There are few cities in the world that offer what Hong Kong does. Gaining the well deserved reputation of the gateway between east and west it offers an unmatched experience blending the newest in Asian cultures, a strong British influence and of course, traditional Chinese heritage.
No matter what takes your fancy, you can find it in this crowded metropolis; foodies can follow the locals to the best eateries and fashionistas will shop ’til they drop in the ladies market in Mong Kok. Adventurers can take a day trip to Macau by ferry just to sample the egg tarts and get lost in the vast casinos, or maybe venture out in search of the Big Buddha. Social butterflies can enjoy high tea at The Peninsula or horse racing every Wednesday night in Happy Valley, while party animals may jump on a junk boat with some friends for a boozy weekend adventure or hit up one of Asia’s most famous nightclubs in Lan Kwai Fong.
If you are looking for a trip that has it all, you can find it in Hong Kong – beaches, temples, mountains to hike, cheap spas, chic restaurants, late night shopping malls and 24-hour McDonalds delivery. What more could you ask for?
Where To Stay
For convenience, it’s best to stay on Hong Kong island but if you’re looking to save some dollars, it’s just a ferry or train across the harbour to stay in Kowloon. If you’re one for staying right in the thick of the action, aim for Central, Sheung Wan or Causeway Bay. If you don’t mind a ten minute train/taxi trip, opt for Kennedy Town or Quarry Bay.
CHEAP AS CHIPS
If you don’t mind staying in a compact room, then Mini Hotel is the best budget option for you. Right on the edge of HK’s party district Lan Kwai Fong, this is going to leave you well situated when you are stumbling back to the hotel at night.
Prices from: $66AUD/night
WON’T BREAK THE BANK
Despite the distance, Ovolo on the south-side is a crowd favourite. You can also try Ovolo in Aberdeen, but it can be a little sticky to get to during peak hour traffic (the new train line will soon relieve that). The restaurant, rooms, bars and 24 hour gym make the travel time absolutely worth it.
Prices from: $145AUD/night for South-side, $127AUD/night for Aberdeen
The Four Seasons is the only hotel in the world with not one but two 3-star Michelin restaurants. Their spa, infinity pool and harbour-facing rooms offer the best views of Hong Kong’s waterfront that money can buy.
Prices from: $807AUD/night
How To Get Around
Hong Kong is a small city, easily navigated by taxi, train, ferry and foot. The MTR is HK’s subway system, and it’s cheap as chips and super efficient – you can travel from island east to west in around 25 minutes for roughly $1.50AUD. If you’re in HK more than a few days, you’re best off putting down the $8AUD (refundable) deposit for an Octopus card, an electronic stored value smart card that you load with cash for quick easy access to the trains. You can also swipe your Octopus instead of using cash or card at convenient stores.
Taxis are another great option in HK. Drivers for the most part speak and understand English very well but to be on the safe side, if you haven’t mastered saying your destination in Cantonese just yet, download the Hong Kong Taxi app. It will show your driver where you want to go in Cantonese.
For a truly local experience, jump on the iconic tram, affectionately called “Ding Ding” by the locals. It’s slower than a snail but a must-try for tourists. A trip will set you back about $0.30AUD regardless of whether you are going one stop or 50. If time’s on your side, take a trip across HK harbour on the ferry. Jump off in Kowloon and hit Tsim Sha Tsui for even more fabulous shopping and dining.
What To Pack
It’s hot and humid 80 percent of the year in Hong Kong. If you are there in the winter months of December to February you will need some layers, but most of the time you’ll find yourself getting quite sticky so pack those breathable light fabrics. HK is a stylish city, despite the semi-tropical climate, so you might feel out of place in flip-flops and short-shorts. People tend to dress up rather than down.
Hong Kong has a strange obsession with frigidly cold air-conditioning, so you might be shocked at how cold it can get indoors. Be warned, when you sit down in a restaurant for lunch or head to a mall for some retail therapy, you will find it helpful to have a light jacket to ward off the chill.
If you get stuck in some wet weather, umbrellas are easily acquired at convenience stores like 7-11 or Circle K. Comfortable but stylish walking shoes for daytime are your best bet and your most chic and trendy evening attire is recommended for nights out.
Hong Kong is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and it has an enormous migrant community for good reason. The CBD is remarkably compact though, so wherever you’re staying you’re never too far from major shopping areas and attractions. Most accommodation is located close to Victoria Harbour in Central, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and North Point on Hong Kong Island.
Another great spot is SoHo – named after the London suburb of the same name, as well as it being South of Hollywood Road, right next to Lang Kwai Fung. SoHo is filled with upmarket bars, chic fashion stores and exotic restaurants. It really comes into its own at night though, so be sure to stick around after sundown.
The city never sleeps. Seriously – whatever the time of day, it’s always buzzing. Shops, restaurants and clubs stay open late and the streets are a bustling hub of activity that will almost leave you breathless with its pace.
While the city is abundant, safe and clean, sometimes it can feel like all seven million Hong Kongers are on the very street you’re attempting to explore. It’s crowded, to say the least, so it’s remarkable that just a a few minutes or so out of the main CBD are smaller and tranquil suburbs with a lot of charm.
Head out to Tai Hang for a quirky little corner of Hong Kong fitted with cylindrical housing estates, remarkably good restaurants and the famous Haw Par Mansion. Tai Hang is amazingly tranquil and calm considering it’s only minutes away from the crowded Causeway Bay and has an interesting mix of mechanics, restaurants and kind people.
Take A Day Trip Here
Despite the off-putting name, Repulse Bay is a little oasis just 40-minute out of the city and offers a picturesque and sunny beach to unwind from the fast-paced city experience. Located in the southern part of Hong Kong island, you can dip your toes in the ocean or dine at one of the cool waterfront restaurants, like the newly opened Limewood.
If you are looking for a culture fix, don’t miss a day trip out to the Tina Tan statue, or “Big Buddha” and Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island. Also consider heading to visit the temples on Cheung Chau, an outlying island that has an old school fishing community. Accessible by ferry, refuel at the seafront seafood restaurants and feast on fresh locally caught crab and razor clams.
The Great Outdoors
GO HERE FOR A BREATHTAKING VIEW
Victoria Peak mountain is a tourist must-do. If you’re visiting someone in HK they will more than likely take you to the Peak to soak up the panoramic view of the city. For the full experience take the tram up to the top then walk up higher to Victoria Peak Garden for a rare moment of calm and quiet where you can enjoy a picnic. After, stroll down to the Peak just before sunset to enjoy the city as it turns on it’s spectacular night lights.
TAKE A HIKE
One of the most popular sanctuaries in Hong Kong is Shing Mun reservoir, a picturesque and sprawling beauty. Rich in flaura and fauna, the reservoir is a great source of fresh water and the perfect backdrop for your Instagram selfie. The village of Tai Wai at the edge of the reservoir is now gone, but a forest of protective feng ghui woods still remain and boasts more than 70 different species of trees.
Shing Mun is also home to hundreds of macaque monkeys, migratory birds and many species of butterflies. Be wary of the monkeys though and keep your distance – these guys have a tendency to snatch any food they see.
PARKS AND REC
After a busy day of shopping at the nearby Tsim Sha Tsui, the tranquility of Kowloon Park is a perfect spot for a relaxing and winding down amidst the city. Check out the Chinese Garden and the two-tier lotus pond which is home to a colony of flamingos.
If you’re keen on a bit of theme park fun, try Disneyland Hong Kong or Ocean Park if you’re feeling a little more adventurous. Less than an hour from the city, Ocean Park is chock full of rides and sugar coated confections. You’ll find world class rides right next to beautiful wild animals. Be sure to check out the two adorable and famous pandas that call Ocean Park a home, Ying Ying and Le Le. There’s also a seriously good cable-car ride that will take you in and out of the park and over a mountain with bright blue sea views all around you.
Where To Eat/Drink At 2AM
Hong Kong hits its peak at 2am on just about any given night of the week. You can find yourself a spot on a crowded dance floor with fellow visitors and plenty of cool locals at clubs like Boujis, XXX Gallery and Play or mill out on to the streets and go in search of a greasy feed. Paisano’s on Hollywood Road, Central, is always a favourite if you are all about that delicious, dripping, giant, pizza-slice life. Or if you need your bacon and egg fix, be sure to hike up to Flying Pan, a 24-hour breakfast joint that never fails to undo at least some of the night’s sins. Finally, if you made it back to the hotel and realised that you forgot to feed, but never fear! McDonald’s delivers 24 hours in Hong Kong.
#1 Boujis (Car Po Commercial Building, 37-43 Pottinger Street, Hong Kong)
#2 XXX Gallery (Basement, 212 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan)
#3 Play (On Hing Building, 1 On Hing Terrace, Hong Kong)
#4 Paisano’s (23 Hollywood Road, Central)
#5 Flying Pan (9 Old Bailey Street, Central)
Where To Shop For Bargains
Hong Kong has no shortage of sprawling designer flagship stores and glittering super-malls (see: IFC mall and the Landmark). But if you want to grab a bargain, all you have to do is peel back the shiny and pricey exterior of the city to find a real steal. Hot spots for the bargain hunters include Mong Kok ladies market where you will find all the souvenirs your heart desires at a price your wallet approves of. Tsim Sha Tsui (often abbreviated to TST) is a hub of multi-floor fashion malls offering affordable and on-trend items for fashion forward youth. For the tech-heads, head to Wan Chai Computer Centre to negotiate a great price on any gadget you could wish for, new or gently used. Many people don’t leave Hong Kong without a new camera, phone, laptop or tech accessory.
#1 IFC Mall (8 Finance Street, Central)
#2 The Landmark (Queen’s, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Central)
#3 Mong Kok ladies market (Tung Choi Street, Hong Kong)
#4 Tsim Sha Tsui (Nathan Road, Kowloon)
#5 Wan Chai Computer Centre (144 Hennessy Road, Hong Kong)
Locals Go Here For Breakfast
HK is the perfect place to fulfil your midmorning craving, whether it be eastern or western cuisine. Slip on your sunglasses and elastic waisted pants and head over to Din Tai Fung in Causeway Bay to ingest the healing properties of dim sum and dumplings. Fluffy, cloudlike pork buns, xiao long bao and silky shumai are worth the wait. HKers love to line up for their preferred restaurants and you will rarely see Din Tai Fung without a line out front, day or night. Fortunately the glass panelled kitchen gives you a full view of the dumpling prep while you wait. Who doesn’t like a little show before their meal?
If you are looking for the best of the best, head on over to Prince Edward where you will find One Dim Sum, a HK favourite whose Michelin star cuisine is actually the cheapest in the world. Start the day with steamed dumplings, tender rice sheet rolls and fried egg sticks with condensed milk.
If western style buffet brunch is more your thing, you can’t go past the comprehensive weekend offerings at the Ovolo hotel, south-side. Round up some companions and Uber over to this boozy little affair, complete with seafood bar, egg station, BBQ and salad bar, all washed down with bottomless sangria. Quail egg omelette, anyone?
If you need perking up in the morning, skip the Starbucks and head instead to a Cha Chaan Teng, a HK style café. Lan Fong Yuen is a winner, serving creamy milk tea iced or hot. Order the condensed milk & butter bun to really do it right. Don’t expect great service but with locations in Central, Sheung Wan and TST it’s an easy and affordable local experience.
Where To Have An Indulgent Night Out
This is where Hong Kong really hits its stride. Sustaining the heady reputation as being Asia’s go-to party city, you will be unlucky to not have a brilliant (and lengthy) night out here. The city starts and ends late; don’t worry about curfews or 2am lockouts, most clubs close between 4am and 6am.
Start your night dining in one of the cool restaurants in Sheung Wan or Lan Kwai Fong. Surround yourself with the cool kids at Yardbird for some hipster Japanese Yakitori or line your stomach at the indulgent and dark Lily & Bloom, serving upscale American comfort food and decadent cocktails. Ronin in Sheung Wan is a top option for the fish fans who aren’t worried about budget, and Brickhouse is great for a little Mexican flavour. Also in Sheung Wan you’ll find Mrs Pound, serving Asian/Canadian fusion and fun cocktails in a tucked away location. Rendang poutine, anyone?
#1 Yardbird (33-35 Bridges Street, Sheung Wan)
#2 Lily & Bloom (33 Wyndham Street, Hong Kong)
#3 Ronin (8 On Wo Lane, Sheung Wan)
#4 Brickhouse (20 D’Aguilar Street, Hong Kong)
#5 Mrs Pound (6 Pound Lane, Sheung Wan)
After you have eaten your fill, taxi down the road to Lan Kwai Fong, the central party district where you will likely spend much of your night. Choose your watering hole along Wyndham street or head straight to one of the clubs for a DJ and a boogie. Head to Dragon-I if you’re a fan of bottle service and eastern block models; Fly is for the cool kids who like their music in extra small dark venues; or Volar, for the die-hard techno fans and house heads. There’s also Solas for drinks with an Irish flair, Honi Honi a tiki cocktail lounge and Ho Lee Fook for a cheeky modern take on traditional Chinese cuisine. Every venue is just a hop, skip and a stumble down the road so it’s easy and practical to visit several venues in a night.
#1 Dragon-I (60 Wyndham Street, Hong Kong)
#2 Fly (24-30 Ice House Street, Hong Kong)
#3 Volar (44 D’Aguilar St, Central)
#4 Solas (The Centrium, 60 Wyndham St, Hong Kong)
#5 Honi Honi (52 Wellington St, Hong Kong)
#6 Ho Lee Fook (1 Elgin St, Central, Hong Kong)
Worth The Hype
Ozone Bar holds the esteemed title of highest bar in the world, located atop the Ritz Carlton Hotel in the ICC building in Kowloon. 118 floors up, you can soak up the iconic Hong Kong skyline from the highest vantage point, all while enjoying a glass of your favourite beverage.
Aberdeen’s floating village and restaurants, while pretty, are a huge tourist trap. It’s overpriced and overpopulated – you’re better off heading out to Repulse Bay if it’s seaside tranquility you’re after.
Don’t Leave Hong Kong Without…
Egg tarts are a must try while in HK, better still if you can snatch one up in Macau – Macau’s version was brought over by Portuguese colonisers, featuring a scorched, caramelised exterior. The Hong Kong egg tart is a bit more glassy and smooth like a custard tart. Try Tai Cheong for a great tart with flavour options like bacon or blueberry for the more adventurous.