Whether you’re a first-time traveller looking for the best Hong Kong hotels or a seasoned vet of Lamma Island and LKF, these are the essential things to see, do, eat and drink while you’re in town. From the most picturesque hiking trails in Hong Kong to the city’s best museums, here’s a roundup of the very best experiences in our city.
The best things to do in Hong Kong: outdoor
Get the best views of the iconic Hong Kong skyline along Victoria Habour (we’re talking about that same shot of Hong Kong you see in every Hollywood movie featuring the city) by getting onboard the Star Ferry at the Tsim Sha Tsui terminal and setting sail to Central. This is one of the cheapest ($2.50 on weekdays, $3.40 on weekends) and most pleasant modes of transport in the city. There are 12 boats in the Star Ferry fleet and the crossing only takes seven minutes, so have your camera at the ready.
The historic Peak Tram runs continuously from 7am until midnight and gives passengers plenty of time to gape at the views of the city that fall away below as the trolley heaves itself up the steep incline of Hong Kong's famous mountain. Get on board from the Garden Road terminus in Central and it’s only $45 for a return ticket.
Two adorable giant panda bears are housed in Hong Kong’s popular aquatic theme park. See them in their natural habitat and grab a selfie as they munch on bamboo. Aside from the two national treasures, meet and interact with adorable penguins, seals and dolphins up close. Dine on sustainably sourced seafood next to 5,000 fishes in the Grand Aquarium and take the cable car over dramatic cliff faces before girding yourself for the many adrenaline-inducing amusement rides.
Not only a provider of stunning views of Lantau Island’s natural beauty, the Ngong Ping 360 Skyrail cable car takes you all the way to the gigantic bronze Tian Tan Buddha – the largest outdoor seated Buddha in the world. There’s a choice between a standard cabin ($130) and a crystal cabin ($180), which comes equipped with a glass bottom, allowing visitors a unique bird’s eye view. Not great if you have a fear of heights, though...
The hottest ticket in town on a Wednesday night is at Happy Valley Racecourse. If it’s just socialising you’re after, you’ll enjoy hanging out in the beer garden. If you fancy a flutter, there’re ample opportunities at this Hong Kong institution – every Wednesday evening is host to eight races.The hottest ticket in town on a Wednesday night is the Happy Valley Racecourse (link). If it’s just socialising you’re after, you’ll enjoy hanging out in the beer garden, but if you fancy a flutter, there’s ample opportunity at this famous Hong Kong institution – each Wednesday evening hosts eight races.
Ride the ding-ding
Affectionately known as the ding-ding (because rather than have a car horn they have bells that ring), Hong Kong’s trams are a city icon and the method of public transport that best retains an old-school feel. Get on at the back and pay by the driver as you exit at the front. Look out for the new air-conditioned fleet, too!
One of Hong Kong’s biggest and busiest temples, Wong Tai Sin Temple is dedicated to a shepherd boy said to have special healing powers who came to be revered as a demi-god after his death. It’s also a popular place for fortune telling, so swing by and see what the future holds.
There’s no shortage of hiking trails in Hong Kong and The Peak offers one of the best panoramas of the Hong Kong skyline. The Peak Circle Walk makes for a leisurely stroll and you can grab a bite at the historic Peak Outlook or take it up a notch and hike down towards Pok Fu Lam Reservoir. Travellers looking for slightly more challenging hikes should try scaling the popular Dragon’s Back, which overlooks Shek O and Big Wave Bay, or Lantau Island’s Sunset Peak for jaw-dropping views come sundown.
There are 431 steps leading up to 10,000 Buddhas Monastery and the climb is lined with life-sized, gold-painted Buddha statues, each entertainingly unique. Once you reach the complex itself, known as Man Fat Sze, you’ll be dazzled by 12,000 more gilded statues, as well as gorgeous pavilions and a crimson pagoda. Not to mention an Instagram-worthy panorama of Sha Tin and its mountainous surrounds.
The best things to do in Hong Kong: indoor
Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city while sipping on a delicious cocktail at what is being touted as the highest bar in the world at Ozone. Perched on the 118th floor of the ICC as part of the Hong Kong Ritz-Carlton, Ozone offers quality cocktails including classic Martinis and Cosmopolitans that are truly unforgettable. Come for the view and stay for the drinks.
Easily recognisable thanks to its ornate costumes, over-the-top headdresses, signature red, white and black face paint, experience this traditional form of Chinese entertainment up close at the historic Yau Ma Tei theatre. Revamped in 2012, head to the theatre for a night of falsettos, gongs, dazzling theatricals and Cantonese culture, all with English surtitles.
Move over yoga-laties, karaoke is a hugely popular nocturnal pastime where Hongkongers go to de-stress and raise their spirits. Show off your musical skills blasting out one of the latest hits or get plastic with an ABBA number. Karaoke joints offer everything from affordable happy hour deals to all-night packages. Learn local dice games and order in food to your private room.
The egg-shaped dome is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and visitors can enjoy documentary screenings on reclining chairs as films get projected onto the curved ceiling of the planetarium. Head over to the main museum and discover plenty of action and gadgetry for space and science lovers. The exhibition halls are currently closed for renovation.
It’s certainly not a day at the spa, but you can easily find a massage parlour on almost every corner in Hong Kong. Different places provides everything from a quick 25-minute foot massage to a 100 minute-long full body massage, costing under $500. It’s a safer bet to go with one of the chain parlours like Happy Foot, but most spots are relatively clean in the salubrious parts of the city.
The world’s top touring art exhibitions regularly make their way through renowned art galleries like Edouard Malingue and Pearl Lam, while independent local art spaces like Para/Site put on unique shows that continue to push the boundaries of the art world. Quirky exhibitions like The World of Tim Burton have passed through our city as well. Do some gallery-hopping with our pick of the best art galleries in Hong Kong.
Learn about Hong Kong’s rich and vibrant history at the Hong Kong Museum of History, discover our tea drinking culture at the Flagstaff House Museum or step into a world of mirrors with the Hong Kong Science Museum. There’s no limit to the fun and knowledge available at these world-class museums.
The city becomes flooded with art buyers, collectors and all-round enthusiasts every March when Art Central and Art Basel Hong Kong roll into town. Even Leonardo DiCaprio flew into the city for the day just to see the action in 2016. Hosting more than 3,000 artists and 242 galleries from across the globe, tickets for Art Basel Hong Kong are available from January each year inviting art lovers to take in a wealth of amazing creativity.
The best things to do in Hong Kong: eat
Tim Ho Wan is considered one of the best dim sums spots in Hong Kong and this local neighbourhood gem is your chance to dine at one of the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. Their most famous dish? The barbecue pork baked bun, otherwise known as char siu bao, are mouthwatering and addictive. There’s not a huge selection available on the menu but none of the dim sum disappoints.
Jumbo Floating Restaurant, one of Hong Kong’s iconic landmarks, took over four years and millions of dollars to build. With the look of an ancient Chinese palace, the restaurant draws in tourists and locals alike, including celebrities like Tom Cruise and Chow Yun Fat and even Queen Elizabeth II. Offering an array of quality seafood dishes and dim sum, hop on the free ferry from Aberdeen Promenade for splendid Cantonese cuisine.
For some posh nosh, visit the lobby of the prestigious Peninsula Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui and order the famous traditional afternoon tea. Sip and nibble while a string quartet plays in the background and take in the splendour and decor of the famous five-star hotel.
Dim sum is such a big deal in Hong Kong that it needs to be on the list at least twice. For anyone seeking a bit of variation from the usual char siu bao and siu mai, Dim Sum Icon offers dim sum that resembles adorable Japanese cartoon characters like Gudetama and Crayon Shin-chan, and encourages diners to squeeze and poke holes – in the mouth or the rear – for hilarious Instagram photos. Camera eats first!
Eggettes or egg waffles are a Hong Kong street food staple and a must-have if you’re visiting the city. The popular local snack is similar to a pancake and is cooked between two plates of semi-spherical cells. They come in many flavours such as chocolate, strawberry, matcha and even, in some places, with ice-cream. Though, nothing beats the traditional. Find more Hong Kong cheap eats here.
There’s more to local food than just dim sum. Cha chaang teng are essentially the Hong Kong equivalent of a greasy spoon where you can find all manner of delicious local delights from fried instant noodles to a fluffy egg sandwich. Any cha chaang teng you visit should make a brilliant Hong Kong-style milk tea or coffee. Can’t decide? Order a ‘yuen yeung’, a mix of the two and a hugely popular local beverage.
It’s hard to miss the pungent smell of stinky tofu when you’re in the vicinity. The clue is in the name: stinky tofu is an extremely pungent mix of tofu and fermented milk, meat and fish that’s deep fried. It tastes better than it smells but it remains a love it or hate it affair. It’s sold by the bag and Hongkongers tend to eat it with sweet sauce and chili sauce.
Chungking Mansions is an infamous building complex in the heart of bustling Tsim Sha Tsui home to many ethnic minorities, asylum seekers and visiting backpackers. And it’s only few blocks away from where Edward Snowden was hiding in Hong Kong during his brief stay. Dirt cheap (and cramped) hostels aside, the building is also the place to go for authentic South Asian cuisine. Try the beef kebabs at Khyber Pass Club Restaurant or go one step further and try a Swahili dish at one of the secret African restaurants hidden inside the complex.
Rabbitland offers a new kind of dining experience where diners can enjoy stroking and petting a furry friend in between sips of tea and coffee. Situated in an upstairs space in Causeway Bay, there are up to six rabbits for diners to makes friends with. Remember to wear/bring socks as well! Alternatively, if you’re more a cat person, we’ve got plenty of cat cafés as well.
The best things to do in Hong Kong: shop
Shopping in Hong Kong is a must. If you can only visit one mall in Hong Kong, make it this one – with a skating rink on the top floor, a cinema, large glass windows offering views of Lion Rock and convenient connections to the MTR and KCR light rail, it’s easily the best choice. There’re more than 200 retail shops and restaurants to pick from, from high-end brands to local favourites, making Festival Walk] a mecca for shopaholics.
Rummage through the nightly street bazaar for colourful bric-a-brac, watches, fans, electronic gadgets, clothes, sex toys and knock-off paintings – all for brilliant prices after some earnest haggling. Take in some street-side karaoke while you’re at it or sit down with a fortune-teller for a cheeky face and palm reading, though take everything with a grain a salt. Prices vary but some stalls can charge up to $500 for a session.
Delicate porcelain, Buddha sculptures, Maoist memorabilia and Ming dynasty ceramic horsemen – Hollywood Road is one of the world’s most enticing hotspots for antique shopping. Just steps away is the famous Man Mo Temple, one of the oldest temples in Hong Kong. Shop and then get spiritual at the atmospheric place of worship.
Hongkongers’ go-to place for the best knock-offs. You can find anything here from a fake Gucci watch and Beat headphones to a potato peeler. Just you try to leave empty handed! The Ladies Market is also the best place for cheap smartphone cases and to pick up your requisite ‘I Love Hong Kong’ T-shirt.
There’re plenty of deals to be found in this beautiful seaside market, and check out the historic Murray House while you’re there. Sit down for a candlelit seafood dinner at the Boathouse overlooking the harbour or get some Mediterranean grub at Lucy’s. Just 10 minutes walk away from the market: St Stephen’s Beach is one of quietest and picturesque beaches on Hong Kong Island.
The best things to do in Hong Kong: nightlife
Party hard with tourists, expats and locals alike in the city’s ground zero for debauchery. Lan Kwai Fong – or as locals like to call it, LKF – is Hong Kong’s most popular nightlife spot and the steep street is just as vital as Victoria Harbour. It comes alive every evening, packed with after-work drinkers and general revellers. With more than 90 restaurants and bars to pick from, check out our list of the best happy hour deals in LKF to ensure the best time.
Arguably Hong Kong’s most venerable live music institution and certainly the best for underground music, Hidden Agenda is the place to catch punk and metal bands, as well as everything else beyond the mainstream. The indie venue has been forced to closed three times due to licensing issues but it always come fighting back to bring Hongkongers amazing live performances.
Not only can you get juicy steaks and a hearty meal at Wooloomooloo, you can also find stunning panoramic views of the city on their open-air rooftop terrace. The Australian steakhouse offers a none-too-shabby view of Wan Chai, Victoria Harbour and Tsim Sha Tsui without feeling removed from the city. The cocktails can get pretty pricey, so we suggest sticking with wine.
Sick of the same crowds at LKF and Wan Chai? XXX is the perfect choice for an alternative clubbing experience. They may not boast fancy light fixtures or table service but the vibe at this Tai Kok Tsui venue is akin to a New York underground art party, mixing house, electro, techno and Jamaican dancehall and, more importantly, hosting Hong Kong’s underground crews.
Self-proclaimed as Hong Kong’s longest running live music venue, this popular local music club has been playing host to bands of all shapes and sizes, from across genres and origins, without fail every night since 1987. Headbang to classic rock tunes while enjoying cheap beers and maybe meet your new best friend.
The bohemian gay bar Linq located at LKF hosts a 'guy's night' every Wednesday where there's free-flow vodka from 10pm to midnight. Linq is one of the city's (unfortunately) few gay-friendly bars, so expect plenty of cute boys and girls from the LGBTI community.
This grungy neighbourhood bar with an authentic rock ‘n’ roll vibe is a rare gem in HK. With an old-school jukebox in the corner, the American-style bar is worth checking out for its lively atmosphere and rocking playlist alone. While there, try the excellent cocktails and be sure to stick around until midnight when the bartenders hop on the counter to pour Becherovka into patrons’ mouths. Coyote Ugly, anyone?
There’s no other place in the city where you can party in a venue that’s decorated with celebrated artwork except at Duddell’s. With a dramatic staircase that connects the two-floored space and the garden terrace, the Central hot spot is like stepping into the home of an art collector. They do fantastic vintage cocktails and the venue’s monthly Disco Bao event is always well worth a look. Why not dine at Duddell’s two Michelin-star Cantonese restaurant before hitting the bar.
The best thing about Premium Sofa Club is their BYOB policy, so say bye-bye to those hefty bills at the end of the night. As the name suggests, the Sheung Wan basement space has no shortage of sofas and recliners but there’s still plenty of space to rip it up on the dance floor. The club hosts regular DJ nights, so check their Facebook page to see the latest schedule.
More of the best things to do in Hong Kong
Plan a stay in Hong Kong
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