Pearl of the Orient - Hong Kong
Hong Kong, reputed as 'Pearl of the Orient, perched on the south coast of China, is a brilliant coalescence of cultures and contrasts, where iconic skyscrapers sit comfortably against the vast lush-green backdrop. From a jumble of barren rocks to the thriving Asian outpost, and from a British colony with over 150 years to a vibrant modern metropolis, it’s a city that defies definition.
Most vitally, this world-renowned destination is worthy of a great time for a deep exploration. Whether you’re hunting to find authentic Hong Kong heritages or shopping for the latest clothes & fashion, checking in some Michelin-starred restaurants, or longing for a trek across mountains to outlying beaches, Hong Kong is the place to be. There are a lot of can-do experiences, catering to every budget, need, and whim, try to start with the travel experiences that our local experts have picked out for you below.
Top things to see and do in Hong Kong
Savor Panoramic views at Victoria Peak
The celebrated Victoria Peak stands atop Hong Kong Island, providing the stunning 360˚ views and marvelous vistas of the entire city below. Being available from 1888, the Peak Tram is arguably the most popular way to get to the top of the mountain, but it doesn’t mean you have to do this, because the constant flocks and queues are likely to put an obstacle to a good experience. For a more green approach, follow the scenic Morning Trail along the Hatton Road, which takes you to the highest point in about 45 minutes. Once there, follow the Circle Walk for the bird’s eye views of Hong Kong’s incredible metropolis in the distance. Afterward, hop on the tram back down the hill - a far more relaxing ride.
Ride the Star Ferry to cross the Victoria Harbor
The green and white Star Ferry is practically a symbol of Hong Kong. As one of the experiences of a lifetime listed by National Geographic Traveler, this 10-minute Star Ferry ride since the late 1800s offers the most scenic way to cross the harbor with magnificent views of the famous skyline. While it may not be as fast as the extremely convenient MTR, it is the most enjoyable. The fastest way to cross Victoria Harbour goes to the incredibly convenient MTR, the famous Star Ferry wins the award for most scenic. It also offers an opportunity to step back to the old days when it was the only way to ply Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula. To make it an extra special experience, take the sightseeing one from Central at 7:15 for the thrilling Symphony of Lights.
Explore real Hong Kong through a Tram Journey
Hong Kong’s beloved double-decker tram is nicknamed ‘ding ding’ by locals due to its double-bell ringing mimicry for embarkation. As part of the city’s living heritage, the century-old trams have witnessed the rapid growth of Hong Kong. At just less than HK$ 3 HKD a ride, the greenest tram is the best way to see the real Hong Kong Island. It is a leisurely ride with a slow pace, allowing you to have time to feel Hong Kong’s exploding energy from a local perspective. Hop aboard any Westbound trams heading towards Kennedy Town from Shau Kei Wan, and you don’t have to worry about being lost. Just rely on the tram driver who will show you the most interesting and historic parts of Hong Kong.
Find your Zen in Historical Temples
Hong Kong isn’t all frantic-paced living with the big-city vibes. The countless tiny shrines and temples popping up throughout the urban area remind us that Hong Kong is a spiritual place with peace and tranquility too. Calm down with some temple time to mindful Hong Kong, either from the city’s largest Buddha statue in Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island or from the students favored Man Mo Temple in Sheung Wan. Whether you want to marvel at the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery for different posed gilded Buddha Statues, immerse yourself in local spiritual traditions at Tin Hau Temple to worship for the Goddess of the Sea or simply find some inner peace at the impressive architectural Chi Lin Nunnery, these are plenty of fascinating temples to explore in the city.
Place a Bet at Happy Valley Racecourse
Bright stadium dazzling, fast-paced thoroughbreds racing, beer gardens, and hundreds of people mixing -- this is a normal Wednesday at Happy Valley Racecourse. As a remnant of Hong Kong’s colonial-era built-in 1845, Happy Valley Racecourse is one of the most outstanding horse-racing venues in the world. Although there are more than a few radical gamblers placing bets all night, it’s more of a social party for locals to de-stress on a mid-week day. For travelers, it’s worth going for soaking in the cheerful environment on a lovely night, though it’s always exciting to place a bet and try your luck on a sprinting stallion. The entrance fee is only HK$10 - a bargain for a quality night out.
Hang out at the Beaches of Tai Long Wan
Exploring the compressed city streets, it’s easy to neglect that Hong Kong is wreathed by water and has no shortage of great beaches. The well-known Repulse Bay and Big Wave Bay can be accessed easily but the crowds get a bit much. Locals prefer a more laid-back lifestyle in Shek O, a charming village with two beaches. For more outlying beaches, head to Tai Long Wan, the city’s most gorgeous stretch some 16km from Sai Kung. It consists of four beaches, all of which are beautiful but only accessible by hiking or boat. If you plan to visit one of the beaches, definitely bring extra water and snacks, because there’s very little out this way, apart from camping sites and a few wild cattle.
Make your Magic Dreams Come True at Disneyland
Hong Kong Disneyland has always been favored by family travelers ever since it opened in 2005 when it brought Mickey and his gang to reclaimed land on Lantau Island. Though being compact compared to other Disney parks, it still offers families enough fun and Disney sparkle with seven regions, including classic regions like Main Street, Adventureland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and the Hong Kong-exclusive regions like Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Point. Set your inner child free on classic Disneyland favorites such as Space Mountain and don’t miss the live stage musical and fireworks show at 8 pm every night at the Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Feast on Dim Sum
You haven’t really “done” Hong Kong before you’ve participated in a traditional dim sum. Dim sum is not merely Hong Kong’s breakfast staple, but also a glance at its societal rungs. It is a tradition to yum cha (which means “drink tea”) on weekend mornings, and whole families gather around a banquet table for a chat, dim sum, and tea. Dim sum is served from neighborhood gems that are rough-around-the-edges, to luxury hotels with a more modern and refined offering, but almost equal in quality. For seeking a working-class experience, try the traditional Hong Kong dumplings at Tim Ho Wan, or find a seat at a hole-in-the-wall eatery such as Chau Kee, or rub shoulders with all-day crowds at Lin Heung Tea House. There are also abundant upscale white-tablecloth establishments, including Mott 32, Man Wah, and the city’s elite Lung King Heen.
The local specialty in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is not only a food paradise but also a shopping paradise with a well-known street market culture. Its lively markets boast appealing street food, bargain clothing, and counterfeit luxury goods, which build an appetite for both a good meal and savings. Though the Temple Street Night Market doesn’t offer too many worthwhile shopping ways, it’s a great dining location owing to a series of humble dai pai dongs. The Ladies’ Market, Central Lanes, Flower Market, and Wan Chai’s traditional indoor market are also worth visiting. And if you’re in search of an exotic souvenir, hit the Cat Street Market in Sheung Wan. The market is filled with antique shops and a few vendor stalls. A patient outing will reward you with vintage Bruce Lee Movie posters, old coins, Chinese ceramic vases, and even a decent trinket. Besides the more traditional markets, a string of up-to-date food-fueled markets has also popped up in every corner of the city, including the Tong Chong Street Market in Quarry Bay.
Best time to visit Hong Kong
Influenced by the monsoon, Hong Kong has a subtropical climate. Spring (March-May) is short and temperate, summer (June-August) is hot and stormy, autumn (September-November) is cooler, and winter (December-February) is a bit chilly. The best time to visit Hong Kong is from March to April and from October to early December. These periods boast cool and pleasant weather with reasonable room rates. However, please avoid Chinese national day (Oct 1 - Oct 7) to protect your wallet. Tourism also goes up significantly in summer when the school summer holidays fall in China, despite the weather being hot and humid with occasional thunderstorms and typhoons, hotel prices soaring and crowds getting a bit much.
How to get to Hong Kong
Hong Kong is well linked to the rest of the world by top infrastructure, offering travelers a lot of arrival and departure options. Hong Kong International Airport provides an abundance of direct flights to major cities in China and around the world, which makes Hong Kong one of the gateways to China. While for travelers from nearby regions in mainland China, such as Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Guilin, Changsha, the high-speed/bullet train is a wise choice with a few hours ride. Besides, high-speed ferries and coaches are also available with services to Macao and the Pearl River Delta cities.
Lodging and dining in Hong Kong
Lodging in Hong Kong
You have a lot of options in the way of accommodation in Hong Kong, including modest guesthouses, youth hostels, mid-range comfort, chic boutiques, and palatial hotels – in the heart of the city or away from it all. Generally speaking, the price of a room is ranging from HK$ 1,500 to HK$ 4,400, and the price difference is largely depending upon the view and height of the room, rather than the size. Because Hong Kong’s attractions are spread throughout the city, while it is efficient and easy to use public transportation to reach each attraction, the location of the hotel is not that important. Most travelers do prefer to stay in Tsim Sha Tsui of Kowloon where they can find plenty of hotels, shops, and restaurants. Other great areas to stay in are the Central District, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, Yau Ma Tei, and Mong Kok.
Food in Hong Kong
Mainly influenced by Cantonese cuisine, Hong Kong cuisine has a complex combination of greater China flavors and international gourmet expertise. Being reputed as a gourmet paradise, Hong Kong is home to a wide range of culinary delights suited for all budgets, from roadside stalls to Michelin-starred restaurants, from uniquely local encounters to international delicacies. Whatever your taste buds crave, Hong Kong will find a way to saute them. And the way could be freshly steamed dim sum, a baked pineapple bun with butter stuffed, a late-night seafood treat from dai pai dongs, a bite of greasy roasted goose, or the master-works of the new celebrity chef.