Visitors to Government House complained their trip was spoiled when the site opened its doors to the public yesterday, as it was "treated like an attraction for mainlanders".
"We wanted to see beautiful flowers. But it's too crowded. It's not just locals … there are also mainland tourists," said Hung Fan-hoi, 50, who was having a picnic on the lawn in front of the building in Central with his sister and two-year-old niece.
"It was not like this when I came about 20 years ago. Perhaps the mainland tourists see this as an attraction," he said.
Around 12,000 visitors turned out between 10am and 5pm, while last year's open day in April pulled more than 18,000 visitors. In 2011, the event attracted just 3,800 people.
Yesterday marked the first open day for the 162-year-old Government House since Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying took over the residence in October. The building was formerly the office and residence of previous governors of Hong Kong during the British colonial rule.
"I wanted to see the furnishings inside, but visitors were kept far away from them. And it was too crowded," said Kinki Yu, who is from Beijing and works at Baptist University as a research assistant. She had read about the open day on social media site Weibo.
"This place is close to the Zoological and Botanical Gardens so it's reasonable that tourists would come," Yu said. "The government should consider holding more open days to ease the crowds."
Government House is a declared monument under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance. It first opened its doors to the public in 1968, to give people a chance to view the garden's flowers and enjoy the unusual blend of Eastern and Western design.
Its construction began in 1851 and it was originally built in the Georgian style with rich colonial characteristics.
It later underwent a number of large-scale renovations during the Japanese occupation, diminishing the mansion's European style.