring or super interesting depending on your perspective. For me, the building looked like something out of a Sci-Fi movie {not that I actually watch those?}. If you had a drone, and were able to fly it here, I reckon you’d get some outrageously cool shots. Though photography is allowed at Ping Shek, please be respectful of residents.

CLOSEST MTR: This is very close to Choi Hung Estate, just take the A2 exit out of Choi Hung Station.

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TIAN TAN BUDDHA + PO LIN MONASTERY

Tian Tan Buddha is a massive bronze Buddha that towers above Lantau Island. Weirdly {for me}, a majority of the Buddha was built in Nanjing, China {yeah, the old stomping ground}. The statue is meant to represent the relationship between man and nature and faith. It’s quite hard to get a good photo with the Buddha due to its popularity in photos, so I suggest heading over to the Po Lin Monastery.

My first trip to Hong Kong was topped off with a visit to Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery under the hot, hot sun. This time around, it poured rain until the very minute I arrived. Both the towering Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery are lovely places for pictures, just make sure to get there early or you’ll have to weave in and out of other tourists’ pictures!

CLOSEST MTR: Take the MTR to Tung Chung Station. You will need to take the cable car or a local bus to the top.


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an Instagram guide to Hong Kong:  where to find the city's coolest photo spots
an instagram guide to Hong Kong: where to find the city's coolest photo spots