See also: Where to Stay in Hong Kong
Hanging electric signs, skyscrapers, a sea of people – Hong Kong has come to be characterized by its visual noise. There is no shortage of things to look at, business and entertainment hubs to pass through; a lot of Hong Kong’s history and culture is buried in the details of everyday life. Where postcards line up panning views of the city’s skyline, the concrete jungle actually makes up for less than a quarter of Hong Kong’s lands.
You will come to find pockets of greens; mountain backed views, coastal treks and blended spaces. Bordering islands offer alternative entertainment to the cosmopolitan shopping and eating ventures, but nearby beaches and hiking trails provide the same tranquility. With this list of the 30 best things to do in Hong Kong, you get a taste of every aspect of the city.
Take the tram up Victoria Peak
Start off your journey with a back-bending tram ride up to Victoria Peak. One of the oldest and steepest tram routes in the world, it takes you through a tree-lined railway past the residential blocks of Mid-levels. Upon arrival, Hong Kong is laid out before you in a truly beautiful greeting.
Take a taxi or mini bus from Ngong Ping Station to reach the Big Buddha. Nestled in a cradle of green peaks, the wise gaze of this gigantic statue is cast over the temples that lay at its feet. You can simply look up at its entirety from ground level, or challenge the hundreds of steps up to its base. Upon reaching the platform, you will be greeted by smaller Buddhist entities and deities – as well as a fresh, open view.
Hong Kong Museum of History and the Science Museum
Get your learner goggles on at two of the biggest museums in town. Detailing history from prehistoric ages through Hong Kong’s port origins and subsequent wartime development, the Hong Kong Museum of History depicts formative years through life-sized models and displays. Meanwhile, the Science Museum encourages hands-on learning through interactive displays and games. Conveniently located next to each other, they cater to all ages and interests.
Harbor view at Avenue of Stars
Thanks to renovations, iconic Avenue of Stars has expanded its promenade. Featuring handprints of famous actors and artists such as Jacky Chan, as well as a statue of Bruce Lee, this extended strip provides a picture-perfect panorama of Hong Kong Island’s skyline. It is also the best viewing spot for the 8PM light show that splays across the various high-rises across the harbor.
Strike up mountains for spectacular views
Victoria’s Peak may tower over the cityscape, but it is hardly the only peak showcasing Hong Kong’s unique infrastructure. Did you know that Hong Kong is actually three-quarters nature? Just walking through various parts of the city will surprise you with the volleying greens amid skyscrapers.
Sundays are hike days and popular routes include Dragon’s Back, Lantau Island and the iconic Lion’s Rock. For coastal views and sandy rest stops, adventure through the hiking trails of Sai Kung’s National Park or the shorter Clear Water Bay walks. Not only are you rewarded panoramic bay views, but also refreshing beaches to cool off at the end.
Hear the birds sing at Hong Kong Park
You will definitely pass by Hong Kong Park on your way to the Victoria Peak tram station. A rather spacious, landscaped space above Admiralty, this park is frequented by families and elderly. Decorated with ponds with resident turtles, an imitation waterfall, and comfortable spread of plantation, it is a necessary respite. It also hosts a restaurant for those seeking a more intimate and romantic location, but day time visitors bypass it for the dome-shaped aviary instead. You’d be amazed at the variety of feathered-life cared for at this facility.
Visiting fishing villages
Get a taste of Hong Kong’s seafaring roots by visiting the humble fishing villages of Tai O or Po Toi O. They may not be easy to get to, but if not for the water stilted houses, then go for the freshest seafood in town. Two-storied houses and small boats paint the picture of a much older city, back when fishermen made up most of the population.
Bargaining at street markets
Welcome to the noisy world of Hong Kong street markets! Expect stall vendors to either ignore you while chatting with each other, or shouting “very cheap” at tourists. If you are hitting up the infamous Ladies Market on the lookout for souvenirs, silky robes or cheap gadgets, make sure to exercise your bargaining power. Wan Chai Market may not be as formidable as Temple Street Night Market, but expect similar vibes; a chaotic mash of antiques, bronze or jade jewelry, electronics, trinkets and paintings dominate. Scared to brave non-English speaking crowds? Visit Stanley Market instead for a more controlled scene and higher density of foreign language speakers.
Hong Kong Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Located between Central and Admiralty is this minor zoo and botanical gardens. Don’t expect a wild reserve, but you will see monkeys swinging around cages and other animals rattling around. The neighboring botanical gardens bring tamed flora and fauna to the city center. While one of Hong Kong’s lesser known attractions, this zoo and garden combo are great for visiting families.
Beaches small and wide
Definitely get your tan going at one of Hong Kong’s many beaches. Where Repulse Bay is a popular location, the various beaches around Sai Kung and Clear Water Bay are contenders. Stanley also makes it on the list thanks to its close proximity to Stanley Market. Make sure to pack some food and drinks before heading out for some sandy fun, because while shower facilities are often provided, refreshment kiosks aren’t the norm. You’ll find the waters safe to swim in, thanks to safety buoys and netted areas.
Taking the ferry between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui
A classic experience you have to try: take the ferry between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui. Not only is it a cheap cross-harbor commute, but you get a unique view of both promenades. Snap shots of Hong Kong’s skyline from either end, or when the ferry is in motion! While the heavy smell of fuel and sea salt may not guarantee the most comfortable trip, let the wooden seats, open sides and light breeze charm you.
While you’re at it, spend some time wandering along the Avenue of Stars around Tsim Sha Tsui harbor, or stroll along the promenade of Central Pier.
Relaxing at Kowloon Park
The hustle of Tsim Sha Tsui doesn’t penetrate the solid borders of Kowloon Park. Hemmed in by stone walls and solid trees, you wouldn’t think you were in the city if not for the high-rises peeking above the edges. One of the largest urban parks in Hong Kong, it is a popular spot for joggers, tai-chi practitioners, families and domestic helpers to hang out at over the weekend. If you’re in the area and in desperate need of a break from the crowds, there are benches and open areas to rest your feet.
Dream on at Disneyland
Possibly the smallest Disneyland in the world, this dream world is nonetheless beautifully designed with rides for all ages. Meet your favorite Disney characters between rides and shows, or stay for the nightly parade for a vibrant show of fireworks.
A darker side to Kowloon Walled City Park
Have you ever heard of a city within a city, where crime ran rampant and proper authorities walled out? Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City was a cement block of triad and underground activity until it got dismantled several decades ago. Remnants have remained in a memorial park, including a 3D rendition map of the Walled City. Mostly, it has been remodeled into an elegant park with classic Chinese arches, wooden pavilions and a trickling stream. If you’re curious, search up a documentary detailing its dark history.
Taking the tram
There’s no better way to save money and preserve your energy by taking the tram on a hot day. Running the length of Hong Kong Island, the trams bookend at Shau Kei Wan and Kennedy Town. Hop on at any of these iconic ding-ding as locals call it, and slowly traverse through the dense jungle that is downtown. You will pass by shopping malls, apartment blocks, and libraries; from residential hubs to business hubs.
To avoid feeling crowded, head up to the second level and grab seats at the front. Here, you can comfortably watch people scurrying outside without having to shuffle around for people boarding.
Marvel at Nan Lian Garden
Located around Diamond Hill station in a decidedly residential hub, Nan Lian Garden is an unexpected gem. History is inscribed in the Tang-styled landscape, the careful design of shrubbery, bonsai, pathways and architectures meant to evoke peace and contemplation. Despite the almost golden pagoda that sits centerpiece to this garden, its elegance is a lesson in simplicity. Where the vibrant, red bridges bisect the shallow pond, you can look out over the treetops to spot Hong Kong’s typical apartment complexes. Nan Lian Garden is a quiet respite that doesn’t try to erase the city, just coexists with it. You may also find neighboring Chi Lin Nunnery of interest.
Spend the day at Ocean Park
The amusement park you shouldn’t miss out on, Ocean Park is a move away from princess rides and sci-fi sets. Combining animal kingdom and roller coaster rides in one, visitors get a varied pick of animal exhibits, an impressive aquarium, dolphin shows, thriller rides and carnival games. Another crowning exhibition is the panda house, home to three of these sleepy animals. The jellyfish exhibition lures you in with color-changing tank lights, basking these soft creatures in both eerie and beautiful display. If you’d like some breathtaking coastal views while suspended above ground, take the connecting gondola ride from the outer half to the bisecting hill – rounding the cliff-side is an eye-opening ride.
Rent a bicycle and glide along Shing Mun River
Between the arching mountains and concrete city, most people overlook another mode of light exercise. Hit up residential areas like Tseung Kwan O or Ma On Shan for a breezy bike ride. Great for family bonding and a limit-pushing solo act, riding a bicycle around the specially designed tracks gifts you a special network of tunnels and trails. If you’re looking to escape the humid confines of the city but go somewhere accessible, the long stretch between Ma On Shan and Sha Tin is best choice. The section spanning Shing Mun River offers a languid and even cruise.
Mong Kok Flower Market
It is more street than market, but Mong Kok Flower Market is the undisputed floral heaven if you’re looking to spice up home. Buds and blooms of every color and variety can be found here; orchids are seasonal favorites while succulents are a recent fad. Other garden decorations, tools, soil and related goods are available at value prices, although you’ll find the market overrun with people during festive seasons more so than for year round gardening.
Instagram Pier is your photoshoot spot of the day
Have a bit of creative fun with a casual photoshoot at Instagram Pier. Jutting out of the bay with smatterings of shipping containers, it has become a popular photo-taking spot for social media gurus and bloggers. Professional photographers also hit up this pier early mornings or at dusk for stunning harbor views and experimental shots. If you’re hoping for a special sunset viewing, drop by before dinner.
Shopping is a whole day activity
Shopping malls are all over Hong Kong, but depending on what you’re looking for, choose your districts carefully! Or you’ll end up with an empty wallet. For cheaper buys, electronics and sportswear, Mong Kok offers street level shopping and a range of boutiques. Central and Tsim Sha Tsui provides high-end brands and luxury goods, cosmetics and jewelry shops. Causeway Bay offers a more varied range, where malls display both expensive brands as well as mid-range products.
Trilling at Mong Kok Bird Street
Adjacent to the Flower Market is chirpy Bird Street. Walk along this cozy alley to bird song and paraphrasing parrots, with traditional bird cages framing shop fronts. While it’s unlikely you’ll purchase anything here, it’s worth a look.
Partying it out at Lan Kwai Fong
Chances are you are in town over the weekend and looking to experience every side of Hong Kong. Whether you are an enthusiastic clubber or simply looking for a drink or two, Lan Kwai Fong’s electric atmosphere is hard to pass up. Slide through the masses (because the slope will be filled) and join the dancing crowds, or pass the main street and head further up for the quiet bars along Hollywood Road. Regardless if you’re just passing through or playing the night, Lan Kwai Fong’s energy is truly something to witness.
Pigging out at SOHO
With a ratio of one restaurant per few hundred people, Hong Kong is a veritable foodie haven and SOHO tops the list of eating areas. Placed uphill Central, many restaurants and cafés that settle in the area cater to its multicultural community. You’ll find a range of budget local fare to fancy international cuisine and fusion foods. Alongside vegan cafés and cozy coffee shops are tapas bars, a pub or two, steak houses and South American dishes. Prefer Asian food? Explore the sloping alleys for intimate ramen shops and Vietnamese pho.
Think creative at PMQ
Take the record breaking Mid-levels Escalator up to Hollywood Road and seek out PMQ. Originally police headquarters, the white-washed building has been repurposed into a creative arts and concepts space. Browse the numerous small stores that sell personalized items, accessories, hand-made trinkets, concept products and the like, or simply appreciate what local artists have to offer. It also hosts residential artists who occasionally feature artworks at the enclosed square. With shops rotating out every now and then, you’re bound to find something new every time.
Hunting down street art
In bid to revitalize the city, professional and amateur street art have been cropping up all around Hong Kong. Some anonymous and others penned, hunting down these splashes of art will take you to corners you would otherwise miss.
The most concentrated, government approved collection spans Sai Ying Pun’s Art Lane. Large, vibrant pieces cover the walls of Shek Chan Lane and Chung Ching Street; bold imagines of houses, caricatures and nature. In contrast, Kwun Tong’s Back Alley Project seeks to reclaim the sketchy back streets and have since decorated the industrial-turned-trendy district into a treasure hunt of unique art.
Trying street food along Dundas Street
Let it be known that Hong Kong people love their food. Snacks and afternoon tea are part of the diet, and this includes street food. No doubt you’d be able to smell the strong aroma even before stepping onto Dundas Street. Small stalls crammed shoulder to shoulder offer classics like curry fish balls, siu mai, stinky tofu, herbal drinks, while newer bubble tea shops have popped up with fruity twists to the original milk tea. There are also other manners of greasy and deep fried, like cheese-topped fries and egg waffles.
Day trip to outlying islands
Hop on a ferry at Central Pier for a day out at some of Hong Kong’s inhabited islands. While in no way big, some of these island communities are sizeable enough to run their own primary schools and clinics; but most commute to the main island for work. Cheung Chau for instance, has become a point of curiosity for locals and tourists alike. A popular weekend destination, it offers food stalls, seafood restaurants and looping trails that take you through dated buildings to nature walks. Other nature-heavy islands welcome hikers and seafood seeking visitors.
Hitting up classy bars and live music
When they say Hong Kong is a city that never sleeps, they are right. Classy bars such as OZONE and speakeasies come alive for post-dinner drinks, majority found around the slopes of Central. Hidden bars in particular are a recent trend, cumulating in unique entryways. Foxglove, whose entrance is hidden behind a corridor displaying fancy accessories better suited for spy bases, will have you applauding the live performances. Like a weapon-room in Kingsman, you can ask to open the door with an unsuspecting prop. There’s no speakeasy more hidden than 001 Speakeasy Bar however. Hidden within a nondescript alley and behind a black door, you’ll find yourself back in the Prohibition days.
Renting a boat out to an island
Eat your fill at the seafood restaurants of Sai Kung town center, then hire a boat to take you to an island for a day of beachy fun. Islands dot the coast of this city; while some are uninhabitable, others come with sandy beaches and crystalline waters, forestation thick enough to provide shade and campfire fuel. Spend the day splashing around or playing on soft sand, and head back only when the sun sets.
Indulge in Food
Surely there is no need to reiterate the food heaven in front of you? Celebrate local cuisine with repeated visits to dim sum restaurants – there’s no way you’ll be able to sample every delicacy in one go! Chinese restaurants usually offer a plethora of regional dishes from across the country, with Shanghai cuisine featured regularly. Hot pot is another communal meal not to be missed; try two different broths in split-pots and heap them full of radish, meat slices and fish balls. Western and south Asian cuisine are also popular choices among locals. In fact, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Thai restaurants dominate the scene. Go wild and eat all you can.