What’s in a name? – The rich history of Hong Kong’s roads


Hong Kong’s rich colonial past is widely known. The British ruled Hong Kong for 150 years before handing back Hong Kong to China in 1997. As Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of China, many people opined that perhaps the city would be stripped off its colonial character.

However, that did not happen and Hong Kong today, is a teeming, vibrant metropolis, which continues to display until today several vestiges of its long, colonial era. In fact, many of Hong Kong’s roads and streets continue to bear the names of prominent colonial figures(mainly former governors) and they thus provide a valuable insight into the fascinating history of Hong Kong.

Victoria Peak

Victoria Peak is perhaps Hong Kong’s most famous attraction. Rising to a height of 1811 feet or 552 meters, the Peak is Hong Kong’s highest mount. Aside from serving as a popular tourist site, Victoria Peak named after Queen Victoria, is a favored abode of the rich and famous in Hong Kong. Home to some of the most expensive real estate in the world, the Peak and its surroundings offer year round temperate climes and panoramic views of Hong Kong and beyond.

Queen’s Road

Queen’s Road is yet another area that is named after Queen Victoria.  Queen’s Road is the main thoroughfare that traverses Hong Kong Island and consists of four sections.  The British built Queen’s Road in the mid-nineteenth century.  Queen’s Road originally traverses the expansive area encompassed by Victoria City, the first British urban settlement and the former capital of Hong Kong.

The four main sections of Queen’s Road include Queen’s Road Central, Queen’s Road West, Queensway in Admiralty and Queen’s Road East. Much of Queen’s Road is commercial in nature, and this main arterial road hosts many landmark business and government buildings of the city.

MacDonnell Road

MacDonnell Road is a tranquil street located in the affluent and highly desirable, Mid-Levels Central neighborhood of Hong Kong. Named after the sixth governor of Hong Kong, Richard Graves MacDonnell, serene MacDonnell Road extends from Garden Road in the Central Mid-Levels to Kennedy Road in the Mid-Levels East district. Primarily residential in character, the accommodation options on MacDonnell Road include expansive, colonial-style residences that evoke the grandeur of old Hong Kong.

Garden Road

Stretching upwards from Queensway, Garden Road is the main arterial road of the Central Mid-Levels district. It connects to other prominent roads of the area like Cotton Tree Drive, Robinson Road, and Magazine Gap Road. Garden Road is home to several important historical and culturally significant sights. St John’s Cathedral, the Peak Tram Terminus, the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, Rawlinson House, the Helena May Building and St Joseph’s Church are well-known landmarks that dot Garden Road.  Estoril Court, a much sought-after residential complex is a prominent address on this main passageway. Garden Road leads onto Robinson Road and Magazine Gap Road.

Robinson Road

Bearing the name of the fifth governor of Hong Kong, Sir Hercules Robinson, Robinson Road is the main drag of the immensely popular Mid-Levels West neighborhood. Luxe, amenity-filled apartment complexes dot the long stretch of Robinson Road, which connects to Babington Road and Park Road in the west and Magazine Gap and Garden Road in the east. Excellent transport links including a connection to the Central Mid-Levels escalator and the easy availability of everyday conveniences like supermarkets, convenience stores, and restaurants all add to the appeal of Robinson Road.

Upper Albert Road

Upper Albert Road bears the name of Albert, Prince Consort and the husband of Queen Victoria.  This U-shaped road is also located in the Central Mid-Levels and connects to Garden Road, Lower Albert Road, Kennedy Road and Cotton Tree Drive on one end.  The other end of  Upper Albert Road hosts the magnificent residence of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, and it is bounded by the expanse of the verdant Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical gardens on one side. Upper Albert Road served as one of the boundary roads of the former capital of Hong Kong Victoria City.

Bowen Road

Verdant Bowen Road in the Central Mid-Levels is named after the ninth governor of Hong Kong George Ferguson Bowen. During the 19th century, Bowen Road was called ‘Third Road’ as it was the third road from the shore after Queen’s Road and Kennedy Road. The British constructed Bowen Road as a passageway over the aqueduct that was built to transfer water from Tai Tam Reservoir to Central.  Bowen Road once served as the south boundary of the erstwhile Victoria City. Today, Bowen Road is famed for its leafy, walking path, a popular fitness trail suitable for all ages.

Kennedy Road

Like many other roads in Hong Kong, Kennedy Road bears the name of a former governor of Hong Kong, Arthur Kennedy, the seventh governor of Hong Kong.  Kennedy Road, which is located in the Mid-Levels East region, extends from Garden Road in the West and curves along the hillside until it dips down to merge with Queen’s Road East in Wan Chai.  A primarily residential area, Kennedy Road hosts a variety of residential complexes that range from ultra-luxurious towers and multi-tower developments to walk-ups and colonial low-rise buildings. Various pathways and steps cut into the hillside connect Kennedy Road to the lively neighborhood of Wan Chai that lies directly below this road.  Aside from residential complexes, Kennedy Road is home to various institutions like St Joseph’s College, the oldest Catholic boys school in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Visual Art’s Centre, Hong Kong Park and Hopewell Centre.

Stubbs Road

Stubbs Road bears the name of the 16th governor of Hong Kong, Sir Reginald Edward Stubbs.  Stubbs Road is also located in Mid-Levels East neighborhood, and it connects Happy Valley and the Peak Area. Stubbs Road is dotted with many grand, expensive colonial-style residences. In recent times, however, it has come to be known as the home of one of the most exclusive and expensive residences in the world, the Frank Gehry-designed, the Opus.