I don’t know about you, but I wrongly assumed that Hong Kong was simply skyscrapers and busy streets. How wrong I was! Hong Kong is home to towering mountains, protected country parks, powerful waterfalls, pristine beaches and tiny island communities. It has completely blown me away and exceeded my expectations. I only visited for four days but could have easily extended that to a couple of weeks. There is so much to see and do that I couldn’t squeeze even a small amount of it in!
Quite simply, Hong Kong has taken pride of place as one of my favourite cities in the world and I am sure it will do the same to you if you give it a chance. When you do visit, here are my top tips, tricks and recommendations.
Explore On Foot:
In my opinion one of the best ways to explore Hong Kong is on foot. There is no better way to get a feeling for its bustling energy than walking through its crowded streets.
On Hong Kong Island I recommend getting off the MTR (underground) at Hong Kong station and then walking East through the lively district of Wan Chai up to Causeway Bay. Take your time to venture off onto the side streets which are packed with tiny shops and individual market places, before catching the iconic tram back down the main road. Another great way to explore the central area of Hong Kong Island is to head to the Mid levels Escalators, the longest escalators in the world, and stop off on your way up the hill. If you have time, try and pass through some of the local parks on your walks such as Kowloon Park, Tai Chi Park the the Botanical Gardens.
And finally, if you want a great perspective of the city then walk up Garden Hill for a view over old Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is surrounded by nine mountains and is renowned for its scenic hiking trails. My personal favourite was Lion Rock, a challenging climb to a rocky lookout over the city. It is a quieter trail and gives the most rewarding views. I also enjoyed Dragons Back trail which gives a different perspective on Hong Kong, less sky scrapers and more rolling hills and sandy beaches. (Admitedly this is the most popular trail in the Hong Kong so you will bump into a fair few other people!).
If we had more time then I would have loved to have hiked up to Sunset Peak, Lantau Peak and Kowloon Peak. The most popular view point is at Victoria Peak but I personally chose to avoid visiting this one due to the crowds, instead I recommend hiking to a quieter viewpoint for an equally incredible view of the city and surrounding landscape.
If you’re not into mountains, there are also amazing heritage trails within the city which guide you through historical areas, taking you to temples, pagodas and points of interest. A great way to explore the city on foot!
There aren’t many skylines more famous than that of Hong Kong. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to get a good view of it is to take the Star Ferry across the harbour. I also recommend heading to the TST waterfront outdoor picnic area to watch the Symphony of Lights Show at 8pm. This is a daily spectacle which involves around 30 of Hong Kong buildings lighting up in the largest organised light show on the planet.
Visit The Islands:
This is something I wish I had time to do more of. I sadly only visited Lantau Island, which is popular due to being home to the iconic “Big Buddah”, the stunning Po Lin monstery, the Wisdom Steps and the Lantau Peak hike. There are also wild buffalo on the island, which can often be seen at the beaches to the south. We got to Lantau Island via the most popular route, a stunning 20 minute cable car ride over the mountains. I highly recommend booking in advance, and paying the extra price for a “crystal cabin” with a glass floor; otherwise you will be queueing for hours.
Hong Kong has over 260 islands and every single one has its own unique qualities. Other ones on my hit list included Lamma Island for its beautiful beaches, Peng Chau for Finger Hill and the Seven Sisters Temple and Cheung Po Tsai for bike rides and the private caves. However, there are so many other smaller local islands which are steeped in tradition and are like a step back in time with I would love to visit too, so I guess I just need to come back to do so!
Hong Kong is teaming with local culture and there are tonnes of temples and monasteries you can visit. In the centre of town there is Man Mo temple, which is covered in red traditional decorations and thousands of burning incense sticks. I also recommend heading up to the 10 Thousands Buddhas Monastery and the Chi Lin Nunnery on the mainland; as well as the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau island. The architecture is incredible.
Beaches & Waterfalls:
Hong Kong is home to numerous beautiful beaches and many pristine waterfalls. I sadly didn’t make it to any of these as I was so short on time, but ones at the top of my priority list for the future are Sai Kun for waterfalls, beaches and hikes, the Highland Reservoir for the waterfall and Sai Wan for cliff jumping. Most islands have many beautiful beaches though so whichever one you choose to visit is pretty much guaranteed too provide you with one!
Hong Kong has an incredible food scene. I highly recommend you try some traditional Cantonese food and a spread of delicious dim sum. It is important to note that you can’t always stumble across the best spots just by walking down the street, as many are hidden in skyscrapers, so make sure you do your research first.
Need help finding the best spots? Check out my Hong Kong Food, Coffee & Cocktail Guide here. (coming soon!)Stay Fit:
If you’re like me and love a fitness class, then you’re in the right place. Hong Kong has a buzzing fitness scene and an abundance of classes to try out. Personal favourites were:
- Ursus Fitness for their Bear Camp conditioning class.
- F45 for a sweaty cardio focused session.
- Coastal Fitness for strength and conditioning/crossfit.
If we had more time I would have definitely checked out TOPfit & Studio Fitness which were both highly recommended.
I personally chose not to go shopping in Hong Kong as I am trying to live more minimally and I felt that the local culture and landscapes were much higher on my priority list!
However if you are into shopping then Hong Kong is pretty damn incredible for it. If you want high end shops then I have never seen a shopping mall quite as lavish as Elements in Kowloon. I passed through it every day to exit my hotel and it has every designer you can desire as well as a curated selection of high street shops. Plus it is super quiet so you would never feel hustled and bustled. There are also many local markets you can visit, the most famous being Temple Street Night Market and the Ladies Market. I didn’t visit either but I know most people highly recommend them!
- Travel via the MTR. This is the Hong Kong underground train network and is the cheapest and easiest way to get around. We used it every single day and I recommend purchasing a local octopus card at one of the customer service desks. This card can be used on all forms of local public transport.
- The fastest and cheapest way to get to the city from the airport is on the MTR Airport Express.
- Download the app Citymapper. It shows you which buses, trams and MTRs to use to get to your destination fastest.
- CSL is the main local phone network, they have a cheap tourist SIM card which you can buy from almost any 7 Eleven store.
- Uber is up and coming in Hong Kong, and around 1/3 of Uber drivers out there have a Teslawhich are pretty damn epic.
- Always carry an umbrella. It didn’t rain while we were there but I know it is said to be pretty unpredictable in Hong Kong!
- Take your own reusable bottle and download the Water Refill App 2.0. This shows you the nearest water refill stations, as most people don’t drink the local tap water (although I did and I was fine!).
- Shop at Live Zero, this centrally located zero waste store is perfect for picking up essentials without the packaging.
- If you’re coming from the UK then don’t worry about an adaptor as the sockets are the same as home.
Like this article?
Read my Hong Kong Food Guide (coming soon!) & watch my Hong Kong Food Diary.