Let it never be said that Hong Kong is boring. I’ve heard people comment that Hong Kong is a city that can be ‘done’ in a weekend, and I would like to politely counter such notions with my ultimate guide of things to do in Hong Kong.
In general, I have and will continue to steer away from the overused listicle formats. However, this particular list is one that I’ve been writing for three years. It’s a little bit more than just another list: it was the things I looked forward to when I moved here; it’s been an ongoing compilation of my favourite places in the city I’ve fallen in love with; it’s the guide I’ve used for every visiting friend and family member over my stay in Hong Kong.
One of the things moving abroad made me realise is that I never took enough time at home to appreciate the incredible sights around me: you become numb to it and take these things for granted. Coming into a new city with a fresh pair of eyes, all I could see was incredible landmarks, new experiences, and different opportunities. It’s changed the way I look at travel, and also the place I’ve come from (I’m currently compiling a similar list for my visit home to Scotland in August).
The things to do in Hong Kong are endless, and as this list will hopefully demonstrate, it would take a little more than a weekend to ‘do’ this city. It’s a compact place, sure – you can get from one end to the other in less than two hours, perhaps even one – but it crams a whole lot into a tiny little space. It’s so much more than a sea of skyscrapers and a few fancy rooftop bars. I’ve had family visit for over three weeks who didn’t manage half of it – I’ve actually not done everything myself, and currently still have around 20 things left on my ‘to-do’ list.
So, whether or not you’re planning a trip in the near future, are looking for destination ideas, or have lived here for a decade already, have a read of the 117 things to do in Hong Kong.
Have I missed something? How many of these have you done? Tell me in the comments!
Things To Do In Hong Kong: The Skyline
This is what you came for…
1. Visit The Peak, night and day. You don’t have to pay for the viewing platform if you’re on a budget: there’s plenty of places around (like Luggard Road and Lion’s Pavilion) that offer great free views.
2. Go to Ozone Bar at the Ritz-Carlton, the highest bar in the world on the 118th floor.
3. Watch the light show from the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. This is where the old Kowloon Railway Station used to be, but all that remains is the Clock Tower, built in 1915. This is one of the best places for an uninterrupted view of the skyline, and there are places to sit beside the harbour.
4. Watch the light show from the Eyebar on the 30th floor of iSquare (and enjoy their happy hour Monday-Saturday, 6-9pm).
Things to Do In Hong Kong: Cultural
But this is what you’ll stay for…
6. Look into the past at Hong Kong History Museum.
7. Explore Tai O, the 300 year-old fishing community of old Hong Kong famed for their stilted houses, where you can take a boat ride to spot the rare pink dolphins.
8. Chill out in Kowloon Walled City Park. Once upon a time, this was one of the most populated places on earth, with over 50,000 people living in an area of 0.025km2. It began life as a military fort, but after the population boom of the 40s fell into a lawless loophole where neither the British or Chinese government took legal responsibility for it, and it became a hotbed for triad activity, gambling, and back-alley dentistry with high-rise towers built literally leaning against each other. It was demolished in 1993, and a public park was built in its place, but there’s still some of the original walled city buildings left, and a fascinating exhibition with stories from the residents.
9. Visit the 10,000Buddhas Monastery (although, it actually contains more than 12,000 Buddha statues, along with the gold-embalmed body of Yuet Kai, the monk who built the temple).
10. Visit a traditional walled village: there are three around the Kam Tin area in the New Territories.
11. Drop into the Tin Hau Temple in Yau Ma Tei.
12. Light some incense at Man Mo Temple in Sheung Wan, built in 1847 and one of the oldest buildings in the area.
13. Visit Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin, a huge Confucius, Buddhist and Taoist temple complex and gardens.
14. Have a tranquil afternoon at Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Gardens in Diamond Hill.
15. Check out the lesser-known Ching Leung Nunnery in Siu Hong.
16. Go to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum and the Bruce Lee exhibition
18. Get creative at Cattle Depot Art Village.
19. Find the Wah Fu ‘Sky Full of Gods’ project at Waterfall Bay. It’s bad luck in Chinese culture to throw away old or damaged statues of gods, so people instead abandon them on roadsides – and one man made it his mission to gather them all up and give them a new home.
20. Go to the Zoological and Botanical Gardens of Hong Kong. Opened in 1871, it’s among the oldest in the world.
21. Visit the aviary in Kowloon Park and go for a swim in the public pool.
22. Check out Hong Kong Park’s old Grade II listed buildings and greenhouses.
23. Go off track and hunt down Hung Shin Temple in Sai Kung, which was originally built in 1889 and part of an award-winning restoration project in 2002 to rectify damage done by typhoons and monsoons.
24. Hire bikes and cycle around Tai Po’s reservoir promenade.
25. Explore the UNESCO Hong Kong Global Geopark of China and all its quirky rocks.
26. Take a walk and bird-spot in the Wetlands Park.
27. Visit Kandoorie Farm to experience an urban farm and wildlife sanctuary.
28. Check out the newly-opened Tai Kwun Heritage and Arts Centre. The old police station barracks and Victoria Jail have been restored beautifully to house heritage exhibitions with stories from the local neighbourhood, art galleries, and host one-off events.
29. Visit The Mills in Tseun Wan, a renovated former textiles mill which is now an arts and culture hub with plenty of tech-startup fashion and design boutiques from local craftsman and designers.
30. Explore Sheung Wan and SOHO’s street art, and ride the Mid-Levels escalator, the longest outdoor one in the world.
31. Visit Murray House and Blake Pier in Stanley, which although they’re among the oldest structures in Hong Kong, have only been in Stanley for a couple of decades. The 1844 officer’s barracks along with the 1909 pier were dismantled in the 1980s and 2000s respectively and rebuilt in their current location in Stanley in 2002 and 2006. Now Murray House is home to a selection of restaurants and retail venues.
Things to Do In Hong Kong: Day Trips
You might even want more than one day…
32. Disneyland: personal highlights are The Lion King musical performance, Tomorrowland’s Iron Man VR Ride and Space Mountain, and It’s a Small World After All (do you have the song stuck in your head now?).
33. Ocean Park: a large aquarium, very little zoo, and a huge roller coaster park on the south side of Hong Kong Island. Beautiful views and great rides. Plus, it’s even easier to get there now with the new MTR station right on it’s doorstep.
34. Macau: technically not Hong Kong, but it’s a 45-minute boat ride away. Tickets are HK$200 (or, around £20) each way, and a day is plenty of time to explore the old Portuguese colonial buildings around Senado Square, or take a look around the Vegas-like resorts and casinos.
35. Go on a junk boat (aka, an all-day drinking party on the high seas).
Things to Do In Hong Kong: Transport
Getting around is an experience in itself…
36. Ride the Star Ferry, which was originally the only way to Hong Kong Island from Kowloon. It’ll cost you a whopping HK$2.3, or, 20p.
37. Ride the Ding Ding (tram) on the island from Kennedy Town to Causeway Bay. It’s a cool way to sightsee and is also HK$2-3.
39. Take a train to China (like, actually though). Pop across the border and visit Shenzhen for a day of shopping for fake designer bags in Lo Wu mall, visit the artist’s village, or spend a day in the 24-hour super-spa, Queen’s Spa.
40. Let your life flash before your eyes in a Mini Bus. When you want off, just holler.
Things to Do In Hong Kong: The Islands
Go beyond the main hub of the city and you might be surprised…
41. Lamma Island. Best for: hiking, seafood lunches by the seaside, and chilling on the beach.
42. Cheung Chau Island. Best for: hiring a bike, exploring caves, and trying out the special giant fish balls and buns. Oh, and the Bun Festival once a year.
43. Peng Chau Island. Best for: gentle hikes and easy Sundays.
44. Po Toi Island. Best for: stunning views and heritage hikes.
45. Tung Ping Chau Island. Best for: stunning rock formations and exploring a remote place in the Global Geopark.
46. Yim Tin Tsai Island. Best for: Exploring creepy abandoned villages. This place was a fishing and salt-farming community for over 200 years, but has been abandoned for a couple of decades. There’s dilapidated buildings and an old Grade II listed church.
Things to Do In Hong Kong: Beaches
Don’t forget your sunscreen…
47. Long Ke Wan (Sai Kung): reached by a bus, a taxi and a hike (or, a bus and a boat), it’s one of the trickier ones to get to but so worth the effort. Great for camping.
48. Shek O (South-East Island): it’s easier to get to via a bus from Shau Kei Wan, and popular because of the good water quality, which can make it very busy on weekends and public holidays. Great Thai restaurants nearby for lunch, and surfboard rental when the waves are good.
49. Big Wave Bay (South-East Island): it’s just along the road from Shek O, and generally quieter and more popular with the surfers. There’s also some prehistoric rock carvings on the cliffs there.
50. Cheng Sha Beach (Lantau): Hong Kong’s longest beach, and close to Pui O village which means easy to access by bus and plenty to eat.
51. Stanley (South Island): It’s a pretty tiny beach, and super busy on Dragon Boat race day, but it’s a nice to visit if you’re in Stanley Village anyway.
Things to Do In Hong Kong: Hikes
So much more than a concrete jungle. There’s actual jungle. And hills. Oh, the hills…
53. Dragon’s Back: a good introduction hike, and one of the most popular in Hong Kong. There’s a lot of ups and downs but nothing too strenuous. Great views for the first half and it ends at Big Wave Bay.
54. The Twins: a tricky hike that involves a LOT of steps (a thousand, to be precise).
55. The Peak Hike: if you don’t want to take the tram or taxi to the legendary Victoria Peak, walk it for great views along the way. This is a mostly-paved easy walk, but all uphill.
56. Tai Tam Reservoir: stunning scenery through the Country Park, but again, a lot of steep up and down hills. Depending on your route, you can end at the reservoir and bus back, or walk all the way to Repulse Bay from North Point.
57. WWII Military Forts and Bunkers on Mount Davis: I’m sorry, but this is another very large, steep hill – but there are historic relics involved this time if heritage walks are your thing. You can do an organised tour, but you can also just explore the hill yourself.
58. Lion’s Rock: one of the best views over Kowloon onto the Island, this is an intermediate hike that can be tricky at times.
59. Kowloon Peak: stunning views, with a few dangerous paths. Not to be taken lightly or by those with unsteady footing.
60. Shing Mun Reservoir in Tsuen Wan: an easy hike with a few ups and downs, but all paved. Just beware the gangs of thug monkeys who will rob you for all of your food and keys.
61. Man Cheung Po near Tai O: you can’t swim in the reservoir, but it’s an incredible photo location of this mountain-top infinity pool.
Things to Do In Hong Kong: Food Experiences
This is a post unto itself, but I’ll try to keep it short…
63. Eat Dim Sum – and while you’re at it, enjoy one of the cheapest Michelin-starred dinners in the world at Tim Ho Wan. (I won’t lie to you, I have on more than one occasion eaten multiple plates of their pork buns.) My favourite dim sum place though is actually Dim Dim Sum, because of their crispy shrimp rice rolls.
64. Try wonton noodles: Mak’s Noodles is probably the most famous, but the local shops are, to me, just as good.
65. Have an iron-griddled egg waffle.
66. Drink bubble tea. This is actually a Taiwanese food trend that has really taken off in Hong Kong and China: the ‘bubbles’ are tapioca balls. My favourite place in Hong Kong is ShareTea. Go for a traditional milk tea or chocolate flavour, or if like me you avoid milk, the passionfruit green tea is super refreshing.
67. Have a boozy brunch. This involves free-flow drinks and ridiculous amounts of food. For the view, service and food quality, Aqua is one of my all-time favourites, although Pirata’s semi-buffet is great value and service is always brilliant.
68. Eat a slice of mooncake. (Just a slice, though: the calories in these dense little things are mad.)
69. Enjoy Char Siu Fann (BBQ pork rice). A lot of the ‘best of’ lists include variations in fancy restaurants, but it’s best from a local restaurant that specialises in roasted meats. Joy Hing in Wan Chai is the classic, but wander around any neighbourhood and you’ll find somewhere.
71. Satisfy your midnight munchies at Tsui Wah. This 24-hour chain started as a humble single store in the 60s and serves up an assortment of Cantonese and Hong Kong classics.
72. Have a Hong Kong Breakfast: milk tea, scrambled eggs and toast, and macaroni in chicken soup. Australian Dairy Company (which is neither Australian nor serves exclusively dairy) is one of the best for this kind of food.
73. Have afternoon tea at The Peninsula, the oldest hotel in Hong Kong. It’s a bit of an institution: it opened in 1928, was the headquarters for Japanese Occupation in 1941, and was one of the locations for the 2007 movie The Dark Knight because it has one of two helipads in Hong Kong (and of course, it’s the more aesthetically pleasing).
74. Eat street food, and be sure to try: chicken feet, snake soup, and stinky tofu. The north part of Temple Street (past the Temple) in Yau Ma Tei is a good place to get all three.
76. Eat Hong Kong egg tarts (‘Daan-Ta’). My favourites are from Tai Cheong, but you’ll see these delicious desserts all over the city.
77. Go to Mr Wong’s for your fix of family-style Chinese (think wontons, spring rolls, sweet and sour fish, fried rice, chicken curry… it’s more akin to the British Chinese, although he does offer a more localised version of his menu) with all the beer you can drink.
78. Go to a themed restaurant. There are loads to choose from, but Dim Sum Icon have a menu of themed specials that change every quarter. Their food is average, but it’s more about the experience of eating spring rolls with eyes or French toast that looks like Spongebob.
79. Visit the Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market. This wholesaler has been providing local Hong Kong restaurants, cafes and stores with fresh fruit and veg every day for over a hundred years, although they began selling groceries to walk-in customers in recent years. The market is open 24 hours a day, so pop by during the day to buy your own fresh fruit snacks, or walk by at night and watch market come alive while the surrounding roads are taken over with deliveries.
Things to Do In Hong Kong: Markets & Boutiques
Even if you don’t buy, it’s fun to look…
80. Temple Street Market (Yau Ma Tei): for souvenirs, and outdoor eating.
81. Ladies Market (Mongkok): for fakes, fashion and souvenirs.
82. Stanley Village Market: for arts, crafts and souvenirs.
83. Sham Shui Po Market: for electronics, decorations and everyday items. There are also loads of great local restaurants in this area, and the Dragon Centre which has the remains of a now-defunct indoor rollercoaster on its 9th floor, which hangs over the mall atrium.
84. Pottinger Street Market (Central): for fancy dress.
85. Soho & PMQ (Central): for quirky local and high-end boutiques.
86. Argyle Centre (Mongkok): for cheap Korean and Japanese high street boutique fashion.
Things to Do In Hong Kong: Shopping Malls
For when you’ve got the dollars to splash
87. Landmark: for luxury boutiques and fancy cafes.
88. IFC: for the three-floor flagship Apple Store (and another of The Dark Knight locations). Plus, there’s great views from the roof garden.
89. Langham Place: for 13 floors of sheer madness, and more Asian high street brands.
90. Sneaker Street (Fa Yuen Street, Mongkok): for all your sporting needs.
91. Times Square Causeway Bay: for luxury brands and more escalators than you knew you needed.
92. Olympian City: for high street brands and good chain restaurants.
93. Megabox, Kowloon Bay: this place doesn’t do things by halves, and is home to Hong Kong’s largest IKEA, Hong Kong’s first international-sized ice rink and Hong Kong’s first IMAX cinema.
94. Elements: for luxury shopping, a huge cinema, and ice skating rink
Things to Do In Hong Kong: Nightlife
This is a city that sometimes actually doesn’t sleep
95. Check out Hong Kong’s secret bars. Hong Kong is home to lots of quirky speakeasies for intimate and tasty (albeit, pricey) cocktails. J.Boroski’s, a hidden bar on Ezra Lane (look for the beetle graffiti), is one of my favourites: there’s no menu per se, because you just tell the mixologist what you like (a spirit base, and flavours: ie, sweet, fruity, smoky. My go-to order is tequila, passion fruit, and ‘zesty’ rather than sweet – I’ve never had the same drink yet). It’ll set you back around HK$160, but the service is great, the drinks are incredibly unique, and the decor is… well, you’ll see.
96. Gamble at Happy Valley Races (Seasonal, on Wednesdays).
97. Have a drink from Club 7/11 and join the Lan Kwai Fong (LKF) street party until the late AM.
98. Bar hop in Kennedy Town, Sai Ying Pun, or Kimberley Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, and try local Hong Kong craft beer (my favourites are Gweilo Pale IPA, The Artist’s raspberry beer, Hong Kong Beer Co.’s Dragon’s Back Pale Ale, and Moonzen’s Moon Goddess Chocolate Stout).
100. Hit up a Happy Hour – there’s one or forty to choose from. My personal favourite is Posto Pubblico, which at time of writing offered two-hours free flow beer, wine and Italian antipasti for HK$98+10%.
101. Sing your heart out in a karaoke room.
102. Make mistakes in Wan Chai (and head there on Wednesday for Ladies Night (a phenomenon of free or discounted drinks for ladies I really appreciated in my Chatteris/unpaid-intern days).
103. Enjoy spoken word poetry at Peel Street Poetry (I am biased – this is where you’ll find me most Wednesday nights).
Things to Do In Hong Kong: One-Off Events
Depending on when you visit, you might make one of these annual events…
104. Chinese New Year Celebrations (January/February)
106. Taste of Hong Kong Food Festival (March)
107. IRIS Yoga & Wellness Festival (March & October)
108. Hong Kong Arts Festival (March, April, June)
109. HK Rugby 7s (April)
110. Hong Kong International Film Festival (April/May)
111. Cheung Chau Bun Festival (May/June)
112. Dragon Boat Festival (June)
113. HK Sundance Film Festival (September)
114. Mid-Autumn Festival (September/October)
115. Beertopia Beer Festival (September/October)
116. Hong Kong Literary Festival (November)
117. Clockenflap Music Festival (November)
How many have you done? Have I missed any of your favourite things to do in Hong Kong? Tell me in the comments!