Within the first few hours of visiting Hong Kong, I was already convinced that this was a place I could very easily call ‘home’ even if just for a few months or so.
Coming from London and then living in Singapore like I was at the time, Hong Kong just felt so familiar. The amazing restaurants, the stunning city skyline, those rooftop bars and even the intense hustle and bustle of people going about everyday life all make this city this city so exciting yet so relatable. (Check out my first impressions of Hong Kong here.)
There’s so much to see and do here (more than you can fit in a short holiday) but if it’s your first time here, or indeed, if you don’t have weeks on end to spend exploring Hong Kong, we’ve helped narrow it down to 14 things you must do when you visit Hong Kong.
1.) Hop about the Star Ferry
On arriving in Hong Kong, you’ll want to step back and see the city from a view. Hong Kong’s Star Ferry is perfect to get a panoramic view of the city in all its glory. Check out the official website for price here – http://www.starferry.com.hk/en/Fares.
If you want to see the city lit up after dark (though I’ve got to add, it’s harder to photograph at this time), catch the ferry after 8 p.m. for a stunning view of Hong Kong in all it’s technicolour glory and be sure to check out the world’s largest light and sound show, the Symphony at Lights Show, over Victoria Harbour. (I saw this on the first night from our rooftop bar and had no clue what was happening till we headed down to the harbour the next day).
2.) Go souvenir shopping in the street markets
While they may seem chaotic to outsiders, the street markets of Hong Kong are certainly not to be overlooked – they are, in fact, a great place to find unique souvenirs and try out some authentic local food. Quite a few of the different markets in Hong Kong are near subway stops, which makes them much easier to access though to be perfectly honest, Hong Kong’s subway is pretty good so you’ll find it a great way to get across the city.
A few of the markets include Temple Street Market (only open at night), Ladies’ Market in the Mong Kok area and Stanley Market (located in an old fishing village). Don’t be afraid to strike up a bargain, as many vendors are willing to lower their prices if you make an effort. In fact, I’d say you should never pay asking price here – haggling is an essential part of visiting the market and all part of the fun.
3.) Explore ancient traditions In Lantau Island
Located on Hong Kong’s largest outlying island is a beautifully landscaped place where art and culture blend perfectly. Visitors can enjoy touring the Po Lin Monastery, sail through the Tai O fishermen’s village, and ride the Ngong Ping cable car.
The “Giant Buddha” or Tian Tan Buddha is one of the most important parts of visiting Lantau Island and there is even a 3-story museum beneath the statue where guests can learn more about the history of Hong Kong, Lantau Island, and the statue itself. End your day trip with a view of the sun setting over the South China Sea as you return back to Kowloon Peninsula.
4.) Let your inner child loose at Hong Kong Disneyland
Traveling with kids can be tricky, especially in busy cities, so a visit to Hong Kong Disneyland is a pretty much recommended for families visiting Hong Kong.
Aww, who am I kidding? Even if you’re travelling with just adults, Disneyland is still so much fun! It’s the perfect opportunity to indulge in all the sugary snacks you can lay your hands on, hop on every ride possible and essentially become a little kid all over again.
5.) Check out the view at Victoria Peak
Known to many as simply “The Peak,” hikers and travellers up for a challenge (but in hopes of an amazing view!) will want to take a trip to the top of Victoria Peak. Okay, fine, you don’t have to hike – you can take a tram up here or even just a taxi if the tram is full – which, it tends to be. The wait time on the tram last time we visited was over 2 hours so booking tickets in advance is recommended if you can. Side bar – taxis are relatively cheap in Hong Kong so the taxi option isn’t too bad.
Since it is the highest point in Hong Kong, the views from the peak are pretty spectacular, as guests get the chance to see both towering skyscrapers and the shimmering South China Sea from one vantage point.
There’s a viewing platform at the Peak that you can pay for but to be perfectly honest, the view from up there wasn’t much better than the view from the free viewing platform so don’t feel under any obligation to head to the paid for platform. That being said, the paid for viewing platform is fairly cheap though so you might as well just wanna pop in.
6.) See the Buddhas at the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
Set in the foothills of Sha Tin, this gorgeous work of architecture is a popular place to visit for Buddhists and tourists alike (not that those two things are mutually exclusive) because of the presence of nearly 13,000 (not 10,000 as the name would have you think) golden figures of Buddha in varying sizes and positions.
The walk to the monastery includes about 400 stairs, but the short trek is well worth the sight that awaits you. Inside the temple, the walls shimmer with statues and red adornments, portraying a beautiful picture of Buddhism and Hong Kong’s culture.
7.) Hike Dragon’s Back
Dragon’s Back is a great hike for hiking-virgins. Along the way, hikers will pass through bamboo groves and tree tunnels until you begin your ascent to the top. The hike up takes around 20 minutes, you will watch as the canopy of thick trees open up to a gorgeous overlook of the city and of the South China Sea.
Overall, this is a great hike just a short way from the busy city and is a great opportunity to ‘get lost’ in nature when you want a little break from the bright lights of the city. Summer’s soaring temperatures are a great reason to do this hike and make your way down to the beach from the trail to hop in the sea for a swim.
For those looking for a proper hike – the full trail actually takes about 4 hours of hiking, but the first overlook is just a 45-minute round trip hike so do with that what you please. 😀
8.) Explore Kowloon
The Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour offers a more rustic insight into Hong Kong with a smattering of fun spots to pop into. Hong Kong’s Museum of History houses ancient writings and a detailed history of the historical timeline and culture of Hong Kong. Kowloon also has a lovely little flower market where visitors can literally stop and smell the roses.
9.) Visit the Clock Tower
Built in conjunction with an old railway station that is long gone, the Clock Tower still stands. This towering structure is a welcoming beacon that reminds the people of Hong Kong how it felt to first arrive on the island by steam train, by boat, or by plane. Immigrants to Hong Kong are still greeted with the face of the Clock Tower, which is now a declared monument.
10.) Get star-struck at the Avenue of Stars
For movie buffs, the Avenue of Stars is where to indulge your cinematic knowledge. This site is located along Victoria Harbour (very close to the Clock Tower above) for guests to walk along and view. Designed based on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, the Avenue of the stars showcases the names and handprints of famous personas of the Hong Kong film industry.
11.) Escape the busy city at Nan Lian Garden
With all that shopping, sightseeing, and gorging on delicious food, its possible to find yourself with a desire to escape the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, even if just for a couple of hours.
Still on the island, but offering a much different atmosphere is Nan Lian Garden. The Chi Lin Nunnery is responsible for the care and keeping of this traditionally designed garden, which boasts lotus ponds, small streams, and architecture to remind the viewer of early China. Wandering around the garden, you’d be easily forgiven for forgetting your smack in the middle of a very busy city – the garden is that serene!
The garden is free to the public and is a wonderful stop when you’re in Hong Kong. Be sure to also pop into the Chi Lin Nunnery when you’re here – it’s right next door so you have no excuse not to. 🙂
12.) Relax in Hong Kong Park
Another man-made, but natural spot to enjoy in the city is Hong Kong Park. Think of it as a calmer, hot-dog free Central Park, where tourists and locals pause for calm in the city, surrounded by traditional Chinese flora, fauna, and architecture. Stroll through the park and take in the lotus ponds, bamboo thickets and rock gardens, or perhaps even take part in a yoga or tai chi class. Whatever you decide to do, just set aside some time to pop in here.
13.) Notch up those ‘culture points’ in the Hong Kong Museum of Art
Located on the Kowloon side of the harbour, the Hong Kong Museum of Art boasts exhibitions with ancient calligraphy, local artwork, antique Chinese treasures and famous paintings – all totalling nearly 15,000 pieces of art. A branch of the museum, the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, is located in nearby Hong Kong Park and offers guests an interesting window into the art of tea-making and the tradition of high tea.
14.) See the Golden Bauhinia Square
When in Hong Kong, you must be sure to pay a visit to this landmark because of its cultural and political significance. The Square, designed and built in 1997, marks the return of Hong Kong from British control to the People’s Republic of China, and the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which allows Hong Kong to operate with such a unique political system.
The Chinese government delivered the golden statue to Hong Kong after the agreement was set up, and it sits in the square for guests to admire. Daily flag raisings take place at this location in the morning, and it overlooks the waterfront so bring your camera with you when you pop by.