What to do in Hong Kong: a local's guide

written by Aimee White
updated 3/23/2021
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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 well-seasoned traveller, we’ve got the low down on what to do in Hong Kong.

1. Temple Street Night Market, Kowloon

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. Just north of Saigon Street, the numerous seafood restaurants make for good respites from the bustling atmosphere. 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 stretches on from the far side of the square, where more alfresco dining and gift-worthy bargains await.

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2. Tian Tan Big Buddha, Lantau island

There’s no doubting that the Tian Tan Big Buddha is a must-see attraction on your list of what to do in Hong Kong. Located on Lantau island, you’ll need to take either 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.

Big Buddha at Lantau Island, Hong Kong © Nussar/Shutterstock

3. Star Ferry, Hong Kong Island

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 for a tasty bite to eat once you reach the other side.

4. Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong Island

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.

Hollywood Road at Lan Kwai Fong in Central Hong Kong © YIUCHEUNG/Shutterstock

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5. Tai Po, The New Territories

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 what 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.

6. Kowloon Walled City Park

What to do in Hong Kong when you've done everything else, you ask? 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.

Kowloon Walled City Park in Hong Kong © OSTILL is Franck Camhi/Shutterstock

7. Maritime Museum, Hong Kong Island

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 wondering what to do in Hong Kong, this is the ideal place.

8. The Peak, Hong Kong Island

No trip to 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. With your head up instead of focused on the path below you'll enjoy better views, too. The Peak is also home to Pok Fu Lam Reservoir, which you can reach through a peaceful, well-signposted walk through the woods.

Top image: A view from the Peak, Hong Kong © leungchopan/Shutterstock

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written by Aimee White
updated 3/23/2021
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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 @aimeefw.

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