There is so much to do in Hong Kong. To help you get started, I’ve put together a list of 10 experiences to check out…
10 things you must do in Hong Kong
1. Enjoy the views from Victoria Peak
Victoria Peak, known locally as ‘the Peak’, is the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island. It is also Hong Kong’s most popular attraction – and for good reason! The panoramic views across the city, below, are breathtaking. Your eyes are drawn across a metropolis of skyscrapers, divided by the blue of Victoria Harbour.
Most people reach the Peak by taking the Peak Tram (more on that, below). The tram drops passengers off at the anvil-shaped Peak Tower. On top of Peak Tower is Sky Terrace 428 – a 360º viewing platform offering panoramas across Hong Kong (entry costs HK$40 for adults and HK$20 for children. Octopus Cards can be used). An alternative (and free) viewing point is Lions Point View Pavilion, a couple of minutes walk to the East. Alternatively, you could do the 3.5km Peak Circle walk which offers quieter, alternative vantage points of Hong Kong city as well as views of the sea and islands to the South.
“But when is the best time to visit the Peak?” I hear you ask. Good question. At sunrise, as the mist dissipates and the sun’s rays hit skyscrapers, causing glass to glisten. Yeah, that’s pretty special. As is the evening, as darkness falls and a carpet of light twinkles below. I’d personally recommend seeing the Peak in both the daytime and night time. In the evenings it does get rather busy and the queues for the tram are huge. I opted to walk back down to the city, which took about 45 minutes and was rather pleasant.
2. Ride the Peak Tram
Getting to the Peak is an experience in itself. The Peak Tram has been running since 1888 (although it underwent a substantial rebuild in 1989) and today more than 4 million people take a ride every year. During the ascent, the Hong Kong skyline flashes past as the gradient of the track becomes steeper and steeper (it almost feels impossible that such a steep incline can be maintained).
The station is located in Central, approximately a 5 minute walk to the North-east of the HSBC Building.
Tip: skip the initial ticket line at the lower station by using an Octopus Card to board.
3. Tian Tan Buddha
Weighing in a 250 tonnes and standing (well, in this case, sitting) at a height of 34 metres, the Tian Tan Buddha is one of most Hong Kong’s most popular tourist attractions. He’s more colloquially known as the Big Buddha and is the second largest outdoor seated Buddha in the world. Anticipating your next question; the answer is Taiwan, if you want to check out the largest one.
The Big Buddha sits atop of a platform, below which there are 268 steps to climb in order to get up close and personal with him. Across the square below, sits the Po Lin Monastery. At an elevation of 550 metres, the Big Buddha is often (in my experience at least), shrouded in mist, which adds an atmospheric feel to proceedings.
Visiting: The Buddha is located next to Ngong Ping Village on Lantau island. Hop onto the MTR and take the Tung Chung (yellow) line all the way to Tung Chung. From here you can opt for the bus, a taxi or the cable car to Ngong Ping. I’d recommend the cable car as the views are pretty awesome.
4. Ride the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour
The Star Ferry is the most scenic way to get from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon. As with the Peak Tram, the Star Ferry has a long history, dating back to 1888. Hop on at pier 7 if you are in Central and ride the ferry across to the Tsim Sha Tsui pier in Kowloon (or vice-versa). On the way you will be treated to some great views of the that iconic Hong Kong skyline.
5. Take a Hike
Hong Kong is much more than the swarming metropolis often depicted in photographs and on TV. In fact, the urban area covers just 25% of Hong Kong’s total landmass. The rest is a combination of woodland, wetland, beaches and mountains and 40% of the land is designated country park land. There are loads of enjoyable hikes to do (further details on the Visit Hong Kong website). I did two hikes during my trip: the Peak Circle Walk, which offers stunning view after stunning view; and the Mui Wo to Pui O Beach hike. Yes, you read that right – a beach in Hong Kong! The second hike is on Lantau Island, get there by taking the ferry from Pier 6 (Central) to Mui Wo. Hiking in Hong Kong offers a nice contrast to the hectic urban sprawl.
6. Explore Hong Kong Island on the Ding Dings
The Hong Kong Island trams are affectionately known as the ‘Ding Dings’ because the tram drivers will ring the bell twice when approaching a station. As with the Star Ferry and Peak Tram, the Ding Dings have a long history. They date back to 1905. The tram network runs from east to west across Hong Kong island. It is the most affordable and environmentally friendly way (the trams emit zero emissions) of getting around the island. All of the trams are double deckers, so grab a seat on the upper level and see what sights the city has to offer.
Each journey is a set price (HK$2.70) regardless of how far you travel. We used the trams for sight seeing, getting around the city and getting back to our hostel after a couple of boozy nights out in LKF.
7. Lan Kwai Fong
Lan Kwai Fong, better known as LKF is home to a million hip cafes, restaurants and bars. It is a fairly popular expat area for socialising. On both of my trips to Hong Kong, I’ve met up with friends who were over for 6 months on secondment. Each time we’ve followed the well worn route around LKF to sample and enjoy the night life.
It’s also a pretty cool area to check out by day, with a number of murals and pieces of street art. The mid-level escalators are also near by.
Tip: check out Stockton, a ‘secret’ bar located down a dark alley way, just off Wyndham Street. The cocktails are fantastic.
8. Explore the street markets in Kowloon
In the Mong Kok / Prince Edward area of Kowloon are a number of independent hawker markets. Peruse, haggle and pick up a souvenir to take home with you. The most well known market, the Ladies Market runs along Tung Choi Street. It is named after the vast amounts of ladies clothes and accessories for sale, however you can also pick up all kinds of trinkets and other souvenirs. To the north of the Ladies Market are the Flower, Bird and Goldfish Markets. Further to the east, each evening you will find the Temple Street Night Market where stalls offer canvases, jewellery, electronics, fridge magnets and all kinds of stuff.
The markets are colourful, bustling and fun. A throwback to the kind of street markets you will find throughout South East Asia – think Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam etc. The Goldfish Market was my personal favourite, with the bags of fish making for some really interesting photographs.
9. Enjoy a drink at one of Hong Kong's many roof top bars
Hong Kong has over 1,300 high rise buildings which are classified as skyscrapers (being over 100m tall). Unsurprisingly, there are a number of awesome, super cool roof top bar terraces dotted around the city. Yes, you’ll pay a premium on the drink, but the views are worth it. Anyway, you’re on holiday – so treat yourself! I’ll be putting together an article about my favourite bars with views, so keep an eye out 🙂
Tip: after dinner, head to Sevva for a chocolate martini and these views!
10. Sample the wonderful culinary scene
Hong Kong’s food scene is amazing. I’d nearly go as far to say unparalleled. Dim sum, steamed milk pudding, wanton noodles, po lo buns, congee, sushi, egg tarts and much, much more. My advice – get stuck in and try everything! I’ve put together an in-depth article about the foods that you just have to try (and where you can find them), check it out here.
Are you going to Hong Kong and have questions? Let me know in the comments below. Have you been to Hong Kong? What were your favourite things to do and see?