Five (almost) free cultural activities in Hong Kong

I always get asked about what you should/could do when you visit Hong Kong. And yes, there are the obvious ways to spend a weekend here (see my tips here) and I have also written about free activities you could do in Hong Kong.

HK Impressions Skyline Victoria Harbour July 2012 with small boat

That list included everything – from parks, museums on a Wednesday, hikes and great sightseeing spots. But what I hadn’t featured where free cultural activities. What do I mean by that? Well activities that you might only be able to do in Hong Kong…

Take a Tai Chi Class
Tai Chi is a Hong Kong passion, and each morning you’ll see young and old alike streaming into the city’s parks to show off their moves. This form of martial arts is used to both exercise the body and relax the mind and the graceful, simple movements are easy for beginners to pick up. The Hong Kong Kong Tourism Board offers free classes four times/week at Victoria Park – but it seems they come with a small price tag now, Tripadvisor says between 50-55 HKD per person.

UPDATE JUNE 9, 2014: Ian just pointed out to me that the Tai Chi classes actually take place in front of the Museum of Art in TST (not at Victoria Park). These classes were until recently offered free to bona-fide tourists under HKTB’s “Cultural Kaleidoscope” programme. This has now changed and the Tai Chi Classes operate under the guidance of William Ng and Pandora Wu, and now incur a small fee.

Watch the flag-raising ritual at the Golden Bauhinia Square
Gather around Golden Bauhinia Square, also known as The Expo Promenade, outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre at 7:50 each morning to observe an official flag-raising ritual. Performed daily by uniformed Hong Kong police, this ritual is filled with pomp and ceremony. It marks the raising of China’s red ensign over the territory, which was transferred from British control in 1997. On the first day of each month, catch an extended ceremony in which the ceremonially dressed Police Pipe Band performs music, including the national anthem, as a backdrop to the proceedings.

Bauhinia Square with flags

Listen the Noon Day Gun
If you can’t get up at 7:50 am, there is always the noon-day gun ceremony. Owned by multinational company Jardine Matheson, the Noon Day Gun, is fired off by a Jardine employee at noon every day. The gun is located on the waterfront in Causeway Bay, where Jardine used to have warehouses. The one-gun salute tradition is said to have started when a Royal Naval Officer who was new to Hong Kong became annoyed at the tendency of Jardine employees to fire off a gunshot when the head of the company sailed into port – gun salutes being reserved for military commanders only. As punishment, Jardine were required to fire a one-shot salute every day at noon, for perpetuity. The company has kept to the deal and the Noon Day Gun has become a local tradition and attraction for visitors. You can take the MTR to Causeway Bay Station / Exit D1. Walk along Lockhart Road to Cannon Street. Then walk along Jaffe Road to the World Trade Centre. You access the Noon Day Gun through a tunnel next to the hotel, in front of the World Trade Centre.

Sunday fun: Kung Fu Corner
Children of all ages will enjoy Kung Fu Corner each Sunday from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Kowloon Park. This free weekly performance features traditional kung fu demonstrations by Chinese martial artists. Members of the public are invited to try out their own skills after each show, with instructors and students leading kids through basic kung fu movements. Ceremonial drumming and lion and dragon dances are also part of this interactive spectacle.

Happy Valley Racecourse 2014-3

Happy Valley Racecourse 2014-5

Wednesday night: Horse racing
The Happy Valley race course itself is a sight in itself, the city has built around it through the years and it is now practically surrounded by skyscrapers, a great experience specially at night when the city is illuminated. Every Wednesday night, you can enter the General Stand for 10 HKD and enjoy the races from 7-11pm. Just remember that the horse-racing Season at Happy Valley is from September to June (sometimes early July). Check out the schedule here.

UPDATE JUNE 9, 2014: Another valid point from Ian is that whilst the Happy Valley races do take place on many Wednesday nights, it is by no means all. During the 2013/14 race season which ends in early July, there have been thirteen Wednesday nights with no racing at Happy Valley. Also bear in mind that the 2014/15 race season begins in early September with all early season races being held at Sha Tin, since Happy Valley is undergoing a major project to replace the drains and upgrade the floodlighting, with first race at Happy Valley scheduled to be a day meeting on Sunday 19th October.

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