Prior to visiting Hong Kong, I imagined it being a concrete jungle of high rise buildings towering above the insanely crowded streets. And while I wasn’t necessarily wrong, I found so much more to love about this beautiful city. We discovered tranquil parks tucked behind busy streets, strenuous hiking trails with spectacular views of the city below, and some of the best food we’ve ever eaten!
You’ll absolutely fall in love with this busy little chaotic city and most certainly won’t be ready to leave when it’s time. There is so much to see and do but you won’t want to miss these 18 must-visit highlights of Hong Kong during your trip!
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Hong Kong Travel Basics
Things to Know Before you Go
- Hong Kong uses type G and D outlets. The standard voltage is 220 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. Be sure to pick up a universal travel adapter for your trip.
- The currency of Hong Kong is the Hong Kong Dollar and at the time of writing it was 7.82 HK$ to $1 USD. So if we say something costs 100 HK$, that’s just under $13 USD.
- The Basic Law of Hong Kong stipulates that Chinese and English are the two official languages. You’ll find that most people in Hong Kong speak at least a little English.
- In Hong Kong they drive on the left side of the road so be aware when crossing the street!
- Speaking of the left, it is customary to pass people on the left as well. However many people don’t abide by the rule which leads to chaos in crowded places. Expect people to run into you and vice versa.
Getting Around Hong Kong
There are several easy ways to get around Hong Kong – train, bus, or Uber. If you are coming from the airport, the quickest and cheapest way to get into the city is to take the bus, but only if traffic is light. The A21 takes you right into the Kowloon neighborhood and will cost you 33 HK$ per person.
The Airport Express is another easy way to get from the airport to downtown Hong Kong and will keep you from sitting in rush hour traffic. Trains depart every 10 minutes.
Be sure to invest in an Octopus Card for public transportation purposes! Just load some money on the card and you can use it for all of your public transportation needs. You’ll pay a deposit and return the card once you depart Hong Kong.
Where to Stay in Hong Kong
The 18 Best Things to do in Hong Kong
1. Trek to the Top of Lion Rock
Of all the amazing views that we experienced in Hong Kong, the view from the top of Lion Rock was undoubtedly our favorite. Once at the top, at 1,625 feet in altitude, you’ll hike along a ridgeline with panoramic views of the vibrant city below. The entire hike is about 3 miles but you’ll gain and lose a lot of elevation so plan on spending about 2.5 hours here.
It’s a steady uphill climb to the top with several incredibly steep sections. You’ll want to bring plenty of water and take a few breaks along the way. If you follow our directions below you can knock about a mile of uphill walking off of the journey by catching a taxi or Uber halfway up the mountain.
To get to the Lion Rock hike:
- Catch the green Kwun Tong metro line to Wong Tai Sin Station. You’ll exit the station right in the middle of the Wong Tai Sin Temple crowds.
- Walk to a nearby street to either catch a taxi or call an Uber to the Lion’s Pavilion in the Lion Rock Country Park. The hike starts just across the road.
- From the drop off point it’s about 1.15 miles to the top. When you come to a T in the trail, take a right toward Beacon Hill and then follow the sign on the left to Lion Rock Peak.
- Continue along the ridgeline to make the trail a loop. When the trail splits, follow the sign to Wang Tau Hom and you’ll end at Lion Rock Community Garden.
2. Get Spiritual at Wong Tai Sin Temple
Wong Tai Sin is Hong Kong’s most famous Taoist temple and a popular place for both local and foreign visitors. It’s a beautiful and bustling temple that is less than a mile from where you’ll end your Lion’s Peak hike. It’s worth stopping for a visit before departing this area of the city.
Be sure to check out the less crowded gardens in the back and give the holy statues a rub on your way out.
3. Visit the Clock Tower
The Clock Tower is located right on the waterfront near the Kowloon Public Pier. Not only has it been well maintained and is quite lovely to behold, it also has a fantastic skyline backdrop. The entire area around the pier is constantly streaming with people so it’s a great place to see the Central Hong Kong skyline and do some people watching while you’re at it.
4. See the Nightly Skyline Light Show
Every night at 8:00pm the buildings in Central Hong Kong, across the river from the Kowloon Public Pier light up the sky while music plays to create a symphony of lights! The area right by the Clock Tower or along the Avenue of Stars Bridge are the best places to watch the show.
Be sure to arrive about 20 minutes early to secure a place right on the water for the show.
5. Shop at Temple Street Night Market
The Temple Street Night Market is the largest market in Hong Kong. Located in the Kowloon neighborhood, one block from the Jordan metro station, this busy market starts every evening at 6:00pm but really picks up at around 9:00pm. You’ll find anything and everything at this market including delicious street stall food, classic Chinese souvenirs, knockoff clothes and purses, electronics, and much more!
6. Chow Down on Dim Sum
Hong Kong is one of the best locations in the world to chow down on delicious and inexpensive dim sum. And with so many delectable options, you’ll want to eat it for every meal!
Here are a few of our favorite dim sum spots around the city:
- Dim Dim Sum Jordan – this was by far our favorite dim sum experience in Hong Kong as they have large portions, excellent flavors, and a comfortable atmosphere. Be sure to try the seafood stuffed peppers and the stuffed eggplant! They open later than most and stay open until 1:00am.
- One Dim Sum – expect a long wait when you arrive, but stick it out, it’s worth it! Be sure to try the deep fried shrimp wontons and mango custard rolls.
- Tim Ho Wan Olympian City – you’re also in for a wait here but if you want to taste the best pork buns in the city, you’re going to have to get in line. They are the perfect combination of sweet and savory!
- Lin Heung Tea House – if you’re looking for a more authentic dim sum experience, you can’t miss this spot! Most people don’t speak English so expect to be confused, but it will be one of your most entertaining experiences in Hong Kong. The staff will roll out carts filled with various goodies and the patrons gather around to pick out what they want. They stop serving dim sum at 4:00pm but sell out of dumplings much earlier so be sure you go for breakfast.
TIP: None of these spots accept credit cards so make sure you have enough cash!
7. Hike the Dragon’s Back
The 3.1-mile loop hike that takes you to the top of Dragon’s Back offers picturesque views of both Junk Bay and Tai Tam Bay below. The hike is rather steep until you reach the top, but short enough that you can complete the entire loop in about 2 hours.
You’ll probably be hiking with a crowd until you reach the most popular viewpoint at the top. But once you’re done, head off along the ridge line to the Shek O Peak, which towers 930 feet above the ocean below, and the crowds will disperse. And you’ll begin the steady downhill climb back down the mountain.
When you reach the T in the trail, you can turn left to head back to the bus stop where you started the hike, or right to continue on to Big Wave Beach. If you take the right your hike will end up being closer to 6.2 miles in length. Private buses run to and from Big Wave Beach but you’ll have to pay cash, they don’t accept the Octopus card.
To get to the Dragon’s Back hike:
- Take the metro Island Line to the Shau Kei Wan Station (if you’re coming from the Kowloon neighborhood you’ll have to transfer at the Admiral station)
- Follow the signs to the Bus Terminus and find bus number 9. There’s generally a queue waiting to board.
- Take bus number 9 to the To Tai Wan stop. It’s easy to identify as most of the bus will empty out here.
- There are a few restroom stalls here and the trail starts to the left of them
8. Lounge on Shek O Beach
Once you’ve finished hiking Dragon’s Back, hop back on the number 9 bus to continue down to Shek O Beach. Here you’ll find a small, sandy beach with lovely ocean views. The quaint beach town offers a few restaurants if you want to grab lunch after your morning hike.
Beware of swimming here, the waves can get large and there may not be lifeguards on duty.
9. Ride the World’s Longest Escalator System in Soho
In the neighborhood of Soho you’ll find the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world! It’s not one continuous escalator (because people want to get off) but the entire thing covers a length of 2,625 feet and climbs 440 feet in elevation. If you were to ride the entire thing, it would take you about 20 minutes from the bottom to the top.
But don’t just ride the escalator, Soho is a hip neighborhood where you’ll find trendy locals and expats having after work cocktails. Plus just about every bar in the area offers happy hour deals from 4:00 – 7:00pm or later (or starting earlier!). So hop off of the escalator when you see a lively bar and enjoy an adult beverage or two!
10. Party in Lan Kwai Fong
The Lan Kwai Fong area is right next to Soho neighborhood and it’s filled with swanky nightclubs that fill up with those same trendy expats later in the evening. You’ll love sipping on yummy cocktails and then dancing the night away!
11. Climb the Steps of the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery
As you climb the many stairs to the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery, unique gold Buddha statues will line your path on either side. And once you reach the top you’ll find an ornate temple, it’s walls lined with hundreds of smaller Buddha statues. You’ll be in awe of the amount of work that went into creating this unique, spiritual space.
Opening hours are from 9:00am – 5:00pm daily and admission is free. Beware of fake monks asking for alms and clever monkeys who may try to steal your belongings.
12. Relax at Nan Lian Garden
The Nan Lian Garden is a gorgeous, tranquil garden in the middle of the bustling city. Filled with perfectly polished stones, bonsai trees, and colorful pagodas, you’ll love to escape the skyscrapers here. There is also a delicious vegetarian restaurant tucked behind a waterfall that is worth a stop if you’re hungry. The park is open daily from 7:00am – 9:00pm and admission is free.
Once you’ve had a walk around the gardens, head across the road to the Chi Lin Nunnery. Built in the 1930’s as a retreat for Buddhist nuns, it was renovated in 1998 using no nails whatsoever. The wood beams are slotted together like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s open daily from 9:00am – 4:30pm and admission is free.
13. Get the Perfect Instagram Shot at Choi Hung Estate
The basketball courts on the top of a parking garage in the middle of the Choi Hung Estate has gained Instagram notoriety over the years. Both the court and the surrounding buildings are colorful and make for a perfectly picturesque location. That is, if you can manage to take a photo without other people in it. By midday the basketball court is filled with people with outstretched selfie sticks.
If you want to get a good photo, be sure you get there early or prepare to wait for the crowds to disperse from one area or another. And don’t be surprised if people don’t respect your photo-taking space here – it’s every man for himself!
14. Take a Michelin Star Foodie Tour
You’ll find incredible food in Hong Kong for every budget. Even better, Hong Kong is home to countless Michelin Star rated restaurants and you’ll find several of the best located just blocks from each other! Wellington Street in Central Hong Kong is a hub for Michelin Star restaurants that are totally reasonably priced. At under $10 US per entree, you can sample all of them without breaking the bank.
You must try these 4 delicious dishes on or near Wellington Street:
- Mak’s Noodle House or Tsim Chai Kee Noodle House for the best wonton soup in the city! The wontons at Tsim Chai Kee are huge and stuffed with plump and delicious shrimp. Expect to wait for a bit, but the line moves fast.
- Wang Fu for a big portion of yummy stuffed dumplings. Be sure to sample the daily special!
- Yat Lok Restaurant for goose that has been roasted to perfection. But expect a pushy waitstaff, and be sure to bring your own napkins.
- Tai Cheong Bakery for egg tarts. Many people say that they’re the best in the city, but be prepared to queue up to get one.
15. Visit the Tian Tan Buddha
Also known as Big Buddha, the Tian Tan Buddha is an incredibly popular tourist destination in Hong Kong. This massive bronze statue is located on Lantau Island and is easily accessible via the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car. The ride in the cable car is itself a fantastic experience in the city as the views of the island are remarkable.
Po Lin Monastery is right next door and worth a visit as well. Both the monastery and the Big Buddha are open from 10:00am – 5:30pm daily. If you choose to go inside the statue you’ll be required to pay an admission fee. The queues for the cable car are quite long so you are better off booking your tour in advance!
16. Scope the View From Victoria Peak
Victoria Peak is arguably the most popular place to watch the sunset in all of Hong Kong! You can take a funicular ride all the way to the top where you’ll find observation platforms, restaurants, and even a mall! With an elevation of over 1,800 feet, it’s the highest hill on Hong Kong Island. It’s also a great place to watch the 8:00am nightly light show from another vantage point.
Given its extreme popularity, there is always a long wait to purchase tickets to the Peak Tram and to actually get a spot. Trust us, it’s not worth your time to wait in the queue. Avoid the hassle by either purchasing a fast pass in advance or choosing another form of transportation to get to the top. Buses run frequently or you can catch an Uber for around $10 USD.
TIP: Rather than paying to visit the observation deck, grab a beer on the outdoor patio at Wildfire. The views are just as good but you won’t have to battle the crowds.
17. Take a Ride on the Star Ferry
The Star Ferry is a cheap and convenient mode of transportation from the Kowloon Peninsula to Hong Kong Island. Ferries run frequently throughout the day and you’ll get the best views of both waterfronts from the boat! If you are coming from the Kowloon Peninsula, grab a seat on the left side of the boat for the best views of the island skyline.
18. Wander around Kowloon Park
Kowloon Park is an eclectic little park in the middle of the city. It showcases an art walk where large cartoon statues are on display. And as you wander further into the park you’ll find flocks of flamingos roaming around. You’ll love wandering around this park, admiring the artwork and taking lots of time to stop for photos along the way.
Have a great time in Hong Kong!
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