Discover Victoria Peak, Cheung Chau Island, Braemar Hill and more.
Hong Kong may be one of the most vibrant cities in the world, but it's much more than just an urban centre. Beyond the hustle and bustle are some gorgeous spots, both energizing and serene, that are culturally rich and aesthetically pleasing (a photographer's dream).
To gain some insight into these beautiful areas, and how to use a beautiful setting to snap the perfect photo, Narcity spoke with two Canadian travel influencers about their experiences visiting Hong Kong.
Emma Choo and Lucan Coutts are both self-taught photographers from Canada. Emma, known as Vancouver Foodie, specializes in food and travel content creation, whereas Lucan, a Torontonian, takes beautiful landscape photos of cities and bright lights.
Both Emma and Lucan started taking photos because they found photography to be a source of inspiration. Lucan shared with Narcity his humble beginnings: "When I was in high school, I would hop on the train and come to downtown Toronto and just walk around for a night. That would take my mind off the stressors of everyday life. But it started out as photography and it's progressed into something of its own."
Emma and Lucan visited Hong Kong at separate times. Both found the city to be a great source of artistic inspiration. "There's always something new and something good for anyone and everyone who visits [Hong Kong]," Emma told Narcity.
According to Emma, Hong Kong is where technology and tradition meet. She describes the city as "a place where culture and history are so heavily embedded, yet it's so evidently evolved. I see the old and the new meeting together, but both are welcome to the table."
If you're ready to feel inspired, here are Emma and Lucan's favourite spots in the city and beyond to snap pics.
Aerial Views At Braemar Hill
Just a hike away from the city centre (or a five-minute walk from the closest bus stop near the top of the summit) lies a peak with a stunning view. Braemar Hill gives you the best of both worlds: a peaceful retreat into nature and one of the best views to catch the sunset over the city.
Lucan described Braemar Hill as "an amazing spot to watch all of those city lights turn on. I think I've visited the place probably a dozen [to] two dozen times."
From dusk to dawn, this spot offers views that'll liven up any Instagram feed or photography portfolio.
Art Photography At PMQ
Located on a historical site in Central, Hong Kong, PMQ (the former Police Married Quarters) houses around 100 design and creative vendors. This is the perfect spot to capture an urban photo for the 'gram. According to Emma, every visit is exciting because there's always something new going on.
"It's this whimsical place where there's different people of all ages. And the cool thing is when people realize it's the old police housing living quarters, they're like, 'oh, that's so different. It's something so strict before, but now it's become this place where it's kind of the opposite.' You can take photos and then you have that main atrium space in the middle, and that's where the installation for art is usually," Emma told Narcity.
Emma suggests taking photos of the space itself from different levels and to venture into the shops to see the unique hand-made creations from the local artists. Keep in mind that it's important to ask for the consent of people or store representatives before taking a photo or video — this goes for pretty much anywhere you decide to photograph.
Use The Exposure Triangle At Kowloon Peak
This is the tallest point in Kowloon and has some amazing views.
"When the sun goes down and those lights come on — there's so many lights — you could spend an entire lifetime counting all those lights and you probably still couldn't count them all," Lucan explained. "And up there on Kowloon Peak, I think it's impossible to take a bad photo."
To Lucan, taking a hike like this can be a great way to get away from the city bustle. There's plenty of space on Kowloon Peak; it's a quiet spot to kick back, relax and take an epic photo for the 'gram.
To get an awesome nighttime shot, Lucan recommends learning the exposure triangle (how your camera settings relate to each other). "Your aperture, your shutter speed, your ISO — the exposure triangle tells you that relationship between those three. So learn about the exposure triangle, and also learn how to properly read a camera's histogram. Because that will help you expose your shots properly."
Flex The Aesthetics At Cheung Chau Island
Cheung Chau, nicknamed "dumbbell island" for its shape, is just 10 kilometres southwest of Hong Kong island and has aesthetics for days.
Emma was astounded by Cheung Chau immediately, beginning her journey with a boat ride and a view of many colourful vessels on the water. "There are so many areas you can just take photos of and experience the place as well," she said.
Life in Cheung Chau moves slower than what you would experience in the urban city of Hong Kong. Emma described locals running the shops, walking around and living at a slower pace.
"It's a lot of nature and greenery. And you get to see the waters more. If you go into the crevices of the island, which is very approachable, you can do it in half a day," she said.
Nature Photography At Tai Tam Mound Waterfall
Tai Tam waterfall is one of the most popular waterfalls in the region. While the waterfall is hidden, it's actually located pretty close to the heart of Hong Kong. A waterproof camera might be a good thing to bring along for the 15-20 minute-long hike because the aquatic views are astounding.
Lucan loves this spot because it is both centrally located and tranquil. "What really blew my mind is that if the landscape was flat, you could walk to it from the very middle of the most intense city on earth. You've got that waterfall right there," he shared with Narcity.
His visit to the Tai Tam waterfall showed Lucan that there's more to Hong Kong than just the urban experience and bright evening lights.
"It got me asking that question: if this is so close to the city centre, what lies out there? [...] There's so much unexplored out there. So it was a bit of a gateway drug to the other nature spots," Lucan said.
Golden Hour At Victoria Peak
Both Emma and Lucan enjoy photographing Victoria Peak when visiting Hong Kong, and suggested golden hour for any photographers: shooting at sunset lets you get both the daytime and nighttime views of the city.
"It's such a beautiful way to appreciate the different sides of Hong Kong... You get to see sort of the two and how they work together as a whole," Emma told Narcity.
She added that there are tons of other areas near the peak that are also Instagram-worthy. There's a mall, a garden area and even places to grab a bite to eat. "I had this rainbow grilled cheese sandwich that was pretty fun to eat and very visually appealing as well."
City Close Ups In Mong Kok District
Mong Kok is a dynamic district in Hong Kong that's known for its narrow streets and lively shopping. Here, there's clothing, food, plants and other goods for sale in street stalls. Lucan feels like this area showcases the city's culture authentically.
As Lucan enjoys working with neon lights, he found this part of Hong Kong extremely fascinating. "This was a great spot to see Hong Kong and a bit more of its roots... I remember walking out of a bar this one time and just looking up at all the lights around me, [and thinking] 'wow, it's truly beautiful,'" Lucan told Narcity.
Up The Saturation At Nan Lian Garden
The culturally rich Nan Lian Garden is full of various plant species that'll add vibrancy to your photos, and there are also must-see Dynasty-styled attractions.
Here, Lucan said this spot is a tranquil place to get creative, "Walking through that garden is a beautiful experience, and if you catch a good sunset in the gardens, it is absolutely spectacular."
Snapping Photos On The Go
The city's trams have been awarded the Guinness World Record™ for "the largest double-decker tram fleet in service" in 2021, and they also double as a great way to catch photos (Emma says the top floor of these double-decker trams is the best place to capture photos of the city).
"When you go on a tram, you're going to go at a slower pace and you get to take photos of the city ... and it's an affordable way to do it. You get to go through the main areas as well of Hong Kong island to see what is going on," Emma told Narcity.
Before gearing up to snap some aesthetic pics, Lucan suggested doing a lot of pre-planning: "Find those photographs, find those spots online, do your research, and figure out exactly where to go, how to get there." He also recommended using your phone's GPS to keep track of where you are.
Don't let not having a DSLR be an excuse to not perfect your photography practice, Emma uses her phone for 90% of her work. "I eventually said you know what, the phone is something I just want to master because the process between the camera and the phone is a very complicated one and time-consuming one," Emma told Narcity. "So I just said, I'm just going to master how to edit and shoot awesome photos on a phone."
With Emma and Lucan's tips and Hong Kong's beauty to inspire you, you now have everything you need to take incredible Instagram photos and make the most out of a gorgeous location.
To learn more about Hong Kong, check out Hong Kong Tourism's official website where you can discover more about the places Lucan and Emma mentioned and find new spots too.
Before you get going, check our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.