The journey is the destination: Hong Kong’s historic tram is proof. Operating since 1904, making it the world’s largest double decker tram fleet in service, this charming, planet-friendly form of transport is the best way to soak in the city’s energy. Trundling through Hong Kong Island’s vibrant and distinctive neighbourhoods, what it lacks in speed it more than makes up for in scenery. Listen for the characteristic ding ding, hop on, and don’t dare doomscroll this joyride away.
Route, tickets, and facilities
The tram follows an east–west route along the north shore of Hong Kong Island. The westernmost terminus is located in Kennedy Town, while the easternmost terminus is in Shau Kei Wan. There is also a short tram loop that circulates through Happy Valley. There are two tram depots: Sai Wan Ho and Whitty Street.
Each tram stop bears a name and code. Termini only have letter codes (for example: Western Market Terminus is WMT), while regular stops have numbers and a letter. “E” refers to an eastbound tram (towards Shau Kei Wan terminus), whereas “W” refers to westbound (towards Kennedy Town terminus). Check the final destination of the oncoming tram, and make sure you’re on the right track.
The doors at the front are the exit. You jump on all trams through the turnstiles at the rear entrance, and pay as you get off at the front.
Regardless of how short or long your trip on the tram lasts, you pay a flat fare of HK$3.00. It’s best to use your Octopus. If using cash, you must provide exact change as conductors will not return any money.
The tram is not wheelchair accessible.
In recent years, modern trams have been redesigned with more handrails. Electronic panels and audio announcements provide information about the next stop.
Cheapo Tip: For a premium experience, beeline to the top deck and grab a window seat either at the front or back for the best views. Otherwise, hang back near the turnstiles where you entered. Back in the day trams ran in both directions, so you may find a vintage steering wheel chained in place, a covered navigation board, and a button embedded in the floor that, when pushed, sounds that loveable ding ding. Some trams boast large bay windows: all the better for photographing!
Our Tram 101 guide covers the basics, so here we’ll focus on historic monuments and long standing eateries located tramside. Think neighbourhood-defining institutions that have stood the test of time (and withstood the whims of corporate property developers).
The far west: Sai Wan and around
Overflowing with trendy cafes and pet parents in athleisure, it’s hard to imagine that Kennedy Town lacked its own MTR station just twenty years ago. Rapid gentrification has more than left its mark on Sai Wan, which stretches roughly until Sai Ying Pun, but small businesses and forgotten buildings have endured the ages against all odds.
One of the most unique and photogenic spots to check out in the area is Sai Wan Swimming Shed (Victoria Road). Built in 1970 to feed an appetite for accessible swimming, the deck is still popular among experienced elderly swimmers who often dive equipment-free, undaunted by the capricious waves. There is no lifeguard on duty here, so swim at your own risk. Stormy or sunny, you can expect atmospheric photos.
How to get there: walk for 25 minutes from Kennedy Town Terminus
Hong Kong’s hawker centres appeal to the cheapo within us all. Smithfield Cooked Food Centre (2 Rock Hill Street) is home to Sing Kee Cha Dong, a 60+ year old eatery famed for nutty satay noodles laden with generous cuts of fresh beef. As far as dim sum goes, the nocturnal Sun Hing (8 Smithfield Road) is about as chaotic as they come, but sleeper hits like curry tripe and lava buns will transform you into a repeat customer at this five decade-old yum cha haunt.
How to get there: walk for 5 minutes from Smithfield (102W) or North Street (01E)
Temples sprout from street corners everywhere in the city, but the Lo Pan Temple on Ching Lin Terrace is special: it is one of only two temples in the world solely dedicated to Lo Pan, the Chinese patron god of builders, carpenters and engineers.
How to get there: walk for 10 minutes from Kennedy Town Praya (98W) or Holland Street (03E)
The campus of the University of Hong Kong is already steeped in history, but to throw it back even further– think hundreds of millions of years ago– visit the Hong Kong Biodiversity Museum. With specimens from the territory helpfully marked, the compact but comprehensive gallery is bursting with spindly coral fossils, technicolour butterflies and beyond. Book a tour.
How to get there: walk for 15 minutes from Whitty Street (90W or 09E)
Family-run joint Saam Hui Yaat (11 Pok Fu Lam Road) is a Sai Ying Pun stalwart. Operating since 1978, this dim sum spot offers a tightly edited menu of classics executed with heart and soul.
How to get there: walk for 5 minutes from Water Street (88W or 11E)
Cantonese cuisine may be known for its sweet-and-mild palate, but for hot sauce with a side of history, head to the 100-year-old Yu Kwen Yick (8 Second Street). Don’t leave without a bottle of the signature bright orange chilli sauce.
How to get there: walk for 10 minutes from Western Street tram stop (86W or 13E)
TCM Town and the Island’s beating heart: Sheung Wan and Central
Stroll on over to the famous dried seafood, ginseng, and bird’s nest streets by following the signs. The Traditional Chinese Medicine shops in the area sell all varieties of fruit, root, and rhizome to treat any ailment. To make sense of it all, stop at the Queen Street Rest Garden, an urban herbarium dedicated to Shennong, the Chinese deity of agriculture and medicinal plants.
How to get there: walk for 5 minutes from Sutherland Street (82W) or Queen Street (17E)
Keep walking until you reach Western Market, a colonial-era landmark dating back to 1906. After admiring the facade, amble over to old-school cha chaan teng Shui Kee inside the Sheung Wan Cooked Food Centre (345 Queen’s Road Central). It’s well-known for milk tea served in glass bottles and crispy French toast. Or tread uphill and treat yourself to pork chop rice at For Kee (200 Hollywood Road). Both eateries have been around for decades, doing what they do best.
How to get there: walk for 5 minutes from Western Market Terminus
Next up is Man Mo Temple (124 Hollywood Road), which was built in 1847 to pay tribute to the gods of literature and war. The temple grows particularly busy around the Lunar New Year, but the large spirals of incense and exquisite craftsmanship make it well worth a visit any time of year.
How to get there: walk for 10 minutes from Man Wah Lane (76W) or Hillier Street (21E)
Credited as the birthplace of “silk stocking milk tea”– a black tea blend strained using pantyhose and enriched with condensed milk– Lan Fong Yuen (2 Gage Street) has stood strong for over six decades. Kau Kee (21 Gough Street), home of the best beef brisket noodles in town, has been operating since the 1930s, while Sing Heung Yuen (2 Mee Lun Street), a dai pai dong located bang opposite, has been winning diners over with comforting bowls of macaroni in tomato soup, consumed al fresco, for more than 40 years. Selling sugarcane juice and other (naturally) sweet treats since 1948– including a newer sugarcane beer – Kung Lee (60 Hollywood Road) is another perfect pitstop for a quick refreshing drink.
How to get there: walk for 10 minutes from Gilman Street (74W or 23E)
Witness the oldest surviving colonial building in Hong Kong: Flagstaff House, inside Hong Kong Park. The structure now houses the Museum of Teaware, a temple to camellia sinensis and the most remarkable vessels to sip and share it. Entry is free.
How to get there: walk for 10 minutes from Cotton Tree Drive (66W) or Murray Road (33E)
Always “on”: Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, and Happy Valley
Rolling along the tracks, you’ll feel the pace of the city quicken. Renowned for its feverish nightlife and towering shopping malls, there’s a lot to explore here beyond what meets the eye.
A canonical cha chaan teng dating back to 1957, Kam Fung (41 Spring Garden Lane) is best known for its pillowy soft pineapple buns and butter cookie crust ham-and-chicken pies. Come for the retro vibe, stay for the genuinely tasty baked goods and undiluted milk tea, still made the traditional way.
How to get there: walk for 5 minutes from O’Brien Road (56 W or 53E)
Blue House (72-74A Stone Nullah Lane), one of the last wooden tenements still standing in Wan Chai, adds another splash of colour to this hectic locale. A short distance away is Khalsa Diwan (371 Queen’s Road East), a Sikh gurudwara. Dating back to 1901, it was built by Sikh members of the British army stationed in Hong Kong.
How to get there: walk for 10 minutes from Tonnochy Road (52W or 47E)
Got an enemy you’d like to curse? Head to Canal Road’s villain-hitters, where elderly women cast bad luck upon your enemies using folk rituals. Battling nemeses will likely leave you famished, so you can head on over to Bowrington Cooked Food Centre (21 Bowrington Road). Halal stall Wai Kee is perpetually packed with diners feasting on home-style mutton curry and roast duck.
How to get there: walk for 5 minutes from Canal Road West (50W or 49E)
Danish Bakery (106 Leighton Road) has been operating unchanged since 1958. People flock here for pork chop buns and hot dogs, made using tangzhong buns baked in-house each morning. This is one of the cheapest and most nostalgic meals you’ll find in the city!
How to get there: walk for 5 minutes from Paterson Street (48W) or Foo Ming Street (105)
Looping into Happy Valley, CWB‘s dizzying lights and Shibuya-esque scramble feels worlds apart. Going strong since 1951, Cheung Hing (9-11 Yik Yam Street) is the neighbourhood’s favourite cafe. Order the pineapple bun your way– make it savoury with egg and luncheon meat.
How to get there: walk for 5 minutes from Happy Valley Terminus
Inching eastwards, the tram crosses Victoria Park, beloved for its lush New Year market. Hidden within the upscale precinct of Tai Hang is Lin Fa Kung or Temple of the Lotus (1-9 Lin Fa Kung Street East), constructed in 1863. Wander on and grab a seat at Bing Kee Cha Dong (5 Shepherd Street), an outdoor eatery especially famous for its peppery pork chop noodles.
How to get there: walk for 5 minutes from Lau Sin Street (40W)
Final stretch: North Point and beyond
Let’s move the spotlight to the Eastern District. North Point‘s frenzied energy mixed with the residential calm of Sai Wan Ho and Shau Kei Wan, these underexplored reaches awe with monster buildings, an offbeat museum, and tried-and-true eats.
Rouse your senses back to life with a trip to Chun Yeung Street Market. The tram careens not alongside but right through this bustling market! North Point has long been settled by migrants from Shanghai and Fujian, so the wet market also offers specialty Hokkien goods apart from the usual selection of grocery items.
How to get there: walk for 2 minutes from Chun Yeung Street (67E)
For ornate embroidered slippers in the Shanghainese style, or a pair of handwoven ones to replace your worn out slides, head to King’s Slippers (315 King’s Road). Established in 1970, this store is yet another connection to North Point’s Shanghainese heritage. At hole-in-the-wall joint Mak Kee (21-23 Fort Street), savour Shanghainese buns and cakes. Aim to arrive here at 3 pm, when the flaky scallion pancakes start to roll out.
How to get there: walk for 5 minutes from North Point Road (32W or 69E)
A labyrinth of food stalls awaits at Sai Wan Ho’s Tai On Building (57-87 Shau Kei Wan Road). What appears to be a regular mixed-use building on the outside is actually the Eastern District’s top destination for affordable eats. Let your nose guide you.
How to get there: walk for 5 minutes from Tai Hong Street (10W) or Tai On Street (93E)
When and why were some of the first military troops deployed in Hong Kong? To protect the pearl fields of present-day Tai Po located in the New Territories, way back in the 10th century. Less a stuffy gallery and more an experiential walk, Shau Kei Wan’s newly refurbished Museum of Coastal Defence (175 Tung Hei Road) immerses you in the city’s military history– stunning sea views included– at no charge.
How to get there: walk for 25 minutes from Shau Kei Wan Terminus.