The harbour’s deep, sheltered waters and strategic location on the South China Sea were instrumental in Hong Kong’s establishment as a British colony and its subsequent development as a trading centre.Long famous for its spectacular views, the harbour is a major tourist attraction of Hong Kong. Lying in the middle of the territory’s dense urban region, the harbour is the site of annual fireworks displays and its promenades are popular gathering places for tourists and residents.
Throughout its history, the harbour has seen numerous reclamation projects undertaken on both shores, many of which have caused controversy in recent years. Environmental concerns have been expressed about the effects of these expansions, in terms of water quality and loss of natural habitat. It has also been proposed that benefits of land reclamation may be less than the effects of decreased harbour width, affecting the number of vessels passing through the harbour. Nonetheless Victoria Harbour still retains its founding role as a port for thousands of international vessels each year.
The Victoria Harbour is world-famous for its dramatic panoramic night view and skyline, particularly in the direction towards Hong Kong Island where the skyline of skyscrapers is superimposed over the ridges behind. Among the best places to view the harbour are the Peak Tower atop Victoria Peak, or from the piazza at the Cultural Centre or the promenade of Tsim Sha Tsui on the Kowloon side. Rides on the Star Ferry, particularly the route between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, are another popular way to view the harbour and cityscape.
As the natural centre of the territory, the harbour has played host to many major public shows, including the annual fireworks displays on the second night of the Lunar New Year. These shows are popular with tourists and locals alike, and the display is usually telecast on local television. To enhance the popularity of the harbour as a sightseeing location, the government introduced a show dubbed A Symphony of Lights Sadly, security guards try to prevent buskers from playing any actual music on the promenade.
Also recently opened was the Avenue of Stars, built along the promenade outside the New World Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui. Modeled on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it honours the most illustrious people the Hong Kong film industry has produced over the past decades.
By the end of November every year, the outer walls of buildings in the central business districts on both sides of the harbours are dressed with Christmas-related decorations, and replaced with Lunar New Year-related ones by January.