Images of Hong Kong portray densely packed sidewalks and a brightly lit neon skyline, but did you know Hong Kong is actually made up of more than 200 islands and is 75 percent green space? It also boasts breathtaking sea and mountain views, has impressive cultural heritage centers, and offers some of the best food on the planet. There is so much to do and see here, the hardest time travelers have is deciding where to start.
Hong Kongers work hard and play hard, and the city’s options reflect this extreme way of living. Whether you want to explore historical sites, dine on dim sum (or the myriad of international food options), trek the mountains or hire a junk boat, you’ll never be bored in this fast-paced city. It doesn’t matter if you want to stay on the Hong Kong island itself or venture over to Kowloon, because either way you’ll be amazed by all this city has to offer.
Under the “One Country, Two Systems” principle, Hong Kong has been designated a Special Administrative Region (SAR) since July 1, 1997, when it was handed back from British rule to the Chinese government. As a result, the city and its skyline are constantly changing. This multicultural hub is where East truly meets West, and since most Hong Kongers speak English (it’s an official language), navigating your way around is super easy. And, if you find yourself faced with the one person who can’t understand you, the HK Taxi Cards app will translate and even speak the address or landmark where you need to go in Cantonese. Sorted!
Haven’t decided if you want to stay on Hong Kong Island or Kowloon side? Both offer several fantastic options, and because taxis (and public transport) are so affordable, getting around is quick and easy. For boutique hotels on HK Island, we suggest the uber fabulous The Upper House, The Murray (don’t miss its hip outdoor bar Popinjays), EAST Hong Kong (we love sipping cocktails on its rooftop bar, Sugar), The Kerry Hotel (its Red Sugar bar boasts an impressive 270-degree view), the historic Pottinger (smack dab in the heart of Central), Mira Moon, or the new kid on the block, Ovolo Southside (kick back with a cocktail on its Above by Komune terrace for relaxing break). But glamour is more your style, we think the super luxurious Landmark Mandarin Oriental, which is home to newly renovated, Michelin-starred Amber(named one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants), tops the list. It also has hands-down the one of the best spas on offer, so #treatyoself and be sure to book an unforgettable massage ahead of time. The Island Shangri-La is another good option, and we also like the JW Marriott, which sits atop shopping haven, Pacific Place. The Four Seasons is another fave as it overlooks Victoria Harbour, is adjacent to shopping center IFC and offers rooms with a harbour view.
On Kowloon side, the legendary “Grande Dame of the Far East,” The Peninsula (made famous by its afternoon tea) is always a favorite boutique, and we also like The Mira, The Perkin Hotel, and The Luxe Manor. If you’re hoping for a more elegant hotel, you can’t beat the newly launched Rosewood, The W Hotel (be sure to tuck into its mouth-watering buffet),The Grand Hyatt, and Cordis. Because Hong Kong’s skyline is so incredible to behold, we love The Ritz Carlton and The InterContinental for rooms with sweeping views of the city and South China Sea.
Choosing a place to eat in Hong Kong can be overwhelming because of the vast options on offer. Partial to alfresco dining? Craving local fare? Looking for Michelin-starred? The list is so extensive there is no way you’ll be able to try them all. But we can help you make a dent! If you’re staying on the island, you can’t leave without trying a renowned dim sum lunch, and the world-famous Din Tai Fung serves up some of the best dumplings around. If a traditional “yum cha” spot is what you’re after, City Hall Maxim’s Palace can’t be missed. If the weather is nice (the weather in Hong Kong is always a gamble), check out Duddell’s Michelin-star dim sum while kicking back in its lovely outdoor dining area (its crispy roasted chicken is also a must-try).
Since Hong Kong is famous for its terrific (and often times very boozy) brunch deals, you can count on most of the hotels we listed above to have amazing offers. But if you want something spectacular and entertaining, Fiasco at Carbone is something to behold. If your plan is to get an early start and a noontime meal isn’t on the itinerary, Zuma hosts a fun night brunch featuring mouth-watering, free-flow sushi, food and drinks.
If an unforgettable (albeit pricey) meal is on your must-do list, check out Michelin-star New Punjab Club, Tosca, and Takumi by Daisuke Mori. If you just want a chill night with great food at a reasonable price, head to Three Blind Mice, Chino (make sure to get one of its amazing margaritas!), or the vegetarian spot POP Vegan (meals so good you won’t realize you’re eating vegetables).
To cap off the evening, sip cocktails while enjoying one of the city’s incredible views. In addition to the ones we mentioned at EAST, Kerry Hotel, The Murray and Ovolo, there are plenty of outdoor bars and rooftops to choose from. Our Kowloon list includes Wooloomooloo,Aqua, Ozone, Eyebar, andQi-Nine Dragons. While on the island, check out Ce La Vie, Portico at Spiga, Piqniq and Skye.
If there is one thing almost all Hong Kongers love to do, it’s shop. Which is why this city is filled with massive shopping malls featuring every high-end designer you can imagine, and a couple of high street shops as well. Whether it’s heading to International Finance Center (known as IFC) in Central, braving the crowds in Times Square, or even venturing to Elements in Kowloon, you’ll be amazed at all the brands on offer.
If you’d rather spend your day haggling for some imitation handbags, belts or shoes, the Ladies Market in Mong Kok is a fun, touristy destination (it’s also where you’ll find knickknacks, electronics and more), and the Night Market on Temple Street is always a favorite for being entertaining and fun.
Antique lovers should take a stroll down Hollywood Road, which is dotted with galleries, art sellers and antique shops. Be sure to make your way down to Lascar Row (known as Cat Street) near Mo Man Temple, because there you’ll find old movie posters, Communist propaganda and curios.
Hong Kong has done an amazing job of transforming heritage buildings into entertaining cultural centers. PMQ (which stands for Police Married Quarters) in Soho is now a hip, artistic haven filled with shops where you can get Hong Kong themed items, jewelry, clothing, artwork, knickknacks and more. If all that shopping makes peckish, the Sohofama restaurant located on the bottom floor is the perfect spot to take a break and munch on some tasty local fare. Afterward, walk along the Soho streets where you’ll find so many hip restaurants, pubs and even a few speakeasies. It’s a great place for dinner and drinks afterward when the area comes alive.
Tai Kwun Centre For Heritage And Arts was eight years in the making and is the latest addition to the Hong Kong cultural scene. Restoring an old prison and transforming it into an elegant masterpiece of restaurants, bars, art galleries, performing arts centers, and wide-open spaces, it’s the perfect spot for a sunny afternoon. It’s on the outskirts of LKF (Lang Kwai Fung), which is the wild nightlife area featuring bars, clubs, restaurants and more.
For a day away from the crowds, we highly recommend visiting Nan Lien Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery. There you’ll find a serene and impressively beautiful landscape of greenery, rocks, trees, and wooden structures atop 3.5 hectares. These iconic and striking grounds feature Tang-style landscapes, and the brightly colored Pavilion of Absolute Perfection is an Insta-worthy shot to make your friends jealous.
Itching to see the view from the top? You can either hire a cable car to Victoria Peak (get there before 9am to avoid the crowds) or get a workout in and hike the Morning Trail up to the top.
Be sure to add a cruise on the Aqua Luna II (where you’ll coast along the waters and witness the sound and light show on Victoria Harbour), a visit to The Big Buddha, an afternoon and evening at Repulse Bay beach (and visit one of the many restaurants at The Pulse for sunset cocktails on the beach), and a ride on the historical tram (to get an Old World view of the city) to your list.