An eclectic mix of Chinese, Portuguese and British heritage, Hong Kong has a unique and proudly fierce identity. With its hi-tech infrastructure, buzzing nightlife and marvellous wildlife, there’s something for everyone in this small and mighty region. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a well-seasoned traveller, we’ve got the low down on things to do in Hong Kong.
The information in this article is inspired by Pocket Rough Guide Hong Kong & Macau, your essential guide for visiting Hong Kong.
Temple Street Night Market ripples with a fun, noisy energy. This is where you’ll find countless stalls jam-packed with all sorts of souvenirs and electronic goods. The numerous seafood restaurants make for a good respite from the bustling atmosphere just north of Saigon Street.
At the centre of the square, you’ll find Tin Hau Temple, which originally faced the waterfront and is dedicated to a Chinese sea goddess. Temple Street and the night market stretch on from the far side of the square, where more alfresco dining and gift-worthy bargains await.
Hong Kong is a vibrant and appealing city, with its waterside location and towering skyscrapers, it offers the visitor modernity and tradition, the exotic and efficient. This tailor-made trip to Hong Kong Highlights is perfect for a family break, there’s plenty to keep everyone entertained from Central to the New Territories and beyond.
There’s no doubt that the Tian Tan Big Buddha is a must-see attraction on your list of things to do in Hong Kong. Located on Lantau Island, you must take a bus from Mui Wo, Tai O or Tung Chung. If you fancy a more scenic route, though, opt for the cable car which you can catch from Tung Chung.
First, you’ll enter through Po Lin Monastery, the largest Chan (Zen) Buddhist temple in Hong Kong, before reaching a dizzying flight of stairs. At the top, the mighty, bronze-figured Buddha sits 34m high, surrounded by a ring of lotus petals and Buddhist angels known as apsaras. It’s worth the journey, as the views from here are incredible.
What better way to take in Hong Kong’s iconic city skyline than by boat? Running from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central, ferries have crossed Victoria Harbour since 1898, and the current double-decker, Star Ferry, is styled in an iconic green-and-cream style with wooden decks and seats.
This is the cheapest way to view what’s arguably the most photographed spot in Hong Kong, which gives you all the more reason to treat yourself to a tasty bite to eat once you reach the other side.
Lan Kwai Fong is the heart of Hong Kong’s club and bar scene. This trendy area is filled with quirky, themed bars, stylish restaurants offering outdoor dining and live bands playing at full volume.
With most places opening early afternoon and not closing until dawn, needless to say, it’s a popular choice with expats, visitors and office workers alike, looking to let off some steam – so stay for a drink or two and see where the night takes you.
The bustling and dynamic city of Hong Kong is brimming with opportunities to explore its colonial past and rich Chinese heritage and culture. The perfect destination for the intrepid explorer, this unique tailor-made trip won’t leave you disappointed.
Tai Po is well known for its markets, including Tai Po Hui Market which sells meat, vegetables and cooked dishes, and Fu Shin Street, whose stalls offer dried seafood, fresh produce and stacks upon stacks of herbs. But it’s also a great spot to get away from the density and modernity of Hong Kong and reconnect with nature.
When looking for things to do in Hong Kong next, pack a picnic and head out to Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve, where you can take one of the walking trails through Plover Country Park, and pause at Bride’s Paul for lunch by the pretty waterfalls. Tai Po is also home to Hong Kong’s tallest mountain, Tai Mo Shan (957m high). You can find Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Gardens here, a working farm focusing on sustainable agriculture.
Looking for things to do in Hong Kong when you've done everything else? This former shanty town was once a no-go area, even for the police. Then, in 1991, it was turned into Kowloon Walled City Park and totally transformed.
Today you can still see traces of the former walled city, from carved stone blocks to the yamen, the imperial government administrative building. There’s also an interesting photo collection in the former military headquarters which provides an insight into the political and social history area.
A teeming, exotic and alluring metropolis, Hong Kong is uniquely rich in both cultural diversity and contrasts. In fact, there is so much packed into Hong Kong, it can be hard to know where to start, which is where this tailor-made unique trip comes in.
Conveniently located next to the Star Ferry pier, Hong Kong’s Maritime Museum is a great way to discover more about Hong Kong’s seafaring heritage. Perusing the antique maps, artefacts lifted from local shipwrecks and more, you could easily spend over an hour or so here, and upstairs offers sweeping views across the harbour.
If you have a bad-weather day or have some time to kill and you're looking for things to do in Hong Kong, this is the ideal place.
No list of things to do in Hong Kong is complete without climbing the Peak. It's something of a rite of passage. Aside from the panoramic view of harbour activity and outlying islands, you can follow the 4km Peak circuit for even more breathtaking views. The Peak Tram (a funicular railway), has been making light work of the 27-degree incline since it first opened in 1888.
You'll enjoy better views with your head up instead of focusing on the path below. The Peak is also home to Pok Fu Lam Reservoir, which you can reach through a peaceful, well-signposted walk through the woods.
The Chinese have a genuinely long history of astronomical observations – they were the first to record Halley’s Comet in 240 BC, and the later emperors set up accurate observatories with the help of Jesuit priests.
Hong Kong’s Space Museum reopened in early 2017 after the renovation and traces its entire history with hands-on displays and interactive exhibits. There’s also a Space Theatre planetarium here, which presents Omnimax shows for an additional fee.
The Wong Tai Sin Temple is a thriving complex – pulling in more worshippers than any other temple in Hong Kong – and dedicated to the mythical Immortal Huang, a fourth-century Taoist hermit believed to have had healing powers. Big, bright and colourful, it provides a good insight into popular Chinese religion.
Large numbers of fortune-tellers, some of whom speak English, have stands to the right of the entrance and charge around $50 for palm-reading, and about half that for fortune stick interpretation (though these can also be looked up online).
Straddling the neck of Hong Kong’s most southerly peninsula, Stanley was already settled by fishermen and pirates when the British took Hong Kong Island in 1842. Today, this small residential town feels uncomfortably overcrowded with expats and tourists, the former filling the seafront restaurants at weekend lunchtimes.
The latter gravitate towards Stanley Market, a couple of covered lanes selling a mishmash of souvenirs including clothes, embroideries, paintings and trinkets. Stanley also hosts Hong Kong’s liveliest dragon boat races, held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, usually falling in June.
Modern Chi Lin Nunnery is an elegant, dark wooden temple built without nails in the Tang-dynasty style. Two large courtyards are open to visitors: the first is filled with lotus ponds, while the second holds the Hall of Celestial Kings, where 28 thick cedar columns support the heavy tiled roof over a Buddha statue and his gilded entourage.
Opposite Chi Lin Nunnery and connected by a walkway, the tranquil and beautiful Nan Lian Gardens continue the Tang theme in an exquisite reconstruction of a contemporary garden. There are contorted pine trees, artfully shaped hillocks, ornamental ponds populated by fat koi carp, and brightly painted bridges and pavilions.
Right at Lantau’s far northwestern corner, the fishing village of Tai O is home to two thousand people. It’s an interesting place for a wander, with old lanes, shrines, historic temples and a quarter full of tin-roofed stilt houses built over the mudflats.
The main street is lined with stalls selling dried and live seafood – the smell here is from locally made fermented prawn paste, which features on menus all over, including the plush Tai O Heritage Hotel.
Lying just to the southwest of Aberdeen, Y-shaped Lamma Island is the third-largest in the SAR – though at only around 7km in length, it’s still pleasantly compact. Most of the 6000-strong population live in west-coast Yung Shue Wan.
The rest of the island is covered in open, hilly country, with an easy hour-long trail out past a couple of beaches to Sok Kwu Wan, a tiny knot of seafood restaurants on the east coast. Walk from one to the other, enjoy a meal, and then catch a ferry back to Hong Kong Island.
Hong Kong Island's southern coast has peninsulas, inlets, towns like Aberdeen and Stanley, and great beaches - particularly Shek O Beach. Visiting Ocean Park, a large adventure theme park, is also one of the best things to do in Hong Kong for families with kids.
The Dragon's Back is a quick and easy coastal hike in Hong Kong, taking only a few hours and is popular on weekends. Take bus #9 from Shau Kei Wan MTR station and get off at To Tei Wan for the starting point. The trail offers views of Stanley and the coast before leading to Big Wave Bay, which has beaches, snack stalls, and a 2km walk south to Shek O Beach.
Find more accommodation options to stay in Hong Kong, or read our guide to the best area to stay in Hong Kong.
With its vibrant culture and rich heritage, Hong Kong is one of the exotic destinations for travel. If you are on the lookout for just such travel destinations, read our guide to the most exotic places to travel in the world.
Ready for a trip to Hong Kong? Check out the snapshot of Pocket Rough Guide Hong Kong & Macau or The Rough Guide to China.
If you prefer to plan and book your trip to China without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.
We may earn commission from some of the external websites linked in this article, but this does not influence our editorial standards - we only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.
Top image: A view from the Peak, Hong Kong © leungchopan/Shutterstock
Aimee is an in-house Senior Travel Editor at Rough Guides and is the podcast host of The Rough Guide to Everywhere. She is also a freelance travel writer and has written for various online and print publications, including a guidebook to the Isle of Wight. Follow her on Twitter at