So as part of the second leg of my Asia trip, I decided on a city break, and Hong Kong seemed to be the perfect destination. So just for you, here’s my review of things to do in Hong Kong!
Hong Kong was always on my list of places to see, and having sampled the warm, bustling culture of Bangkok, I thought it would be a nice change.
And a change it was.
I was not expecting the temperature drop from Bangkok to Hong Kong. Despite travelling in December, Thailand was hot, humid and tropical. Hong Kong meanwhile, was like a British autumn.
Granted, it was winter, but the weather forecast had promised high twenties, not barely teens in celsius.
As I was totally unprepared, I found myself wearing my Barbour coat and unflattering travel attire throughout, so sorry about the pictures.
I have to say, the sharp change in temperature did dampen the break. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind a cold holiday, I visited Iceland months before (see my review here) and would love to experience winter in New York, but it’s very different when you’re expecting a cold break and have thermals at the ready.
When you’ve only packed summer dresses and flip flops, it’s a bit annoying to say the least. Nonetheless, I soldiered on and made the most of my city break.
So here’s my download of things to do in Hong Kong, how to get around and any other useful bits. But before I divulge into that, here’s a quick fire summary:
Hong Kong in a nutshell
A bustling metropolis, Hong Kong shares more similarities with London or New York than it’s Asian counterparts.
Most people don’t know that Hong Kong is actually made up of over 250 Islands, with the main ones being Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and Lantau Island. So hopping on the ferry to get to different parts is a normal part of Hong Kong life.
The financial centre is in Hong Kong Island, while we stayed at Kowloon, which features museums, markets and a tourist trap with shopping malls and neon-lit stores.
Lantau meanwhile, is home to Hong Kong airport and the Big Buddha, a monument that features in this article.
Food-wise, we did struggle a bit to find halal places to eat. I think it didn’t help that I’m not really a fan of their cuisine, which derives from mainland China. we managed to find a halal place called Islamic Canteen, which was actually held in the mosque. However, they only served dim sum in the afternoon, and as we arrived in the evening, we were stuck with some curries. on top of that, we were hurried out when it came to 9pm closing time.
Curry from the Islamic Canteen
As I visited during December, the city was abuzz with Christmas spirit. While Hong Kong doesn’t officially celebrate Christmas, the commercial aspect is fully embraced.
So Hong Kong is very much East meets West. There is little mainland Chinese cultural influence apart from the cuisine. International shops and restaurant light up the streets and you can shop late into the night.
So here’s my guide on things to do in Hong Kong, and some tips that the travel books don’t share with you:
Things to do in Hong Kong #1 – Visit the Peak (and take the tram to the top)
At the helm of the Peak Tram
The white-knuckle ride that is the Peak Tram
The complex that awaits you on the Peak
Top of the itinerary of things to do in Hng Kong was the Peak, one of the highest points in central Hong Kong.
The peak offers amazing views of the skyline, but it’s best to go on a clear day to get the best views. Unfortunately, Hong Kong’s skyline is a little hazy due to pollution, so clear days are few and far between.
However, part of the experience is getting to the peak via the tram, a seat-of-your pants ride, with a steep incline. The ten minute journey is more like a white knuckle ride than a standard commute, but the trams safety record is spotless.
The tram offers good views and even stops mid point, for photo opportunities or just to give you the frights.
Once you reach the summit, apart from the views, there is a shopping mall to explore along with a few restaurants and coffee shops, and even a Madame Tussaud’s.
We decided to get to the peak around 5pm and stay until it gets dark, so we could really appreciate the skyline. I would advise doing this to get the best views, but if you’re going during winter, wrap up warm as it is particularly cooler there than on the mainland.
Things to do in Hong Kong #2 – Admire Tian Tan, the Big Buddha
Bronze monuments surround the Big Buddha
While Hong Kong boasts more skyscrapers than monuments, the Big Buddha is worth a look.
Otherwise known as Tian Tan, the Big Buddha is one of the world’s largest Buddhas. It’s made of bronze and sits atop the forest in Lantau Island. As it’s on the same island as the airport, we decided to visit it on our last day, after storing our bags at the airport.
You can get to the Buddha in one of two ways, either jump in a cab from the airport and go straight to the Buddha itself in Ngong Ping, or take the scenic route by going to Tung Chung station and taking the 25-minute cable car ride which takes you across the forest and the North China sea, with breathtaking views along the way.
Ideally, pick a clear warm day for your Buddha visit. We didn’t have a choice, and found ourselves getting soaked and freezing in the cable car, which isn’t watertight.
the view from the rain-soaked cable car
Whether you take a taxi to the top or a cab through the sky, you’ll enter the village, which is essentially a commercialised tourist trap with shops, restaurants and photo opportunities.
I was hoping to see the odd monk that inhabits the village, but they possibly keep away during busy times.
Anyway, you need to scale a few steps before you reach the main spectacle, Big Buddha, but it’s well worth it for the views.
Though the big Buddha is a bit away from it all, it’s worth a visit if you want to escape the bustle of the city and enjoy some tranquility.
Things to do in Hong Kong #3 – Shop ’til you drop at the Temple street market
Temple Steet night market
There are a number of night markets in Hong Kong, but the Temple Street market is arguably the most famous.
Selling everything from jade jewellery, to trinkets and handbags, the Temple Street market is worth just visiting for the experience of bartering. Unlike Marrakech, where haggling can end in an argument, in Hong Kong you negotiate with a smile, and should expect to knock off around half their asking price.
While much of the products are tat, there are some nice pieces you can pick up. Being a bit of a herbal tea and oriental soup fiend, I bought a matching tea and soup set, which could actually come in very handy back home.
Another thing I like about the markets is the change from regular shopping, in both experience and end product.
Hong Kong is littered with shopping malls boasting Chanel, H and M, and Zara, but why you’d visit the same shops you have in the UK is beyond me. So for a change of scene, shop at the night markets.
Things to do in Hong Kong #3 – All aboard the Star Ferry
The Star Ferry
The Star Ferry is one of the most economical experiences around. At a cost of around 2.5 Hong Kong Dollars (that’s about 30p in English money), the Star Ferry lets you travel from island to island whilst being an experience in itself, as you get great views of the harbour and Hong Kong skyline at day or night.
Things to do in Hong Kong #4 – Get starstruck at the Avenue of the Stars
The makeshift set
While you might not recognise all the names, it’s worth a walk along the Avenue of the Stars. Hong Kong’s equivalent to Hollywood’s walk of fame, the avenue of the stars features a statue of Bruce Lee, handprints of Jackie Chan and other famous faces of Chinese cinema. Good fun with plenty of photo opps.
Things to do in Hong Kong #5 – Absorb some culture at the Art museum
There are plenty of museums, mainly Located in Kowloon. We visited the arts museum, which at the time was celebrated Chinese cinema. Worth a look for some contemporary culture.
Things to do in Hong Kong #6 – Go walkabout
The Peak Tram
Of course, so much of Hong Kong is about it’s impressive buildings and city skyline. The Square on Hong Kong Island is the heart of the financial hub and has skyscraper builidngs to boot. HSBC and the ICC building both offer great views and it’s worth just walking around the area to take it all in.
Tip! When getting around Hong Kong, I’d avoid the tram at peak times, i.e. between 5pm-7.30pm. They don’t have a large capacity, so you’ll find yourself waiting behind a queue of city commuters. We had to wait around 40 minutes for three trams to go past before we finally got a seat. So during this time jump in a cab or walk if your journey’s not too far.
So that’s my roundup of things to do in Hong Kong, I hope it proves useful if you’re planning a trip there. We only spent two nights, so I’m sure there’s a lot we didn’t do! But if you’ve been, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I’m a British-Bengali Muslim mum-of-two. My pictures aren’t filtered and neither are my words. I’m not a makeup artist, chef or lifestyle guru. I’m just me, sharing honest beauty reviews for brown skin, halal restaurant finds, travel inspo, mum life hacks, easy Bengali recipes and more. If that’s your bag, keep reading!