9 Things to Do in Hong Kong
Featured destinations: Hong Kong
Published 15 April 2016
Whether you’re on a short stopover on your way Down Under or sticking around for a week or two, be sure to add these sights to your list of Hong Kong must-sees.
A Symphony of Lights
Hong Kong’s skyline is a spectacle in itself. Day or night, there’s something quite mesmerising about walking down the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront and looking across the water to Hong Kong Island’s neat row of futuristic skyscrapers. For a special treat, head to the waterfront at 8pm and watch the towers come to life with the ‘A Symphony of Lights’ show. Held every evening, this extravagant presentation synchronises coloured spotlights, laser beams and searchlights to music, and is completely free. Stand outside the Hong Kong Cultural Centre to hear the commentary (in English on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays), or tune in to local radio. For the best view of all, board an evening harbour cruise and observe from the water.
Often the first port of call for visitors, ascending to Victoria Peak is the quintessential Hong Kong experience. The rather quaint Peak Tram, which opened in 1926, whisks you up 552m to the highest point on Hong Kong Island, known simply as ‘The Peak’. At the summit, you’ll find some leafy botanical gardens, two shopping centres and various swanky eateries including the 19th century Peak Lookout building, which first opened as a restaurant in 1947. Walk along the footpaths and you’ll no doubt stumble across one or two of The Peak’s enormous mansion houses, which at over £16,000 per square foot are the most expensive homes in the world.
Ride the escalators
Hong Kong boasts the planet’s longest outdoor covered escalator system, a vast collection of moving staircases and travellators covering over 800 metres and ascending 135 metres in height. Between 6am and 10am, the escalators take commuters on a 20-minute ride from their mid-level apartments to their offices in central Hong Kong. Then from 10am until midnight the escalators reverse, taking tourists and shoppers up to the mid-level bars and markets. The ride is free and is a great way to gain an insight into everyday Hong Kong life without breaking a sweat.
For the ultimate harbour view, hop onboard one of Star Ferry’s famous green and white boats. In operation since 1988, these iconic ferries carry 26 million commuters and tourists between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon every year. When the weather’s fine, grab a seat on the upper deck and look out for traditional sampans floating in the harbour.
The Big Buddha
Otherwise known as the Tian Tan Buddha, this giant bronze figure sits atop a hill on Lantau Island. Overlooking the Po Lin Monastery, the 34-metre-high Buddha was built in 1993 and is accessed by an exhausting 268 steps to its base. The best way to reach the structure is via the Ngong Ping Cable Car, the longest in Hong Kong, whose 25-minute journey soars high above the lush forests of Lantau. On the way up you’ll catch a glimpse of Hong Kong International Airport, built on reclaimed land in the middle of the sea.
Hong Kong is stuffed with restaurants serving everything from burgers and chips to curries and sushi. But what gets everyone’s taste buds tingling is the dim sum, a selection of Cantonese dishes made up of dainty bite-sized morsels, usually served at breakfast or lunchtime. Popular choices include steamed shrimp, pork dumplings and my personal favourite, char siu bao barbecue pork buns. For an affordable option try DimDimSum, which has several outlets across the city, or if you’re feeling flush, try the roast goose with plum sauce and crispy suckling pork belly at Lung King Heen. For a treat that won’t break the bank try Tim Ho Wan, the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant, where a hearty dim sum feast will set you back just £10 or so: just be prepared to queue.
Okay, so you’ll need your passport to get there, but a day trip to Macau is a must when in Hong Kong. Take the ferry from Kowloon or Hong Kong Island and in 90 minutes you’ll be docking in this former Portuguese colony, a mish-mash of European and Chinese culture and styles. Here you can gaze upon crumbled cathedrals, sip sangria by 15th century Chinese temples, bungee jump off the 233m Macau Tower or hit one of the many casinos. Do not leave Macau without trying a nata (Macanese egg tart), best sampled in Lord Stow’s Bakery where the first batch was baked in 1989.
Man Mo Temple
Dedicated to the God of Literature (Man) and the God of War (Mo) Hong Kong’s largest temple was constructed in 1847. Come here to soak up the atmosphere: smell the incense; admire the vivid red and gold décor; watch the worshippers; and marvel at the sheer size of the place. It’s found in the mid-levels, so why not take the escalator?
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The distinctive Chinese white dolphin resides in the warm waters off the coast of Lantau Island. Despite its name, this playful creature is actually a vibrant shade of baby pink due to the thermoregulating blood vessels under its skin. There are only about 200 dolphins here, but if you get out on the water with Hong Kong Dolphinwatch, who aim to raise awareness of this rare species, you’ve a decent chance of seeing one or two splashing about in the waves.
Chat to your Expert about adding in Hong Kong as a stopover, or check out our China’s Cities & Cruise Journey which spends three nights in this vibrant city, also visiting Shanghai and Beijing and crusing on the Yangtze River.