Hong Kong Area Guides: Central 中環
The commercial, political and retail heart of Hong Kong, Central is the city's most vibrant and dynamic area. Named Victoria when the British first came in 1841, Central is now home to Hong's Kong's towering financial palaces as well as a number of colonial-era buildings, parks, churches and gardens.
The main east-west streets running through Central are Connaught Road, Des Voeux Road and Queen's Road. Arriving along the elevated walkway from the Star Ferry terminal, the soaring skyscrapers of high-finance tower above you.
The 88-story Two International Finance Centre (2 ifc) is Hong Kong's tallest building at 415 meters and was completed in 2003. The building was designed by the Argentine architect Cesar Pelli. The adjacent One International Finance Centre (1 ifc) opened in 1998 and a swish shopping mall connects the two.
Exchange Square contains the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and faces Jardine House across Mau Yin Street.
The 180m-tall Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank (HSBC) skyscraper was the most expensive building in the world when it was completed in 1985. Designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster, the building makes impressive use of natural lighting in its vast atrium and the tower's cooling system is run on sea water. Two bronze lions guard the entrance to the bank.
The 300m high glass and steel Bank of China is the work of US architect I.M. Pei and was completed in 1990. There is a public viewing space on the 43rd floor offers incredible views. Both the HSBC and Bank of China buildings were built with one eye of the principles of feng shui, though not without criticism from its staunchest adherents.
Below the Bank of China building is the rather forlorn Statue Square, an area of empty space compared with the massive towers that surround it. The area contains the Cenotaph - a memorial to Hong Kong's war dead in World War I and II. To the right is the colonial period Legislative Building, a domed, neoclassical building constructed in granite, that has served as Hong Kong's Legislative Council (Legco) since 1985. Statue Square now has only one statue, that of banker Sir Thomas Jackson, as the others were melted down during the Japanese occupation in the 1940s. The square is now best known as a meeting place for Filipino migrant workers on weekends.
Behind Statue Square and Chater Garden (a cricket pitch until the 1970s) lie the twin colonial buildings of the Court of Final Appeal and St. John's Cathedral - one of the oldest churches in Asia. The Court of Final Appeal, the highest court in Hong Kong, is housed in the former French Mission Building dating originally from 1868. Walk along Battery Path along Cheung Kong Garden to reach both buildings. Climbing further up the steep hill is the old Government House and beyond that the pocket-sized Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens up from the Peak Tram terminal.
West of Statue Square is the up-market shopping mall The Landmark (Tel: 2526 4416) - packed with designer stores: Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton et al. The retail section of the complex is in the Atrium with office space in the three towers of York House, Edinburgh Tower and Gloucester Tower.
Heading up Pedder Street and Wyndham Street from Central MTR Station is the Lan Kwai Fong area of bars and restaurants. West of here is the SOHO area of more fashionable bars and eateries. East of Central is Admiralty.
Access - getting to Central
Take an MTR metro to Central Station on the Island Line. Central Station connects with Hong Station for the Airport Express. Ride a bus or tram heading along Des Voeux and Queensway. The Star Ferry operates from Central pier to Hung Hom and Tsim Sha Tsui on Kowloon.
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