Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the many attractions to see in Hong Kong? Follow our ultimate guide to the top attractions to visit and tick them off one by one. From the city’s best museums and historical landmarks to some of the best free things to do, this is a one-stop guide for any travelling tourist or longstanding local looking to fall in love with Hong Kong all over again. And if all this isn’t enough, have a look at our list of the best things to do in Hong Kong and discover even more that our great city has to offer.
Top Hong Kong Attractions: The Must See
As the name suggests, The Peak is the highest point on Hong Kong Island and offers the best panorama of the city, the view stretching from the skyscrapers of Central to the mountains of the New Territories. You can reach it via the Peak Tram, which rises 1,300 feet above sea level as it passes the city’s buildings at an almost impossible gradient. For the best vantage points once you’re at the summit, head to the viewing platform at the anvil-shaped Peak Tower or, if you’ve set aside more time, hike round the 3.5km Peak Circle Walk to get an amazing bird’s eye view of our incredible metropolis.
Hong Kong’s singular most recognisable and iconic attraction, Tian Tan Buddha (more commonly referred to as just the Big Buddha) took 12 years to plan and construct. Sitting 34 metres high, visitors must climb 268 steps to reach the giant bronze statue, so be ready for a little exercise. Next to the Buddha sits Po Lin Monastery, one of the world’s most important Buddist sanctums, rich with religious iconography and wafts of incense. If climbing all those steps makes you peckish, refuel at neighbouring Ngong Ping Village for a traditional Buddist vegetarian meal.
Lan Kwai Fong, LKF for short, is Hong Kong’s ground zero for partying. It’s where you want to be on a Friday and Saturday night. There are over 90 restaurants and bars packed into the neighbourhood, from classy high-end joints such as Dragon-i to pubs like Hong Kong Brewery that are more rough around the edges. Get ready to party hard with tourists, expats and locals alike in the city’s epicentre of debauchery.
Located on Hollywood Road, close to the many nearby antique stores that dot Hollywood and Cat streets, Man Mo Temple is a mid-19th century Grade I historic building and a declared national monument. A place of worship dedicated primarily to Man Cheong (god of literature) and Mo Tai (god of war) – a pair frequently worshipped by young students taking Imperial China’s civil service exams – the atmosphere created by the heavy clouds of incense is a world away from the bustle of Central racing past outside.
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 the handprint plaques and enjoy themed exhibitions to discover more about the rich history of the Hong Kong film industry. Currently closed for repair works until the end of 2018.
Unlike Bangkok or Taiwan, it’s sadly rare to find a night market in Hong Kong, a situation that has given constant fame to Temple Street. After the sun goes down, the stalls pop up. The tourists visit for the ‘I heart HK’ T-shirts and watches of dubious provenance, the locals come to consult the fortune-tellers.
The city’s original and most beloved theme park (sorry, Disneyland), Ocean Park is located on the southside of Hong Kong Island. Currently home to two giant pandas, see Ying Ying and Le Le first, then take a cable car over dramatic cliffs to reach the many adrenaline-inducing rollercoaster rides and an array of marine animals and exotic birds. If you’re in town during Halloween, Ocean Park is also incredibly popular every year for its month-long, and surprisingly scary, Halloween attractions.
Horse racing is a big deal in this city as it remains the only sport on which Hongkongers can legally bet. Head down to Happy Valley Racecourse every Wednesday during race season (typically July to September) for the best of the action and plenty of extra trackside fun. Featuring eight races, try your luck and place a bet on an in-form horse. There are regular themes for these Wednesday events, so join the party and be sure to pop over to the beer garden for some ice-cold brews.
The Star Ferry is the fastest and cheapest way to travel between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central or Wan Chai, taking less than five minutes to cross between the two shores. The sea breeze and relaxing pace of the journey are recommendations enough but the short trip also offers one of the best views of the iconic Hong Kong skyline, providing front row seats to the sights of Victoria Harbour. SLRs at the ready!
The historic clock tower, built in 1915 and part of the sadly demolished Kowloon-Canton Railway terminus, is one of the most famous buildings in Tsim Sha Tsui. A declared monument, the 44-metra tall red brick and granite tower is a reminder of times past and makes for a fantastic photo-op with Victoria Harbour in the background.
Top Hong Kong Attractions: Art and Culture
A hub for independent art performances, stand-up comedy shows and unique art exhibitions, the Fringe Club is known for its open platform, allowing anyone with creative materials to put on a show. Built in 1892 and a former cold storage factory, the iconic red and white brick building is now one of the most vibrant art spaces in Hong Kong. In its time, the Fringe Club has presented almost 30 festivals, thousands of art exhibitions and over 8,000 stage performances. Located next to Lan Kwai Fong, the rooftop garden bar also makes the perfect getaway from all the hustle and bustle to enjoy some nibbles and a drink or two.
Hong Kong’s only arthouse cinema, Broadway Cinemathèque is the go-to destination to catch some international cinema. The cinema hosts a wide range of film festivals every year, including the Asian Film Festival, Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and the Korean Film Festival. Aside from showing new films, Broadway Cinemathèque also offers retrospective programmes delving into the oeuvres of legendary filmmakers like François Truffaut, Yamada Yoji and Krzysztof Kieślowski. The neighbouring Kubrick café and bookstore is a great spot to grab a drink or a new novel (English and Chinese titles available) if you arrive early before a showing. If all that isn’t enough to tempt you to the area, just five-minutes’ walk away is the famous Temple Street Night Market.
One of the most iconic cultural buildings in the city, the Cultural Centre and the adjacent historic clock tower are tourist favourites for grabbing photos of Victoria Harbour. Built in 1989, the curved and concave shaped building is the go-to venue for international touring theatre shows, world-class concerts, opera and performances. The acoustics in the Concert Hall are often praised for elevating any musical performances thanks to its wooden panels and ceiling. The trademark beige bricks of the building also make a popular background for wedding photo shoots.
In the lead up to the eventual grand opening of M+, which is set to be Hong Kong’s pioneering contemporary art museum, M+ Pavilion opened in 2016 to serve as a stopgap. Inside the sleek, reflective architecture are a host of thematic shows, as well as independent exhibitions created by local talents. The showcases provide an interesting insight into what to expect at what should hopefully become a leading Asian art museum.
One of the biggest conservation projects in recent Hong Kong history, the former Police Married Quarters has been revitalised as a centre for all things creative and design-based. More than 100 creative enterprises can be found at PMQ, where old residential units have been converted into small boutiques and design studios selling handmade products from jewellery to homeware goods. Pop-up stores from international designers are also a common occurrence at PMQ and the regular night markets are particularly popular among design enthusiasts.
The Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre is an open art space that focuses on art education and exchange. Located in Hong Kong Park in Central, the venue has been revamped from a century-old historic building, which formerly served as married quarters for British army officers, into a modern hub of creativity. The centre houses a number of studios accommodating a wide array of disciplines, from ceramics to printmaking, and offers a range of art training programmes to the public while also providing space for artists to experiment and create.
Establsihed in 1962 as part of City Hall, the Hong Kong Museum of Art now houses over 16,000 artworks in its pink tiled, multipurpose space. As well as boasting one of the largest art collections of local art in the city, the museum is packed with mainland Chinese paintings, calligraphy works and antiques. The museum also regularly hosts and presents themed exhibitions, which attract reputable names from overseas, while also promoting the work of local artists. If you need a break from all this art, head right next door to the Hong Kong Space Museum for an adventure that’s worlds away. Currently closed for refurbishment until 2019.
Top Hong Kong Attractions: Historic
The 431 steps leading up to 10,000 Buddhas Monastery are lined with life-sized, gold-painted Buddha statues, each entertainingly unique. Once you reach the 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. See also: 10 Buddhas to look out for at the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery.
This tranquil public park looks like an illustration taken from the page of a Tang Dynasty artwork. Wander around through calm waters and rocks as you head towards the unmissable red Zi Wu Bridge and stunning gold Pavilion of Absolute Perfection. Just a short walk away from the garden sits the famous Chi Lin Nunnery and vegetarian restaurants worthy of a visit.
St John’s Cathedral is the oldest Anglican church in Hong Kong and sits atop Government Hill overlooking the financial district. The building itself is English gothic style and built in the shape of a cross, housing the seat of the Archbishop of Hong Kong. The cathedral has seen more than a few things as it was briefly turned into a club during the Japanese occupation and many of its original stained glass windows were stripped out. If you’re in town, their Christmas Eve midnight service draws a massive audience year after year, so start queuing up from 9pm to ensure a seat.
One of the few remaining fishing villages in Hong Kong, Tai O is home to the Tanka people who’ve built their homes on stilts in the waters off of Lantau Island. A majority of the community’s incomes derives from tourists visiting their markets, where you can shop for dried seafood and traditional Chinese snacks, and taking boat tours through the stilt houses.
The oldest university in the city, the University of Hong Kong, or HKU as locals like to call it, was founded in 1911 and is regarded as one of the top universities in the world. Sitting pretty on a hillside in Pok Fu Lam, the majority of the campus buildings are colonial-style and serve as a hugely popular backdrop for wedding and tourist photos. The campus includes the University Museum and Art Gallery, which houses Chinese artefacts and contemporary art, which also happens to be the oldest museum in Hong Kong.
Tsz Shan Monastery is home to the world’s biggest bronze statue of Guan Yin (goddess of mercy, also known as Kwun Yum in Cantonese). Sitting 76-metres-tall, the statue is twice the size of Lantau Island’s Big Buddha. The 500,000sq ft monastery took up to 12 years to complete and is designed in a style that mirrors that of the Tang dynasty. The Buddist compound features several grand halls, a striking Bodhi tree, sweeping gardens and a ‘brilliance pond’. There’s a strict limit on how many people can visit each day, so make sure you book in advance online.
Victoria Park serves as an oasis of tranquillity in the middle of Hong Kong’s urban jungle. Play bowls, tennis, go for a swim or just sit by the lake and relax, especially if you want a break after a shopping spree at one of the many malls in Causeway Bay. If you’re an early riser, you can catch old folk doing tai chi in leafy corners. Victoria Park transforms into a bustling night market during Chinese New Year and gets decorated with glowing lanterns for Mid-Autumn Festival.
A home to three religions – Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism – Wong Tai Sin Temple is the go-to place for worship for big celebrations such as Buddha’s birthday and is a popular site courtesy of its gorgeously ornamented buildings. The historic temple is also known for its supposedly accurate fortune-telling via kau cim, where worshippers shake a bamboo cylinder containing various fortune sticks until one falls out.
Dr Sun Yat-sen devoted his life to overthrowing China’s imperial system and establishing a more democratic Republic of China. He had close ties with Hong Kong, having received his education and devised plans here. The museum ($10 entry) details his life and Hong Kong’s place in the creation of modern China.
Top Hong Kong Attractions: Family-Friendly
Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden spreads over 148 hectares of land on the northern slopes of Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s highest mountain. The farm was originally established to aid poor farmers in the New Territories but has since evolved into a nature conservation centre. Mosey around the vegetables gardens and greenhouses and learn about fascinating organic growth methods. It’s perfect for those trying to transition into a more sustainable living at home. Visit exotics animals like flamingos, deer and, if you’re lucky, the occasional porcupines and pangolins in the area surrounding the farm.
Hong Kong Disneyland is the first Disneyland to open in China. Located on Lantau Island, the park consists of seven themed areas including Main Street USA, Fantasyland and Toy Story Land. Varying from exciting amusement rides to electrifying parades, the theme park brings all your favourite Disney characters to life and makes for a perfect family day out. Don’t forget to stay for the dazzling fireworks!
This exciting institution hosts daily interactive science demos such as molecular gastronomy and robotics on top of its permanent exhibits. Highlights at the museum include the world of mirrors, a food science area and the 22-metre-high ‘energy machine’ that produces awesome audio-visual effects as it demonstrates various forms of energy. It’s electrifyingly fun.
It’s hard to miss this egg-shaped dome on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. The theatre dome makes up half of the Hong Kong Space Museum, along with the Hall of Space Science and the Hall of Astronomy. Visitors can enjoy documentary screenings under the curved ceiling of the planetarium. Head over to the main museum and discover plenty of action and gadgetry for space and science enthusiasts. Exhibitions halls are currently closed for renovation until the end of 2017.
The 61-hectare wetland reserve and ecotourism park is home to a whole host of wetland plants and animals, from mangroves to rare birds. Promoting the importance of wildlife and nature conservation, the Wetland Park is great for bird watchers to eager to spot migrations and for families to enjoy an educational day out.
The biggest celebrities and famous personalities are forever immortalised in wax at Asia’s first Madame Tussauds. More than 100 wax figures are featured at the museum, a third of which are renowned Asian superstars like Hong Kong’s very own Andy Lau and Jackie Chan. Meet the royal family, strike a pose with David Beckham and get up close to historical figures like Gandhi and, uh, bizarrely, Hitler.
If you’re looking for a laid-back day trip off Hong Kong Island, Lamma is the answer. There’s no other place in Hong Kong where you’ll find the perfect blend of a traditional Chinese fishing village with a multicultural, multinational community. Known for its bohemian lifestyle and a popular stomping ground for expats and tourists alike, the outlying island is an easy 30-45 minute ferry ride from either Aberdeen or Central. See the iconic three-prong power station from afar, which almost ruins the view from Power Station Beach but not quite. The restaurants on Lamma offer some of the freshest seafood in Hong Kong and are often reasonably priced to boot. If you’re feeling active, rent a bike and cycle around to enjoy the gorgeous views of the surrounding waters.
You might be surprised to find tucked away underneath Tsing Ma Bridge the world’s first (apparently) full-sized replica of Noah’s Ark. The Christian theme park – you read that right – first opened its doors in 2009 and features 67 pairs of life-sized animal sculptures, a 4D theatre, an eight-metre giant swing and, if you want to hang around more than a day, hotel accommodation on the top floor of the ark. The park is a fun family activity and an educational experience to boot.
Plenty of bargains are to be found at this beautiful seaside market, not to mention, weird and wonderful souvenirs. Refuel after the shopping at one of the many waterfront restaurants like Boathouse or the high-end cuisine on offer at Stanley Plaza. Make a detour to colonial Murray House while you’re there, a popular photo op for Hongkongers.
Literally meaning Big Hat Mountain, Tai Mo Shan stands 957m tall, the highest peak in Hong Kong. While the city has no shortage of great hiking trails, varying in difficulties and length, Tai Mo Shan is definitely one of the tougher hikes to tackle but it’s worth all the trouble. Make your way up the grassy slopes to reach the summit where the lookout provides stunning panoramic views of the northern and western New Territories, and sometimes even neighbouring Shenzhen on a really clear day. The view up there during sunrise is also incomparable. You’re bound to pass a waterfall on your way up, including the famous 35m-tall Ng Tung Chai Waterfalls. It can get pretty cold up the mountain, so come prepared if you decide to tackle Tai Mo Shan.