1 - Rosary Church
Our first stop is the oldest Catholic church in Kowloon, built over a century ago to accommodate an influx of expatriate Roman Catholics.
Hong Kong became a British colony after the First Opium War in 1842, and increasing numbers of merchants and missionaries arrived following the cession of the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 by the Qing emperor. During the Boxer Uprising in 1900, several regiments of the British army were also stationed in Kowloon.
To serve the needs of the Catholic military and lay people, a small chapel was built on the site in 1901 for around 800 worshippers. But by 1903, it was clear that the site was too small. A timely donation from Portuguese Catholic Dr Anthony Gomes allowed for the construction of the Our Lady of Pompeii, Queen of the Rosary Church, which was completed in 1905. A small but attractive church, it’s Gothic in style but was originally based on a Roman basilica. The church was officially classified as a Grade I historic building in 2010. 125 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui; rosarychurch.catholic.org.hk
2 - Austin and Nathan Roads
Austin and Nathan roads
From here, we turn left onto Austin Road, to discover a few historic buildings that still survive among the high-rises. Some are private or government owned, and require permission to enter. First up is the Gun Club Hill Barracks built in 1902 as a British Army garrison, but used by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) since Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997. A few steps farther on is the Kowloon Bowling Green Club (kbgc.com.hk). Built in 1900, it is Hong Kong’s oldest club for the genteel sport and this members-only recreational stalwart is still in operation today.
Arriving at Nathan Road we visit two more historic buildings. First is the recently renovated St Andrew’s Church, built in 1904 from red brick and granite. A Gothic-style church from the Victorian era, it’s the oldest Protestant church (for English speakers) in Kowloon. Nearby is the former Kowloon British School, a grand Victorian edifice constructed in 1902 for the children of foreign nationals, but which today houses the Antiquities and Monuments Office. amo.gov.hk
3 - Whitfield Barracks
Crossing Nathan Road we enter Kowloon Park, which also hides historical gems. Two of the 110-year-old Whitfield Barracks’ military buildings remain, once used by the British Army for training and housing its soldiers. Today they are home to the Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre. The 1,000 sqm facility has an archaeology section showcasing more than 1,600 prehistoric artefacts, items from the Han and Ming dynasties, as well as a section exhibiting the broad range of architecture that makes up Hong Kong’s multifarious cultural heritage. Free admission; open Mon to Fri (except Thur) 10am-6pm, Sat and Sun until 7pm; amo.gov.hk
4 - Signal Hill
Leaving the park we’re briefly back on Nathan Road before turning left into Mody Road and then Minden Row, the location of Signal Hill Garden. A few minutes’ walk up the slope brings us to the summit, where the Signal Tower stands. A Grade I historic building, it was built in 1907 by the Hong Kong Observatory to provide accurate time to both mariners and the public. As the city is regularly affected by typhoons, the Observatory introduced a ten-symbol system that it hung from a tall mast to warn the populace of the relative proximity of devastating storms. Although it ceased operation in 1933, the tower is still a landmark in Tsim Sha Tsui, and recently underwent a complete renovation.
5 - Dining at Kowloon Shangri-La
Fine dining at Kowloon Shangri-La
At the end of the tour, where better to finish than by enjoying a meal at one of the first hotels to open in the reclaimed Tsim Sha Tsui East area: Kowloon Shangri-La. This much-loved property has hosted a lot of famous celebrities, from 1980s pop stars like Paul Young to royal families and fashion icons such as Jimmy Choo. Standing on the Salisbury Road waterfront, the 35-year-old hotel features the two-Michelin-star Shang Palace restaurant, which serves up a fine selection of Cantonese cuisine, including the signature braised spare ribs and cabbage with Chi Kiang vinegar (HK$80/US$10), crispy lobster with oatmeal (HK$228/US$29) and oven-baked cod fillet with egg white and conpoy (HK$208/US$27).
Open for lunch Monday to Friday noon-3pm (Sat and Sun from 10.30am) and for dinner 6.30-11pm daily. For reservations call +852 2733 8754.
Kowloon Shangri-La’s guided Cultural Heritage walking tour can be booked for the morning or afternoon – it takes between three and four hours. For more details visit shangri-la.com