Edited by Mike Aquino.
Hong Kong already has a breathtakingly beautiful skyline – now how can you improve on it? Lasers. (Insert Dr. Evil air-quotes.)
Hong Kong’s Symphony of Lights show pairs Central’s skyscrapers with the world’s largest ongoing light and sound show. Playing off the forest of high-rises that surround Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, the Symphony of Lights pulses and flashes with spotlights and colored beams all set to music.
The show features 46 of Hong Kong’s most iconic skyscrapers and buildings, exploding with lasers and spotlights in a carefully crafted and choreographed 14-minute extravaganza.
But is it worth going out of your way to see?
Viewing the Symphony of Lights
Taking place every evening at 8pm, the Symphony of Lights matches its lasers and spotlights with a musical score performed by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. The music blends Western orchestral instruments, Chinese string instruments like the erhu and Chinese flutes, and haunting vocals – all creating a mesmerizing “east meets west” effect.
A 2018 redesign by Hong Kong design agency Artists in Motion revitalized the show with new lighting elements and a smashing new score by Christian Steinhäuser. (Watch this Youtube video that shows how the lights and the sound come together.)
Fireworks are added to the show during holidays or special events – all the better reason to time your visit to a Hong Kong festival!
Tuning in to the music: if you’re not watching at a location with speakers broadcasting the music and narration, you can tune in anyway through the event’s mobile app, which provides the audio in sync with the show. Download here: Apple App Store, Google Play
If you have a pocket radio handy (or if your cellphone can tune into the FM band), listen to the music on FM 103.4 MHz for the English-language broadcast.
Suspensions: When the Hong Kong Observatory issues a Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal No.3 or above, or if a Red or Black Rainstorm Warning Signal is raised at or after 3 pm, the show will be suspended.
The Symphony of Lights will also be suspended during the evening of Earth Hour; during days of mourning; or during national emergencies. These suspensions may take place without prior notice.
Where to Watch the Symphony of Lights
There are several vantage points best suited for Symphony watchers. Some of them broadcast music and narration, but the language varies day by day. English speakers will want to catch the English-narrated show on Monday, Wednesday or Friday. On Sunday the narration is in Cantonese and the remaining days in Mandarin Chinese.
On Victoria Harbour. Probably the best option for those who want to get a 360-degree picture of the Symphony of Lights is to join one of the dedicated harbor cruises. The ninety-minute Symphony of Lights Harbor Cruise takes in the show and also offers drinks on board. Alternatively, you can take a trip on the Star Ferry, which pauses for a few minutes especially to allow passengers to enjoy the show.
Kowloon. Back on dry land, the best of the show takes place on Hong Kong Island, so the best vantage point is over in Kowloon.
The Avenue of Stars, on the water's edge, offers a perfect view, as does the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Both places feature a broadcast of the narration and soundtrack.
Another good option, and substantially less crowded, is the Ocean Terminal pier just to the north of the Star Ferry Terminal. There is plenty of space at both locations and you don't need to arrive early to get a good viewing spot.
Hong Kong Island. Closer to the action, watch the show from the Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai, where music and narration is also broadcast over speakers, and you can see Hong Kong's tallest skyscraper get in on the act up close.
You can also see the show (from a great distance) at Victoria Peak.