Top things to do in Hong Kong
As the lights of Hong Kong reflect in the waters of Victoria Harbour, a metropolis lives and breathes.
It’s easy to get lost in the shadows of towering buildings or amongst the maze of winding streets, as old and new sit side by side in perfect harmony.
Hong Kong will welcome you with a surprising diversity. It’s a city with a fascinating history and an intricate culture; where the variety of food is mind-blowing; and where it’s still possible to escape the rat race and relax or shop to your heart’s content.
Here’s a city guide to the top things to do in Hong Kong.
In 1841 the Qing Dynasty ceded Hong Kong Island to the British Empire, which gradually acquired Kowloon and finally the New Territories in 1898 under a ninety-nine year lease. In 1997 the world watched as the British flags were lowered for the last time. Now a Chinese SAR (Special Administrative Region), capitalism and age-old traditions continue to weave the fabric of Hong Kong society.
For historical things to do in Hong Kong, start your day at 7.50am (7.45 on the first day of the month) at Golden Bauhinia Square for the pomp and ceremony of the flag raising.
A tradition from the colonial past, the noon firing of the Noonday Gun on the harbourside of Causeway Bay continues in perpetuity – a punishment for a disgruntled navel officer’s misunderstanding in the 1860s. Access is via the basement car park of the World Trade Centre, so allow time to find it.
One of Hong Kong’s finest remaining examples of Victorian colonial architecture, Heritage 1881 – the former Marine Police Headquarters – sits on a hill overlooking the harbour. Enjoy a cocktail on the balcony or a glass of bubbles in the champagne bar.
For a snapshot of Hong Kong’s incredible history, visit the Hong Kong Museum of History.
Chinese culture blends the principles of health, happiness and wellbeing and is evident in every aspect of Hong Kong life.
Top cultural things to do in Hong Kong include Man Mo temple on Hollywood Road. Experience the warmth under a canopy of spiralling incense that’s been burning for over 150 years. It’s one of many temples that stand firm amongst the encroaching city buildings.
The ancient art of Feng Shui promotes respect for the environment allowing dwellers to live in harmony. The buildings that create the vast Hong Kong skyline are positioned according to this tradition. Gaping holes in structures allow the dragons dwelling in the hills to carry the winds of positive energy unobstructed through the city. Walk Hong Kong offers an excellent four-hour Temple and Feng Shui tour.
Balance your yin and yang with a morning Tai Chi class. It’s the perfect way to energise the body before disappearing into the maze of the city. Ms Pandora Wu will guide you through the basics Monday, Wednesday and Friday 7.30 to 9am (+852 9415 5678 – HKD50).
Tea plays an integral part in Chinese culture and tradition and can be traced back over 2000 years. LockCha Tea House offers over 100 choices of tea in elegant surroundings.
For a 24/7 city there are plenty of relaxing things to do in Hong Kong. Whilst tunnels and bridges bring the city together, hop on a Star Ferry to cross the waters between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon and enjoy the views from both sides. Ferry trips are inexpensive and frequent.
There are many islands that are easily accessible and worth visiting. Lantau Island, home to the bronze Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery, will give you a culture boost, whilst the cosy al fresco restaurants on Cheung Chau offer fresh seafood caught daily.
Hiking is a great way to explore Hong Kong, with trails to suit all levels. The Dragon’s Back is a four-hour moderate hike in Shek O Park. Wear comfortable shoes and finish at the Shek O end to enjoy a cold drink on the beach.
An easy walk, the loop around Victoria Peak is the best way to view the city from above. The peak tram clings to the side of the hill as it glides to the top, however be prepared for long queues. Taxis and buses offer a quicker alternative. Walk clockwise starting an hour or so before sunset and experience the setting sun glistening on the harbour.
The Hong Kong skyline illuminates nightly with A Symphony of Lights. It’s best enjoyed from Kowloon along the water’s edge, while the Intercontinental Hotel with its towering glass lobby bar frames the light show beautifully. Aqua Spirit Bar offers a panoramic view from 30 floors above Peking Road.
Many fabulous places to eat in Hong Kong are hidden away, so follow the locals that fill the tiny eateries behind windows where golden roast goose and crunchy pork hang.
Din Tai Fung is known throughout Asia and their Hong Kong restaurants have earned a Michelin star. Their Xiao Long Bao (steamed pork dumplings) are exceptional dipped in vinegar and fresh ginger. Let them cool slightly before eating or place them on a spoon and pierce them with your chopsticks to allow the soup inside to drizzle out and surround the dumpling, before popping the lot into your mouth.
At Temple Street night market enjoy street dining at its best. Indulge in spicy chilli crab, fried clams with chilli and black bean sauce or marinated goose intestines washed down with icy cold beer.
High tea at The Peninsula Hong Kong is an institution and one of the most delicious things to do in Hong Kong. At the top of the hotel, Felix offers stunning views and an inventive menu. Their early sitting (6-8pm) is an elegant way to enjoy Hong Kong as it lights up before your eyes.
Wooloomooloo Steakhouses are famous for their steaks however in Wan Chai their rooftop lounge is the ideal place to sip cocktails as you watch the sunset.
The night market at Temple Street is one of the best. Here you can fill your bags with souvenirs, clothes and knick knacks. Avoid the hawkers offering ‘Rolexes’. For the real deal, Fashion Walk in Causeway Bay will satisfy the most discerning of label hunters.
Grab the front seat on top of a double-decker bus and head over to Stanley Market. The winding road over the top of Hong Kong Island past the beaches at Repulse Bay and down the other side rivals the rides at Hong Kong Disneyland.
Tailors are easy to find and offer the perfect fit. You will be approached on the street, but heading straight to a shop will avoid the initial hard sell. Get your favourite trousers or dress copied. BYO fabric or choose from their collection. Negotiate hard for the best price.
Stop in at Dim Sum Square for delicious dumplings before climbing the steps to Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan to browse the antiques. Many authentic pieces can be found here, including exquisite porcelain tea cups – some over 100 years old – which make a fabulous souvenir. It’s one of the most interesting things to do in Hong Kong during your stay.
Do you have any tips for top things to do in Hong Kong? We would love to hear from you. Please leave us a comment.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
As a travel blogger and photographer, Neil Brook travels the world looking to meet interesting people, taste great food and find different angles from which to cover his adventures. He is privileged to have lived in Australia, the Philippines, Japan, Singapore and London. Currently living in Bangkok, Neil splits his time between Thailand and London. He would be in heaven joining the Bizarre Foods team, having tried horse meat tartare in Tokyo, lobster sashimi in Manila and the perfect ceviche in Havana. More a traveller than a tourist, he prefers to mix it with the locals, learn their history and culture and walk the back streets to uncover hidden gems worthy of praise on the global stage or quiet moments of private reflection.