A roar­ing bronze lion named Stephen with shrap­nel holes from WWII, a man who looks like Gol­lum and took his name, can­nons to fend off bad spir­its, here are 5 inter­est­ing­ly unique things in Cen­tral Hong Kong that you might have oth­er­wise missed. And they’re all free to visit.

Central Hong Kong

Cen­tral is a dis­trict on Hong Kong Island. The finan­cial and admin­is­tra­tive hub of Hong Kong. A mix of cul­tures, a mix of old and new. West­ern­ers walk the streets in suits and brief­cas­es yelling to each oth­er across nar­row one-way streets. A Wall Street atmos­phere. If Hong Kong is the New York City of Asia then Cen­tral is the Wall Street of Asia. It’s also a place where yup­pies and trav­el bums alike go to drink in Lan Kwai Fong (LKF). It’s home to the enor­mous IFC Mall and Vic­to­ria Peak, one of the eas­i­est to access and best views of the Hong Kong skyline.

Hong Kong, as of 2017 is list­ed as the most expen­sive city in the world and Cen­tral is one of the most expen­sive places in Hong Kong. But you can still see many things here for free includ­ing Vic­to­ria Peak and the 5 (+1) items list­ed here. Any vis­it to Hong Kong should include a stop in Central.


1. Stephen and Stitt, Prisoners of War

Roaring Stephen protecting the HSBC Headquarters

Roar­ing Stephen pro­tect­ing the HSBC Headquarters

Decem­ber 8th, 1941, just after 8 am, four hours after the attack on Pearl Har­bor, Japan­ese bombers roared over Hong Kong quick­ly destroy­ing the inad­e­quate air defense. Troops with­drew to Hong Kong Island but weren’t safe for long. One week lat­er, on the 15th of Decem­ber, Hong Kong Island was con­tin­u­ous­ly shelled. It was per­haps the dark­est time in Hong Kong’s mod­ern history.

It was dur­ing this time that Stephen and Stitt, two bronze lions placed in front of the HSBC head­quar­ters in 1935 almost became casu­al­ties of war. Stephen, roar­ing to the East took the brunt of the attack when shrap­nel pierced his thick bronze hide. Holes that can still be seen to this day.

Stephen's shrapnel wounds

Stephen’s shrap­nel wounds

They were both tak­en by the Japan­ese invaders becom­ing pris­on­ers of war and might have been lost for­ev­er if it weren’t for a keen-eyed US Navy sailor who spot­ted them in Osa­ka in 1946. They were returned short­ly after and still bear the bat­tle scars.

See them and read their his­to­ry in front of the HSBC Head­quar­ters in Cen­tral, Hong Kong Island, where they’ve sat ever since guard­ing its entrance.

Get There:

On the Metro take Cen­tral Sta­tion Exit K and you’re right in front of it. The Lions are in front of the building.

2. Hong Kong Gollum

Hong Kong Gollum

Hong Kong Gollum

He stands in front of the 7–11 open­ing beer and light­ing cig­a­rettes for drunk yup­pies. “It’s Gol­lum!” a half-drunk young white guy exclaims. I think it’s a bit rude and tell him as much. “No! That’s his name! Google it!” Sure enough, he’s a bit of a celebri­ty here. He doesn’t real­ly speak Eng­lish but can always be found smil­ing and help­ing open bot­tles of beer. His sig­na­ture pos­es are wav­ing an index fin­ger or giv­ing a thumbs up. Take a pic­ture with him and give him a small tip for all he does in the com­mu­ni­ty of drunk­en rev­el­ers. Cher­ish this liv­ing trea­sure of Hong Kong.

Find Him:

Walk around Lan Kwai Fong (LKF) in Cen­tral and look in front of the con­ve­nience stores. I’ve seen him in front of the 7–11 next to Ebe­neez­er’s on Lan Kwai Fong street.

For a bit more infor­ma­tion on Hong Kong Gol­lum check out this article.


3. Knit-fitti and the Stone Slab Street (Pottinger Street)

Knit-fitti - Jack and Zero

Knit-fit­ti — Jack and Zero

A local artist cov­ers the met­al rail­ings on the Stone Slab Street with knit­ted art, hence the name “Knit-fit­ti”. When I vis­it­ed there was a Hal­loween theme includ­ing Jack from The Night­mare before Christ­mas, com­plete with his trusty ghost dog “Zero”.

The Stone Slab Street (Pot­tinger Street) itself an inter­est­ing bit of pre­served his­to­ry. Add the “Knit-fit­ti” and it’s well worth a vis­it, though it’s not always there.

Get There:

Stone Slabs Street” or “Pot­tinger St” runs between Stan­ley St and Hol­ly­wood Rd. The street has stalls sell­ing trin­kets and the upper por­tion just below Hol­ly­wood Rd. is where you’ll find the “Knit-fit­ti”


4. Feng Shui Cannons:

When con­struc­tion was fin­ished on Hong Kong’s HSBC build­ing in 1985 at HK$5.2 bil­lion, (rough­ly US $668 mil­lion or 1.5 bil­lion USD today), it was the most expen­sive build­ing ever con­struct­ed in the world, owing in part to the Feng Shui prin­ci­ples it adhered to.

I.M Pei and Part­ners most­ly ignored the prin­ci­ples of Feng Shui when they designed the near­by Bank of Chi­na Tow­er with its dis­tinc­tive knife-like edges, the first major build­ing in Hong Kong not adher­ing to these prin­ci­ples of Chi. Its screw­driv­er like shape is believed by some to be “Drilling the wealth out of Hong Kong”. The build­ing has been blamed for a num­ber of tragedies includ­ing bank­rupt­cy and a bad fall by Mar­garet Thatcher.

HSBC’s answer was the instal­la­tion of Feng Shui “Can­nons” on top of the build­ing. Two crane-like struc­tures direct­ed at the Bank of Chi­na Tow­er, deflect­ing the bad energy.

HSBC Feng Shui cannons

HSBC Feng Shui cannons

Get There:

The HSBC Build­ing stands promi­nent­ly on the sky­line of Hong Kong Island and is beau­ti­ful­ly light up at night.
On the Metro take Cen­tral Sta­tion Exit K and you’re right in front of it. For bet­ter views of the can­nons walk away from the build­ing as they’re hard to see when you’re right in front of it.


5. Longest Outdoor Escalator System in the World

Kathy at the start of the escalator system

Kathy at the start of the esca­la­tor system

Span­ning over 800 meters (2,600 ft) with a height gain of over 135 meters (443 ft) the Cen­tral-Mid-Lev­els esca­la­tor sys­tem is the longest out­door esca­la­tor sys­tem in the world, shut­tling 78,000 com­muters and sight-seers up and down the steep hills of Hong Kong Island every day.

There are all kinds of shops and restau­rants you’ll pass on your free tour up the steep slopes of Cen­tral as you ride the esca­la­tors, but you should note this is a fair­ly expen­sive area even for the already pricey Hong Kong.

Get There:

Start at 100 Queens Road in Cen­tral. You can walk up the stairs to the cov­ered over­pass or go inside the build­ing and up the esca­la­tor to the offi­cial start of the sys­tem. If you’re rid­ing the Metro go to Cen­tral Sta­tion Exit D2, go to Queens Road and walk NW for about 5 min­utes to the inter­sec­tion of Queens Road and Cochrane St.

The esca­la­tors run down­hill from 6 am to 10 am bring­ing com­muters to work and uphill from 10 am to mid­night dai­ly and it takes about 25 min­utes to go up or down.

With 14 entrances and exits, you have many choic­es on where to get on and off.


6. Graham Street Wall Mural

Models posing in front of the Graham Street Wall Mural

Mod­els pos­ing in front of the Gra­ham Street Wall Mural

There is lots of good street art in Cen­tral Hong Kong, and while murals, of course aren’t unique to this area I thought this par­tic­u­lar mur­al is beau­ti­ful and my favorite in Hong Kong, so this is a bonus to check out while you’re wan­der­ing around Cen­tral. For me, it’s a beau­ti­ful depic­tion of the cramped hous­ing in Hong Kong. Some­thing like the Mon­ster Build­ing or the now torn down Kowloon Walled City. It cer­tain­ly makes for some good pictures.

Get There:

It’s right at the inter­sec­tion of Gra­ham St and Hol­ly­wood Rd. on the side of a build­ing. Look for the cam­era car­ry­ing tourists, there are sure to be some.