I challenge you to visit Hong Kong and leave without the city securing a top spot among your favourite places to visit in Asia. Hong Kong is easily one of the most beguiling cities on the planet, chocked with swoon-worthy views and some of the world’s best palate-pleasing treats.
There’s a ton of things to do in Hong Kong, enough that no quick layover in HK will ever fully satisfy. One day in Hong Kong often turns to many, just as easily as one trip turns to yet one more. The longer you let HK get under your skin, the more you’ll find yourself enjoying it.
Table of Contents
- Not sure what to do in Hong Kong? Get started with these top Hong Kong attractions…
- Marvel at Hong Kong from above at Victoria Peak
- Trounce through Temple Street Night Market
- Find your inner peace at Man Mo Temple
- Chase Cantonese culinary delights at Tim Ho Wan
- Awaken your spirits at Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery
- Chug across Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry
- Explore the past in Lai Chi Wo
- Burn some calories en route to Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
- Experience the seaside charms of Tai O
- Watch the Symphony of Lights from the Tsim Sha Tsui East Promenade
- Slurp down wontons at Mak’s Noodle
- Settle down for an afternoon tea (and dim sum) at Luk Yu Tea House
- Summary: The best places to visit in Hong Kong
Not sure what to do in Hong Kong? Get started with these top Hong Kong attractions…
Nailing down the top 10 things to do in Hong Kong is never an easy task. You might hear elsewhere that Hong Kong has little to offer travellers beyond the handful of obvious attractions. This simply isn’t true!
In this list you’ll find a little of everything: epic city views, tasty Cantonese treats, old villages locked in time, and standout cultural attractions that will leave your jaw sagging. Let’s start exploring!
Marvel at Hong Kong from above at Victoria Peak
If you’ve only got the time for one stop in Hong Kong, make it Victoria Peak. It’s amazing how many of Hong Kong’s top attractions you’ll wander through or past on your way to The Peak. That alone’s enough for it to secure a top spot.
And then there’s the view.
The vista over Hong Kong Island and Victoria Harbour to Kowloon from Victoria Peak is the most classic panorama in the city. Even if you’ve never been to HK, you’ve probably witnessed the view in countless movies and photos.
Getting up to Victoria Peak is half the fun. It’s best accessed via the Peak Tram, a cable car that’s been running the 1.4-kilometre route up to The Peak since 1888. A mere HK$90 ($11.54) gets you the Peak Tram Skypass. The pass includes a return ticket on the tram and a chance to check out the amazing views from The Sky Terrace 428 in Peak Tower.
Trounce through Temple Street Night Market
Although Hong Kong can’t compete with the night markets of Taipei, one of the best places to whittle away your evening with cheap shopping and food chomping is Temple Street Night Market.
If you’ve ever been to a flea market, you’ll have an idea of what to expect at one of Hong Kong’s best markets. Maybe just a little wilder than what you’re used to.
The vendors here sell everything from vintage electronics (even cassette tapes—remember those?) to a wide assortment of men’s clothing and accessories (don’t be shocked of the sheer volume of knock-offs).
And, of course, besides the goods, Temple Street Night Market delights with its food. If you’re not already stuffed from plying through Hong Kong’s best restaurants, grab a late-night snack at one of the open-air food stalls (dai pai dong) at Temple Street Night Market. Randomly choosing street food at an Asian night market never ceases to be fun, but for something a little “safer,” try out tasty fried oyster omelettes here. Yum!
Find your inner peace at Man Mo Temple
One of the most beautiful temples in Hong Kong, Man Mo Temple holds a history that slips back into the mid-19th century. The temple’s name derives from the two main deities worshipped here: “Man,” the God of Literature; and “Mo,” the God of War.
Even if you’ve visited your fair share of temples in East Asia, Man Mo Temple’s a little different. The cozy interior doesn’t showcase the same grandeur as others in the region or even Hong Kong itself. Ostentation is kept to a minimum, focusing the energy on the hanging coils of burning incense that depart a placid feeling upon the temple.
Chase Cantonese culinary delights at Tim Ho Wan
It’s not often that a single restaurant cracks a list of the top what to do in a city. But this is Hong Kong, a city that’s absolutely bananas for its food. And there’s a good chance that eating at Tim Ho Wan, purveyor of some of the best food in Hong Kong, will be one of the highlights of your trip, too.
The Cantonese delights prepared by chef Mak Kwai-pui at Tim Ho Wan were enough to crank foodies’ heads at Michelin, who bestowed one of its prestigious stars upon the restaurant. Whereas most restaurants in the guide practically require you to sell a kidney to foot the bill, Tim Ho Wan is surprisingly affordable. It’s one of the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world!
Although the original location is, sadly, no longer with us, the Fuk Wing Street location in Sham Shui Po is the next best thing. Settle into the perpetual queue and wait out your chance to chow down on some of the best ha jiao (shrimp dumplings) and char siu (BBQ pork) buns that will ever touch your lips. Anywhere.
Awaken your spirits at Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery
It’s a two-for-one deal when you set aside time to visit Po Lin Monastery on the island of Lantau. Once the city noise has worn upon you, Po Lin Monastery, makes for a great escape from the bustle of the city—if not necessarily from the crowds.
Set among greenery that spills in to the sea, the monastery isn’t just a pretty face. It’s an active place of worship, a temple complex that attracts the devout from far wide to pay respects and present offerings.
As you slink inside the monastery’s Great Hall, towering ceilings shrink you with their grandeur. Intricate details spread both inside and outside the hall, providing a distraction that takes some time to truly absorb.
Po Lin Monastery dwells in the shadow of one of the other best places to visit in Hong Kong: Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha). And while it’s hardly a monument preserved from antiquity (it’s just over 20 years old), the Big Buddha is one thing you can’t leave Hong Kong without checking out.
Tian Tan Buddha soars 34 metres into the sky, looking to the north towards the mainland. To slide into the shadows of the Big Buddha, you’ll need to power up 268 steps. The views of the sea and the surrounding mountains alone are worthy of the strain!
Chug across Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry
There’s little chance you’ll find a boat ride that’s simultaneously as cheap, quick and awe-striking as the Star Ferry journey across Victoria Harbour. Long before Hong Kong became a well-to-do global city, Star Ferry was Hong Kong Island’s only public transportation connection to the Kowloon peninsula.
Pinch together as little as HK$2.50 ($0.32) and you can hop onto what’s easily the best value harbour cruise in the world. The ferry launches every 6-12 minutes from the Kowloon Public Pier in Tsim Sha Tsui to Central on Hong Kong Island.
Explore the past in Lai Chi Wo
Most travellers know Hong Kong simply for its urban sprawl. But there’s far more to the colony than the city lights, skyscrapers, traffic and dim sum. For a taste of the out-of-the-ordinary for HK, find your way to Lai Chi Wo in the northeastern fringes of the New Territories towards the Chinese border in Plover Cove Country Park.
The Hakka village of Lai Chi Wo dates back hundreds of years, and is one of Hong Kong’s most interesting sights. Over 200 houses pepper Lai Chi Wo alongside two ancestral halls and two temples, including a God of War temple.
Feng shui woodlands, traditionally maintained and curated by the Hakka villagers, and intertwining mangroves surround the well-preserved village. The dense and fertile terrain both sustained the village and served as natural protection.
In a densely populated city like Hong Kong, Lai Chi Wo can seem a bit out of the way. (Isn’t that part of the charm though?)
To get to Lai Chi Wo from Kowloon, hop onto the MRT at Mong Kok East, heading towards Tai Po Market Station. At the minibus stop, take either 20C or 20R to Wu Kau Tang. From here it’s a 4.4-km walk (about 1h15m) through relaxing woodlands to Lai Chi Wo.
Burn some calories en route to Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
A little off the usual tourist paths of Kowloon and Hong Kong, The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery completely lives up to its name. More than—you guessed it—ten thousand miniature Buddha statues adorn the walls of the temple.
The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery complex features several pavilions, temples and a pagoda. But don’t expect the views to come easily.
Bring some (or, in summer, lots of!) water and an energy bar, and prepare for a thigh-burning trek up over 400 stairs to the complex. The stairway is lined by a number of gilded Buddhas that are each unique and impressive distractions should you want to take the trip more slowly.
Also keep your eyes peeled for the wild monkeys who call the area home. As always, be careful with your belongings around these cheeky little dudes—you’ll want your camera intact to capture the views after expending so much energy to get up there!
To get to the temple, find your way to Sha Tin MTR Station on the East Rail Line. From Exit B, follow Pai Tau Street, holding left until you see Sheung Wo Che Street. Turn right here, following the street to the end. Signposts mark the path to the calorie-torching stairwell.
Experience the seaside charms of Tai O
Not exactly the type of thing you’d expect to find on the doorstep of one of the world’s top financial centres, Tai O is a small fishing village with a character usually reserved for locations much further off-the-beaten-path.
The stilted houses of Tai O chill on the western shores of Lantau Island, not far removed from the Po Lin Monastery. Visiting Tai O, you’re immediately confronted with all the trappings of bygone seaside village. Tai O’s Tanka inhabitants still adhere to age-old fishing traditions, obvious as the smells of fresh and dried seafood linger among the market stalls.
Besides wearing out your shutter button among the throng of unusual houses, one of the best activities in Tai O is to take a quick cruise around the shoreline. The area’s seaside claim to fame is to spot rare pink dolphins. Unfortunately due to increasing pressure from pollution and overdevelopment, number are dwindling heavily. For more information and to see how you can support their preservation, visit Hong Kong DolphinWatch.
To get to Tai O, take the MTR to Tung Chung. From here it’s about a one-hour bus ride to Tai O Fishing Village.
Watch the Symphony of Lights from the Tsim Sha Tsui East Promenade
Even by day there are few places with better skyline views than the Tsim Sha Tsui East Promenade. The true magic of this sometimes-kitschy boardwalk (yes, Bruce Lee statue—I’m looking at you!) happens, though, in the evening.
When 8 o’clock strikes, the buildings of Hong Kong’s business district erupt in colour as the nightly Symphony of Lights surges forth. The views across Victoria Harbour from Tsim Sha Tsui East Promenade are simply fantastic. Set up your tripod and camera alongside dozens of other amateur photographers, and attempt to capture the fury overtaking the skyline.
Want an even more memorable experience? Book a 45-minute evening cruise around Victoria Harbour on the historic Aqua Luna junk boat timed with the light show!
Slurp down wontons at Mak’s Noodle
If you haven’t heard yet, food in Hong Kong is pretty stellar. One of the city’s most famous joints for chowing down is Mak’s Noodle (77 Wellington St.) in Central. Patrons pop into this Hong Kong institution mostly for one thing: wonton noodle soup.
When a recipe is passed on and perfected over 3 generations of Maks, you know it’s gotta be good. The shrimp wontons and noodle soup are simply divine, practically melting in your mouth in a silky waterfall with just the perfect blast of umami to light up your tastebuds.
Settle down for an afternoon tea (and dim sum) at Luk Yu Tea House
Any visit to Hong Kong is incomplete without sipping on a afternoon tea! And while there are no doubt friendlier places in the city (although you’ll soon find that HK isn’t exactly known for it’s “friendly” service!), there’s perhaps no better place in the city to experience the tradition than the post-colonial Luk Yu Teahouse (24-26 Stanley).
The art decor interior and stained glass windows certainly feels a little out of place in the deeply traditional continent of Asia. At Luk Yu Teahouse, it’s not hard to picture colonial aristocrats fussing over politics in the long-gone days of British rule.
Even if tea isn’t your thing, Luk Yu Teahouse is a popular place for lunchtime dim sum. Their Shanghai-style xiao long bao dumplings are as melt-in-your-mouth as anywhere in the city.
Summary: The best places to visit in Hong Kong
- Tastebuds itching for some of the best food in Hong Kong? Don’t miss out on a chance to eat dim sum at Tim Ho Wan or slurp down noodles at Mak’s Noodle.
- Want to witness Hong Kong’s most classic view? The first stop on so many Hong Kong itineraries is Victoria Peak for a reason. Cross your fingers, hope for a clear day, and let your breath be taken away as you peer over one of the world’s most famous skylines from above.
- Got time to escape the city? The small fishing village of Tai O on Lantau Island or the “walled” Hakka village of Lai Chi Wo in the New Territories are superb (and quick) day trips to find a little peace from the chaos.