If you’re looking for day trip inspo, Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden at Diamond Hill are perfect for a day out with the family!
Kowloon district has some of Hong Kong’s richest cultural and historical gems, and a day trip to the Chi Lin Nunnery, Nan Lian Garden and to nearby Kowloon’s Walled City Park is the perfect spot to entertain the young ones (and have some time away from your normal routine). We’ve sorted out all the details for a fun-filled day with your family to check out one of the most incredibly beautiful places to go in the 852.
When you bring your family to the Chi Lin Nunnery, there are a few considerations to be aware of. For one, the temple is still actively used for its religious purposes, so kids will need to be respectful and mindful of this. Loud noises and photography within the temple halls are prohibited, and there are security guards around to remind visitors. With that in mind, visiting the Chi Lin Nunnery is a wonderful way to show your kids a piece of Chinese culture and religion.
Chi Lin Nunnery
The Chi Lin Nunnery is an active Buddhist temple that was built in 1934 as a retreat for Buddhist nuns. It was refurbished in the 1990s in traditional Tang dynasty architecture bringing it to its current state. Within the temple halls, there is a variety of statues in which people still pray, like the Sakyamuni Buddha, the Goddess of Mercy, as well as the other Bodhisattvas. These statues are made from impressive materials such as gold, clay, wood and stone and are a marvel to look at. Outside the temple halls, you’ll see a lavish and breathtaking lotus garden that makes for some stellar pictures. In the backdrop of Chi Lin Nunnery, you will find your typical Hong Kong high-rise buildings making for an interesting clash of old, new, calm and hustle.
Entrance Fee: Free
Opening Hours: Temple: 9:00am to 4:30pm daily, Lotus gardens: 7:00am to 7:00pm daily
How To Get There: Take exit C2 from the Diamond Hill MTR station and walk through the Hollywood Plaza mall. Then turn east onto Fung Tak Rd. The nunnery is a 5-minute walk away. If you take this route, you will find yourself in the Nan Lian Gardens first.
Nan Lian Garden
The Nan Lian Garden is a traditional Chinese, Tang dynasty-style garden that opened in 2006 next to the Chi Lin Nunnery. Inside you’ll find a gorgeous walking path and 35,000 square metres of beauty. The gardens are currently managed and maintained by the Chi Lin Nunnery and the Hong Kong Government, and are conveniently attached to the nunnery making it easy to visit both areas. Noise barriers surround the entire garden to help block out the bustling Kowloon streets and help maintain the tranquillity of the gardens. You may also notice that extensive vegetation has also been planted near the borders to help filter out the city’s exhaust and dust.
Within the gardens, you will find a rockery with different types of Chinese-style vegetation, a water mill, a large pond with some exceptionally large and beautiful koi fish, as well as the Pavilion of Absolute Perfection that is attached to the Zi Wu Bridge. These last two attractions are not accessible to visitors, unfortunately, but you can still admire their beauty and get a couple of great family photos in front of them.
The gardens are also home to a Chinese timber architecture gallery in which you can view a variety of miniature buildings built in different styles of Chinese architecture in exquisite detail. The gardens usually have a visiting art gallery that might cost a little bit for admission but the building is also air conditioned so it is worth it on a hot day.
We recommend you check out the souvenir shop here if you are looking for a unique or beautiful gift. You’ll find everything from tea sets to bookmarks, journals, bags, fans, dried goods, veggie sauces and more.
Entrance Fee: Free
Hours: Garden: 7:00am to 9:00pm daily, Exhibits: 10:00am to 5:00pm daily
Restaurants Near Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden
You can easily spend a few hours, or even half a day at Chi Lin Nunnery and the Nan Lian Garden, which is sure to work up an appetite. Thankfully there are some delicious eats within the garden and nearby.
Chi Lin Vegetarian – Meat-free dim sum restaurant near Chi Lin nunnery
Did you know that vegetarian cuisine goes back as early as the 6th century in China? Serving up contemporary and healthy vegetarian food, Chi Lin Vegetarian offers lunch and dinner with set meals with a choice of Chinese and Western selections, as well as a la carte choices, dim sum, rice and noodles. On the weekends, you can sit for afternoon tea and enjoy some cake, snacks, dim sum and drinks. With no service charge, the Chi Lin Vegetarian is easy on the wallet too! For omnivores, the Chi Lin Vegetarian asks that you do not bring any non-vegetarian outside food into the restaurant including baby food (baby formula is okay).
Sassy Mama Tip: The restaurant can get busy at the weekend so don’t forget to call ahead to book and reserve a table!
Song Cha Xie – Traditional Chinese tea house in Nan Lian Garden
If you can, schedule some solo time so you can enjoy the tranquil atmosphere of this beautiful tea house alone! Song Cha Xie is a traditional Chinese tea house that serves high ends teas, such as green, oolong and white and an extensive range of aged pu’reh as well as some dim sum snacks. Upon entering, you will need to remove your shoes and wear the slippers that are provided, adding to the authentic and relaxing atmosphere. The staff are highly knowledgeable and can advise you on what types of tea to try and exactly how to make it. Whilst inside, you are asked not to take photos and to keep your voice down in order to reap the full benefits of your tea. While the price tag on the teas is a little steep, it is well worth it for the experience. Tea sets and books are also available to purchase.
Tang Gallery Snack Shop – Snacks at Nan Lian Garden
If you’re in the Nan Lian Gardens and your kids can’t wait until the other two venues open (because they need to eat right this minute), the Tang Gallery snack shop will help to avert any tantrums.
Tang Gallery Snack Shop, 60 Fung Tak Road, Sheung Yuen Long, Diamond Hill, Hong Kong
Plaza Hollywood – Mall with eateries near Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden
If no one feels like eating Chinese or toasties, you can always walk back to the Plaza Hollywood mall where a variety of Western eats are available such as McDonald’s, Hoko Farm, Pizza Hut and Starbucks Coffee.
Little Thailand – Vibrant community with authentic Thai Food
If they can hold out a little longer, continue the historical theme for lunch and head down to Little Thailand where you can find the vibrant community of Thai immigrants and workers. The neighbourhood has been home to Thai immigrants since the early 1970s and even looks and feels a little bit like Thailand. From great eats to grocery items, you can find just about anything you would ever need from Thailand right here in Hong Kong. We recommend Thai Vegetarian Food, Cambio Thai Restaurant, Thai Palace Restaurant and Mini Bangkok Thai Food.
Kowloon Walled City Park
Before its demolition in 1993, the Walled City, or as it was referred to in Cantonese, the City of Darkness, was one of the world’s most decently populated slums. The history of this now-memorialised park goes back much further as it dates back to the Sung dynasty 960-1297, when it was a fort for Imperial soldiers. In the latter half of the 19th century, it became a garrison town when the Chinese were facing the British, and then during the British occupation, it became the only part of Hong Kong that China was unwilling to cede to the British. Thus began the largely ungoverned beginnings of the Walled City.
The buildings and utilities were all illegal constructs but they became the home to an estimated 35,000 people who all squished into a few small apartment blocks. The Walled City was known for its gang and drug activity, rat infestations, self-taught dentists and some of the best fish balls in Hong Kong.
After the Walled City’s demolition, the Hong Kong government began work to turn the location into a park to keep the not-so-reputable but fascinating part of Hong Kong’s history alive. The park and its exhibits became open to the public in 1995.
The park offers some very kid-friendly interactive exhibits that will appeal to both kids and adults alike. Some of the original South Gate foundations of the fort are still visible, and the Yamen which was built in 1847, is one of the only remaining buildings in the park. There is also a Chinese zodiac garden, the Mountain View Pavilion, and a chess garden. If your child has rollerblades, a scooter or a bicycle, Carpenter Road Park has many areas for kids to practice spinning their wheels. There is also a bike rental shop nearby but you’ll need your own helmets and protective equipment.
If the kids need more nibbles there is a snack shack and some vending machines available within the park for some quick refuelling.
Opening Hours: Park: 6:30am to 11pm; Exhibits: 10am to 6pm
Entry Fee: Free
How To Get There: Take Exit B at the Lok Fu MTR Station (only two stops away from Diamond Hill MTR Station) and from there it will be about a 15-minute walk to the park.
With the Chi Lin Nunnery, the Nan Lian Garden, Little Thailand and the Walled City Park all within easy reach you can easily spend an adventurous, fun and educational day in this fascinating part of Kowloon!
Editor’s Note: Chi Lin Nunnery And Nan Lian Garden: A Family-Friendly Day Out In Diamond Hill was originally written by Danielle Roberts and updated in December 2022 by Sassy Mama.