Hong Kong is one of the most vibrant cities in the world. It’s a perfect blend of east and west, modernity and culture, concrete jungle and real jungle! And honestly, it can be so much fun discovering and exploring Hong Kong for the first time! As you plan your trip and itinerary to the city, I want to give you some of my suggestions and tips as a local. And it doesn’t matter if you need to plan an itinerary for 4 days, 5 days, or even 6 days, this blog has you covered.
We’ve been living in Hong Kong for over 5 years, and in this time we’ve loved exploring every nook and corner of the city. From its central financial district, to its far-flung villages and remote islands. There is just so much to see and do in Hong Kong! But hopefully this blog summarizes what we recommend to those who visit the city.
Unfortunately, visitors often associate Hong Kong with its skyscrapers, shopping, and bright lights. But there is so much that lies beyond the dense city. So, allow me to share with you what I think is the ultimate itinerary for anyone visiting Hong Kong. An itinerary that covers the city, its wilderness, culture, and beyond. And if you must, even Macau.
Come explore Hong Kong like a local with budget-friendly suggestions, money saving hacks, and insider tips from a local.
Hong Kong consists of 4 parts – Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, New Territories, and Outlying Islands. It’s worth noting that Hong Kong International Airport is on an island called Lantau (south-west corner on this map). And the main city is confined within the north of Hong Kong Island, and the south of Kowloon.
Airport To The City
I recommend taking the Airport Express to the city. It’s fast, convenient, and efficient. And I suggest that you buy tickets online, like I personally do. You can save up to 40% on Airport Express tickets if you buy them online as opposed to at the airport. That’s a money saving tip right there for you!Save Up To 40% on Airport Express Tickets
Of course, you can also take a taxi. Taxis are relatively cheap, and ubiquitous in Hong Kong. Taxis are very convenient but make economical sense if there are 3 of you traveling together. And if you’re a group of 3 (or less), you can also hire a Tesla (for roughly the same price as a taxi) to pick you up at the airport!
Hotels – Where To Stay In Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is a relatively small city that really well connected. However, as a tourist I would recommend that you find a hotel that is either on the Island or Kowloon, and is close to the MTR. Here are my options for hotels in Hong Kong.
Hotel Options on Hong Kong Island
Hotel Options in Kowloon
Find More Hotels In Hong Kong
Local Sim Card
When it comes to mobile connectivity, Hong Kong is really well connected. Also, in this day and age you need mobile data for maps, navigation, and just uploading your stories on Instagram! You can pick up a SIM card easily at the airport upon arrival. But sometimes they run out. So, it’s better to reserve a SIM card. Also, if you reserve your SIM card beforehand, you can save up to 22%!Pre-Order & Save Up To 22% on a Local SIM Card
Local Travel (Octopus)
Hong Kong has probably one of the most efficient and cheapest public transport systems in the world. And if you wish to take advantage of this transport system, you better get yourself an Octopus card. The card works in the MTR, buses, mini-buses, and trams that operate in the city. Simply top-up the card with money, and tap at Octopus box in the metro, bus, or tram.
Octopus cards can be purchased at any MTR station information centre. They can be topped-up at the MTR station itself, or any convenience store such 7-Eleven or Circle K. And before you leave Hong Kong, you can choose to return the Octopus card to the information kiosk at any MTR station to get cash for any balance left on the card, and deposit. Last I checked, you lose only HK$ 9 when you return the Octopus card.
Best Time To Visit Hong Kong?
Unlike many of the south-east Asian countries, Hong Kong has seasons. The summers are long, hot and humid, and winters can get really cold. In fact, January 2016 had the coldest day in 59 years when the temperature dropped to 3.1° Celsius.
So, here’s what I think are the best and worst months to visit Hong Kong:
- October to February: Perfect weather, cool, and dry. Can get cold in January. However, the winds blow south, so it can get hazy and polluted.
- March and August: Avoid. March weather is usually gloomy, and August is typhoon season (lot’s of rain).
- April to July: Hot and very humid. But, winds blow north, so you can expect clear, blue skies.
Personally, I never step out of without the following items in my backpack:
- An small umbrella – weather in Hong Kong can take a sudden turn.
- A pack of tissues – most restaurants don’t offer tissues or sell them at a high price.
- A bottle of water – there is a lot of walking in Hong Kong, and it’s simpler to carry your own bottle of water.
- Hand sanitizer – Self-explanatory.
The Ultimate Hong Kong Itinerary
Alright, now that we’ve got the basic logistics out of the way, let’s get down to exploring Hong Kong.
Let’s spend the first day discovering the city.
Head To Victoria Peak
Hong Kong probably has the most iconic skyline in the world. There’s no reason for you to not admire this skyline on your first day! And Victoria Peak has some of the best views of Hong Kong. On a clear day, you can see miles into Kowloon from the peak.
There are many ways to get to Victoria Peak, but the most popular mode (for first timers) is the Peak Tram. The tram offers a unique and exciting way for passengers to experience the beauty of Hong Kong. The Peak Tram starts from the Garden Road in Admiralty, and takes you straight up to the Peak.
The lines at the terminus can at times be an hour long! Fortunately, you can save time and buy a fast-track ticket to tram and literally save an hour!
When you reach the Peak, there are numerous vantage points near the Peak Tower. There’s also a paid area right on top of the Peak Tower from where you can get incredible 360 degree views of Hong Kong. If you book the tram fast-track ticket combo online, you can opt for access to the roof top of the Peak Tower (Sky Pass). I would highly recommend it!
My favourite spot on the peak is a 10 minute walk from Peak Tower on Lugard Road (click here to open it in Google Maps). You won’t find as many tourists here, and personally, I think this spot offers some of the best views of the Hong Kong Skyline.
And if you’re looking for something off the beaten path (pun intended) near the Peak, take a detour to the Pinewood Battery, once Hong Kong’s highest coastal defence battery from WW2. The battery now lies in ruins.
Go On A Food Tour
One of the best ways to discover Hong Kong is through your palate. Known for its wonton noodles, BBQ meats, and a range of local delicacies, Hong Kong is best experienced through its food!
After your visit to Victoria Peak come down to Central, which is a very short taxi ride from the Peak or the Peak Tram Station. From Central, I would recommend the Central & Sheung Wan Foodie Tour that sets off at 1:45 PM or 2:15 PM from Monday through Saturday. The food tour takes you through some of the best, and award-winning restaurants in Hong Kong. From roasted meats, dimsums, bakeries, and wonton noodles, you’ll experience it all!
Walk About Central & Sheung Wan
After the food tour, take some time to discover Central and Sheung Wan. Wander aimlessly amidst Hong Kong’s financial hub, or discover hidden gems.
For instance, did you know that you can go up from the Central MTR to Mid-Levels (up the hill)? The Mid-Level escalator system forms the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. Or you could walk down to Man Mo Temple, a declared monument and one of the city’s oldest temples.
After paying your respect at the temple, head to Cat Street, also known as Antiques Street. Here you will find Chinese trinkets, propaganda posters, antique curios, and art galleries. This is a great place to buy your souvenir or memento from Hong Kong.
Be Dazzled By The Symphony of Lights
After having seen the skyline from Victoria Peak in the morning, hop across Victoria Harbour to get a different perspective of Hong Kong’s magnificent skyscrapers. Head to the waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui for the famous sound & light show dubbed ‘The Symphony of Lights’.
If you’re on Hong Kong Island, you can either take the MTR or the Star Ferry. I would definitely recommend the Star Ferry from Central. It’s one of Hong Kong’s oldest modes of transport that still charges almost next-to-nothing to ferry you across the harbour.
The Symphony of Lights is staged every night at 8 PM. Prepare to be dazzled by lasers, lights, and LED screens as Hong Kong’s skyline dances to music. Try to get to the waterfront early to get a front-row view as it fills up fast.
Symphony of Lights on the Aqua Luna
However, if you’re not a fan of large crowds, you can upgrade your Symphony of Lights experience by watching it from the Aqua Luna. The Aqua Luna is the iconic red boat that you see sailing around Victoria Harbour.
From this traditional Chinese junk boat, you get to see the show from the middle of the harbour. This gives you a much better view of lights and lasers on both sides. And of course, it’s a much classier way to enjoy the Symphony of Lights.
Dinner at Hutong
Located in Tsim Sha Tsui and within walking distance from the waterfront, Hutong is one of the best Chinese restaurants in town. Along with food, the views from the restaurant too are breathtaking!
Although the restaurant is relatively pricey, between HK$ 400 – 800 per person, it’s absolutely worth it. After all the money saving tips that I’ve given you, I think you can afford to spend a few extra dollars.
Remember to make a booking beforehand.
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Reservations : +852 3428 8342
And if you’ve still haven’t gotten enough of skyline, head down to Sky100, Hong Kong’s highest observatory deck. Once again, tickets are cheaper if you book online.
On the second day, why not explore a few gardens, parks, or even theme parks? And then wrap it up with a visit to Hong Kong’s famous night market.
Go To Ocean Park or Disneyland
Hong Kong is home to two incredible theme parks – Ocean Park and Disneyland.
Personally, I love Ocean Park! Situated on top of a hill, surrounded by sea on all sides, and great rides – what’s not to love?! Ocean Park is plenty big, and has enough attractions to keep kids and adults entertained for a long time.
You can save up to 15% on admission tickets, and fast-track queues for attractions if you book your Ocean Park passes online.
Hong Kong is also home to Disneyland, which is obviously more popular with younger kids, especially girls. Disneyland is obviously much larger than Ocean Park and also offers plenty of excitement and entertainment for a day!
And as usual, you can save up to 13% if you book your Disneyland tickets online.
If man-made artificial theme parks aren’t really your thing, Hong Kong also has plenty of natural parks and gardens.
Chi Lin Nunnery or Ten Thousand Buddhas
One of my favourite attractions in the city is Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden. Located in the heart of Diamond Hill, this beautiful garden and nunnery offers a stunning contrast between urban and traditional landscapes. It’s so surreal that a nunnery can transport you into a world of zen just by stepping into its walls, even if it’s in a busy urban district.
Another option is to visit the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. This monastery is located in Sha Tin (New Territories of Hong Kong) features 12,000 Buddha statues in different postures and expressions. Getting to the monastery also requires a short hike up the hill. But on a clear day you will be rewarded with beautiful views of Sha Tin from the monastery.
Both Chi Lin Nunnery and the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery have Buddhist cafes that serve delicious vegetarian food.
Then Head To The Kowloon Walled City Park
After spending your morning at either a nunnery or monastery, head down to Kowloon Walled City Park. This park is built on the site of the former Kowloon Walled City – what was once a densely populated housing complex that became a haven of crime and debauchery. Some of the original artifacts from the Walled City can still be seen in the park.
And as a side-note, if you’re not a fan of vegetarian food, you can grab lunch at Islam Food near the Walled City Park. This restaurant serves some of the best Islamic-Chinese food in Hong Kong. If you don’t know what that is, I highly recommend giving it a try. Make sure you order the veal goulash!
Visit A Night Market
After spending your day at the parks, cool down by experiencing Hong Kong’s night markets. There are two night markets in the city – Temple Street Night Market, and the Ladies Market.
Temple Street Night Market
Temple Street Night Market is located in Jordan (Kowloon side). To get to Temple Street, take the MTR to Jordan station and follow the signs for Temple Street at Exit A. Here you can buy souvenirs, clothes and accessories, toys, and just a whole bunch of knickknacks.
Temple Street is also really famous for its seafood restaurants. Grab dinner at one of the many road-side eateries here. The most famous one is the Temple Street Spicy Crab Restaurant. It’s definitely an amazing experience! However, if you’re in the mood for something more unique, there is a pretty amazing Shanxi restaurant 15 minutes walking from the night market called Yau Yuen Siu Tsui. Be sure to try their biang biang noodles. Yum!
Ladies Market is located in Mong Kok, the busiest shopping district in Kowloon, and is significantly bigger and busier than its counterpart at Temple Street. The range of products, and shopping here is quite similar, however the Ladies Market is more focused on clothes and accessories. It’s also good to know that the Ladies Market is also open during the day.
To get to the Ladies Market, take the MTR to Mong Kok station and follow the signs at Exit D for Tung Choi Street. I prefer emerging from Exit D3 and walking a few metres to the start of the market.
Shopping in Mong Kok
Mong Kok is quite famous for all types of shopping. Right next to the Ladies Market is Fa Yuen Street, popularly known as “sneaker street”. Here you can buy discounted shoes and footwear from almost every major brand.
There is also the Mong Kok Computer Centre on Nelson Street to satisfy all your computer and gadget requirements. And finally, if you’re an Apple fan, head over to Sincere House on Argyle Street for authentic (but discounted) Apple products.
Did you know that nearly 70% of Hong Kong is undeveloped land? You can find country parks 30 minutes away from the main city. In fact, Hong Kong has a very prominent hiking culture. So, why not take a day to explore Hong Kong beyond the skyline?
Dragon’s Back Hike
The Dragon’s Back Hike is probably the most popular hike in Hong Kong. It’s convenient to get to, offers amazing views, easy to complete, and can end in one of two beautiful beaches – Shek O or Big Wave Bay.
All the info you need about the Dragon’s Back Hike can be found on this post. If you’re not confident of hiking alone, you can always book a group hike with a guide. And if you don’t wish to hike, head straight to one of the two beaches below.
Shek O Beach or Big Wave Bay Beach
You can choose to end the Dragon’s Back Hike at Big Wave Bay, or Shek O. Both beaches are beautiful, and it’s hard to believe that these beaches are on Hong Kong Island. Personally, I would recommend Shek O because there’s more to do and see here. But Big Wave Bay has more charm and character because of all the surfers.
LKF at Night
And since we’ve taken the day to explore the wild side of the city, it wouldn’t be complete without a night out at Lan Kwai Fong – popularly known as LKF. Located in Central, LKF is the party-centre of Hong Kong. Streets full of bars, restaurants, clubs that come to life at night. Let down your hair, go bar-hopping, or simply experience Hong Kong’s crazy side at night.
To get to LKF, take the MTR to Central station, then exit D2, and walk up D’Aguilar Street.
Take a day to discover some of Hong Kong’s biggest tourist attractions, including a picturesque fishing village.
Visit The Big Buddha
Tian Tan Buddha, also known as the Big Buddha, is a large bronze statue of Buddha Shakyamuni located at Ngong Ping Village, Lantau Island. At 34 metres high, the Big Buddha draws pilgrims and visitors from all over Asia and the world. It is one of the main tourist attractions in Hong Kong not just because it’s a giant Buddha on top of a mountain, but also because of the awesome cable-car (gondola) ride to Ngong Ping Village.
There are many ways to get to the Big Buddha (bus, taxi) but the most popular mode is the cable-car ride that starts from Tung Chung called the Ngong Ping 360.
At 5.7 kms long ride is also ranked among one of the most beautiful cable-car rides in the world by CNN. The Ngong Ping 360 starts from Tung Chung’s town centre and runs along the Hong Kong International Airport as it ascends to Ngong Ping (to get to Tung Chung, take the Tung Chung MTR line from Central). Visitors can admire the awesome view of airplanes landing and taking off as they glide along one of the longest single cable suspensions in Asia!
And here is the best part – you have the option to ride in a standard cable-car, or a glass-bottom cable-car! Unless you have vertigo, I would highly recommend the glass-bottom cable-car ride. It’s as thrilling and exciting as they come!
Step Into The Po Lin Monastery
Although most visitors come to see the Big Buddha, the Po Lin Monastery is actually the main attraction in Ngong Ping. Founded in 1906, the Po Lin Monastery got its present name in 1924. It houses three bronze statues of the Buddha, representing his past, present and future lives, as well as many Buddhist scriptures. The Big Buddha was constructed in 1993 as an extension to the monastery.
Like the other monasteries in Hong Kong, Po Lin Monastery also has a vegetarian restaurant that remains open until 16:30. However, if you’re not in the mood for something vegetarian, I would suggest heading down to Tai O fishing village to eat some delicious seafood.
Also, while you’re at Ngong Ping, I would advise you to take a 10 minute detour to the Wisdom Path. The Wisdom Path is a monument that consists of 38 wooden beams, each with a prayer from the Heart Sutra. Not many tourists end up going to the Wisdom Path, but I would advise that you check it out.
Just look for the Wisdom Path signs at the foot of the steps of the Giant Buddha.
Now, onto Tai O!
Discover Tai O Fishing Village
Located on a small islet by the same name, Tai O is a quaint, old fishing village. To get to the village from Ngong Ping, take bus number 21 or a taxi.
The village, known for its dried seafood and stilt-houses, lies in the tidal plains. Notice the houses built on stilts in this village. The stilts protect the structures from any damage due to flooding.
Tai O is a great day-trip that will truly help you appreciate the rustic, village fisherman life in Hong Kong. If it wasn’t for the airport in the vicinity or the Macau bridge, it’d be hard for you to imagine that this was Hong Kong.
More Than 4 Days in HK?
If you’re in Hong Kong for 5 or 6 days, don’t worry, there’s still plenty more to see.
Most visitors make a day-trip or combine Hong Kong with Macau. Personally, I think there’s plenty of things to do and see in Macau for 1 or 2 days. Besides gambling, Macau also has a lovely old town, and the highest bungee jump in the world. Read about some of my favourite things to do in Macau in this post.
However, if you only plan making Macau a day-trip, I would recommend exploring Sai Kung in Hong Kong on your last day. Sai Kung lies in the north-east region of Hong Kong. It’s known for its pristine beaches, UNESCO Global Geopark, volcanic rock formations, breathtaking hikes! There is plenty to do and see in Sai Kung that will easily take up a day or two. Everything you want to know about Sai Kung, can be found on this blog post.
We hope you enjoyed our travel itinerary for Hong Kong. Of course, we have enough material in Hong Kong to keep you occupied for months! If you need help personalising your itinerary, or some more tips about Hong Kong, drop me a message below or send me an email.