Hong Kong, the city where eastern promise meets western intrigue, is one of Asia’s top city destinations and a city with something for everyone. A popular destination for tourists from all over the world, the Pearl of the Orient is a slick, ultra-modern city at its surfaces, with thousands of years of history and hundreds of different cultural influences bubbling away beneath. Anyone planning to visit Hong Kong will not want to miss out on.
No visit to Hong Kong would be complete without taking in the incredible 360° view, encompassing the city’s endless sprawl of skyscrapers, from the top of the highest point on Hong Kong Island, at the top of the Peak. There are several different routes to walk up the hill, for the actively minded; most visitors, however, prefer to ride on the peak tram, which rolls up the hill at a seemingly impossible angle. Be sure to check out the gallery at the Lower Terminus of the Peak Tram, a fascinating documentation of the city’s growth in the 120 years since the tram was first built.
The Central –Mid Levels Escalator
A sight that really is unique to Hong Kong, the world’s longest escalator ferries more than 60,000 commuters, tourists and other travelers each day, between the residential communities in mid-levels and Hong Kong central. The escalator is 800m long and climbs 135m in total. From 6am until 10, it runs downhill, ferrying thousands of office workers from their bed to their desk. At 10:15am the uphill run begins and carries on until midnight. The main reason tourists flock to the escalator, aside from the slightly odd sight, is that it runs through the lively Soho district and makes for interesting bar-hopping experience.
Star Ferry / Symphony of Lights
Another of Hong Kong’s entries into the Guinness Book of Records, the ‘World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show’ takes place every night at 8; illuminating buildings on both the Hong Kong and Kowloon sides with music and narration, celebrating the city’s spirit and energy.
The best place to view is from a boat on the harbor. Several cruise options are available at varying prices. One of the most popular options is to combine the show with a ride on the legendary star ferry, which has been making the journey across Kowloon bay like clockwork since 1888. Landlubbers can also get a great view of the show from Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade or the Golden Bauhinia Square.
Ngong Ping Cable Car
On the west side of Lantau, Hong Kong’s neighbouring island, the Ngong Ping Hills house the beautiful Po Lin Monastery and the Tian Tan Buddha, a huge bronze statue towering over the hillside; atop a 268 step staircase, which visitors can climb for a closer look and to leave an offering in the hall below, which contains part of the alleged cremated remains of Gautama Buddha. The Ngong Pink area is best accessed via the Ngong Ping 360 cable car, which starts at Tung Chung and heads across the bay and up into the hills, taking in some fantastic views as it goes.
Central Hong Kong is littered with markets selling everything you could imagine, plus a few things that you probably couldn’t. The crowded, bustling streets of Mongkok are the best place to pick up some souvenirs and have a go at haggling with locals over the price. The Ladies Market on Tung Choi Street is one of the city’s best known; and probably the best place to pick up the usual tourist fare of chopsticks, tea sets, clothing and knock off designer handbags. Temple Street Night Market is also worth checking out later on.
For something a little different, the bird market on Yuen Po Street is an interesting spectacle. Songbirds are a popular pet in Hong Kong and proud owners parading their bird around the park is quite a common sight. Though, as a visitor, you’re unlikely to buy a bird, there are some beautiful ornaments on offer.
As an island city, Hong Kong has had an intimate relationship with the sea throughout its thousands of years of history. The Maritime Museum covers Hong Kong’s seafaring history from the ancient Chinese civilizations which inhabited the city in centuries past, through to the years of British colonial rule and even up to the minute exhibits on modern day shipping and piracy. There are plenty of interactive exhibits, models and games; making the museum a great experience for the whole family. There are guided tours daily in English, as well as Cantonese.
Ping Shan Heritage Trail
Less than an hour outside of the city centre, and easily accessible using the MTR, the Ping Shan trail is a peaceful walk through Hong Kong’s fascinating history, taking in several beautiful temples along the way, including the 600 year old Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda. There are also several quaint walled villages, galleries and other insightful historic monuments positioned along the trail. The walk takes around one hour, plus stopping times. While the trail is a little out of way for some tourists, it can provide an excellent diversion for travelers weary of the hectic city centre; or those with a particular interest in the area’s history.
10,000 Buddhas Temple
After a steep climb up a mountain path lined with some of the statues which give this temple its name, visitors are rewarded with even more ornately decorated Buddha statues, a small temple area and a beautiful view down into the Sha Tin Valley. The incredible collection of immaculately maintained Buddha statues, now estimated to be over 13,000, is what makes this temple a favourite for many visitors. For another top temple experience, the Che Kung Temple is a short, pleasant walk from the 10,000 Buddhas, through Sha Tin Park.
Hong Kong’s Legislative Council Building
Nowadays Hong Kong is primarily known for its massive collection of sleek skyscrapers, and buildings more than 20 years old are increasingly hard to find in the city. There are a few architectural gems, dating from the region’s 156 years of British rule, which ended in 1999. The grand façade of the former Legislative Council Building, which now houses Hong Kong’s court of final appeal, is one of the best examples of this. The Fringe Club, where foreign journalists used to rub shoulders with one another over a glass of whiskey, is another colonial gem, now converted into an excellent gallery and performance space.
Happy Valley Racecourse
Another tradition brought to Hong Kong by the British, horse racing is now a popular pastime for locals and tourists alike. Happy Valley is the city’s most famous racetrack and provides an excellent evening’s entertainment, whether you’re after a little flutter or just want to sit back and watch. The races take place every Wednesday evening, plus regular special events; within the complex there are restaurants and bars, all with a great view of the track.