When the first gleaming towers of Hong Kong’s burgeoning downtown skyline first appeared, cities like Paris, London and even New York City were already centuries in the making. Rising from the foundations of a humble British outpost, Hong Kong is now the undisputed heavyweight of the metropolitan world. For sheer vibrancy, energy and urban glamour, few cities in the world are legitimate contenders. Hong Kong’s meteoric rise to urban superstardom is the result of its restless nature. If there is one word to sum up Hong Kong it’s “ambitious”. Both the city and its people are ever-moving and ever-reaching for the sky.
Top 10 Destinations in Hong Kong
Wong Tai Sin Temple
What it is: One of the best places in Hong Kong to get in touch with the area’s cultural side is Wong Tai Sin Temple. It’s one of the city’s most renowned shrines and biggest tourist attractions. The temple is dedicated to the Taoist deity, Wong Tai Sin or the “Great Immortal Wong” who, according to legend, was born in the third century A.D. and was able to turn stones into sheep. Among local residents, the shrine is famous for granting revellers a chance to fulfil their wishes. As such, it’s one of the foremost places for locals to go when they’re in need of some answered prayers. In addition to the genuinely intriguing atmosphere, it’s one of the best places in Hong Kong to go to see traditional local culture in action.
Must See: The architecture of Wong Tai Sin Temple is of a traditional style. Its red pillars, golden roof, yellow latticework and mutli-coloured wood carvings look as though they’ve been pulled straight out of a Kung Fu movie. One of the first sights you’ll encounter is the Nine Dragon Wall at the temple’s entrance, which has been modelled after one similar in Beijing. From there you’ll enter the Three Saint Hall, which has been dedicated to, as the name would indicated, three saints: Lu Dongbin, Guan Yin and Lord Guan. This Hall also contains a portrait of Confucius and a collection of Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist literature. Beyond that is the Grand Hall or, if you can pronounce it, the Daxiong-Baodian and then Sansheng Hall andGood Wish Garden.
How to get there by Train: Take the MTR to the Wong Tai Sin Station. Take Exit B2 and walk directly towards Wong Tai Sin Temple.
Victoria Peak offers the most iconic vantage point from which to view Hong Kong’s urban splendour and wealth of natural beauty. From this lofty perch you’ll see one of the finest harbours on earth wrap around an audacious metropolitan skyline with the backdrop of emerald-green mountains fading off into the distance. Peering down on the whole of Hong Kong from this lofty perch is both a humbling and awe-inspiring experience making it, undoubtedly, one of the cities premiere attractions for both locals and tourists alike.
Victoria Peak is renowned for its spectacular sunsets. It’s highly advisable to plan your trip there for late in the afternoon, at least an hour or so before sunset. At the top you’ll find numerous restaurants and cafes, many of which advertise their spectacular views. Our favourite is the 360-degree view from The Sky Terrace 428, although the public viewing platform offers superb panoramic views as well.
How to get there:
By Train: Victoria Peak is reached via a 120-year old funicular railway which departs from Garden Road. The nearest MTR station is Central Station, from there you can walk to the railway on Garden Road.
Shek O Beach
One of the things that surprises many visitors of Hong Kong is the unexpected ease with which you can get away from the hustle and bustle. In less than an hour you can go from the hectic city centre to tranquil stretches of sand and beach lined with clear blue water. Little-known to those who have never been to Hong Kong, it’s far more than just a city. In fact, there are 62 other islands in the territory, each containing beaches that are alluring in their own right. One of Hong Kong’s best beaches is undoubtedly Shek O Beach. It’s a standout for its dramatic scenery. With Ng Fan Chau Island rising dramatically out of the water just offshore, it’s easily one of the most picturesque beaches in Hong Kong.
Shek O Beach faces the South China Sea and the Po Toi Islands. Contributing to the beach’s reputation as being one of the most photogenic in Hong Kong is its proximity to Ng Fan Chau Island and, a bit further off in the distance, Sung Kong and Waglan Islands. Just two kilometres north of Shek O Beach is Big Wave Bay which, as its name would indicate, is a hit with surfers due to the large waves that wash up on its beach. The Dragon’s Back mountain ridge just above Big Wave Bay, aside from being beautiful, is the only place in Hong Kong where you can go paragliding.
Shek O is also home to several small but charming villages. Shek O Village was built by fishermen some two hundred years ago. It’s major attraction is Tin Hau Temple. Combined with the two other small villages,Huk Tsui Village and Big Wave Village, there is a tiny collective local population of about 200 people.
How to get there:
By Train and bus: Take the MTR from Central Station to Shau Kei Wan Station. From there, take exit A3 to the Shau Kei Wan Bus Terminal. The bus to Shek O Beach from the terminal takes about thirty minutes.
Man Mo Temples
Man Mo Temple is one of Hong Kong’s oldest and most historically significant places of worship. The gods of literature, “Man”, and the gods of war, “Mo”, were both revered in Taoist culture for their value in helping students of Imperial China succeed in their rigorous civil examinations. Somewhat confusingly, there are several Man Mo Temples in Hong Kong. The name refers more to its purpose than any specific building. The oldest and largest of Hong Kong’s Mon Mo Temples is the one located in Sheung Wan. Here you’ll find incense-filled chambers and an ambiance little-changed since its construction in 1847 during the Qing Dynasty.
The largest and most celebrated Man Mo Temple in Hong Kong is the one located on Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan. It’s part of a complex of buildings including Man Mo Temple itself, Lit Shing Temple and Kung So. Man Mo Temple is the largest building in the complex and is devoted to the civil god, Man Cheong and the god of war, Kwan Tai. Lit Shing Kung is more of a general-purpose building and is used in the worship of all heavenly gods in the Taoist belief system. Kung So had a much more utilitarian purpose, and was primarily used to address community affairs during the time of its construction. Collectively, they are all recognized as Grade One historic buildings and are considered to be a protected national monument.
While most people, when they refer to Man Mo Temple, are referring to the one on Hollywood Road, there are several other temples in Hong Kong that were built for the same purpose. There’s one on Lantau Island in Pak Ngan Heung and also on Fu Shin Street in Tai Po. Both are smaller and more modern, but also atmospheric.
How to get there:
By Train: Take the MTR to Central Station. From there, take exit D2 and turn right on Theatre Lane. Then, walk along Queen’s Road Central towards The Center. Take the Central Mid-Levels Escalator toHollywood Road.
From Sheung Wan Station, take exit A2, then proceed up Hillier Street to Queen’s Road Central. From there, head up Ladder Street to Hollywood Road and on to the Man Mo Temple.
Home to some of Hong Kong’s most pristine natural scenery and some of its most fascinating historical monuments, Lantau Island is the largest island in the territory. While the biggest draw to the island is the “Big Buddha” statue, it’s the spectacular mountainous scenery that make Lantau Island truly stand apart from other destinations in Hong Kong. While only a short ferry-ride away from the urban chaos of the city, when gazing across the spine of its famous mountain range it’s easy to think that you’re a world apart.
The most popular attraction on Lantau Island is hidden away in the lush mountains of the island at Po Lin Monastery. There you’ll find the famous Tian Tian Buddha. This massive 202-ton bronze statue is commonly and aptly referred to as the “Big Buddha.” Erected in 1993, it stands 34 meters tall and overlooks some of the most scenic mountain scenery in the territory. Buddhist pilgrims from around the world make a trip here to gaze upon the Buddha and its gorgeous surroundings.
Opposite the Big Buddha Statue is the Po Lin Monastery. It’s considered to be Hong Kong’s most important Buddhist sanctum and has been dubbed the “Buddhist world in the South”. There you’ll find a great number of traditionally dressed Buddhist monks, and the monastery itself is rich with colourful Buddhist imagery and a verdant garden. The monastery is also well-known for the delightful vegetarian cuisine offered at its on-site restaurant.
Lantau Island is well-known for its cultural riches as well, and is home to a number of charming villages where visitors can glimpse traditional ways of life in Hong Kong. Tai O is a traditional fishing village where houses have been built on stilts –lending to its nickname “Eastern Venice”.
There’s also Mui Wo, a rural town on the eastern side of the island. The main beach here, known as “Silver Mine” is known for its relaxing atmosphere and scenic surroundings. In addition to having a waterfall, there are also numerous hiking trails in the area that are ripe for exploration.
Just off the coast of Tung Chung, in the north-west of the island, there is a population of endangeredChinese White Dolphins that call the area home. Numerous boat companies in the area offer tours and if you’re lucky you’ll have a chance to see these majestic pink dolphins swim and play in their natural habitat.
Another one of Lantau Island’s biggest draws is Hong Kong Disneyland. It’s one of the largest and most elaborately designed theme parks in Asia and is a perfect day-trip option for travellers with kids.
How to get there:
By Train: The fastest way to Lantau Island is via MTR from Tung Chung Station. This train also connects with a special rail service at Sunny Bay to take visitors directly to Disneyland.
By Boat: The easiest and most scenic way to get to Lantau Island is by ferry. These depart from Outlying Islands Pier in Central, just west of the Star Ferries Terminal. Depending on where you’re going on Lantau, these will take you to either Discovery Bay or Mui Wo.
Kowloon Walled City Park
What it is:
The most interesting thing about the Kowloon Walled City Park isn’t the park itself, but its predecessor. The park has been built on top of the former Kowloon Walled City for which it is named. The walled city was originally built as a Chinese military fort as far back as 960 A.D. during the Song Dynasty. After a less-than-mundane history serving its intended function, the Walled City’s transition to its infamous state began with the surrender of Japan during World War II. After the Chinese announced their desire to retake the Walled City, people from throughout the area flooded it with the expectation that they would be protected from the Japanese invaders who had wreaked havoc throughout the rest of the city. By the mid-1970’s it was the most densely populated place on earth. With between 30,000 and 50,000 people in over 300 buildings occupying an area just 3.8 hectares in size, it was 116 times more densely populated than Manhattan.
The park that was built in its place is modelled after the Jiangnan Gardens of the early Qing Dynasty and is divided into eight landscape features. The park’s paths and pavilions are named after streets and buildings of the former Walled City and the park also features artefacts from its ancient past.
There is now a host of attractive places within the park that was built upon the Walled City. To start with, there are eight Floral Walks, each dedicated to their namesake bloom. There are also several charming pavilions on the grounds, including the Kuixing Pavilion with its Moon Gate and Guibi Rock. Mountain View Pavilion has one of the best viewpoints from which to see the entire park and there are three smaller pavilions worth seeing too: Lung Tsun, Yuk Tong, and Lung Nam. One of the main attractions in the park is the remains of the South Gate which date back to its ancient past and Yamen, a building consisting of three halls which originally served administrative purposes and were left standing to this day.
How to get there:
By Train: Take the MTR to Lok Fu Station and depart the station through Exit B. From there, it’s quickest to then take a taxi to Tung Tau Tsuen Road.
What it is:
There may not be an apartment complex in the whole of Asia as famous as Chungking Mansions. It is an impossibly dense maze of crumbling concrete buildings covered in graffiti in multiple languages that has somehow become an icon of Hong Kong. The area is teeming with residents hailing from South Asia, Africa and beyond and is often referred to as a Hong Kong’s hub of low-end globalisation. While it wouldn’t be at all unfair to describe it as something of an eyesore in the city- it’s probably one of the world’s most famous ghettos- there’s something undeniably alluring about Chungking Mansions, too. Without a doubt, it’s one of Hong Kong’s most unique places. Any trip to Hong Kong would be incomplete without witnessing its mayhem first hand.
Chungking Mansions is a complex consisting of five blocks, A, B, C, D and E. Each is 17-stories tall. There are three malls within the complex, although it was originally intended to be for residential use. In truth, the experience of witnessing Chungking Mansions isn’t so much about the destination itself as it is the sheer spectacle of it. It’s a totally unique side of Hong Kong that you’re not likely to see anywhere else and, for that reason alone, is worthy of visiting.
How to get there:
By Train: Get out at Tsim Sha Tsui Station and take exit E to head south on Nathan Road. Chungking Mansion will be on the left –you can’t miss it!
Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden
Cutting through a mix of high-rise apartments and commercial buildings in Diamond hill is the tranquil Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery. One is a meticulously landscaped area spanning 3.5 hectares, with each rock, plant and body of water placed in strict accordance to the principals of Feng Shui. The other is a large complex of elegant structures designed in the Tang Dynasty style (618-907 A.D.) with Buddhist relics and peaceful lotus ponds. Built entirely out of cedar wood, without using even a single nail, the complex is meant to convey a oneness with nature. It’s also the largest hand-made wooden structure in the world. What makes the area so unique, though, is the juxtaposition this tranquil Buddhist environment has with the towering urban landscape in the background. At least from a visual perspective, it’s the perfect symbolic representation of Hong Kong as a whole –a perfect fusion of old and new.
Upon entering the complex of the Chi Lin Nunnery you’ll encounter the Sam Mun, a series of three gates representing the Buddhist concepts of compassion, wisdom and “skilful means”. The first courtyard, which contains the picturesque Lotus Pond Garden, leads to the Hall of Celestial Kings, which contains a large statue of a seated Buddha surrounded by the deities of the four cardinal points. Just beyond this is the main hall, containing a statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha flanked by two standing disciples and two seated Bodhisattvas.
The Nan Lian Garden is just opposite the nunnery. Constructed in the Tang Dynasty style, it was built around a central pond and is meant to be traversed through a one-way circular path. Upon entering the garden, you’ll pass through the Black Lintel Gate which is interestingly a picturesque brown colour. From there you’ll be led to the Chinese Timber Architectural Gallery and then on again to the centrepiece of the garden, the Pavilion of Absolute Perfection and its spectacular adjoining Red Bridge.
How to get there:
To reach the nunnery, take exit C2 from the Diamond Hill MTR station. Then, walk through the Hollywood Plaza shopping centre and turn east on to Fung Tak Rd. The nunnery is a five-minute walk away from there.
10,000 Buddhas Monastery
What it is:
10,000 Buddhas Monastery was built atop a large hill in Sha Tin by a devout Buddhist laymen. Over the course of some two decades, he carried all of the materials used to build the site all the way up to the top of the hill on foot. Intriguingly, as there are no monks living on the compound, it isn’t actually a monastery and, in fact, there aren’t 10,000 Buddha’s. There are more than that. Combined with the dozens of life-sized Buddhas in the complex, there are more than 12,000 Buddhas to be seen here. The place is unlike any other in Hong Kong and well worth a visit.
You encounter the first set of Buddhas on the way up to the peak. While ascending some 431 steps, you’ll pass by a great number of large golden seated Buddhas lining the stairway. Distracting you from the humid tropical heat during your ascent is the fact that each of these life-sized Buddha statues are totally unique. Some are fat, some are skinny, some are angry, some are happy.
Upon reaching the top, the statues get even more interesting. The sheer variety of poses, faces and styles of these Buddhas is astounding. There are Buddhas, quite literally, everywhere –frolicking amongst the trees, hiding behind foliage, perched on top of rocks, riding statuesque elephants –you name it.
Contributing to the bizarre nature of the temple is the fact that its creator, Yuet Kai, was once exhumed, mummified and lacquered in gold to be put on display as the Diamond Indestructible Body of Yuexi,which was one of the temples biggest- and undoubtedly strangest- attractions. His body is now displayed in a glass case in the main hall of the monastery.
How to get there:
By Train and Bus: Take exit B from the Sha Tin MTR Station. Then, take a left at Pai Tau Street and a right onto Sheung Wo Che Street. After reaching the end of this road you’ll find a series of signs in English directing you along a concrete path to the stairway leading up to the temple.
Things to do in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Island, with its ever-expanding skyline of dazzling skyscrapers and idyllic wind-swept beaches, is a place of hyperbolic juxtaposition. The flickering lights of its skyline surrounded by verdant mountains, the smoky chambers of Buddhist pagodas and the glistening of a boat-filled harbour speak of ambition, tradition and the humble maritime heritage where it all began. From its past as a British colonial port-town, Hong Kong rose with improbable speed to become one of the world’s foremost financial hubs. In its path to urban superstardom, though, it hasn’t lost touch with the sense of familiarity that makes it such an engaging travel destination for visitors.
While the energy of its streets is palpable, it’s still a place where tradition reigns supreme. Within the space of a single day you can soak in the urban delights of an infinity pool, visit monasteries and breathe the salty air of an idyllic beach and then finish with a night cap at one of the world’s best rooftop bars. Hong Kong was built for people on the move and its small size, it really packs a lot in. Here are some of the top things the city and island has in store for its visitors.
Charter a Junk Boat
Hong Kong isn’t just one island, it’s an archipelago of some 260 islands. The city proper is only one tiny slice of all of that! If you haven’t tasted the salty air from the bow of one of Hong Kong’s traditional junk boats whilst exploring some of the surrounding islands, you will be seriously missing out. See the stunning archipelago of Hong Kong as it must have appeared to the fisherman who plied these waters for generations before the city’s meteoric rise. It’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed out on.
There are several places that junk boats depart from, including Central and Causeway Bay (Noon Day Gun), Aberdeen and Sai Kung. Depending on what junk operator you use, the whims of the boat captain and the weather conditions, you can usually ask to be brought to certain destinations. Popular Junk locations include Deep Water Bay, Sai Kung, Clearwater Bay, Turtle Cove, Lamma and Stanley Bay.
When you do a junk boat cruise depends on what sort of experience you’re looking for. For a day of sand, sea, sun and fun, day cruises are your obvious go-to option. That’s not to undersell the amount of fun to be had in an evening under the stars whilst cruising around the archipelago. In terms of value, day cruises technically offer a bit better value due to the fact that they’re roughly the same price as night cruises but typically last three hours longer (seven hours versus four).
It’s always great timing to hire a junk on a long weekend or public holiday (some people prefer them on a Saturday so they have all of Sunday to recover…) but junks get snapped up fast so you will need to book at least 1-2 months in advance.
Junk boat cruising is a popular activity in Hong Kong. Consequently, they’re in pretty high demand on weekends and public holidays. To ensure that you get on a quality boat, be sure to book well in advance –upwards of one to two months beforehand.
Eat Dim Sum
In Cantonese, dim sum translates literally as “touch your heart” and, if you’ve ever experienced both the soul-warming taste of its sweet and savoury offerings or the energy of its unique dining environment, you would find this to be an apt description. Although dim sum is now served around the world, South China is its birthplace, and there’s no better place in the world to experience it in metropolitan Hong Kong.
There are countless places in Hong Kong to enjoy dim sum. If you eat at only one dim sum eatery, though, it should be at Lin Heung Tea House. This decades-old parlour in Hong Kong’s Central District is a place where time both stands completely still and moves at a frenetic pace at the same time. On one side it’s seemingly stuck in 1963. Patrons bump shoulders with each other in shabby seats at shared tables as the whirl of antique fans feebly attempt to push the balmy air around. On the other side, it’s a bustling hive of activity –particularly in the mornings and during lunch time. What makes Lin Heung Tea House such a quintessential Hong Kong experience is its unapologetic authenticity. Lin Heung makes no concessions for modernity or to English speakers. Be prepared to either bring a Cantonese-speaking guide or do some lively hand-gesturing to communicate your needs! Lin Heung Tea House is a slice of old-style Hong Kong that offers up some of the city’s best dim sum and one of its most potently traditional vibes. It’s an experience not to be missed!
Although dim sum originated as a morning or early afternoon meal, these days it’s served any time day or night.
It’s tempting to fill up on one or two dishes when eating dim sum. However, dim sum is meant to be a highly varied meal. Each dish contains a relatively small portion to encourage people to sample as many different options as possible. Be sure to mix things up.
Escape to the Beach
Hong Kong isn’t usually the first place that comes to mind when people think of beach destinations in Asia. To the surprise of many, however, Hong Kong is home to some idyllic stretches of sand and sea, the likes of which can very easily stand up to more well-known beach destinations in Southeast Asia. What’s more, you don’t even need to go very far from the city centre to find them. Within the space of an hour you can go from the beating heart of Hong Kong’s towering financial district and be laid out on the sandy spits of a local Hong Kong beach.
From beaches renowned by surfers for their consistent curls, to isolated stretches of sand where the only thing breathing down your back is the ocean’s salty air, and just about anything in between, there’s a little bit of something for anyone.
Without doubt, the most popular beach in Hong Kong is Shek O. It isn’t Hong Kong’s most tranquil beach, but the high rolling hills lining the fine golden sand make it an impressive sight for city-saturated eyes. The water is lovely for a swim and shark nets and lifeguards ensure a relative air of safety. Combined with the beach’s extreme accessibility, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular.
Separated by Shek O by two headlands is Big Wave Bay. This clean and scenic beach is set in a deep cove with a backdrop of undeveloped green hills. It’s Hong Kong’s only officially recognized surfing beach. You can also find decent waves in Tai Long Wan and Sai Kung.
For a more pristine and secluded experience, head to Tai Long Wan on the eastern coast of the Sai Kung Peninsula. Not only will you find peace and quiet here, but it’s considered to be one of the most beautiful places in all of Hong Kong.
In a hidden cove that’s closed to visitors for half the year to give turtles a chance to nest you’ll find Turtle Beach. Access to the beach involves about an hour of walking along the southern side of Lamma Island. It’s not a big beach, but it’s pristine and usually deserted.
November to April is generally considered the best time to visit Hong Kong weather-wise. During this time the weather is relatively cool and dry, and is the most amenable to beach-going.
Beaches in Hong Kong are known for having strong rip-tides, and accidents can and do occur. If you’re less than a confident swimmer, be sure to only swim at beaches that are supervised by lifeguards. Otherwise, be sure to take safety precautions and only swim to your level of confidence.
Experience Chinese New Year in Hong Kong
Chinese New Year is easily the biggest and most widely celebrated holiday in Asia. There is probably no better place to witness the splendour of its festivities than Hong Kong. Although the city prides itself in being ultra-modern and developed, at its heart it’s still deeply traditional. The best chance to see this side of Hong Kong in action is during Chinese New Year. This is one of the few times throughout the year where people can be seen in traditional dress. Lanterns abound as a massive parade, one of the most anticipated annual events in the city, fills the streets. If there is any best time to go to Hong Kong, it’s definitely during Chinese New Year. It is probably the best experience to have in Hong Kong as well.
The entire city becomes a hive of activity during Chinese New Year and the centre of the action is Tsim Sha Tsui, near Victoria Harbour. The parade, for example, begins along the Avenue of Stars and passes some of the iconic areas such as Kowloon Park and the Golden Mile of Nathan Road along the way. Throughout this stretch of the city you’ll be able to view the spectacular fireworks taking place over the harbour.
Chinese New Year takes place in accordance to the Lunar Calendar. Celebrations traditionally run from the day before the New Year and continue until the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first calendar month.
On the second day of celebrations, one of the world’s most spectacular fireworks shows takes place in the centre of the harbour. If ever there was a perfect time to take epic photos of the city, this is it. Plan in advance and try to get a view from one of the city’s more auspicious rooftops overlooking the harbour.
Have a soak in an Infinity Pool
Hong Kong is an industrious city with a work-first mentality. Yet the Hong Kongese do adhere to a work hard, relax hard mentality as well. Consequently, Hong Kong offers some of the world’s finest ways to unwind. One of the better ways to do this is to soak in one of the city’s infamous infinity pools. From the lofty perches of these aquatic thrones you’ll be able to gaze down at the plebeian undergrowth of the city sweating it out below while “pool butlers” replenish your drinks and supply you with cool facial mists. It’s a distinctly aristocratic experience that you’ll probably deserve after a few days exploring. They usually offer fantastic city views as well.
The infinity pool at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kowloon (Nearest MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui) is one of the city’s best-kept secrets. It’s not a cheap venture, as you’ll need to either stay at the hotel or visit the spa which costs roughly the same price, but what you get in return is worth the investment. Located right at the edge of Victoria Harbour, there are three infinity pools, each maintained at different temperatures –cold, warm and hot. Each seems to magically disappear into the cityscape below. In a city full of dramatic viewpoints, it is one of the most sublime.
Of a totally different nature is the impossibly cool Man Cheung Po Infinity Pool. While it may not offer resplendent views of the city, it does offer something rather unique –it’s natural! A stream feeds into the pool which, almost magically, drops off the side of a mountain, creating a waterfall that cascades down into a plunge pool. It’s one of the only natural pools like it in the world and definitely worth the hike to Tai O on Lantau Island.
While not technically an infinity pool, the pool at the Ritz Carlton Hotel is worthy of mention by virtue of its stratospheric views over the city. Located on the 118th floor of Hong Kong’s tallest building, it’s a whopping 484 metres above the bustle of traffic below.
Hong Kong’s weather is warm throughout the year, making pool-enjoying a worthwhile activity any time.
Bring a camera! All of the pools above offer ample opportunity to capture stunning views of Hong Kong.
Have High Tea
One of the enduring legacies of Hong Kong’s British occupation is the prevalence of high tea throughout the city. Most of the city’s best restaurants and hotels offer daily high tea in the afternoon, and both locals and tourists alike can often be seen queuing up for them. It’s not often that “colonial heritage” is imbued with a positive connotation, but Hong Kong’s high tea culture is definitely one example of such. High tea is a great way to get in touch with Hong Kong’s past.
The most quintessential Hong Kongese high tea experience can be had in the lobby of The Peninsula Hotel. Long regarded as one of the most elegant spaces in Hong Kong, high tea there is typically accompanied by live music as well. Another great option for high tea is the Intercontinental Hotel. Here, in addition to an exquisite high tea, you’ll find floor-to-ceiling glass walls affording some of the best views of Hong Kong Island.
Queues start forming well before 2:00pm when the service begins, so be sure to get there early.
High tea in Hong Kong can range from inventive and contemporary to totally traditional, London-esque style. Be sure to do some research ahead of time to find something that suits your needs and expectations.
Hike the Dragon’s Back
With one look at the formidable row of skyscrapers lining Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay, it would be easy for outdoorsy people to dismiss it as a one-sided urban labyrinth. To the surprise of many who visit Hong Kong, though, the island has much more to offer in terms of outdoor pursuits. In fact, as far as super cities go, Hong Kong offers far more adventurous activities than most. One such activity is a hike across the Dragon’s Back, a mountainous ridge in the southwest of the island. Stretching for some 50km, the Hong Kong Trail cuts through five country parks leading to the highlight of the trek, Shek O Peak. From here you can enjoy 360-degree views of Hong Kong’s resplendent beaches, bays, verdant countryside and the South China Sea.
The Hong Kong Trail is conveniently located just outside the city and easily accessible via the MTR (the city’s mass transit system). To get to the trailhead, take the MTR Island Line to Shau Kei Wan Station. From there, take exit A3 to the bus station and transfer to bus number 9, Shek O, to the To Tei Wan stop, which is right in front of the trailhead.
The shortest version of this hike can be completed in less than two hours, though you could extend it to six hours if you start from Happy Valley and make your way south.
Bring a camera! The natural vistas you can capture will shock friends back home if they don’t know any better. Hong Kong has far more to offer than just cityscapes.
Hit up the famous street markets
Within Hong Kong’s lively street markets you can find virtually anything under the sun. From cheap electronics to strange antiques and fake watches, these bustling markets are the place to go if you’re in need of a bit of retail therapy. That’s not all they’re good for, though. They’re also great places to get a feel for the pulse of the city. Within these bustling alleys you’ll find that the façade of futuristic buildings descends into a sort of blissful chaos that is as throttling as it is addictive and, we dare say, charming. No visit to Hong Kong would be complete without immersing yourself in its riotous night markets
One of the best examples of a Hong Kong night market is Temple Street Market in Central Kowloon. Under the glare of its flickering incandescent lights you’ll find a B-movie director’s dream setting for a stereotypical Chinatown. Brash hawkers peddle everything from herbal medicines to counterfeit watches and bloated goldfish hanging in translucent plastic bags. Fortune tellers perform bizarre rituals in the hopes of interpreting clients’ prospects as outdoor food stalls crisp unnameable crustaceans over smouldering charcoal fires. It’s a visual and auditory cacophony. If you’re there more for the shopping than the atmosphere, there’s also the Cat Street Market for antiques and Apliu Street Market for electronics. There are also flower markets, bird markets, jade markets and more.
There are stalls that operate pretty much around the clock. However, the real fun usually begins around 8:00pm, when visitors flock to the markets in search of a good bargain.
Never buy something at first sight. First, be sure to check the quality carefully. Many of the items you’ll find in Hong Kong’s night markets are actually cleverly designed knock-offs. Also, most of the items you’ll find in these markets can be found in other stalls as well. Be sure to shop around and compare prices. Even after shopping around, don’t forget to bargain. You never know- you might ge extra lucky! When buying electronics, also be sure the check the socket/voltage to make sure it will be compatible back home.
Join a Star Ferries Tour
The Star Ferry is one of Hong Kong’s most beloved icons. More than just a convenient means of transportation, the Star Ferry has become a symbol of the city. For more than 120 years it was the only means of getting from Kowloon on the Chinese mainland to Hong Kong Island. Riding the Star Ferry is one of those requisite and quintessential Hong Kong experiences that anyone who visits Hong Kong must do in order to squarely qualify themselves as having truly “been there”. It also happens to offer some of the most spectacular views of Hong Kong.
The Star ferries shuttle residents and tourists between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon on mainland China. There are two routes, both departing from Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon). One drops people off at Central, the other at Wanchai. The former is the more popular of the two due to its stunning views of Victoria Peak and the surrounding cityscape.
Starting from 6:30am on the Tsim Sha Tsui route and 7:20am on the Wanchai route, Star Ferries depart roughly every 10 minutes. The last ferries leave at 11:30pmg on the Central route and 10:50pm on the Wanchai route.
Although you get to see much of the harbour during the normal ferry ride, which only lasts around 10 minutes, Star Ferry also offers a one-hour circular sightseeing cruise of the harbour aboard the Shining Star.
Shop ‘til you drop
Hong Kong is a mecca for shoppers from around the world. Every day, people from mainland China stream over the border to do just that, and you should, too. From high-end designer stores to maze-like malls, seedy street markets and gargantuan megamalls, Hong Kong has an endless array of options to choose from for those looking to part ways with a bit of cash in exchange for goods at a surprisingly reasonable price.
Hong Kong is also the perfect place to get customized garments made. There is a wide variety of tailor plying the city, renowned for the quality of their work.
The oldest and one of the most famous shopping malls in Hong Kong is The Landmark. Also known as “Central”, its located right in the heart of Central District and sandwiched between the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and HSBC’s swanky head office. Throughout its five stories you’ll find outlets of high-end designer brands that are rarely seen elsewhere in Asia.
One of Hong Kong’s biggest malls is Harbour City at Tsim Sha Tsui. More than 700 stores and 50 food and beverage outlets are spread over four levels of this megamall. One could easily spend an entire day here and still not see everything that’s on offer. Because of its convenient location right off the Kowloon pier, there’s usually no shortage of patrons roaming the expansive halls of this vast shopping area.
Rather than being a sprawling complex like other malls in Hong Kong, Times Square was built vertically -14 floors in total. In addition to the usual smattering of high-end brands, there’s also a lot more of the usual suspects Western consumers have come to expect from shopping malls back home. Of the three, this is probably the most well-balanced and easy to shop in mall.
The great thing about retail therapy is that you can do it just about any time you feel like it!
Wear comfortable shoes! Shopping in Hong Kong is no light-hearted affair. Unless you want to take the expression “shop ‘til you drop” literally, wearing something comfortable is a must.