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Hong Kong Government House

Hong Kong Government House sometimes opens to the public, we were fortunate to visit it and are happy to share our findings with you:

Building works started in 1851, 9 years after Hong Kong Island became British, and ended in 1855 welcoming the colony’s fourth governor, Sir John Bowring, since 1842. The 3 previous ones had to content themselves with “rentals”.

Here is how the House looked like at first, it is rather different from the one we know nowadays.


These two photos date back to 1860 and 1867 respectively. Both recall the architecture of Flagstaff House, which has not been altered much since its construction in 1846 (the house is officially Hong Kong oldest colonial building still standing).


To come back to Government House, the photo dated 1867 was taken from Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens and shows a much different view than today’s. Isn’t it fascinating to see how wide the bay between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon was and Kowloon’s barren hills (Kowloon Peninsula became British in 1860, hence the lack of activity at the time).

The location was ideal for the governors and their families: botanical garden at the back, next to St John’s Cathedral and with a beautiful view for garden parties.

Government House’s architecture changed over the years following governors’ ambitions and tastes but it is under the Japanese’s occupation (from 1941 to 1944) that the house was altered the most. Two Japanese governors lived in the house and added the tower that still rises above the building nowadays.

This photo dates back to 1962.

The last governor to live in the house was Chris Patten after succeeding 25 British governors.

In 1995, the building was graded as historical monument.

Since Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997, Government House has become Hong Kong’s Chief Executive residence. The first one, Mr Tung Chee Hwa however refused to reside there due to its bad Feng Shui but the second one, Mr. Donald Tsang did. Mr Tsang created a huge polemic for spending 1.4 million euros in renovations to erase British heritage and 30 000 euros to build a new pond to welcome his private collection of carpe Koi.

During the open day, visitors enter the house from the back, which allow them to stroll around the garden.

The photo on the right shows the view from the garden, which differs greatly from the one taken in 1867.

The north side of the house is devided between a charming terrace and a cozy conservatory.

Inside, the living room leads to the terrace

and the dining room to the conservatory:

Visitors can access the center of the house where the main staircase stands.

The decoration is of Asian inspiration.

The Ballroom is the main feature of the house. It was used for receptions and for legislative meetings (between 1891 and 1930).

We invite you to view the following short documentary, which was shot over the colony’s last days. Chris Patten shows around the house and talks about its decoration. The Queen’s coat of arms was hung where the Bauhinia flower now stands.

The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens are still located behind the house. The vegetation is denser and now surrounded by skyscrappers located in the Mid-Levels area.

The house has two tennis courts.

The Government House might not be the nicest colonial building but it is still charming and unique, especially as it is now surrounded by modern skyscrappers.

Book a tour with us to get to know more about Hong Kong history and historical buildings: contact@hkalacarte.com