Victoria Peak: Hong Kong’s Ultra-Prime Pinnacle

Red tram, Victoria Peak, Hong Kong
Hong Kong's most exclusive neighborhood, Victoria Peak, has been served by an efficient tram – the first cable funicular in Asia – since 1888. (Shutterstock)

With cooler air and bird’s-eye views, Victoria Peak has long been Hong Kong’s most desirable place to live. As depicted in the recent Nicole Kidman-led Prime Video series, Expats, Victoria Peak – or the Peak as it’s known locally – epitomizes wealth and prestige in one of the world’s most expensive, and densely populated, cities.

Reactions to Expats were mixed, but the views here reliably impress, with expansive vistas across Victoria Harbor, Kowloon and the South China Sea. Here the urban jungle gives way to the real thing, with mountain trails that lead you through thick woodland even as downtown Hong Kong is never more than a 10-minute drive from your door.

Photographer and view of Hong Kong

Seeing the city with a bird’s-eye view: Hong Kong from on high. (Shutterstock)

Many are drawn by the area’s seclusion and tranquility, as well as by the comparatively large living spaces (for Hong Kong, that is), not to mention the status that comes with owning property in the city’s most prestigious neighborhood.

“The Peak is home to some of Hong Kong’s wealthiest and most prominent citizens,” says Joshua Miller, CEO of the luxury real estate brokerage OKAY.com. “The businesspeople, politicians and celebrities who reside on the Peak largely prefer to remain private, though well-known residents do include billionaires such as Lee Shau Kee, founder of Henderson Land, and Jack Ma [philanthropist and co-founder of Alibaba Group].”

The Peak is also one of Hong Kong’s most popular tourist destinations, attracting 6 million visitors a year, most arriving by the newly upgraded Peak Tram, which climbs to a 27-degree grade over the course of its nearly one-mile journey. Yet most arrivals rarely venture beyond the terminus, with its shopping malls, restaurants and viewing deck, without realizing that the Peak is first and foremost a residential area – as it has been since Hong Kong’s earliest days as a British colony.

Connecting past to present

The Peak’s evolution into the pinnacle of luxury living began in the late 19th century, when British governor Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell built his summer residence here in 1868. He was soon joined by merchants and colonial administrators seeking respite from Hong Kong’s subtropical heat.

The area’s exclusiveness was a product of its inaccessibility, and in those early years the sedan chair was the only means of conveyance, transporting passengers on a jerky ascent up steep jungle paths. But with the opening of the funicular railway in 1888 – a technological marvel of its day – journey times were significantly reduced and, as a result, the Peak’s desirability increased.

View of Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor

The view of Victoria Harbor from Montebello, a four-bedroom triplex apartment, complete with rooftop pool, on The Peak’s Plantation Road. On the market with OKAY.com for HK $228 million (~US $58 million). (OKAY.com)

Notable residences included the aforementioned governor’s residence (where Victoria Peak Garden is now located); the Eyrie, built on the highest point on Hong Kong Island; and the Peak Lookout, now a restaurant. In 1947 a law prohibiting non-Europeans from living on the Peak was repealed, and the area transitioned from a colonial enclave to the cosmopolitan neighborhood we know today, while maintaining its elite appeal. As Miller describes it, “The perception of prestige fostered by high prices in turn maintained the exclusivity of the Peak in a reinforcing cycle that remains to this day.”

Although a handful of colonial-style villas remain, most properties on the Peak – also known as Mount Austin – skew toward the contemporary and cutting edge, as befits Hong Kong’s forward-thinking citizens. As Magazine Gap Road joins Peak Road, you’ll see luxury condominiums rise up over the tops of acacia and camphor trees, along with the occasional gated villa dotted with surveillance cameras.

The perception of prestige fostered by high prices in turn maintained the exclusivity of the Peak in a reinforcing cycle that remains to this day.

Among the most lavish properties is the Frank Gehry-designed Opus, with its twisting, sculptural design. Then there’s Twelve Peaks, a high-end development featuring 12 multistory houses, each with a private pool. And the Mount Nicholson, another prestigious development that has set records for some of the most expensive apartments sold in Asia.

Pricing and demand on the Peak

Prices on the Peak range from US $5,000 to $15,000 per square foot, says Miller, for luxury condos (typically US $10 million and up) and stand-alone houses, some of which have sold for as much as US $80 to $250 million in recent years, based on the size of the estate.

Typically, properties include 24-hour security with military-grade, state-of-the-art systems; concierge services; private swimming pools and gardens; and the latest in smart-home technology. Stunning sea views are standard. 

All locations on the Peak are desirable, with the most coveted addresses on Coombe Road, Middle Gap Road, Barker Road and Mount Kellett Road, according to Okay.com. Limited housing, long-term ownership and strict land protection policies mean property listings are rare, underscoring the area’s exclusivity.

Not quite above the clouds, but nearly. This three-bedroom, four-bathroom apartment on the Peak’s Plunkett’s Road spans over 4,000 square feet and is on the market for HK $454,960,000 (~US $28 million). (OKAY.com)

A bedroom with views of Victoria Peak, Hong Kong.

Floor-to-ceiling windows at this Plunkett’s Road apartment take in sky, city and green space. (OKAY.com)

The premium prices – among the highest in the world – reflect the wider issue of land availability in Hong Kong. “Unlike many major cities, Hong Kong has limited developable land, which is quite mountainous,” says Miller. “As the population and wealth of the city have expanded, the city has not had the ability to expand geographically. In other words, highly limited supply.

Demand has grown significantly in the last 100 years, Miller says, as Hong Kong evolved from a fishing village into a major global financial center. The market has also benefited from China’s rapid economic development. Robust business and legal systems and a favorable tax environment propel real estate values, which Miller anticipates will continue to rise.

Despite a downturn in recent years, there are signs the property market is rebounding. Earlier this year, a two-story, 11,687-square-foot detached house on secluded Lugard Road sold for HK $838 million (US $107 million) to a buyer from mainland China. The recent rescinding of local property cooling measures has led to a more than 60% increase in residential sales since March, Miller says.

The costs of a Peak lifestyle

To be truly at home among the Peak’s social set, a membership in a private club – of which Hong Kong has several – is almost standard. Fees average thousands of  US dollars a year, and typically afford access to exclusive dining venues, tennis courts, golf courses and other recreational facilities, plus a calendar of high-society events and activities.

For families with children, the Peak School,  founded in 1911, is, as its name suggests, conveniently located. Annual tuition fees are currently around HK $168,000 (US $21,000). Other nearby international schools are of similar educational standard and carry comparable fees.

The Peak Tower and rooftop restaurant atop Victoria Peak on a sunny day: where else would you have lunch?

Should the need arise, the cost of medical “packages” at the private Matilda International Hospital can vary, from HK $30,000 (about US $3,800) to upward of HK $250,000 (US $ 32,000) depending on the procedure. Other expenses include live-in domestic help – common among the city’s wealthy residents – private chauffeurs and after-school lessons for children, a norm in education-focused Hong Kong.

For those with the means, life amid the rarefied air of Victoria Peak offers an elevated standard of luxury – and soaring prices to match.

Montebello and 3 Plunkett’s Road are both on the market with OKAY.com. The listing agent is Joshua Miller.

Author

Oliver is a British-born writer, printmaker and illustrator. He has spent much of his life in various countries and now calls Europe and Asia home.

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