There is so much to discover in Hong Kong: one of the world’s most vibrant cities, overflowing with people and eternally short on space. It is a modern futuristic city – one of the busiest and most developed cities in Asia, with a perfect blend of east and west whilst still retaining its culture. Tourists automatically associate Hong Kong with its bright lights and skyscrapers but, being surrounded by water and mountains there is also a lot of nature to see and explore – read on to discover Hong Kong and how to make the most of your time here!
Although officially Hong Kong is part of China, it is culturally so different – they are literally worlds apart. Hong Kong used to be a British colony (Cantonese and English are the official languages: the majority of people speak English and there are lots of signs in English, making it a lot easier for tourists to navigate round compared to China), and the locals are very polite and friendly. It was part of the British Empire from 1842 until 1997, when Britain handed it back to China. Nowadays Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China, meaning it is part of China but has its own currency, economy, and immigration laws so it is allowed to operate as an independent country.
Hong Kong consists of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula, The New Territories, and 200 outlying islands, but the main part of the city is focused on the northern part of Hong Kong Island and the southern part of Kowloon. It is relatively compact and very well connected: the MTR underground system is convenient for getting around, super efficient and it’s pretty inexpensive. Infact it is one of the best public transport systems in the world!
DISCOVER HONG KONG
Hong Kong Island:
Along with being one of the most photographed cities in the world, Hong Kong has one of the world’s most iconic skylines. On a clear day head up to Victoria Peak – the highest peak in Hong Kong and certainly the city’s most famed attraction. The most popular way to reach the top is by The Peak Tram: it is one of the world’s oldest, steepest and most well-known funicular railways, making it an exciting and unique experience for visitors to Hong Kong. It is open from 7am – midnight and the view is spectacular both in the day and night, although try and get here for sunset and see the impressive bright lights appear in the city below.
I would recommend to buy tickets in advance through the Klook website, otherwise you can be queueing for over an hour, especially at the weekends. If this is not possible however, try to get here early in the morning when the queues are much smaller. You can buy a Skypass for 99HK$, which includes the Peak Tram return fare and entrance to the Sky Terrace on top of The Peak Tower, where you get a 360 view of Hong Kong, but the view is just as great if you decide not to go up and just buy the Peak Tram ticket, which is 52HK$ return (nearest MTR for The Peak Tram is Admiralty). Alternatively you can take bus 15 up to The Peak from Central Station for 10HK$ one way, although it takes longer and is not as exciting. Try to have the correct change as buses in Hong Kong don’t give change!
There are several great photo opportunity spots once you get to the top of the peak. If you walk left once you come out of the Peak Tower, you can see the trams going up and down, which makes for a nice picture but it can get pretty busy. Instead, if you turn right once you get out of the tower and stroll down Lugard Road (which is actually a path), it is much quieter here and the views are amazing.
Everyone always goes to see the classic skyline view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak, but this is always pretty crowded. If you want an alternative view of Hong Kong skyline where there are virtually no other tourists, head up Braemar Hill. With so many peaks and hills, Hong Kong is great for hiking. Braemar Hill is one of the easier hikes that offers a great view of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
The whole hike takes roughly 2 hours and it’s a very easy and pleasant stroll most of the way (hence why I did it in sandals and a dress)! To reach Braemar Hill, take the minibus 24M from outside Admiralty MTR to Mount Butler Estate (the last stop) for 7HK$ (less than 1USD).
It makes a really nice contrast to have hills mixed up with skyscrapers! There are some boulders where you can get a really nice viewpoint, just go down the dirt track, off the main concrete path.
As I mentioned earlier, Hong Kong is great for hiking – it is full of mountains! Devil’s Peak is another really famous and epic hike in Hong Kong that you should do if you have more time here. And if you fancy going further out or combining camping with a hiking trip, head to the peninsula of Sai Kung for an unforgettable experience!
Yik Cheong Building
One of Hong King’s most well-known and instantly recognised sites, Yik Cheong Building (featured in movies such as Transformers and nicknamed the Monster Building) consists of several densely stacked towers of apartments and demonstrates the typical Hong Kong style crowded apartment blocks. Hong Kong has a large population but isn’t very large, so apartment blocks like this are common so to utilise all its space to accommodate its residents.
Yik Cheong building is located in Quarry Bay on Kings Road. Exit Quarry Bay MTR and walk along Kings Road towards Tai Koo. The entrance to Yik Cheong can be easily missed, but just look for an alleyway next to the meat shop and walk through and you’ll find yourself standing in the middle of the apartment blocks.
Nightlife in Lan Kwai Fong
If you want to see the nightlife, head to LKF (Lan Kwai Fong) in Central. This is the party area of Hong Kong, with streets full of restaurants, bars and clubs. Take the MTR to Central, exit at exit D2 and walk up D’Aguilar Street.
To cross from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon you can take the MTR or the Star Ferry. I recommend taking the Star Ferry – it offers great views AND is only a dollar to ride! It runs between 06.30-23.30 and ferries depart roughly every 10 minutes.
One of the most popular things from tourists to do in Hong Kong is to see the Symphony of Lights, held every night at 8pm for free! It is an incredible display of lights, lasers and music lasting about 10 minutes. The Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui Waterfront on Kowloon is the best place to watch this display (try to get here early as it gets busy). Alternatively you watch it in a much quieter setting: onboard one of the junk boats (traditional Chinese red boats).
If you are looking for somewhere great for food afterwards, within walking distance from Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront is Hutong – one of the best Chinese restaurants in town with an absolutely incredible view of the harbour and bright lights. It is a little pricey, but it is worth it, just remember to reserve a table beforehand.
Nathan Road runs directly up from the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade and continues up to Mong Kok. It has lots of restaurants and street food and shopping malls, and is covered with neon lights in the evening. Make time to experience the city’s two night markets: Temple Street Night Market and Ladies Market – they are both just off Nathan Road, about a mile apart, and are great places to buy souvenirs and clothes.
Temple Street Night Market is located in Jordan (get off at Jordan MTR and follow signs for Temple Street at exit A. Turn right at Jordan Road and then right onto Temple Street). Make sure to sample some food here: Temple Market is known for its great seafood restaurants and street food stalls. Top tip: keep walking along Temple Street, through the park, and you will find more stalls where everything is half the price that it is in the busy touristy part of the market!
Mong Kok is a very busy shopping area – actually one of the most populated places in the world! The Ladies Market is located is Mong Kok: it is a lot bigger than Temple Street Night Market and it is also open during the day too! You can find a lot of similar products at both markets, but the Ladies market focuses more on clothes and accessories (closest MTR station is Mong Kok station: follow the signs at exit D for Tung Choi Street).
Next to the market is Fa Yuen Street, where you can buy trainers and shoes at discounted prices from almost any brand. There is also the Goldfish market on Tung Choi Street, with hundreds of bags of tropical fish at insanely high prices. Personally I don’t like animals to be sold this way, but it provides an interesting look into local life.
Choi Hung Basketball Courts
Is this not the coolest basketball court ever?? Choi Hung Estate was built in the 1960’s to provide affordable housing for thousands of locals in Hong Kong. It was painted rainbow colours to lift people’s spirits, and boy does it do just that – it’s impossible to not be happy when you’re here! Whilst these basketball courts are Insta-famous, they actually can be a little tricky to find! Read my blog article Finding Choi Hung basketball courts to find out more info! Get off at Choi Hung MTR, exit at exit C3. The basketball courts are onto of the carpark behind the building.
Hong Kong’s largest island, where the airport, Disneyland and Ngong Ping are located. Visitors and pilgrims come to Ngong Ping from all over the world to see the Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha): a 35 metre high buddha statue on the top of a mountain in Ngong Ping village. It is a very popular tourist destination and most visitors get here by the cable car that offers incredible views – it is deemed one of the most beautiful and longest cable-car rides on the globe at 5.7km long. The impressive Ngong Ping 360 cable car connects Ngong Ping with Tung Chung (alight at MTR Tung Chung). Buy your ticket in advance if possible, to skip the notoriously long queue for the 25 minute cable car ride.
The quickest way to and from the airport from Kowloon using public transport is the Airport express train – whether you take a one way ticket or a same day return, the price is still 115HK$ (you can save money and buy them for 72HK$ when you buy tickets online using Klook). It takes less than 25 minutes to get from the airport to Kowloon and runs from 05.50 to just before 1am. If you’ll be in Hong Kong for 3 days or more, you can buy the Airport Express Travel Pass which includes your airport ride and unlimited rides on the MTR for 3 days.
Otherwise, you will need to purchase single-journey tickets each time (with cash), unless you have an Octopus card, which you can buy for HK$100 and a $50 deposit. You can purchase this from the information centres at MTR stations and they can be topped up at the station or at convenience stores such as 7-eleven. You top up the card with cash, then tap in when you get on public transport. When you return the card, you get back any remaining balance plus the deposit. If you don’t want to rely on public transport, fortunately taxis are plentiful and also relatively inexpensive in Hong Kong.
Where to stay in Hong Kong
I would recommend to stay anywhere around Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok on Kowloon: they are great areas as there’s lots going on here, they are both in a convenient location, there are lots of local restaurants nearby, plus there are lots of budget hotels and hostels in these areas. Of course, any area you want to stay is good, just make sure wherever you stay that you are near an MTR station as you’ll be using it a lot!
The weather is pleasant year-round in Hong Kong, but storms and rainfall are more common May – September, during the humid summer months. October-December is the ideal time to visit as the skies are blue and the weather is perfect this time of year. However, whatever time of year you visit, you’re bound to have a wonderful time in this amazing city!
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