We went to Hong Kong after and before a 16 days trip to Vietnam, and we were pretty amazed. We had heard that it is a super-developed country (or a “special administrative region” of China) and many other good things, but it was even better.
It really seems like a mix of London (it looks very British as it was part of the Empire/country for a long time) and New York (due to its Geography, as it comprises a few different islands) but it also has hills/mountains and an abundance of skyscrapers. It is often defined as a blend of Eastern and Western cultures.
The city actually has the largest number of skyscrapers of any city in the world and -by the way- its residents have some of the highest life expectancies in the world as well. The dense space has led to a highly developed transportation network with public transport rates exceeding 90%. Hong Kong is ranked 4th in the Global Financial Centres Index.
The infrastructure is impressive, with many different transport options (metro, ferry, tram, bus, train) and many bridges interconnecting buildings and malls. Walking around Central Hong Kong really feels like being inside a vast mall all the time.
Top Attractions in Hong Kong
The following are some of the top attractions in Hong Kong. We stayed 6 nights in total so we could enjoy it a lot, but there are always more things to do, and you even go to Macau and China easily.
Top tip: check our article How to use the Octopus card for public transport in Hong Kong.
Victoria Peak is the most iconic spot in Hong Kong, offering an impressive panoramic view of the city from the top of the peak. One of the best times to visit is sunset when the city lights up, creating an incredible backdrop for photos.
To go up you can take the Peak Tram or some of the many hiking trails available. There are many facilities on top including bars, coffee shops and restaurants. There is also a virtual reality game and the possibility to go to the last floor to have the best view for a moderate price.
The Big Buddha
The Big Buddha is a 34-meter-high bronze statue on Lantau Island, near the airport. Visitors can take a cable car ride to reach the site and enjoy a scenic view of the island.
Tian Tan Buddha and the serene Po Lin Monastery are located atop a hill. You will need to ascend the 268 steps leading to the Buddha statue and be greeted by its awe-inspiring presence, standing at a height of 34 meters (112 feet). You can also explore the ornate halls of the Po Lin Monastery, and immerse yourself in the tranquil ambience of this Buddhist sanctuary.
There are also multiple hiking trails to reach the Buddha all the way from the cable car base and other parts of the island.
If you decide on the cable car like the majority of people, bear in mind that it gets very busy. I’d suggest buying the tickets in advance, either on the official website or in Klook, which is an OTA originally from Hong Kong that has its own queue/lane.
Hong Kong Disneyland
The world’s most popular theme park, Disneyland, is also present in Hong Kong. The park consists of seven themed areas: Main Street, U.S.A., Fantasyland, Adventureland, Tomorrowland, Grizzly Gulch, Mystic Point, and Toy Story Land. A new themed area — World of Frozen, is currently being developed and will open on 1 July 2023.
Disney attempted to avoid problems of cultural backlash by incorporating Chinese culture, customs and traditions when designing and building the resort, including adherence to the rules of feng shui. The park has a daily capacity of 34,000 visitors — the lowest of all Disneyland parks.
Tsim Sha Tsui and Symphony of Lights
Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) is a shopping and nightlife district in Kowloon. Casual eateries and eclectic local shops are packed along neon-lit Nathan Road, while luxury malls line nearby Canton Road.
The Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, on Victoria Harbour, is the most popular spot to appreciate Hong Kong’s Symphony of Lights, the world’s largest permanent light and sound show. It features over 40 buildings on both sides of Victoria Harbour, including the Bank of China Tower, the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, and the HSBC Building.
The buildings are illuminated with a variety of lights, including lasers, LEDs, and pyrotechnics. The show is accompanied by a specially composed musical score that is played over loudspeakers.
Wong Tai Sin Temple
Wong Tai Sin Temple is a colourful Taoist temple dedicated to Wong Tai Sin or the Great Immortal Wong.
The 18,000 m2 (190,000 sq ft) temple is located on the southern side of Lion Rock in the north of Kowloon, and it is a place where locals and tourists alike come to seek blessings and divine guidance.
Expect to admire the intricate architectural details and soak in the spiritual atmosphere as devotees burn incense and make offerings at the numerous altars.
Ladies Market is located in Mong Kok, a bustling neighbourhood known for its vibrant street life and markets, including the famous Goldfish Market, Flower Market, and Ladies’ Market.
Nearby you can also find the so-called Snickers Street, where you can find all kinds of… snickers. Be prepared to walk among huge crowds.
Temple Street Night Market
Temple Street Night Market is a great place to experience the local culture and sample delicious street food. Visitors can find everything from clothes and souvenirs to fortune tellers and street performers.
Explore the stalls brimming with trinkets, clothing, electronics, and sample delectable street food from dai pai dongs (open-air food stalls).
Choi Hung and Ping Shek State
Choi Hung Estate and Ping Shek Estate are two public housing estates in Kwun Tong, Kowloon. They are located next to each other and are connected by a footbridge. Choi Hung Estate is the larger of the two estates, with 45 blocks of flats, while Ping Shek Estate has 33 blocks. The estates are home to a total of over 60,000 people.
It was built in the 1960s and is known for its distinctive rainbow-coloured blocks. The estate was designed by architect Ng Cho-fai, who also designed the nearby Tsing Yi Estate. Choi Hung Estate was the first public housing estate in Hong Kong to be built with lifts in all of its blocks.
Yik Cheong Building (aka Monster Mansion)
If you like architecture, Yik Cheong could be a great alternative. It is a unique and visually striking residential complex located in Quarry Bay. It has gained international fame and become a popular tourist attraction due to its distinctive architectural design, which features densely stacked, interconnected structures.
The building complex is composed of five interconnected residential blocks that form a maze-like structure, characterized by narrow corridors, open courtyards, and numerous staircases.
Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden
Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden feel like an oasis amidst the urban chaos.
The landscaped gardens feature classical Chinese architecture, koi ponds, and picturesque pavilions. Adjacent to the garden, the Chi Lin Nunnery offers a glimpse into Hong Kong’s spiritual heritage with its beautiful Buddhist temple complex.
Central Market and Pottinger Street
Central Market is a historic landmark located in the heart of the Central area. It has a rich history dating back to 1842 when it was established as the city’s first wet market. Over the years, it has undergone several transformations and renovations while remaining a vibrant hub of activity.
Inside the market, visitors can explore an array of shops and boutiques offering a variety of products. From fashion boutiques and lifestyle stores to art galleries and speciality shops, the market caters to diverse interests.
Nearby you can find Pottinger Street. a famous pedestrian street named after the first Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Henry Pottinger. The street is renowned for its traditional stone steps and stalls selling a wide variety of goods.
It is particularly known for its shops offering costumes and accessories, making it a favourite destination during festive seasons such as Halloween and Chinese New Year. Visitors can find an assortment of costumes, masks, wigs, and other accessories to create unique looks for parties, events, or simply for fun.
The Central-Mid-Levels Escalator
It is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, spanning a distance of approximately 800 meters (2,600 feet) and connecting the bustling districts of Central and the Mid-Levels.
It runs downhill from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. to facilitate the morning rush hour commute, helping residents and office workers travel downhill towards Central. After 10:00 a.m., it reverses direction and runs uphill until midnight, making it easier for residents to reach their homes located higher up.
It starts next to Central Market and passes through various neighbourhoods such as Soho, Staunton Street, Shelley Street, and Caine Road. These areas are known for their eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, cafes, boutique shops, and art galleries, offering visitors a glimpse into Hong Kong’s vibrant dining, entertainment, and cultural scenes.
Man Mo Temple
Man Mo Temple is a more modest but better-located Taoist temple, in the Central area.
It was built in the mid-19th century and is dedicated to the gods of literature (Man) and war (Mo). You can admire the intricate wooden carvings, giant incense coils hanging from the ceiling, and the serene atmosphere that invites contemplation and reflection.
If you go, I can recommend visiting the nearby Cat Street Flea Market. The market itself does not offer much, but the tiny street is cute and there are a couple of good coffee shops like Halfway.
Lan Kwai Fong
Lan Kwai Fong is a popular nightlife district located in the heart of Central. It is a bustling area of narrow streets and alleys filled with trendy bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and shops.
Many bars and clubs offer live music, DJ sets, and themed events. Not many locals like this area as it is also considered a bit “cheesy”, “touristic” or “not very local”. And it also very expensive, we paid £12 for a pint of craft beer.
Sham Shui Po
Sham Shui Po is considered by many as the “Brooklyn” of Hong Kong. It was a predominantly working-class area, and it still retains its charm as a hub for traditional trades and industries.
However; it has become an eclectic mix of old and new, offering bustling markets, numerous shops and wholesalers offering fabrics, buttons, ribbons, and other sewing supplies.
It also hosts Apliu Street Flea Market, which is one of Hong Kong’s largest markets for electronic gadgets, accessories, and parts. It includes the Golden Computer Centre and Golden Computer Arcade.
Wan Chai was once infamous for being Hong Kong’s red-light district, but today is a bustling neighbourhood and busy commercial area. It features office towers, parks, hotels and many restaurants and shops of all kinds.
Some speciality spots include Tai Yuen Street for toy stores, Queen’s Road East for antiques and Wan Chai Computer Centre for tech and Lockhart Road for bars and nightclubs. But our favourite area was around Start Street.
Some of our favourite shops were Apt. Coffee and Elephant Grounds (brunch), Bakehouse (bakery), My Cup of Tea (milk tea and egg sandwich), Cheung Hing Kee Shanghai Pan-Fried Buns (fish balls) and Joy Hing Roasted Meat (traditional roasted goose).
Ocean Park is a world-class marine-themed amusement park and oceanarium located on the southern side of Hong Kong Island. You can experience roller coasters, interact with marine animals, and enjoy different shows and performances.
The Grand Aquarium is a major highlight, featuring a massive underwater tunnel that allows visitors to walk through and observe various marine species up close, including sharks, rays, and tropical fish.
The Waterfront offers exciting rides like the Hair Raiser roller coaster and the Abyss Turbo Drop. The Thrill Mountain section at The Summit is home to adrenaline-pumping rides like the Mine Train roller coaster and the Raging River water rapids.
The Central area also hosts PMQ, which stands for Police Married Quarters. This revitalized complex in Central showcases the work of local designers, artists, and craftsmen. Explore the maze of boutiques, studios, and galleries to find unique fashion, jewellery, home decor, and art pieces.
It’s an ideal place to shop for one-of-a-kind souvenirs and to witness the thriving contemporary art scene in Hong Kong.
Lamma Island is a charming and laid-back island located southwest of Hong Kong Island known for its scenic hiking trails, beautiful beaches, vibrant village atmosphere, and diverse culinary offerings. The ferry takes only 30 minutes from Central so it is very easy to reach.
The island is car-free and hosts a few beautiful hiking trails. The Family Trail is a popular route that takes you from the main pier to the charming fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan. Another popular trail is the Lamma Island Family Walk, which connects the villages of Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan, offering picturesque views along the way.
It is also home to some nice beaches like Hung Shing Yeh Beach, located near Yung Shue Wan. and Lo So Shing Beach, located near Sok Kwu Wan.
Tai O Fishing Village
Tai O Fishing Village is a traditional fishing village on the western coast of Lantau Island. It takes time to get there from Central so not so many tourists go.
It is often referred to as the “Venice of the East” (like many other towns in the World) due to its network of narrow waterways and the stilt houses that line the shores.
One of the main attractions of Tai O Fishing Village is its traditional stilt houses. These unique structures are built on wooden stilts over the water, creating a distinctive and picturesque scene. The stilt houses are made from wood, bamboo, and other locally sourced materials.
Sai Kung Peninsula
Sai Kung Peninsula is a scenic and picturesque area located in the eastern part of the New Territories in Hong Kong. It is known for its stunning coastal landscapes, lush greenery, and tranquil atmosphere and provides a wide range of outdoor activities and natural attractions.
It is also renowned for its beautiful beaches and secluded coves. Tai Long Wan, a picturesque bay with pristine white sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters, is a popular spot for beach lovers and surfers.
Best Traditional Food in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s cuisine is mainly influenced by Cantonese cuisine, European cuisines (especially British cuisine) and non-Cantonese Chinese cuisines (especially Hakka, Teochew, Hokkien and Shanghainese), as well as Japanese, Korean and Southeast Asian cuisines, due to Hong Kong’s past as a British colony and a long history of being an international port of commerce.
The following are the best traditional dishes to try in Hong Kong (see this post for more details).
- Dim Sum
- Roast Goose
- Wonton Noodle Soup
- Clay Pot Rice
- Char Siu
- Fish Balls
- Pineapple Bun
- Beef Brisket Noodles
- Hong Kong-style French Toast
- Egg Tarts
- Zhu Cheung Fun (Rice Rolls)
- Egg Puffs
- Mango Pomelo Dessert
- Put chai ko
- Milk Tea
What’s the best area to stay in Hong Kong?
My short answer is Central. If it’s not right in the middle, it could be in the areas nearby like Sheung Wan or Sai Ying Pun to the West, or Admiralty to the East. Alternatively, if you prefer avoiding central, I recommend Wan Chai which is a super cool area that was our favourite to hang out.
Finding a good hotel is going to be a challenge unless you have a good budget. I strongly recommend booking as much in advance as possible. But because Hong Kong is so expensive, many hotels don’t let you book with free cancellation. And because of the high prices, many people opt to stay far from central o rent a tiny room on Airbnb.
We stayed at iclub Sheung Wan Hotel in Sheung Wan and we liked it a lot. Great value for money overall. Small rooms but tidy, with a super modest breakfast, coffee and water 24hs and a terrace on the second floor.
The second time we stayed at Best Western Plus Hotel. It is an old and not well-maintained hotel, but it does the job.