While Southeast Asia is known for its paradise like beaches and jungles, East Asia is where the city life is at. Not only does each country have their own distinctive look, each of their cities also add charm in their own ways.
Hong Kong especially is one of the long time crowd favorites, and I can fully understand why. It may be a relatively small group of islands, but don’t let that give you the impression that the array of activities and what attractions there are to see would be equally modest in its offerings. My trip was definitely not lacking in fun things to do! I actually knocked quite a few items off my Bucket List while there. And found quite a few more to add to yours.
1. ✦ Ride the Longest Escalator in the World
Rest your weary feet from Hong Kong’s hilly streets and get a lift on the longest outdoor escalator in the world. The Central Mid-Levels is a 2624 foot bucket list worthy ride that links the Central and Western districts on Hong Kong Island, with many shops and dining stops along the way. Not only is it a top tourist attraction, but it is very practical too!
2. ✧ Shop At The Temple Street Night Market
The Temple Street Night Market, located in Kowloon, is not only the largest evening market in Hong Kong, it is also the liveliest. It is a popular spot for shopping, housing stalls for cheap clothing, shoes, CDs and DVDs, and even household items. On top of that, there are countless of food stalls to get your tummy filled with yummy from.
3. ✦ Eat Dessert First
What’s wrong with eating dessert first? Absolutely nothing. Hong Kong is known for its cutting edge food concepts and The Dessert Kitchen is amongst one of the most creative. It is a trendy little cafe that sells nothing but unique Asian style treats, at just about any time of the day. That’s right. A kitchen dedicated solely to desserts. With masterpiece desserts, like the Blueberry Kiss, it is perfectly acceptable (& recommended) to skip the traditional dinner and replace it with a purely sweet one at a place where dessert always comes first.
The Dessert Kitchen can be tricky to find, so here is the website and the map to get there.
4. ✧ Party In Lan Kwai Fong
Lan Kwai Fong is the nightlife district of Hong Kong. It has reached such levels of hotness as a party zone, that other Chinese cities are trying to follow in its footsteps to recreate neighborhoods with the same charm. You can expect yourself having to squeeze through the crowded street of party goers of the night, but for once that’s part of the fun! You can find several types of bars in the area, from dart bars to karaoke bars, as well as clubs, and a selection of restaurants. There are over 90 restaurants and bars!
5. ✦ Ride on a Traditional Chinese Junk Boat
Taking a Hong Kong junk boat ride will give you the second best skyline view (go to The Peak to see the top one!), but this view is just an after thought compared to the junk boat ride itself. Aqua Luna features a traditional junk boat ride through Victoria Harbour that also coincides with the cities famous light show, the Symphony of Lights.
It is recommended to prebook your spot. Voyagin offers a simple junk boat ride where you can get stunning views of HK’s skyline on the Aqua Luna or opt for the Symphony of Lights tour where you can see the famous, colorful light show while sipping a cocktail on the boat.
6. ✧ Visit 10,000 Buddhas Monastery
Located in Po Fook Hill Mountains of the New Territories area, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is quite the sight to see. You will have to hike up a pretty steep hill to get there, but your efforts will be rewarded with a complex that consists of a main temple hall and a nine-story pagoda, as well as several shrines, pavilions and halls. There are still plenty of stairs to walk up once you’ve reached the beginning of the complex, but you’ll be far too enamored by the Buddha statues all over you to sweat about it.
7. ✦ See the Hong Kong Stars
If you take a junk boat ride, arrive at the port a little early to see the Hong Kong stars. The Avenue of the Stars is a tribute to the famous in Hong Kong’s film industry and is on almost every Things to do in Hong Kong list. It is a stroll along the water that would be reminiscent to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, except I would recognize ninety percent of the stars in Hollywood and only two in Hong Kong; Bruce Lee and Jackie Chen. Good enough.
8. ✧ Hike Dragon’s Back
Dragon’s Back is a trail that TIME magazine even went as far as to dub as Asia’s best urban hike. It’s a part of a bigger trail, serving as its most visually stunning portion. You’ll want to check the weather report before embarking on your trekking journey, as it can increase its difficulty and decrease its enjoyableness, but otherwise it is not that challenging of a hike and the views are breathtaking.
If you are not comfortable navigating the Dragons Back hike on your own, this tour will take you there.
9. ✦ Eat Snake Soup
In the Causeway Bay section of Hong Kong you will find Se Wong Yee, the tiniest eatery, with the menu out front completely written in Chinese, except for the significant bold lettering stating the sale of Snake Soup, an Asian delicacy. There were two options on the menu; just the plain old Snake Soup or the Snake Meal which includes the of duck’s liver-sausage.
You can read about my experience eating snake soup here: Chinese Snake Soup in Hong Kong
10. ✧ See the Songbirds at Yuen Po Street
Visiting the Yuen Po Bird Garden will offer you an exquisite chance to see some songbirds. This garden is designed similar to a traditional Chinese garden, and inside you’ll find several stalls selling not only exotic birds, but also bamboo cages and other items related to birds. Even if you’re not going to make any purchases, it’s incredible to be able to witness a part of this traditional hobby.
11. ✦ The Breathtaking View at The Peak
Though the view of the city skyline from the junk boat on Victoria Harbour is pretty spectacular, there is nothing like the one from the Sky Terrace at The Peak. It is the highest 360-degree viewing terrace in town and requires a steep tram ride along with several floors of escalators to get to the top.
There is a reason that this view is the number one thing to do in Hong kong! But, for extra spectacular views, book a tour to walk from The Peak to Hong Kong’s south side.
For more information read about my experience at The Peak in Hong Kong.
12. ✧ Go to the Ladies Market
If you want to hit one of the most popular markets in Hong Kong for bargain-priced clothing and other accessories, visiting Ladies Market is where the money’s at. As you may have guessed based on the name, it largely caters for women in what they have to sell and offer. However, it is not exclusively for the ladies only, as they also sell some clothing and other items for men as well. Located in the Mongkok district of Kowloon, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by just how local and authentic the atmosphere will be, despite the tourist crowds.
13. ✦ Climb to the Top of Big Buddha
Even though there are 268 pretty steep stairs to reach Tian Tan (aka: Big Buddha), it is one of the top things to do in Hong Kong because it is breathtaking. The statue is one of the largest sitting Buddhas in the world! At 112 feet tall, Hong Kong’s Big Buddha is perfectly visible from the ground level, but it is hard to tell its true massiveness without getting up close and personal.
If you book the escape to Lantau Island tour it will take you to Big Buddha via the Ngong Ping 360 cable car and then will bring you to Tai O Fishing Village afterwards.
14. ✧ Ride the Star Ferry
Fancy a boat ride on your trip? Then this small, cute and charming boat is a must for you! Operating since the end of 19th century, the Star Ferry will take you from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon, or vice versa. It is not only a picturesque way to travel between the two points, it is also practical and convenient.
15. ✦ Ride in a Cable Car
Before actually climbing the stairs to Hong Kong’s Big Buddha you have to get to its location on Lantau Island and there aren’t many options. You can take a bus, make a strenuous hike uphill or ride the 3.5 mile Npong Ping Cable Car that suspends you high above the ground. Not like the typical street cable cars you’d find in San Francisco.
It is possible to skip the Ngong Ping line with these Instant E-Tickets.
16. ✧ Walk the Tsim Sha Tsui East Promenade
From the Tsim Sha Tsui East Promenade you’ll get another stunning view of the Hong Kong skyline, which has also been dubbed one of the most amazing skylines in the world. That’s already plenty of reason to take a stroll on the promenade, but if you need some additional convincing, this is also where the Garden of Stars, Hong Kong Cultural Centre, and Hong Kong Space Museum reside in.
17. ✦ Eat Street Food at a Fishing Village
On the Western side of Lantau Island lies the quaint Tai O fishing village where the homes are built on stilts and the markets sell a plethora of dried fish street food. Though there are dozens of fishy dishes to choose from I tried a meal of BBQ squid jerky, for just 10 HKD ($1.29 usd).
There are several great tours that include a stop at Tai O (and some other places on this list!):
18. ✧ Go To Disneyland
Though the Hong Kong Disneyland may be slightly smaller than some other Disneyland resorts, it is by no means any less fun. In fact, it’ll probably be one of the most fun day trips you’ll take while in Hong Kong! In addition, as the Chinese version of Disneyland, you’ll also notice some parts of Chinese culture and traditions, as well as the incorporation of feng shui, in the design and build of the resort, which just makes your visit there all the more memorable.
19. ✦ Make an Incense Wish at a Po Lin Monastery
In Hong Kong, as well as much of Asia, burning incense is done by worshippers as an offering with the belief that it attracts attention from the Gods or, in some cases, is food for the spirits that have passed prior. When we visited the Man Mo Temple a layer of smoke filled the room and coiled incense hung from the ceiling. Though you can make incense wishes here, we followed a different cloud of smoke to Po Lin Monastery where worshippers were waving their enormous joss sticks. We purchased a bundle of incense at a nearby booth for 20 HKD ($2.50 USD) and made wishes of our own.
The Escape to Lantau Island tour includes a stop here.
20. ✧ Visit Aberdeen Fishing Village
Found at Aberdeen Harbour of Hong Kong’s Southern District, the Aberdeen Fishing Village is an actual village where people, mostly fishermen and their families live in. Originally these boats were chosen as their living spots for the sake of convenience, but over the decades it has grown into a significant symbol of Hong Kong and its culture, especially among the citizens themselves, seen as a representative of the locals’ hardworking and persevering spirit. It has also been said that Aberdeen is where the name Hong Kong was born, although there is not one consistent theory of how that came to be.
21. ✦ Get Your Fortune Told
After you have done your shopping at the Temple Street Market, pay a visit to the late night fortune tellers near Tin Hau Temple. There are about a dozen, some English speaking, that will enlighten you about the future.
photo credit | f8Bthere
22. ✦ Eat at the Cheapest Michelin Starred Restaurant in the World
Tim Ho Wan is a hole-in-the-wall dim sum restaurant in Hong Kong that gained recognition after receiving a coveted Michelin star and therefore what is known as one of the cheapest Michelin starred restaurants in the world. And it is cheap. Really cheap. Though they are well known for their pork buns, all their food is quite tasty.
23. ✦ Stroll Through the Goldfish Market
The Goldfish Market is a quirky line of shops that cater to the locals and their Feng Shui lifestyle. Aquariums equal good luck in the Asian culture, fish symbolize good fortune and water attracts energy of wealth and abundance. This market is devoted to selling an array of interesting fish and their accessories. Even if you won’t be shoving an aquarium in your carry-on luggage, it is worthy of a spot on the things to do in Hong Kong list.
24. ✧ Hike Tung Ping Chau
Tung Ping Chau is an island in the easternmost part of Hong Kong that is listed as a UNESCO Global Geopark. It is known for its unique sedimentary rock formations, sandstones that are millions of years old.
Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Tung Ping Chau.
25. ✧ Dine at a Floating Restaurant
The Jumbo Kingdom Floating Restaurant is an ornamental restaurant that floats. The eatery was built in the style of of an exquisite Chinese imperial palace. While you are there you may as well order the signature dish, the Flamed Drunken Shrimp which is prepared right in front of you.
photo credit | Arthur Chapman
26. ✧ Go to the Horse Races on Wednesday
Head to the Happy Valley Racecourse for the uber trendy Happy Wednesdays. On this weekday evening the racecourse has great food, drinks and entertainment, all while being able to bet on the ponies. Each Wednesday is a different theme, such as Wines of the Valley. Could that be any more perfect?
27. ✧ Eat Dinner in the Dark
At Hong Kong’s Dialogue in the Dark you have the opportunity to take a culinary journey where blind waiters serve a meal in complete darkness. This unique attraction is the perfect way to challenge your taste buds!
28. ✦ Drink Trendy Cocktails
As previously mentioned, Hong Kong has some killer food concepts, and the same goes for drinks. Quinary is a swanky place for pre-dinner cocktails where they concoct creative beverages like an Earl Grey Caviar Martini. I had their refreshing Oolong Tea Collins.
29. ✦ Take the Stairs
You have not fully experienced the things to do in Hong Kong list unless you have walked up a set of some of the steepest stairs you have ever seen. It is a hilly city! Though there are many inclines around, Ladder Street from Queen’s Road Central to Cain Road is amongst the most impressive…slightly and painful.
30. ✧ Take a Tai Chi Class
Tai Chi is a gentle form of martial arts known to be a big part of Chines culture. All over Hong Kong you can take a Tai Chi class to get acquainted with this craft. Check here for classes.
photo credit | Hong Kong Tourism
And that’s just a few of the things that Hong Kong has to offer! For an island its size, it certainly contains a lot of activities and sightseeing opportunities, including several small islands to check out. And if you have the time, do also make it a trip to visit Macau for a day or two. And even if you don’t have the time, that’s nothing to mope about – Hong Kong itself will be enough of a place to fall in love with.
Essential Tips for Visiting Hong Kong
Getting There: Hong Kong International is a major hub and more than 100 airlines will fly into it. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner. You can also use choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination.
Where to Stay in Hong Kong: It’s almost always best to stay near the city center or at least public transportation. Central Hong Kong is a perfect place to stay for visitors because it’s in the heart of all the action. For a luxury experience stay at the 5-star Mandarin Oriental (luxury) or The Pottinger (luxury) that is situated in the city’s first historic stone slab street. For a moderately priced hotel that is centrally located, try the trendy boutique hotel, Ovolo Central (moderate). If you are looking for a budget-friendly option, snag a room at Mojo Nomad Central (budget).
Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to Airbnb that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Getting Around: Driving in Hong Kong can be a bit of a challenge, especially since driving is done on the left hand side, and parking fees can be expensive, but if you choose to rent a car, Expedia has great deals. If you are not renting a car, there are plenty of options. Taxis are available all over the city, plus most of the major attractions can be accessed with the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus or pop on a double decker tram. The metro (MTR) is also very efficient!
Special Note: With the purchase of the Hong Kong Pass you can pay one nominal fee and get entry to dozens of the best attractions and tours!
Top Hong Kong Tours:
You Might Also Enjoy
3 Day Hong Kong Itinerary. The Plan.
Ride the Longest Escalator in the World. Mid-Levels in Hong Kong.
Fodor’s Hong Kong Travel Guide (book)
Take a Junk Boat Ride Through Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour
Slurp Chinese Snake Soup in Hong Kong
Witness Hong Kong’s Bucket List View at The Peak
Visit an Offbeat Asian Market. Hong Kong’s Goldfish Market.
Eat Dessert First at Hong Kong’s Dessert Kitchen
Eat Squid Jerky in Hong Kong’s Tai O Fishing Village