This study investigated the “roadside-to-ambient” evolution of particle physicochemical and optical properties in typical urban atmospheres of Hong Kong through collection of chemically-resolved PM2.5 data and PM2.5 size distribution at a roadside and an ambient site. Roadside particle size distribution showed typical peaks in the nuclei mode (30–40 nm) while ambient measurements peaked in the Aitken mode (50–70 nm), revealing possible condensation and coagulation growth of freshly emitted particles during aging processes. Much higher levels of anthropogenic chemical components, i.e. nitrate, sulfate, ammonium, organic carbon (OC) and elemental carbon (EC), but lower levels of OC/EC and secondary inorganic aerosols (SIA)/EC ratios appeared in roadside than ambient particles. The high OC/EC and SIA/EC ratios in ambient particles implied high contributions from secondary aerosols. Black carbon (BC), a strong light absorbing material, showed large variations in optical properties when mixed with other inorganic and organic components. Particle-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (p-PAHs), an indicator of brown carbon (BrC), showed significant UV-absorbing ability. The average BC and p-PAHs concentrations were 3.8 and 87.6 ng m−3, respectively, at the roadside, but were only 1.5 and 18.1 ng m−3 at the ambient site, suggesting BC and p-PAHs concentrations heavily driven by traffic emissions. In contrast, PM2.5 UV light absorption coefficients (babs-BrC,370nm) at the ambient site (4.2 Mm−1) and at the roadside site (4.1 Mm−1) were similar, emphasizing that particle aging processes enhanced UV light-absorbing properties, a conclusion that was also supported by the finding that the Absorption Ångström coefficient (AAC) value at UV wavelengths (AAC_UV band) at the ambient site were ∼1.7 times higher than that at the roadside. Both aqueous reaction and photochemically produced secondary organic aerosol (SOA) for ambient aerosols contributed to the peak values of babs-BrC,370nm in ambient particles at midnight and around noon, highlighting that secondary BrC had different sources and particle aging in the atmosphere affected BrC and BC properties and related aerosol light absorption.