The interconnecting urban sprawl that makes up much of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island is what most visitors come for – the shops, restaurants and bars thrumming with energy until the early hours. Taking in all the activity from Victoria Peak’s panoramic viewing platform never ceases to blow the mind of residents, let alone visitors, as the cityscape spread out below is in perpetual change.
Whether you're making a long weekend of it, or looking for a bit of tourism at break-neck speed, make sure you keep this 48 hours in Hong Kong list handy – and be sure to buy the new Time Out Hong Kong City Guide book if you want to explore the city further.
Day 1: Peak Views and Partying
Rise early for breakfast and then head to Hong Kong Park, an urban oasis of walkways, ponds, a waterfall, and the Edward Youfe Aviary, home to a stunning variety of endangered birds from South-east Asia. Outside the netting, keep an eye out for old folks doing their daily t’ai chi exercises.
Resist the temptation to drop down into Pacific Place and instead head for Hollywood Road in Central, from where you can ride the Mid-Levels Escalator to the trendy SoHo shopping and dining district. Get your fix of antiques and boutiques, and wend your way West to NoHo, where you can continue to indulge your quest for the city’s hippest and most stylish artefacts.
You’re still in Central, so you’ve got lunch options galore, but we suggest you get down to the waterfront and find City Hall Maxim’s Palace, where you can enjoy some of Hong Kong’s best dim sum and traditional cart service. Don’t forget to look out the window.
Time for a trip on the historic Peak Tram to pay your mandatory visit to Victoria Peak. Spend two or three hours exploring the shops, restaurants, and the wax models at Madame Tussaud’s, then take in the spectacular views just as night falls.
Dinner time – and again, you’ve got options. For a bankable Cantonese choice, try Yung Kee, famous for its classic Cantonese fare, especially roast goose and barbecued pork. If you’re looking for something more quick and easy, grab a HK$20 bowl of delicious noodles just down the road at Tsim Chai Kee.
Now’s the perfect time to hit Lan Kwai Fong, Ground Zero for Hong Kong’s legendary nightlife. When it gets too raucous, chill out on the rooftop patio at Red, where you can sit back with a drink, enjoy the cooling breeze and take in fantastic harbour views.
Day 2: High Tea and Hectic Markets
Shopping is what Hong Kong is all about, so make your way to Causeway Bay, where retail therapy moves at warp speed. The colossal Times Square provides a good central starting point, and then follow your wallet from there. Try also to get across to Wan Chai before lunch and see the fast gentrifying Queen’s Road East and Johnston Road areas.
For lunch, get a taste of colonial Hong Kong and great gastropub grub at the same time at The Pawn, a relaxed but classy restaurant and bar housed in a restored historic building.
If you still haven’t had enough of the skyline, get high up at Hutong for Cantonese fine-dining in a dramatic setting, or go gourmet European at Whisk, where alfresco dining takes on new dimensions on a massive multi-level terrace.
Stroll along the waterfront Avenue of Stars to see the big names from Hong Kong’s entertainment industry immortalised in stone, and witness the extravagant Symphony of Lights, which sets the sky ablaze with lasers every night at 8pm.
After dinner, soak up the hectic atmosphere and bargain hunting in Mong Kok’s Ladies Market, before finishing up at Temple Street Night Market, where you can get your fortune told and find anything from Communist China kitsch to bizarre sex toys.
Hong Kong is a great city to to enjoy on foot, provided you can put up with the heat, the crowds and dirty fumes from passing traffic. The so-called districts are actually more like neighbourhoods, and if they’re just one or two stops away from each on the MTR line, sometimes you can save time just by walking. However, if you choose to peregrinate, be prepared to sweat.
The streets on Hong Kong Island tend to wander a bit, especially when climbing hills, but if you use Queen’s Road as a point of reference, you can never get too lost.
Aside from Tsim Shai Tsui’s confusing rabble of streets, Kowloon’s streets are laid out, more or less, in grids with Nathan Road as the main artery. The forever-ongoing road works, numerous over-passes, and lack of natural landmarks, however, tend to disorientate newcomers. Luckily, you’re never far from an MTR station, all of which provide big, detailed maps – or, at the very least, an easy ride home.
No visitor should have much trouble getting around in Hong Kong, even if it’s sometimes difficult to determine which way you’re facing. The city’s world-beating public transport system – which allows you to get around by high-speed train, air-conditioned bus, zippy mini-bus, affordable taxi, historic tram, or charming ferry – means you never have to worry about losing your bearings.
And besides, getting lost in Hong Kong isn’t a bad thing – there’ll always be some stimulation for the senses wherever you go. Many of Hong Kong’s attractions are free or close-to-free for visitors and open seven days a week.
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Many of the 274 rooms at Traders Hotel offer great sea views and are tastefully furnished. The facilities are modern, if only because the hotel is quite young. The area is a bit of a tourist backwater, but the price is good, and if it’s real Hong Kong street life you want then this is your place. Traders Hotel, 508 Queen's Road West, Kennedy Town; +852 2877 3737.