As you step off the Peak Tram, a sharp intake of breath and bout of sighing over the view will cure the feeling that you left your stomach somewhere down in Central. Whatever the time, whatever the weather, be it your first visit or your 50th, this is Hong Kong's one unmissable sight. Spread below you is a glittering forest of skyscrapers; beyond them the harbor and—on a clear day—Kowloon's eight mountains. At the top you enter the Peak Tower, a mall full of restaurants
and shops; there's a viewing platform on the roof. Outside the Tower, another mall faces you. Well-signed nature walks around the Peak are wonderful respites from the commercialism. On a rainy day wisps of cloud catch on the buildings' pointy tops; at night both sides of the harbor burst into color. Consider having dinner at one of the restaurants near the Upper Terminus.
Bypass the overpriced tourist traps inside Sky Terrace and Gallery and head straight up the escalators to the rooftop, which looks down over the Pok Fu Lam country park and reservoir, and, on a clear day, Aberdeen.
Soaring 550 meters (1,805 feet) above sea level, the peak looks over Central and beyond. The steep funicular tracks up to the peak start at the Peak Tram Terminus, near St. John's Cathedral on Garden Road. Hong Kong is proud that its funicular railway is the world's steepest. Before it opened in 1888, the only way to get up to Victoria Peak was to walk or take a bumpy ride in a sedan chair on steep steps. At the Lower Terminus, the Peak Tram Historical Gallery displays a replica of the first-generation Peak Tram carriage. On the way up, grab a seat on the right-hand side for the best views of the harbor and mountains. The trams, which look like old-fashioned trolley cars, are hauled the whole way in seven minutes by cables attached to electric motors. En route to the Upper Terminus, 396 meters (1,300 feet) above sea level, the cars pass four intermediate stations, with track gradients varying from 4 to 27 degrees.
Before buying a return ticket down on the tram, consider taking one of the beautiful low-impact trails back to Central. Buses also go down. You'll be treated to spectacular views in all directions on the Hong Kong Trail, an easygoing 40- to 60-minute paved path that begins and ends at the Peak Tram Upper Terminus. Start by heading north along fern-encroached Lugard Road. There's another stunning view of Central from the lookout, 20 minutes along, after which the road snakes west to an intersection with Hatton and Harlech roads. From here Lantau, Lamma, and—on incredibly clear days—Macau come into view. The longer option from here is to wind your way down Hatton to the University of Hong Kong campus in Western District.
Bus 15C, usually, but not always, a red double-decker with an open top, shuttles you between the Peak Tram Lower Terminal and Central Bus Terminal near the Star Ferry Pier, every 15 to 20 minutes, for HK$4.20.
Tram between Garden Rd. and Cotton Tree Dr., Hong Kong, Hong Kong–China