We all know that Hong Kong isn’t a cheap place to live in. And with exorbitant cemetery plots, this city isn’t even an affordable place to be dead. But cheer up! There’s no need to panic when payday far away and you’re down to your last cents, as there’s a wealth of free things to do in our SAR. From free gigs at Hong Kong's best music venues to free galleries and free comedy nights, there's plenty to keep you going out every day of the week, without having to spend a cent!
Free things to do in Hong Kong
This one’s a feast for the eyes and a free workout. The 431 steps leading up to the monastery are lined with life-sized, gold-painted Buddha statues, each entertainingly unique. Once you reach the temple complex, also 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 the Instagram-worthy panorama of Sha Tin and its mountainous surrounds.
From the heart of the city to the nooks and crannies, there’s art everywhere in our metropolis – as long as you know where to look. Whether you're into photography or contemporary arts, there are plenty of gallery hubs like H Queen’s and Pedder Building, as well as at institutions like Tai Kwun and Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre. Most art galleries in Hong Kong won't charge a penny unless there are special exhibitions held, so what's the harm in looking?
At its peak, only Hollywood and Bollywood produced more movies in a year than Hong Kong, and homegrown names like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Shaw Brothers, John Woo and Wong Kar-wai are famous worldwide. Avenue of Stars pays tribute to Hong Kong’s enviable cinematic history and the stars that have made such an impact. Grab selfies with beloved actors in sculpture form along the waterfront, compare hand sizes on over 100 handprint plaques and enjoy themed exhibitions to discover more about the rich history of the Hong Kong film industry.
Can’t afford a gym membership? Take on the Dragon’s Back, one of the easiest hikes in Hong Kong, for a decent workout. The trail takes you past spectacular views of Tai Tam Harbour, Tai Long Wan and Stanley as well as Shek O’s beautiful panoramic sceneries from 284m above the sea. The trail ends at Big Wave Bay Beach where you can relax and dip your feet in the sand. Or hit the water and work off some more calories. You can start from Shek O or from Tai Tei Wan.
Tucked away in Ma Tau Kok’s sleepy 13 Streets neighbourhood, Cattle Depot Artist’s Village is one of Hong Kong’s most precious artistic hubs. Notable for its colonial era red brick buildings, the site was formerly a quarantine base and slaughterhouse before it was renovated and converted into a local art community in 2001, well ahead of similar projects like PMQ. Always free to enter, the village is home to approximately 20 art organisations, arguably none more prominent than Videotage, a Unesco-listed media art organisation that focuses on new media. Visit for the historic architecture, stay for the art.
The Hong Kong public libraries, including the easily accessible Central Library in Causeway Bay, offer a service with regular free talks and workshops taking place throughout the year in either Cantonese or English.
Best known for its impressive seafood buffet spread, you can stuff yourself to your heart’s content at The Cityview Hotel’s City Café when your birthday rolls around. Dig into a fantastic variety of fresh seafood like sea salted-baked Alaska queen crab leg, shredded abalone and baked oysters. It’s free for any birthday boy/girl but your buddies will have to cough up $438.
Hong Kong has no shortage of temples and prides itself on being a melting pot of cultures. Whether it’s Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim or Sikh, there’s bound to be one in every neighbourhood you step into across Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, New Territories and even the outlying islands. Some temples have become popular tourist attractions like Man Mo Temple and Po Lin Monastery thanks to their fascinating history and intricate architectural design.
Built in 1960, this former courthouse was the centre of Kowloon’s legal activity for almost half a century and a prime example of the stripped classicism of mid-20th century civic architecture. Featuring high-ceilinged courtrooms, ornamental balustrades and marble wall finishes, it still evokes the judicial grandeur of its glory days. The building currently serves as the Hong Kong branch of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and regular guided tours of the building are available to the public for free (online booking required).
Freespace Happening is basically a mini-Clockkenflap without the extortionate ticket prices. Taking place over a weekend once every month between September and March with a different theme, you can catch some of the best local performers not only in music – previous bands who have performed include Rubberband and Supper Moment – but also dance, theatre and the literary arts. There’s also always a fantastic handicraft market, too. Take advantage of the vast open green space and bring a picnic basket and/or pet for a packed weekend.
Gym memberships can make a massive dent in the bank account. While there’s a wealth of hiking trails available in Hong Kong that allows you to work out without paying a cent, it can sometimes be a hassle to get there. Sometimes you just want to pop in and pop out after work. Here’s where the seven-day free trial comes in. Gym chain Gojo Studio’s trial package allows you to a whole week to try out different classes around town, ranging from yoga, body pump, Zumba and spinning.
Want a perfect date spot that doesn’t hurt your bank balance? We highly recommend Ha Pak Nai for couples seeking a romantic sunset that doesn’t involve a sweat dripping, mood ruining hike up Lantau’s Sunset Peak. Picture perfect, Ha Pak Nai is a shallow beach in the far northwest New Territories surrounded by mangroves where you can watch the sun go down over the shimmering water.
Too hard up for one of the city’s more glamorous museums? Get in touch with Hong Kong’s heritage while paying nada at the Heritage Discovery Centre. Located in scenic Kowloon Park, gain a better understanding of our city’s history through various galleries, a library, activity rooms and visiting colonial structures like the historic Whitfield Barracks.
This dinky museum is in the declared monument that used to be the Tai Po railway station and exhibits artefacts from Hong Kong’s long rail history. There’s also a full-size model of an electric train compartment at the museum and railway tracks to explore.
The Hong Kong Science Museum hosts interactive science demos that includes topics such as molecular gastronomy and robotics on top of its permanent exhibits. Standard tickets cost only $20 but if you're really strapped for cash, admissions is free for all every Wednesday. Full-time students, as well as children under the age of four, can also get in for free.
Find peace in the urban jungle that is Central at one of the world’s oldest botanical gardens and keep your wallet in your pocket while you’re at it. The gardens are filled with more than 1,000 species of plants and guided tours in Cantonese take place from 10.30am to 12.30pm every Sunday, also free of charge.
Running out of luck this year? The banyan trees in Lam Tsuen in Fong Ma Po Village might just do the trick for you. Traditionally, villagers would write their wishes on joss paper, tie it to an orange and throw them into the trees. Legend has it that the higher the wish lands, the better the chances are for your wishes to come true. Just remember to pick up a lottery ticket on your way home.
Once a thriving fishing town with several thousand residents, Hongkongers once flocked to Ma Wan for the seafood restaurants if offered. Unfortunately, the construction of a gated luxury apartment complex saw the relocation – both voluntary and forced – of long-term residents. Their old community now lies empty, a ghost town. Abandoned houses, restaurants and other community facilities make for an eerie and unique sight unlike any other in Hong Kong. Hop back in time and see Ma Wan before it too gets redeveloped.
Getting older isn’t always a bad thing. There’re some pretty great perks with it. Everyone’s favourite wax museum Madame Tussauds has brought back its Hong Kong residents’ birthday promotion until the end of the year. Simply show up with your Hong Kong ID on your birthday, or a week before or after, and enjoy free entry for plenty of selfies with the stars. Bring along a maximum of three friends and they can get a 40% discount too!
The only surviving remnant of Hong Kong’s oldest public housing project and the recipient of a Unesco honorable mention last year, Mei Ho House is a vital piece of local history and architecture built after a fire in 1954 left 58,000 homeless. Nowadays, in addition to being a functioning youth hostel, Mei Ho House is also a museum dedicated to the history of public housing in the area. The estate’s single floor wet market is one of Hong Kong’s most authentic and well worth a gander before plans to redevelop it gain traction. There's also a free English guided tour on offer Sundays, click here to find out how to join.
If your budget doesn’t stretch to the latest 3D movie with vibrating seat extra, there are startling movies you can see for free. The Mexican consulate’s Cineclub Mexico showcases the country's cinema every last Thursday of the month at its site in Causeway Bay. There’s even free popcorn and Mexican snacks on occasion. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
One of the oldest buildings in the city, Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware Flagstaff House, located in Hong Kong Park, was built in the 1840s and was formerly the office and residence of the commander of the British Forces in Hong Kong. It became the Museum of Tea Ware in 1984 and houses exhibitions, demonstrations, tea gatherings and lectures that promote China’s tea drinking culture.
Located between the Shan Pui and Kam Tin rivers, the Nam Sang Wai wetlands are home to countless flora and fauna. A green dream, the area is the perfect place for anyone looking to reconnect with nature. There are corridors of eucalyptus trees, spots to watch migrating birds, fields of reeds, otters in the ponds and much more. Bring along homemade food and enjoy a rustic picnic. In recent years, there have been bids for property development in the area, so take the chance to see the picturesque views before the developers come knocking again.
Ocean Park’s free birthday admission is a well-known boon in the city. Simply head down on your birthday and present your ID to skip the $385 admission charge and get yourself in for nothing. If Artic foxes and giant pandas aren’t your thing, the Abyss ride drops thrill seekers 200ft faster than free-fall and the Hair Raiser roller coaster hits speeds of up to 4.0G.
This one’s just for the ladies. Set your destination to Ophelia for a glamorous and decadent ladies night that channels retro burlesque and old Hollywood glam. As well as Ophelia's usual brand of top-drawer madness, ladies can enjoy free-flow vodka and gin (with your choice of mixer) between 9pm and 11pm every Wednesday night.
For those more inclined to jazz, Lan Kwai Fong’s Peel Fresco hosts regular open jam sessions and appearances from the likes of quintet The Wong Way Down that have no cover charge. Just buy a drink or two to support these institutions and keep the music free.
Hong Kong certainly doesn’t lack retreat spots, as we’ve got some stellar camping sites and beaches. But when you’re in the middle of the week and you need to unwind, or you simply want to take advantage of the breezy weather, Hong Kong has many a public park at your disposal. So, pack a basket with some goodies from your fridge, grab a few friends and settle down for a relaxing Sunday afternoon picnic in a park.
Another great birthday perk for Hongkongers. The prestigious five-star hotel the Peninsula offers the celebrant a complimentary set dinner in The Lobby if dining with a group of four or more. ID must be shown, but the dinner can be booked the entire month the birthday takes place. Why not hit both the Mira and the Peninsula for a double treat?
This one’s for the history buffs. This extensive trail takes you through 10 significant landmarks and well-preserved heritage sites in the Ping Shan area. Take a journey to the past and see echoes of the humble market village via the centuries-old ancestral halls, declared monuments and historic temples.
Have you done everything there is to do on Lamma? Is Cheung Chau getting a little too hipster for you? Hong Kong is home to more than 250 islands, so there’s no need for you to keep revisiting the same old spots. If you’re looking for gorgeous sandy beaches, picturesque hikes and have an eventful weekend without spending a dollar, there are some great islands waiting for you to explore.
Explore Sheung Yiu Village, a former fortified Hakka settlement that’s now a cultural and historic monument in one, filled with galleries and rich in local history. Known for its lime kiln that brought wealth to its inhabitants, this village-turned-museum offers an insight into the daily life of a Hakka villager’s rural lifestyle. If that’s not enough to justify the journey to the area, take in the surrounding Sai Kung Country Park.
A massive independent art space in the heart of Central, Tai Kwun is one of the biggest creative hubs in the city. Consisting of 16 heritage buildings, two open spaces and two art galleries, a 200 seat auditorium and various bars and restaurants, the former Central Police Station compound hosts a diverse range of performances, exhibitions and workshops. F&B aside, it’s all free to the public. Tai Kwun’s regular Sunday Movie Series takes place every Sunday at the semi-outdoor Laundry Steps, screening some of the best animation films in Asia.
Laughs are free too in Hong Kong. Takeout Comedy hosts a regular open mic night every Tuesday and entrance is gratis for those willing to perform ($50 otherwise).
People who complain about Hong Kong’s live music scene simply aren't looking hard enough. Not when there are so many decent free gig to be had. The Wanch has been open for almost 30 years and its constant stream of free shows is one big reason why. Whether it's Tatsuya Yamaguchi's regular acoustic sessions or appearances from local indie bands like Teenage Riot or Bamboo Star, there’s almost always something worth seeing.
A quiet gem in ever-busy Mong Kok, Yuen Po Street, aka Bird Street, is decorated in the form of a traditional Chinese garden. Admired for its traditional décor and the delightful chirps of its many songbirds, the area is a blissful escape from the surrounding concrete jungle.
Hong Kong just loves to treat birthday stars. Book a table at Mira’s Whisk restaurant and quote 'Whisk birthday celebration' to gain a complimentary glass of sparkling for you and an unlimited number of friends, plus you get a free birthday cake.