A vibrant metropolis. A global financial hub. A cultural amalgam. A culinary capital. A shopping paradise.
Hong Kong is all of these things, and so much more. Modern high-rises soar next to ancient temples whilst Michelin-star food is found at hidden food stalls. A place equally concrete jungle and hiking paradise where your average shopping trip will take you to swanky malls, independent boutiques and bustling markets. Nicknamed ‘Asia’s World City’, the former British colony is truly one of the most diverse destinations in the world.
One of the best ways to soak up its vibrant atmosphere and take in the hidden treasures that make this autonomous state so special is to go out and explore on your own two feet. Thankfully, Hong Kong offers numerous opportunities to do so. Stare up at the famous skyscrapers on a walk through Hong Kong Central and join the sea of suits in the business district or feel on top of the world at Victoria Peak, overlooking the city below on a quiet walk. A quick stroll along Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade offers the best views of the Victoria Harbour skyline and then head to the Avenue of Stars, where local film industry actors and actresses, including the celebrated Chinese actor Jackie Chan, are honoured.
However, behind the curtains of these famous landmarks hides an eclectic local life, brimming with culture, traditions and history. If you’re looking to get a peek under the surface, here are four of the best walking tours in Hong Kong with a unique local twist.
Immerse in the local life in Shau Kei Wan
Leave the city’s touristy centre and head northeast to the lesser known neighbourhood of Shau Kei Wan and discover the backstreets of Hong Kong. Easily accessible by the iconic, double-decker trams zigzagging through the towering buildings, this part of town evolved from a rustic fishing village into a populous residential district, with vestiges of its past still visible in the local life.
If you are in the mood for revenge or would just like to experience a bit of local folk sorcery, discover the traditional art of Dai Siu Yan (aka “villain hitting”!). Aptly named, this form of voodoo or demon exorcising is commonly practiced by older ladies who hit small pieces of paper with a shoe whilst iterating a ‘magic’ curse in order to repel your enemy.
For a more serene glimpse of daily life, check out the area’s bustling wet market and stroll past the trendy restaurants on Main Street East – once an infamous hideout for pirates. Learn about local beliefs at Shing Wong Temple, dedicated to the god who protects Hong Kong, and finish this local tour with a quick game of mah-jong with a local family. Be prepared to lose!
Get a taste for the local cuisine in Wan Chai
No trip to Hong Kong is complete without exploring the city’s world-renown (street) food scene. Whilst the city’s diverseness is well reflected in its culinary offerings – you can find anything from Cantonese and Thai to French and Japanese – it has also influenced Hong Kong’s local cuisine which is characterised by a distinct East-meets-West palate. From mouth-watering dim sum dumplings and grilled pork to wonton noodles and steamed buns, taste your way through the local specialities by joining a Hong Kong street eats tour. Sink your teeth into unknown dishes at the best eateries throughout the city and find out more about its culinary heritage.
One of Hong Kong’s best walking tours is a culinary journey in the Wan Chai district. Famous for its shopping and nightlife options, this hip neighbourhood also boasts some of the city’s best restaurants. Take in the vibrant sights, sounds and smells at a local market, visit the historic Blue House and scour the streets for the best local street eats, including savoury clay pot rice, ‘youzha gui’ (deep-fried breadsticks), puffy egg waffles and Hong Kong-style milk tea.
Live the local life in Kowloon
Swap Hong Kong’s main island for Hong Kong mainland which is connected by the iconic star ferry or MTR underground, and discover the local treasures of Kowloon. The landlocked Wong Tai Sin district is famous for the eponymous Taoist temple and Chi Lin Nunnery. Originally established in the 1930s, this large Buddhist complex provides a welcoming escape from the hectic city.
Wong Tai Sin is also known for its 22 public housing estates. Home to 85% of the neighbourhood’s population, these developments have played a vital part in the evolution of public housing in Hong Kong – with a population of seven million people, this an ongoing issue for the autonomous state.
One of these decade-old developments – the Choi Hung Estate – is both part history lesson and pop culture icon. Housing more than 43,000 people, the massive estate’s rainbow-coloured façade has become a favourite photo backdrop on Instagram.
Take the ferry to Macau
Though, strictly speaking, we can’t really add Macau to our list of best walking tours in Hong Kong, its convenient location – an hour’s ferry ride away – makes it an ideal destination for a pedestrian-friendly daytrip. Nicknamed the ‘Vegas of the East’, there’s more to this often-overlooked peninsula than simply gambling, casinos and neon. Boasting a quirky blend of Chinese and Portuguese culture and architecture, a walkthrough of Macau’s UNESCO-listed Historic Centre is like a journey through time, unveiling a distinctive heritage.
Discover the vestiges of Portuguese rule at the legendary Ruins of St. Paul’s, the unique City Walls and the former military centre of Mount Fortress. Visit A-Ma Temple, an ancient Chinese religious complex, before taking in the panoramic views from atop the 338-metre-high Macau Tower. Arrive back in the present and finish this journey through time trying your luck and rolling the dice at one of its world-famous casinos.
From breathtaking views to ancient tradition, delicious food, varied shopping and expansive nature – this pulsating metropolis is a great destination to explore on foot. If you’re interested in getting under the surface with some of the best walking tours in Hong Kong, reach out to Buffalo Tours and let our travel experts craft your tailor-made Hong Kong experience. Dive into the local life and soak up the thriving atmosphere, whilst our professional guides will make sure you don’t get lost, take you to hidden places and share their expert-insights with you.