Hong Kong Museum of History, Tsim Sha Tsui
There’s only one place to start and that’s the Hong Kong Museum of History. Its permanent exhibition is the Hong Kong Story which explains how our city evolved into the metropolis it is today. You can rush through all the guff at the beginning about rock formations and geology – what you’re after is the last few hundred years. The museum gets better and better, moving from Hong Kong’s historical Chinese roots to the arrival of the British, The Opium Wars and the Japanese Occupation. It’s extraordinary. If you wanted something in the 19th and early 20th centuries you just took out your gun and planted a flag. For those who live in Hong Kong, the best part of the experience is the familiarity of the places featured - in that sense it’s unlike any national museum you’ve ever visited and the videos in particular are top notch.
Hong Kong Museum of History, 100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2724 9042, admission - $10 (free on Wednesdays) www.lcsd.gov.hk
Hong Kong Film Archive, Sai Wan Ho
The Hong Kong Film Archive preserves Hong Kong’s cinematic history but it isn’t a typical museum and that’s what makes it special. They have a rotating exhibition but that’s not why you go. Instead you should attend one of their classic movie screenings which are generally Cantonese films but they're often equipped with English subtitles, or vice versa. They only have one cinema screen but the atmosphere is unique - it feels theatrical and refined. You want to take in smoked salmon blinis rather popcorn. One of the many things they do is restore battered film reels so just check their line-up and buy a ticket. It’s awesome.
Hong Kong Film Archive, 50 Lei King Road, Sai Wan Ho, 2734 9009, free admission, www.lcsd.gov.hk
Hong Kong Correctional Services Museum, Stanley
The Hong Kong Museum of Correctional Services is eye-opening. Like many of Hong Kong’s best museums, the only flaw is there isn’t enough to see but what they do have will keep your jaw firmly on the floor. Highlights include the hangman’s noose and methods of corporal punishment in the Victorian era such as the Treadwheel Plan. This extraordinary device was essentially a huge moving wheel that prisoners stood on but to stop themselves from falling off they had to keep stepping upwards. Perfect for children with ADHD. The museum also offers an insight into the justice system’s shift in policy from simple punishment to rehabilitation and it’s a great interlude on the way to Stanley.
Hong Kong Correctional Services Museum, 45 Tung Tau Wan Road, Stanley, 2147 3199, free admission, www.csd.gov.hk
Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences, Mid-Levels
It isn’t the best museum in Hong Kong but the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences has significant appeal, not least its location. If you live on the island it’s very accessible and the building itself is gorgeous – a rare reminder that Hong Kong once looked pretty in the day rather than a tall, cancerous council estate. What’s more, the content is surprisingly intriguing. The museum covers a variety of emotive, medical topics from the outbreak of plague in 1894 to bound feet and SARS. Initially viewed with skepticism, it took a while for the Chinese to accept the value of western medicine and the museum is the first in the world to compare and contrast these different approaches to healthcare.
Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences, No.2 Caine Lane, Mid-Levels, 2549 5123, admission - $10, www.hkmms.org.hk
Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence, Shau Kei Wan
In terms of setting, the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence is peerless. Perched on the top of a hill overlooking the sea, you realize what it must have felt like to defend the position against Chinese forces, pirates or the Japanese. Like the Hong Kong Story the museum recites the entire history of Hong Kong’s marine defence, from the beginning of naval warfare to the fall of Hong Kong in the Second World War. It would be a hell of a site for paintballing, and though the exhibitions aren’t as extensive or interactive as they might be, they still carry a lot of startling content. The museum is made by its location and the surrounding scenery, and it’s a great place to stop before heading to the beaches on the south side.
Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence, 175 Tung Hei Road, Shau Kei Wan, 2569 1500, Admission - $10 (free on Wednesdays) www.hk.coastaldefence.museum
Hong Kong Jockey Club Museum, Happy Valley
If you like the races but want to know more about their history, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Museum is a worthwhile stop. In fact, it’s the only stop. Our one criticism is that it’s too small but the photography is particularly riveting, charting Happy Valley Racecourse’s development from a field in to the monolith it is today. Though it can't change your fortunes with a betting slip, the museum tells you a little about everything, including disasters in the stadium, the races under Japanese rule and the progression of the sport from amateurism to professionalism. It closes at 5pm so we’d recommend visiting towards closing time on a Wednesday when the races are on. You can then potter around the area until the gates open which is an hour before the first race.
Hong Kong Jockey Club Museum 2/F, Happy Valley Stand, Happy Valley, 2966 8065, Free Admission www.hkjc.com
Hong Kong Science Museum, Tsim Sha Tsui
You could probably hit The Hong Kong Science Museum with an egg from the Museum of History – they’re that close - and although it’s not quite as interesting, it’s got some top features. The chief appeal is that there are all sorts of gizmos to play with which makes it the best museum in Hong Kong to visit with kids. It's also massive (it will take you a day to see everything) so make sure you stock up on energy bars.
Hong Kong Science Museum, 2 Science Museum Road, Tsimshatsui East, 2732 3232, Admission - $25 (free on Wednesdays) www.hk.science.museum
Hong Kong Space Museum, Tsim Sha Tsui
The Hong Kong Space Museum is excellent but people in Hong Kong should have an added incentive to visit because they never get to see the night sky in the first place. The drawback of the museum is that a lot of the exhibits are dated but they’ll still make you marvel at man's insignificance. Like the Science Musuem, there are also plenty of interactive installations such as a simulated moon walk which are particularly appealing if you have kids. The other key feature is the IMAX theatre which hosts regular screenings throughout the day such as ‘Hubble’ (a celebration of the iconic telescope) which is being shown at the time of writing.
Hong Kong Space Museum, 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2721 0226 , Admission - $10 ($24 for Sky Show) www.lcsd.gov.hk
Museum of Tea Ware, Central
If you’re not a tea groupie this isn’t a particularly interesting museum in itself but it more than makes up for it in other ways. Firstly, the building is stunning. A white colonial pile in the middle of Hong Kong Park, it feels like you’re in Constantia, South Africa and you should be wearing a top hat. The gardens are a pocket of escape from the claustrophobia of Central so you should have a walkabout before putting your head in. The best bit is actually the Lock Cha Tea House next door where you can sample some real tea, ranging from Hanghzou peak dragon-well to Zhejiang premium Putuo Buddha tea. For a jolly afternoon with a museum included rather than a museum experience per se – it’s a great call.
Museum of Tea Ware, 10 Cotton Tree Drive, Central, 2869 0690, Free Admission www.lcsd.gov.hk