Hong Kong has long-since been one of our favourite destinations: from its iconic harbour view to the heat of a bustling Central, this is a destination which will appeal to just about any kind of traveller. Whether you’re visiting Hong Kong on a stopover or are set to spend more time in this remarkable city, we’re here to help you make the most of your trip!
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing our top tips on where to stay, what to eat, and how to spend your time in Hong Kong. With every new post, we’ll create new links within this article for easier navigation, but for now, let’s dive straight in to the fun stuff. The practical elements can come later!
Why Visit Hong Kong?
Often referred to as the place ‘where East meets West’, Hong Kong is a city which - in our humble opinion - dances to a beat entirely of its own. HK is a foodie’s paradise, a shopper’s dream, and a bucket-list location for any budding street photographer - though those are just a few of the types of person you’ll find passing through! The city is easily reached by a number of international airlines, making it a fabulous place to check out for at least a couple of days - though if you want to stay for a month or more, you’ll never quite run out of things to do.
While it is clearly well-known and adored for its cityscape, Hong Kong is also home to some lovely beaches and natural areas, and also boasts a rich cultural history which is certainly worthy of being explored. The locals are friendly, the sights are divine, and there are a million and one things to keep you occupied - so let’s take a look at some of the top recommended things to do during your time here.
What Are Top Things To Do In Hong Kong?
As mentioned previously, Hong Kong is a city brimming with exciting things to do, with activities to suit all budgets and preferences. The following items in this post are the ‘must-sees’ for anybody looking to experience Hong Kong in the most touristic way imaginable, though in later posts we will gladly introduce you to some hidden gems!
Lantau Island (Paid Activity)
Our first (and, to date, only) visit to Lantau Island was during our very first trip to Hong Kong, and since then we have absolutely been dying to go back. Lantau Island is very different to the rest of Hong Kong, as the city’s imposing skyline fades away behind mountainous hills cloaked in lush greenery. While Lantau isn’t completely devoid of infrastructure, a tour to this region may well fill you with a sense of inner peace, offering a glimpse at a different side to the Hong Kong that we all know from tv shows, postcards and movies. Here, you may have the opportunity to visit a quiet beach area, pay a visit to a traditional fishing village, or even eat a delicious vegetarian meal at a buddhist monastery, but the main draw of a visit to Lantau is of course the famous Tian Tan Buddha.
Seated closeby to the Po Lin Monastery and casting a calm eye over the whole of the island, the Tian Tan Buddha measures an incredible 112ft and can be reached by various methods: you can either take a humbling climb up the many, many steps towards its base, or you can take a cable car over to it from Ngong Ping Village (more on that shortly). As part of our tour, however, we were dropped off towards the top of the staircase; something we were very grateful for, as we were still able to appreciate the majesty of the Buddha from below without breaking into too much of a sweat! This drop-off point, too, granted us easy access inside of the Buddha structure, within which we were shown a tiny fragment of bone purported to be that of the very first Buddha. (Whether of not that is quite to be believed depends on you, the visitor!)
There are a dozen and one different ways to embark on a tour of Lantau Island: some tours may introduce you to a sadder, darker history of the island (or indeed some modern-day realities); others may offer you the chance to take part in cooking classes. Most of the tours, however, will include a breathtaking cable car ride between the Buddha and Ngong Ping Village, offering a staggering panoramic view which stretches all the way from Hong Kong International Airport back to the main city itself. You may wish to pay for the cable car alone, taking the rest of the day (and sights) at your own pace and leisure, but we would recommend joining a full tour which may indeed offer a better understanding of Lantau, thanks to the knowledge imparted by your friendly guide. Apps and websites such as Klook provide a number of options, whilst hotels in the city can arrange tours for you also. We chose to book our tickets from the tour at the front desk of the Park Lane hotel at Causeway Bay; this option cost us around £35 per person and comfortably took up a large portion of the day. However you choose to visit Lantau Island, we would strongly recommend keeping this activity at the top of your ‘must see’ list!
Victoria Harbour/The Symphony of Lights (Free Activity)
As far as free activities go, a visit to Hong Kong’s beautiful harbour is one that simply cannot be beat. Every time we’ve stayed in the city, we’ve selected a hotel located closeby to the water’s edge in order to appreciate the nightly lightshow that goes on just across the way. Tsim Sha Tsui is the number one spot, in our eyes, to enjoy the Symphony of Lights: a 10-minute spectacle of lasers and co-ordinated neon lights illuminate the exteriors of many buildings visible over on Hong Kong Island, as grand music plays and both locals and tourists alike gather round for the show. The show takes place every night at around 8pm, and with every visit to Hong Kong we have faithfully spent the vast majority of our evenings watching it unfold. True, a muggier evening may obscure the light show itself, but nothing will ever take away the dazzling shine of the skyline across the water, the bright lights of (sometimes interactive) commercial buildings casting a rippling rainbow across the harbour. Our top tip? Grab a slice of pizza or a tasty eggette before taking a seat on the steps of Hong Kong Cultural Centre, as this is a wonderful vantage point to take it all in.
A Visit to the Peak (Paid* Activity)
The last time we visited the Peak (see above) was in the literal ‘calm before the storm’ of Typhoon Mangkhut, aka the biggest typhoon that Hong Kong has seen for many, many years. I remember joining a surprisingly short queue of people eagerly awaiting their ride to the top of the peak by funicular vehicle - a quick swivel of the head allowed me to cast my eyes upon a sign stating ‘Signal 3’ (which, as I soon learned, is a considerable warning to head back indoors - probably why the queue that day was so short!). Nevertheless, we bought our tickets and passed through a mini-museum on our way to the Peak Tram, eventually boarding and taking a steep, steep journey up to one of Hong Kong’s most popular viewpoints. As you travel upwards, you kind of fear that gravity will stop doing its job and that you’ll fall back down, right into the city - trust the tram, however, and a glance backwards at an emerging HK is a rewarding sight indeed. Once at the top of the Peak, there’s chance to grab a bubble tea or an icecream from one of a number of stalls at the mall located here; alternatively, you may wish to indulge in a little shopping, saving a little on your purchases with the ‘Peak I Love You’ promotion included as part of your tram fare. Whether you shop or not, however, the view from outside of the mall is truly spectacular: you really do feel as if you’re on top of the world at the Peak.
*While the observation deck at the Peak offers a free, birds-eye view of the city, the Peak Tram is a paid service (though low cost). That said, you can make it to the top of the Peak by walking up a steep incline; this is something we do not recommend doing, as HK’s humidity can be unforgiving and therefore dangerous! Other ways to get to the top do exist, however the Peak Tram is certainly worth the small cost in our minds.
On Top Of The World at Sky100 (Paid Activity)
Speaking of Typhoon Mangkhut...it was inside of the Sky100 building where we learned that our flight out of the country had been cancelled, ultimately leaving us stuck in Hong Kong for an extra week! Personal anecdotes aside, a visit to Sky100 is actually something we had avoided doing on our first trip to Hong Kong due to already having done the Peak. ‘A view is a view’, one might think, but our minds were certainly changed during this visit.
Once you enter the Sky100 building, you are greeted by courteous staff members who guide you to an elevator which will take you all the way to the top. Once you’re in the elevator, you may wish to take a quick glance at the upper corner as you’re quickly reminded how many feet in the air you are: the ride is smooth, but the numbers tick by at a rapid pace. Stepping off of the elevator, you arrive into a glass-walled room offering a full 360-degree view of Hong Kong from above: from the furthest stretches of the ocean to the tippy-tops of buildings you may or may not have familiarised yourself with throughout your time in the city, the entirety of HK is visible in all of its glory for you to marvel at.
The building itself is not too impressive, meaning the ticket fee to reach this point may feel a little hefty (approx. £20 per head), but we weren’t rushed along at all and found it endlessly fascinating to follow the boats, cars and people seen down below as far as our eyes could strain. The windows here also have phone-sized sections of glass for you to lean your camera against, allowing for the perfect shot of a beautiful city. Time your visit well and you may witness a spectacular sunset over Hong Kong; otherwise, why not get some pictures of (or in front of) this awe-inspiring backdrop?
Shop Til You Drop (Spend As You Wish!)
Image credit: Steven Wei (@stevenwai) on Unsplash
For shopaholics, Hong Kong is more or less whatever you want it to be: sprawling market stalls invite you to peruse their wares (from knock-off Victoria’s Secret pajama sets and fake Rolexes to beautiful crockery sets and pretty wall decorations), whilst a minute or two up the road on foot may see you entering designer malls, selling everything from Armani to Yves Saint Laurent.
Earlier on, we mentioned that Tsim Sha Tsui was the perfect place to enjoy a glance over the harbour, and this remains a great destination for shopping, too. Many high-end hotels are ajoined to designer malls or boutiques, whilst a number of shopping centres pepper the length and breadth of the area. Elsewhere, the famous Temple Street market (as well at the Ladies market) take place on a nightly basis, with hundreds of stalls selling just about anything you could ever think of.
If you’re a fan of the mid-range (or, indeed, just prefer a little more choice when shopping), head across the water to Causeway Bay. This area is like what Oxford Street is to London: huge stores (such as H&M, Victoria’s Secret and Nike) can be found here, while smaller (yet still beloved) chains can also be seen. Beauty lovers will want to check out Sasa and, in particular, Etude House: basically Asia’s answer to Benefit Cosmetics, Etude House sell a range of fantastic and adorable makeup and skincare products, including the charmingly-packaged/aesthetically designed ‘Dear Darling’ tint (click to check them out!). These little lip kits resemble lollipops across a range of different ‘flavours’ (such as bright red ‘watermelon’), and are sure to make your Instagram feed pop with colour. (Love these products but not yet in Hong Kong? You can pick them up from YesStyle, saving 5% with my code and 2% on all future orders! Code: UWELZ9)
Of course, these are just some of the recommendations of what to do whilst you’re in the city. For more of an in-depth guide on activities in Hong Kong (including insider tips, cheap days out and how to splash your cash), stay tuned for future posts - there’s plenty we have to share, and as soon as those new articles go live we’ll be sure to link you back to them right here! Until then, I hope you enjoyed reading our very first travel blog on The New Aesthetic - feel free to sign up to our newsletter for product news, blog updates and more!
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