Hong Kong is a crowded international city with lots of lights and lots to do. Hong Kong is technically part of China but used to by a British Colony- creating an interesting cultural mix. While visiting Hong Kong I was lucky enough to stay with my friend, a local to Hong Kong, and have her show me the best spots in the region. Here is a step by stop guide to help you experience the best of Hong Kong too.
Before even checking into accommodation (or in this case my friends house) I headed straight from the airport to start exploring.
There are some things to see out by the airport. Since the airport is so far out you might as well see it while you are already in the area. If you arrive in the evening this won’t be possible for you- but maybe before you leave instead.
Head to the bus stop and hop on the S1 bus. You will need small change to pay for the bus- or get an Octopus card from one of the convenience stores in the airport. You just load this card up with money and can use it on the MTR, buses and ferries around the city.
Take the bus to Tung Chung Station/City Gate Mall. Don’t worry if you miss your stop. I did this and only realized because I ended up back at the airport. I just stayed on the bus though and paid better attention the second time. It is a short bus loop so it’s not a big deal. Turns out it was only ten minutes away.
Once you get off at the right stop head into City Gate Mall. Once you enter the mall head to the basement and you will find lockers. They are quite cheap to rent and a great place to store you luggage while you go out and explore. This mall also has wifi- which is extremely rare to find in Hong Kong.
From here you have two options. Depending at what time you arrive in Hong Kong you may only be able to do one of these.
Tian Tan Buddha
You will often hear this referred to as the Big Buddha. Sitting on top of a mountain and of 250 tons of bronze they aren’t kidding about its size. This is one of the main attractions in Hong Kong. Since you’re in the neighbourhood already why don’t you check it out?
To see the Big Buddha is easy but if you want to go up to the platform with the Buddha, you will need to climb about 270 steps. It’s worth it though!
The top has amazing views. Even though I went on a cloudy day I found that thee clouds added a different type of beauty to the scenery. Besides the Big Buddha, there are also six beautiful Deva statues making an offering the Buddha. Make sure to walk all the way around to see them all and to take in the view from all angles.
Once you climb back down the stairs there is more to explore! There are beautiful walking paths and stunning temples. The temples are often overlooked because there is such a draw to the Buddha, but I found the temples beautiful as well.
How to get here:
There are two options for getting there:
- Bus 23- this will take an hour and take a long windy road that is not advisable for people who have motion sickness. This costs 17 HK on weekdays and 27 HK on weekends
- Ngong Ping 360– This is a cable car that is a highly rated tourist attraction in Hong Kong. You will get a beautiful view of rolling hills and the ocean on your 30 minute ride up.
I went on a day with overcast but still found the view really cool. I also arrived late in the day, around 4 p.m. so I got the cable car up all to myself! The cost for a round-trip is 130 HK.
*The last cable car back down the mountain is a 6 p.m.
Once you get to the top of the mountain you will walk through Ngong Ping Village. There will be lots of touristy stores and souvenir shops here. Continue through the village and down the Bodhi path to the entrance of the Big Buddha.
Tai O fishing Village
This village is unique because there are houses built on stilts above the water. There isn’t a lot to do here but it is an interesting place in Hong Kong to see.
It is a lot less touristy than the Big Buddha and has a calmness that is hard to find in Hong Kong. It is also a great place if you are into photography.
How to get Here:
- From the Big Buddha/ Ngong Ping Village: Bus 21
- From Tung Chung Station/City Gate: Bus 11
*The bus ride is about one hour.
Hike Dragon’s Back
The next morning I woke up early…okay not that early, to go hiking. We headed to the famous Dragons Back Mountain. Once you are on the hike you will realize where it gets its name from. The rolling hills look like the back of a dragon. I also noticed a lot of red stones on the trail and I couldn’t help but wonder if that also helped with the name.
The first part of the hike is the steepest. It’s not so much that it is hard but if you go in the middle of summer you will be so hot and sweaty. We were absolutely dripping in sweat. Everyone was afraid that it was going to rain that day but I was so hot that I was praying it would.
At the top the path starts to flatten out and this is where you now walk along the ‘dragon’s back.’
Luckily for me, the clouds came out so I found this part a lot more enjoyable. The views from this point on are also awesome.
I was blown away with this hike because when I booked a flight to Hong Kong I was not expecting to see any nature- never mind so beautiful!
At the bottom of Dragons Back there will be a fork in the road. I recommend taking the path to the right that leads to Big Wave Bay- there will be a sign. This path leads to the beach. Woo hoo!
Before I came to Hong Kong I researched where you could surf and Big Wave Bay was recommended- so I was looking forward to checking it out. As well, I was excited to dip my sweaty body into the refreshing ocean. When we got to the ocean though, there were no waves for surfing. There were some people trying to surf but I wouldn’t recommend wasting your time.
In total, hike took us about three hours to complete but if you are on a mission you can finish it in two. I went on the hike with a group of people so we were taking our time and stopping a lot to take in the view.
From the beach area you can head up the main street to get to the bus stop. Depending on how busy it is when you go there may be a line for the bus. Just get in the line and wait. When I say bus I mean more like mini van. The van drive you back to the subway station and from here you can head to your next destination.
*These mini vans don’t use Octopus cards and only take cash
How to Get Here:
Take the MTR to Shau Kei Wan, Exit A3. Take NWFB bus #9 towards Shek-O. Get off at To Tei Wan on Shek-O Road. You will usually see other hikers getting off here.
Party in Central
The streets of Central are lined with people (mainly foreigners) out to enjoy the nightlife of Hong Kong. There is a 7/11 here where people hang out in front of because it is the cheapest place to buy booze. The 7/11 can even be more fun than hanging out inside one of the bars.
Once you have had enough pre-drinks you can explore the many bars. If you don’t like the one you’re in just go next door- there are so many to choose from.
Since this is Hong Kong, a small area with millions of people, the bars are very crowded. Because of this, don’t expect to actually be able to sit down and have a conversation with someone. In fact, some bars are so packed you can’t even dance. Later on in the night you can hit up a club in this area if that’s what you are into.
Today is more relaxed in order to give you some time to sleep in and nurse the hangover.
Take a Stroll though Kowloon Walled Park
When you eventually do get up, start your day out easy by taking a stroll around Kowloon walled city park. This historical park isn’t a major tourist attraction or anything- but that adds to the charm. I loved this park because I am a sucker for the traditional round doorways and this park is full of them. Because of the neat architecture it makes for a fun place to play around with photography.
Fun fact! This area constantly changed ownership between the Chinese and English. Eventually, in the 20th century it became Chinese territory but they were forced to vacate it. Instead, many criminals filled the city and Kowloon became it’s own city within Hong Kong- made up of fugitives and illegal activities. You wouldn’t know this now because the slum was replaced with the beautiful park that it is today.
Meander Through Mongkok
This is a major spot for tourists and locals to hang out. The streets of Mangkok are filled with activity, food stalls and street markets. Mangkok even has specific streets designated to certain things- such as Ladies Market, Sneaker Market and Gold Fish Market.
There are so many small streets that this area is very confusing for tourists- especially with so much activity going on. Just get lost in the moment and worry about finding your way home after. The markets open at 4 p.m. and keeping going until midnight.
There are also photographers here that take polaroids of you in the cool streets for you to bring home as a fun souvenir.
How to Get Here:
Take the MTR to Mongkok station. Take the escalator up to the platform and follow the signs toward Exit E2.
At street level walk directly away from the MTR station along Nelson st. After one block you will be in the middle of Ladies Market
Take in the View from Victoria Peak
Once Mangkok gets to crazy for you, you can escape the madness and head to the Peak for the best view of Hong Kong’s skyline.
There are a few options for getting to the top of the peak. One is to walk but this is less like a walk and more like an intense vertical climb. The other option is the bus- this is the cheap and uneventful option.
The best way to reach The Peak is by the tram. The tram is a fun experience in itself. Unfortunately, since it is such a popular choice if you go on the weekend the lineup for the tram will be ridiculous so try to go on a weeknight. Once the tram starts moving everyone will be thrown to the back because the ride up is so steep. You will be happy you listened to me and didn’t walk.
If you don’t like any of these options you can always take a taxi to the top as well.
Once you reach the top you can pay to visit the Observatory to overlook the city. However, I have an insider tip that will save you from this tourist trap- and it’s free! Click here for instructions.
How to get to the Tram:
From Central Station you can walk to the tram. Take exit J2 and walk to ground level. Turn right through Chater Garden, cross Queen’s Road Central, and make your way up Garden Road.
Here is a more visual guide.
Wong Tai Sin Temple
Take some time out from the hustle and bustle of the city with this cultural escape. This temple is easy to get to since it’s within the city. It is beautiful and should be visited by everyone who comes to Hong Kong.
Why I love this place it because there is more to see here than just a temple. The area has ponds, bridges, round doorways and beautiful pathways to wander through. I spent a lot of time soaking in the beauty that this temple had to offer. It is the perfect place to start your day.
How to Get Here:
Take the Kwun Tong Line to Wong Tai Sin Station, Exit B3. After that, walk North 100 meters to the temple.
Nan Lian Garden
From the temple I ended up just walking to Diamond Hill Station since it was only one MTR stop away. Up from the station you will find Nan Lian Garden- talk about another beautiful place!
Compared to the the temple this are area was very quiet with very few people. There were more monks than visitors.
The Park contains a Chinese garden and a nunnery which contains many temples. I loved the contrast of the gardens and traditional temples against the background of the Hong Kong city skyline.
It is a large park with lots of beauty to see so make sure you allow yourself enough time to not have to rush through it.
Hong Kong Museum of History
What makes this museum so interesting is that Hong Kong is a mixture of Chinese and British culture. It can often be confusing. This museum is great to help you learn and understand the role that each of these countries have on Hong Kong.
There are also short films that teach you about different parts of Hong Kong’s history. The movie clips are only about five minutes long. Since there was not a lot of people when I went I ended up staying in for four movies in a row to catch a quick nap. I’m sure I got some strange looks when the Cantonese version was playing.
Even if museums aren’t your thing the entrance is free so you might as well give it a go. You can always leave if it doesn’t tickle your fancy. If you are super into museums the History Museum features special exhibitions that you can check out for a small fee.
- Monday, Wednesday to Friday: 10am – 6pm
- Saturday, Sunday and public holidays: 10am – 7pm
- Christmas Eve and Chinese New Year’s Eve: 10am – 5pm
- Closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays), and the first two days of the Chinese New Year.
Take a Ferry to Macau
Now is a good time to take an escape from Hong Kong for a day and head to Macau. Depending on how much time you have you may want to spend the night in Macau so that you are not rushed to see everything in one day. I wish that I had done that.
Read here for the top things to do during a day in Macau.
Beach it Up
One thing that surprised me about Hong Kong was that they have beaches. So I think it’s necessary to work a beach day into your time in Hong Kong- you’re on vacation after all!
The popular beach is Stanley but I headed a little further out to Big Wave Bay. This beach will be a little less crowded. There are also some small restaurants and shops where you can buy snacks and water.
To get to the beach you take a bus. It can be a windy road so you may get a little bit motion sick. I missed my stop and so took the bus to the end of the line by accident.
Instead, I got dropped off in a little beach town called Shek-O. I was happy that I got lost here because Shek-O ended up being adorable.
The houses were all so unique and colourful. It was odd finding this cute area within Hong Kong. Shek-O is a great spot if you are into photography and is well worth a walk around.
There was also a beach here called Rocky Bay Beach. It was completely empty when I was there. so you could always stay here if you want a private beach to yourself.
From here I walked back to Ocean Bay. Not going to lie-it was a bit hot and sweaty so you could always take a taxi if there is one around. The walk is doable though.
How to Get Here:
Click here for directions.
Head to Causeway Bay and choose from the many things that you can do in this area.
Then if you still haven’t had your fill of Dim Sum you can head to LochCha tea House in Hong Kong Park for dinner.
The park is adorable and the tea house is even cuter. The owner is very friendly and came over to our table to explain the different varieties of tea and the process of making a perfect cup of tea. The food is also delicious here with vegetarian dim sum options.
Once you have had your fill, you can take a Ferry from across the harbour for the cheapest boat cruise of your life- about $0.25. You can buy a beer to enjoy on the boat to bring your experience up to a an expensive $2.00.
Once you get off of the Ferry you can walk along the avenue of stars and the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. The walk is beautiful as you look out onto Victoria Harbour and listen to street performers sing. This evening stroll is the perfect way to say goodbye to Hong Kong, with the sky-rises lit up in the dark.
Goodnight Hong Kong.