Artistic vibes

Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts. Pichaya Svasti

Old Town Central is one of the oldest yet chic districts in Hong Kong where East meets West in the aspect of history, art and culture. It is a food and shopping paradise for those who look for street food, teas, traditional medicines, books, antiques and art. The newly-opened Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts is a popular destination for both locals and tourists along with the street art and boutiques on Hollywood Street and art galleries at PMQ, a cluster of former police flats on Aberdeen Street.

Nestled in the compound of the renovated Central Police Station on Hollywood Road, one of Hong Kong’s oldest streets, Tai Kwun consists of the former Central Police Station, Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison. Here, visitors hope to gain knowledge and achieve the appreciation of heritage, arts and history.

Led by the government of Hong Kong SAR and The Hong Kong Jockey Club, the restoration of these historic buildings was carried out under high standards of heritage conservation to maintain their authenticity.

The Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts has historical significance, witnessing changes in Hong Kong since the former Central Police Station (CPS) was founded during the early times of British colonial rule. In 1995, the former CPS, Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison were announced as Declared Monuments.

The first building in the compound is the Magistrate’s House with jail blocks. It was constructed in 1841 and later expanded and reconstructed several times. Two years after Victoria Prison was decommissioned in 2006, the restoration project took shape with the aim to showcase heritage and find a unique arts and cultural location for everyone.

Visitors can explore Tai Kwun by themselves by following provided brochures or audio guides on the Tai Kwun application or taking different suggested routes in the compound. Also, you can learn about self-guided walks in the Heritage Storytelling Space in Barrack Block.

You can begin at Block 1 — Police Headquarters Block — which tells the story of the Central Police Station through exhibitions, old photos and objects and models. Block 3, or Barrack Block, boasts the Main Heritage Gallery while Block 9, or the central magistracy, offers history lessons. If you want to know about Life in Victoria Prison, admission of prisoners and their meals, you should visit B Hall, D Hall and F Hall respectively. More than 20 sites called Tai Kwun Tales are also for the telling of legends, conservation work and other stories in a simple and relaxing fashion.

Currently, you can also learn about Tai Kwun and its Central neighbourhood through the ongoing “100 Faces Of Tai Kwun” exhibition in Block 1. The exhibit compiles the stories of Old Town Central.

In the exhibition’s “In Tai Kwun”, “Along The Streets” and “At The Shops” zones, you can check seven story boxes and story panels and watch videotaped interviews with a number of people who worked at the Central Police Station and more than 100 neighbours from all walks of life. The policemen recall the old days of their work and friends while many locals and passers-by have their own stories to share. Some of them were illegal hawkers who were often arrested. They became friends with police after repeated arrest. In the “Central From Above” zone, visitors can watch videos about what happens every day in the area and what the locals see on their way home.

A highlight is the “In Cha Chaan Teng” zone that features the tradition of Hong Kong’s food culture — picking a seat and sharing your table with strangers during peak hours. In this zone, visitors can take a seat at a provided table and listen to stories about Central.

At Tai Kwun, many visitors, especially youngsters, are seen excited, particularly when stepping inside the former cells at Victoria Prison and experiencing the retro atmosphere starting from prisoners’ admission to their diets and childcare services. Models, illustrations and multimedia are applied to enhance the experience.

Besides learning about local history and taking pictures and selfies, visitors can enjoy shopping for arts and crafts, clothes, art books and teas, and savouring a variety of food ranging from Chinese dishes to fine Western food and desserts and ice cream.

Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts. Pichaya Svasti

Displays at the Police Headquarters Block.

The “100 Faces of Tai Kwun” exhibition.

Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts is open daily during 11am-8pm. Admission is free. Visit for more information.

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