This is an article in the 36 Hours In… series. To find more in the series, head here.
Hong Kong is a chaotic, pumping city that ignites the senses. Smell the fish markets, see the views from the Peak, taste world-class pork buns, and soak in the silence at one of the many temples in the city.
We recommend staying in Tsim Sha Tsui, which is on the northern side of Victoria Harbour. There are heaps of more affordable (relative to the rest of HK) accommodation options – as long as you’re ok with having no windows in your room!
Head down to the waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui and get in a good position to watch the Symphony of Lights, on every night at 8 p.m. There’s music and narration playing at some points along the waterfront, in particular between the Avenue of Stars and the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. It’s fun to watch and try to photograph! Be aware though, if you’re visiting in winter (December-February) it can be really cold in Hong Kong, and especially beside the water at night!
From the waterfront, catch the Star Ferry across the harbour to Central. These old ferries are gorgeous and slowly chug across the harbour. It’s impressive seeing the huge skyscrapers from the water!
Catch the bus or cable car from Central up to The Peak and survey the city from above. Make sure you go on a clear day as the city gets very foggy and hazy, and then you can’t see anything! We didn’t make it to The Peak during our visit, as it was foggy the whole time we were there. We’ll have to go back another time! We’ve also heard visiting The Peak at night and seeing the city lights is quite spectacular.
Head back down to the city and grab lunch in one of the cool cafes on Gough Street in Sheung Wan, an up and coming trendy area.
Wander through Sheung Wan where there are heaps of designer shops as well as stores selling antiques and traditional Chinese medicines. There are lots of skinny little streets and streets made of steps – it’s pretty crazy and fun to get lost in. Just make sure to take your map!
After lunch, wander along Hollywood Road into Soho until you reach Man Mo Temple. Built in 1847, this is one of the largest temples in Hong Kong. Through the smoky air, watch the devout light incense sticks and say their prayers while standing under huge coils of incense that hang from the roof.
In the late afternoon, head back over (or under) the harbour to Kowloon and up to Mongkok (you can catch the subway) where the fascinating Ladies Market, Goldfish Market, and Sneaker Street are located. You can spend hours wandering around these crazy streets that are packed with people and stores selling all sorts of things. Pick up a knock-off handbag or some new kicks, and perhaps some fish to satisfy your feng shui…
After dinner, make a beeline for the Temple Street Night Market, on every evening from about 6 p.m. You won’t find much more than cheap trinkets here, but it’s worth a look! It’s fun wandering around the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui and Mongkok after dark to see all the neon signs, too.
You can’t leave Hong Kong without trying dim sum, the quintessential assortment of Chinese delicacies – both fried and steamed. One place we went is Tim Ho Wan, which has the crown of being the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world! There are a couple of branches, with the original one in Mongkok being awarded the Michelin star (but they all have the same menu). You’ll want to get there early if you don’t want to wait in line! We’d heard stories about people having to wait hours to get a table, but when we turned up (at the Olympian City Mall branch) we got a table instantly – that was at about 10 a.m., mind you!
The pork buns (cha siu bao) are sweet, tangy, and soft. Yum! The other dumplings that we ordered, with prawns and vegetables inside, were also good. We’re not experts in Chinese food, but we reckon we’ve had better back home in Auckland. The food was good but not out of this world – what you’d expect for a Michelin-starred restaurant!
If you’re after some good retail therapy (after all, Hong Kong is world famous for its shopping malls!), there are a number to choose from. Causeway Bay, close to where the ferries dock on Hong Kong Island, is a shopper’s Mecca. There is mall after mall filled with luxury goods as well as more affordable shops too. If you’re into techie stuff, Wan Chai Computer Centre is packed full of computers, cellphones, cameras, and other gadgets. But you can go pretty much anywhere in Hong Kong and be surrounded by shops!
Enjoy your trip to Hong Kong – soak up the vibrant feel on the streets and just get lost.
Quick tip: we found Hong Kong Tourism‘s website really useful when planning our trip to HK.