Spend just 24 hours in Hong Kong, and you might well uncover your new favourite travel destination. From gawking at the skyline while crossing Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry to chowing down on delicious Cantonese food, experience one of Asia’s most interesting cities on a time crunch with this complete 1-day Hong Kong itinerary!
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What to do in Hong Kong in 24 hours: A complete 1-day itinerary
Limber up at Kowloon Park
Drag yourself out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to get an early start on your first day in Hong Kong in Kowloon Park. An early-morning stroll around this tranquil green space in Tsim Sha Tsui is the perfect transition from a jet-lag-induced sleep to the hectic streets of Hong Kong.
To loosen up for the day ahead, join dozens of early-rising Hongkongers perfecting their morning Tai Chi routines. After limbering up (or at least faking it!), tiptoe over to the Bird Lake, Aviary, and Chinese Garden to spot some of the over 100 species of birds that call Kowloon Park home.
Before leaving, sneak a peek at the park’s quirky Hong Kong Avenue of Comic Stars featuring larger-than-life-sized statues of Hong Kong comic book heroes like Wang Xiao Hu from Dragon Tiger Gate and Q-Boy from White Cat Black Cat.
Fuel your Hong Kong adventure with a hearty breakfast
Hong Kong is one of the best food cities in Asia, and its tummy-pleasing reputation even extends to breakfast. In Hong Kong, breakfast is less a time to stuff yourself than a chance to socialize. Portions are generally reasonable, certainly nothing comparable to the mounds you’d find at an IHOP or a Denny’s. (And that’s not a bad thing, is it?)
Don’t be surprised if you see Hongkongers chowing down on oh-so-yummy dim sum early in the morning. Dim sum is a common breakfast in Hong Kong, even if it seems like more of a midday or evening snack to our tastebuds.
Since you’ll have all day to sample Hong Kong’s silky and mouth-watering delights, try out one of these popular Hong Kong breakfasts in Kowloon:
- Australia Dairy Company (47 Parkes Street): The most famous breakfast joint in Hong Kong. Every day, fans queue up, sometimes for hours, to secure a seat in this perpetually jammed eatery. Their famous scrambled eggs and steamed milk convert even the fussiest of skeptics. The runny macaroni with Chinese ham looks like something your shih tzu would cough up but is surprisingly tasty.
- Café Kool (64 Mody Road): A big buffet-style breakfast in the Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel. Both Asian and Western favourites are served, and they rank among the most delicious breakfasts in the city.
- The Verandah (Salisbury Road): Another buffet breakfast located at The Peninsula, Hong Kong’s oldest luxury hotel. The continental-style breakfast served here is a class above what you’d expect at most hotels. And all without the surly servers that characterize so many Hong Kong dining experiences.
Zip across Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry
With your stomach satisfied, head to the southern fringes of Kowloon to the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. All along the promenade, the views of Victoria Harbour and the skyline of Hong Kong Island are arresting.
Exercise your camera’s shutter while walking west along the Avenue of Stars, passing the famously kitschy Bruce Lee statue (currently temporarily displaced across Salisbury Road) on route to the Kowloon Public Pier.
Launching from the pier is the Star Ferry, a service chugging the Kowloon-Hong Kong route for over a century. Even with road tunnels and a metro line now connecting the mainland peninsula to Hong Kong Island, millions still criss-cross the city on one of the world’s most interesting commutes. (Click here for more tips about getting around Hong Kong).
And why wouldn’t they? At a penny-pinching HK$2.50-HK$3.40 ($0.32-$0.44) each way, the Star Ferry is by far the best cruise you’ll ever find for so cheap—the views are simply spectacular! No wonder it’s always listed among the best things to do in Hong Kong.
Swoon over the Hong Kong skyline at Victoria Peak
From the Central Ferry terminal in Hong Kong, walk about 20-25 minutes (or take a cab) to the Garden Road Terminus of the Peak Tram. Like the Star Ferry, the Peak Tram occupies a massive space in the history of Hong Kong.
Way back in 1888, the Peak Team began to shuttle passengers up Victoria Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island. Today, millions ride the tram every year, admiring fantastic views of the city as they ply the steep 1.4-km route.
A regular return ticket on the Peak Tram costs HK$45 ($5.77), but I’d recommend splurging on the Peak Tram Skypass. The pass is money well spent, including both a return ticket on the tram and access to The Sky Terrace 428, a 360-degree panorama point in Peak Tower that offers some of the finest views of the formidable Hong Kong skyline.
Slurp noodles for lunch in Central
Descending back to the city, head over to Wellington Street in Central Hong Kong to load up on a hearty lunch. Wellington Street is one of the world’s best food streets, wafting the aroma of its sweet and savoury unto the sidewalks as passers-by salivate.
Truthfully, even stopping into any random place is bound to surprise. In any case, here are a few of my recommendations:
- Mak’s Noodle (77 Wellington Street): Any serious discussion of food in Hong Kong is bound to include this city staple. Wonton noodle soup is their signature dish. And they knock it out of the park. Treat yourself to Hong Kong’s silkiest and most succulent shrimp wontons and noodles.
- Tsim Chai Kee Noodle Shop (98 Wellington Street): A traditional noodle shop that leaves your palate in awe. Their signature dish combines their famous fishballs, shrimp wontons, thinly sliced beef, and hand-pulled noodles in an umami-drenched broth.
- Butao Ramen (69 Wellington Street): If you’re craving Japanese- rather than Cantonese-style noodles, this delectable ramen joint is your ticket. You’ll hopefully arrive early enough to sample one of the limited 300 bowls of ramen they serve up daily. Like ramen shops in Tokyo, ordering at Butao Ramen takes place via a menu card with all of the options laid out. Opt for their traditional Butao King, a classic tonkotsu-style pork bone broth, along with the meat, veggies, and condiments of your choice.
Sip an afternoon tea at Luk Yu Teahouse
Slip around the corner from Wellington Street’s cavalcade of deliciousness to Luk Yu Teahouse (24-26 Stanley), a remnant from Hong Kong’s colonial past. The traditional art deco interior featuring stained glass windows and rich wooden wainscotting is the perfect atmosphere for enjoying afternoon tea.
Besides the assortment of sip-worthy Chinese teas, Luk Yu Teahouse is famous in Hong Kong for its dim sum. If you’ve still got room in your belly after lunch, sample their silky xiao long bao dumplings or pork buns.
Shop until you’re broke at Causeway Bay
From Central, jam yourself into the MTR bound for Causeway Bay (or Tung Lo Wan in Cantonese) in Wan Chai. Causeway Bay is Hong Kong’s answer to Fifth Avenue in New York with all of the glitz, glamour—and prices!—you’d expect from a ritzy shopping district.
Times Square, one of Hong Kong’s most popular malls, is a good place to start exploring Causeway Bay. Times Square features major fashion brands like Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci. Fashion isn’t all there is to it. Sportier brands like Sketchers, Columbia, and Vans vie for your attention, along with cafés, bookstores, and restaurants.
If buzzing up escalators in a 9-storey shopping mall isn’t your cup of matcha, skid over to street level and peruse the boutiques along Kingston and Patterson at Hong Kong’s so-called Fashion Walk, where you’ll find international brands like Diesel, DKNY, H&M, and Fossil.
Stuff your face with a Hong Kong dim sum dinner
Okay. So you’re in Hong Kong, one of the top cities in the world for foodies. It would be a shame to waste the opportunity to eat a tad more, wouldn’t it?
From Hong Kong Island, whiz under Victoria Harbour on the MTR to Kowloon’s Mong Kok station. Mong Kok is one of Hong Kong’s craziest quarters, buzzing at nearly every hour of the day. Ply through the markets and street-side vendors of Mong Kok to catch a fleeting glimpse of a side of Hong Kong that’s slowly disappearing as the city develops.
More important is the food. Oh, yes—the food! While you’ll never go hungry in whichever area you decide to tantalize your tastebuds, grab a hearty sampling of Hong Kong’s famous dim sum at one of these two popular Mong Kok restaurants:
- Tim Ho Wan (18 Hoi Ting Road or 9-11 Fuk Wing Street): You always know you’re in for a treat when you sit down for a meal at Tim Ho Wan, perhaps the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world. Ever since Mak Kwai-pui swung open the doors to his original Mong Kok location in 2009, his celebrity chef status soared. The original Mong Kok location is long gone. But the new Olympian City location in Mong Kok and, even better, on Fuk Wing Street in Sham Shui Po stay true to the spirit of Tim Ho Wan. The char siu (BBQ pork) buns and ha jiao (steamed shrimp dumplings) here are best-in-class.
- Lei Garden (121 Sai Yee Street): Another Michelin-starred Cantonese favourite in Mong Kok. Fill up on the cheung fun (rice noodle rolls) and shrimp-stuff har gau (Chinese dumplings). Lei Garden is always busy, so book ahead!
Admire the city from the harbour on an evening Chinese junk boat cruise
Don’t let your dim sum belly stop your Hong Kong itinerary in its tracks! Get movin’ back to Victoria Harbour either by foot or with the MTR, and get set to trounce the evening in style on the water.
Seeking out a memorable moment for your Hong Kong trip? Hop onto the Aqua Luna, a historic Chinese junk boat, for an evening cruise on Victoria Harbour. The 45-minute boat trip includes a complimentary drink to sip on as you watch the sun sink below the bay.
Even more remarkable is Aqua Luna’s Symphony of Lights cruise, which times your boat trip with Hong Kong’s nightly light show.
In any case, if you opt for one of the more frequent Victoria Harbour evening cruises, be sure to get back to the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade by 8 pm to watch the cavalcade of colours overtake the Hong Kong skyline.
Bargain like a pro (or hammer your late-night hunger) at Temple Street Night Market
After surrendering your eyeballs to the Symphony of Lights, walk north along the always-exciting Nathan Road towards Jordan, a working-class neighbourhood that, like Mong Kok, is a taste of Kowloon at its more traditional. As the evening hours fade away to darkness, the highlight of Jordan is Temple Street Night Market.
Plying through the dense throng of market stalls, Temple Street Night Market feels more like an unbridled flea market. Vendors peddle wares ranging from men’s clothing and fashion accessories to vintage second-hand goods like cassettes and long-out-of-date electronics. Brush up on your Cantonese bargaining skills to score all the best deals!
Even better, in true Hong Kong fashion, enter with an open mind and room in your tummy for yet another round of local food favourites. Filter through the dai pai dong (open-air food stalls) of Temple Street Night Market to steal a taste of some delicious Hong Kong food delights like fishballs or fried oyster omelettes.
Where to stay on a Hong Kong layover
Although it sprawls less than other cities in East Asia, choosing where to stay in Hong Kong can still be a bit of a challenge. The quality of accommodations in Hong Kong varies greatly from dingy budget guesthouses in the (somewhat sketchy) Chungking Mansions to ritzy harbourfront luxury hotels.
And the prices? Well, let’s say Hong Kong isn’t the cheapest city in Asia. In any case, here are a few high-quality hotels to help start your search.
- Urban Pack: A clean, comfortable, but no-frills economy hotel and hostel located within a one-minute walk of Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station. Both the private rooms and dorms are excellent value in a city with rising accommodation costs.
- Butterfly on Prat Boutique Hotel: A modern boutique hotel with rooms that bestow an extra couple of feet compared to the usually cramped Hong Kong hotel rooms in this price range. Some room reservations include a free 4G pocket WiFi device for instant Instagramming on the go.
- Hotel ICON: A stylish luxury hotel located close to the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. The stupendous rooftop pool and bar offer some of the finest harbour and skyline views among hotels in Kowloon.
By air: Over 100 airlines fly into Hong Kong International (HKG), including Cathay Pacific, one of my favourite airlines in the world. (I won’t deny that a random free upgrade to first class on a 15-hour flight to HKG influenced that opinion.) The best time to visit Hong Kong for airfares tends to be in the fall and in winter outside of major holidays like Chinese New Year.
More 1-day Hong Kong itinerary ideas
- Fascinated by science and technology? Skip out on afternoon tea to geek it up at the Hong Kong Space Museum or Hong Kong Science Museum.
- Need a spiritual awakening? Grab a moment of bliss at Man Mo Temple or Wong Tai Sin Temple, two of the most beautiful temples within quick reach of the city centre.
- Missed your flight out? That can be a good thing! Even more of Hong Kong is at your fingertips. Move beyond the city centre, hitting up gems like the beautiful Tai O fishing village and Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island or Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin.
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